One of the most amazing forms of Shiva and Parvati is that of the Ardhanarishvara – half-man and half-woman. It is laced with symbolism. There are also numerous stories associated with the appearance of Ardhanarishvara. One of the most popular stories is the one associated with Sage Bhringi disrespecting Goddess Parvati by worshipping only Shiva.
Sage Bhringi was a great devotee of Shiva but he refused to accept Mata Parvati as a Goddess. He never offered prayers to Mata Parvati and this infuriated her as she was the Shakti – the female energy. The sage performed circumambulation of Shiva daily but ignored Parvati.
Despite Her protests, Sage Bhringi continued to worship only Shiva. To teach the arrogant Sage a lesson, she abandoned him. The Sage had not realized that Goddess Parvati is also
Annapurna – the one who nourishes all living beings.
The benign Shiva could not abandon his ardent devotee, so he gave the sage a third leg like a walking stick. Sage Bhringi used this additional leg to circumambulate Shiva and still ignored Mata Parvati.
Then Shiva and Parvati appeared in the form of Ardhanarishvara to provide realization to Bhringi. The sage realized that although Shiva and Parvati appear as two different bodies but they are in essence one – the source of all creation, sustenance and dissolution.