Ardhanarishwara is one of the forms of Lord Shiva. In this form, Shiva is shown as half male and half female. The female part of this form represents Shiva's consort Parvati or Shakti. Ardhanarishwara means Lord or God who is half woman. It signifies the feminine and masculine forces which lay the foundation of this cosmos. Every living being born here is born with both masculine and feminine energy. It is the dominance of one which determines the gender of a being. However, both the parts are incomplete without each other and hence operate in duality.

There are numerous stories in our scriptures that tell us why Shiva had to take up this form. Shiva was a hermit and Parvati was the daughter of the mountain king Himavan. One day when Parvati saw Shiva, he was meditating and experiencing immense ecstasy. Parvati was enchanted and wanted to experience the same. She underwent severe austerities to please Shiva. Pleased with her devotion Shiva married Parvati. After marriage, Parvati requested Shiva to help her experience the same ecstasy which Shiva experienced during meditation. This is when Shiva merged with Parvati

In another story, sage Bhringi who is an ardent devotee of Shiva visits Shiva and Shakti. He requests Shiva to allow him to encircle Shiva as a way to worship him. Shiva tells him that he needs to encircle both Shiva and Shakti as he is incomplete without her. Bhringi did not acknowledge this and tried to move only around Shiva. Looking at this Shakti came forward and sat on Shiva's lap so that Bhringi would encircle her as well. Bhringi still did not give up. He took the form of a bee and tried to encircle Shiva alone by moving through the space between Shiva and Shakti's neck. Enraged Parvati now cursed Bhringi that he shall be devoid of all the things he had