Ardhanarishvara with Sage Bhringi
This narrative sculptural relief depicts the story of Ardhanarisvara, a manifestation of Shiva as half man and half woman. It is carved on the right-side wall of the mukhamantapa (verandah) of Cave – 1, the first of the four rock-cut caves located in Badami, Karnataka, India.
In this beautifully-carved relief, Ardhanarishvara, who has man-like features on the right half and woman-like features on the left half, is standing with an elegant Tribhanga stance (i.e., body bent in three places, neck, waist, and knee).
While appearing to play a musical instrument, Ardhanarishvara is gently leaning on his vehicle Nandi. Standing with the folded hands (i.e., namaste gesture) behind Nandi is Bhringi, a sage with three legs who appears like a skeleton. Standing to the left of Ardhanarishvara is an unidentified female figure carrying a bowl with her left hand. Flying above Ardhanarishvara are the Vidyadhara couples.
Here is the story of Ardhanarisvara and Bhringi:
Bhringi was a rishi (sage) who worshiped only Shiva, but not his wife Parvati.
One day, while Shiva is sitting with his consort Parvati on his lap in his abode in Mount Kailash, Bhringi approaches Shiva and expresses his desire to go around him. Annoyed by his request, Parvati tells him to go around both of them because they are the two halves of the same entity.
However, Bhringi refuses to listen to Parvati and shape-shifts himself into a bee and goes only around Shiva. This annoys Shiva, and to force Bhringi go around Parvati, he manifests himself as Ardhanarishvara, a single entity made of himself in one half and Parvati in the other half.
Undeterred by the new manifestation, Bhringi (as a bee) tries to pierce through the middle of Ardhanarisvara to avoid going around Parvati. Enraged by this act, Parvati curses him to lose all his flesh and blood. As a result of this curse, Bhringi turns into a skeleton and falls on to the floor. Realizing his mistake, Bhringi apologizes and begs Shiva and Parvati to restore him. They refuse to do so but give him an additional leg to enable him to stand upright.
Cave – 1 Images
– Facade and Entrance
– Cave – 1 Ground Plan
– Right side view: Nataraja performing Tandava Nritya
– Left side view: Dwarapala, Shiva-Parvati, Vrishabha-Kunjara
– Mukhamantapa left wall: Harihara – Fusion of Shiva and Vishnu
– Mukhamantapa ceiling: Nagaraja
– Interior: Garbhagriha and pillars
– Garbhagriha: Shivalinga
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