The Ardhanareshwar temple at Amalsad, south Gujarat, is proposed to house a 500-year-old idol of Shiva and Parvati. It is thus, that the idea of Ardhanareshwara – शिव + पारवती is egressed as a spiritual interpretation of power and panache; Shiva and Shakti. A perfect combination and balance in nature where design depicts the masculine and the feminine aspects representing ‘totality that lies beyond duality’. The Ardhanarishvara (Sanskrit: अर्धनारीश्वर) is a composite androgynous form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati, i.e having both male and female characteristics. Ardhanarishvara is depicted as half-male and half-female, equally split down the middle. The right half is usually the male Shiva, illustrating his traditional attributes. Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God.
The union of these principles is exalted as the root and womb of all creation. Another view is that Ardhanarishvara is a symbol of Shiva’s all-pervasive nature. Ardhanarishvara symbolizes that male and female principles are inseparable. Purusha is the male principle and passive force of the universe, while Prakriti is the female active force; both are “constantly drawn to embrace and fuse with each other, though… separated by the intervening axis”. Ardhanarishvara signifies the “bi-unity of male and female in God” and “the bisexuality and therefore the non-duality” of the Supreme Being. It conveys that God is both Shiva and Parvati, “both male and female, both father and mother, both aloof and active, both fearsome and gentle, both destructive and constructive” and unifies all other dichotomies of the universe.
The vast site with a lake is an already existing temple complex with the proposed temple in the centre of the lake. The temple is foreseen as an iconic structure, representing the boldness and modernity of the time, by the temple trust. Adhering to the said concern and the idea of Ardhanareshwara, the temple is seen as a union of two masses with contrasting materiality and metaphorical representation of one half as Shiva and the other half as Parvati. The expression of Strong, aggressive and mighty Shiva is achieved by the explicit exploration of the metal and glass facade enveloping the Mandapam of the temple. The benevolent, calm, wise and beautiful Parvati which is the other half of the structure is conceived to be in Pink concrete and beaded with rose-gold beads which are a representation of Rudraksha. The union of the two masses happen where the continuous water channel flows from the tip of the temple- symbolising The Ganga. As modern the temple structure one perceives from the outside, the same invigorating experience is intended to encapsulate one while inside. The mandapam is a naturally light voluminous hall of metal and glass with a sunken kund. As one ascends towards Garbha-Griha where the idol is placed, one experiences the pink concrete ribbed enclosure of stimulating aura.
The temple is approached through an undulating bridge with descending platforms to access boating facilities. The undulations are intended to enrich the experience of perceiving the temple. The circular disk set afloat in the centre of the lake also abides by the concept of “Ardhanareshwara” with one half of the landscape being robust and outgrown in the form of Trishul while the other half being ornate and flowery as inspired by the flower of “Dhaturo”. The contrasting landscape is intended to give avid experiences to the visitors as one trails through them.