Ardhanareeshwara Darshan of Arunachala
Here is an excerpt from the online book Ramana's Arunachala about the deity Ardhanareeshwara...basically Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi united as ONE.
"GOWRI JOINS SIVA
At the end of one month the Goddess celebrated a
festival. On the evening when Krittika was in conjunction
with the Moon in the month of Karthika (November-
December), She propitiated the Lord of Arunadri with all
the prescribed offerings. The Goddess then went round
the hill along with her companions. As she did so
Arunachala shone like an emerald and her sacred body
was enveloped by the lustre of the Hill. As she walked
slowly, the lustre of her lotus feet made the earth look as if
it had been strewn with lotus petals. Her radiant looks
were like blossoms of nilotpala (blue lotus) scattered by
worshippers all round Sonadri.
Goddess Gowri was devoutly walking round the Hill
as if she were walking round the ceremonial marriage havan
with the object of attaining union with Siva. She was joined
at each step by Brahma and Vishnu and their consorts
Saraswati and Lakshmi, the devas, the dikpalakas and their
consorts and the celestial maidens with their fragrant
offerings. It appeared that she was appeasing the hill of fire
by her austerities she was. Constantly remembering
Mahadeva she gave spiritual instruction to the divine rishis.
The Mother of the world bowed to the Destroyer of
the three cities and prayed that she should attain union
with Him. Noted for her sweet words, she prayed very
devoutly in this manner for the welfare of the world, “Let
not this form of thine which charms the eye and the mind
be ever abandoned by thee. As this form of thine is
enchanting, auspicious for the world and is full of divine
bliss, let everyone always have thy darshan. Instead of thy
former appearance of matted hair, wearing the serpent
round the neck, holding the skull of Brahma, smearing
ash from the Rudra Bhoomi (cremation ground), pray,
assume the form of the Maha Purusha, the Eternal
Bridegroom, adorned with divine garlands, perfumes,
robes and gem-set ornaments. Great Lord! Let deva and
gandharva maidens adore thee, dancing and singing to
the accompaniment of musical instruments. Let thy
devotees also adore thee unceasingly. Let this vision of
our united form Ardhanareeswara be always, by thy Grace,
capable of inspiring intense devotion, of bestowing
prosperity and of fulfilling all desires.”
On hearing this the Lord of Sonachala granted all the
boons the Goddess asked. That Lord himself now appears
as Ardhanareeswara who is adored by the world.
The term Ardhanareeswara literally means, halfwoman
(the Goddess) and half-Ishwara. The Supreme
Being assumes the form wherein the left side appears as
a woman and the right, as a man. In passing, we may
mention an interesting incident which is described in
the Arunachala Purana. When Parvati was born to
Himavan, it was predicted in her nativity chart that she
will assume a glorious form in which, her left side will
contain tresses of dark hair, ear-ring, pierced nose and
breast, while the right side of her frame will have matted
locks, the chest of a man, etc. Thus we can say that,
either Parvati has given her right side to Ishwara, or that
Ishwara has given his left side to Parvati. In iconology,
rules are laid down as to the sculpturing of
Ardhanareeswara statue. Thus it is an accepted form of
worship. Vishnu being the male aspect of Parvati, we
also have Shankaranarayana, i.e., one half of the body
being Vishnu and the other half, that of Ishwara."
Though conventional iconography represents Shiva on the right of Parvathi in the Ardhanareeshwara statue, my vision of Arunachala is of the Goddess peak to the right of Shiva in this darshan.
The assumption is purposeful for who can differentiate between the Goddess and the God? And especailly in a kshetra like Arunachala where Shakthi and Shiva are united forever as One.
Who can say which peak represents Shiva and which peak Parvathi in this darshan when both are one and the same?
So here it is... the great Ardhanareeshwara darshan of Arunachala.
p.s. the iconographic darshan can also be had after a few meters of walking down the girivallam path, just before Kubera Lingam when the main peak is to the right and the Northern spur to the left. This too represents the Ardhanareeshwara Darshan for the devotees who are detail specific.