Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union.

Since 2020, Anouchka Renaud-Eck has been exploring the realm of love in contemporary India. Ardhanarishvara “Lord Who Is Half Woman” is one of the forms of the Hindu god Shiva , in which he appears with his wife Parvarti as a half-male and half-female form, two inseparable cosmic forces united as one body.

Despite the large scale mythification of amorous union in Hindu mythology and Bollywood, arranged marriages remain rampant. In a 2012 survey conducted by Ipsos, 74% of Indians responded that they preferred an arranged marriage. The matrimonial quest for Young Indians often turns into a countdown to forget teenage love and honour their parents’ choice. Age, social background and astral compatibility are often important criteria in these matrimonial decisions.

In this project, Renaud-Eck aims at exploring the parallels between the idealized notions and the social reality of matrimony in India. She thus takes us on a journey through the three stages of union, separation and reunion, asking us the question: can there be no love without pain?

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - School Kids, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara.  Elementary school pupils from the same class. Boys and Girls . 
i

School Kids, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara.  Elementary school pupils from the same class. Boys and Girls . 

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Mudra of Union, Love and Affection, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Traditional dance position from Bharatanatyam called Mudras. These gestures express the emotions and state of mind in the dance counting epic love stories.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Girls surrounded by boys, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Traditional dance students spend time after class with their friends near the river bank.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Scrolling through details, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Girl scrolls through profiles on marriage app. Details such as income, caste, education and astral birth chart are searchable in order to verify compatibility.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The chosen one, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Boy shows his friends the profile of the girl his older brother has chosen for him on his marriage app. The app account of the future bride, and groom, is controlled by their parents, the elders responsible for the arranged marriage.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Memory of a teenage romance, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Young man shows a portrait of his teenage crush in the palm of his hand, the only souvenir left.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The Astrologer, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara.  Young man has an appointment with an astrologer to check the auspicious time for his future wedding known as «shubh muhurats ».

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The Boys' side of the class, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Boys of a 5th standard class, initials of lovers and the word «Fuck» are tagged on the wall.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

500g of Haldi, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Turmeric (Haldi in Hindi) is a spice used daily, it is also a spice that has the function of purifying and blessing the spouses during a ceremony on the eve of the wedding.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The triplets’ fate, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. The triplets wear a shirt embroidered with the word «united». However their future will be drastically different.
A large number of Indians live in a joint family. After their marriage the boys will stay in the family house . The girl will leave for her in-laws.
The mother lifts up her daughter’s chin, for her to face her fate. The mother herself wears a set of bracelets, a sign of married women. 


© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

 Bachelor’s cosmetics on a window sill, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Young man’s cosmetics placed on his bedroom window sill. The products packaging refer to the characteristics that a young man must have to be attractive in the marriage market, and his romantic aspirations of union.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The immersion, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Young hindu married woman wearing Sindoor on the top of her head. The sindoor is first applied to the woman by her husband on the day of her wedding; this is called the Sindoor Daanam ceremony. After this, traditionally she applies it herself every day and ceasing to wear it usually implies widowhood.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

 Malayali Bridal hairdress, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Young Malayali bride wears jasimin flowers in her hair, a typical ornament for a Malayali wedding. 

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Ardhanarishvara on bed, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Ardhanarishvara is one of the forms in which Shiva and his wife Parvati appear as one body. This form represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how the female principle of God, is inseparable from the male principle of God.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Young groom with Sehra, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Young Muslim Groom wears a Sehra on the day of his wedding.
The Sehra is intended to ward of the evil eye during the procession when the groom is going to fetch his wife-to-be at her parents. Traditionally the spouses are not supposed to see each other before their wedding ceremony.
Sehras are more prominently worn in North India than in other parts of the country.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - The love birds float, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Wedding float ornamented with love birds parked on a wasteland.
i

The love birds float, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Wedding float ornamented with love birds parked on a wasteland.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Desire, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Street vendor of perfume. A young man buys blue «desire» perfume to offer to his wife after a date in the cafe next door.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Holding love, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Potter woman holds one of the Krishna statues she has made. As a Hindu married woman, she wears a mangal sutra necklace and sindoor on her fore head.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

The kite of life, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara. Young couple plays with a kite on the riverbank. He is driving, she is watching the scene.

© Anouchka Renaud-Eck - Image from the Ardhanarishvara - In Search of union. photography project
i

Married for 58 years, 2020; from the series Ardhanarishvara
. Hindu couple from Perumbavoor district, Kerala, married for 58 years in front of their home. They were 23 and 21 years old when they got married. Above the doorbell Lord Krishna, God of love and compassion is represented.

Latest Projects

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Stay in the loop


We will send you weekly news on contemporary photography. You can change your mind at any time. We will treat your data with respect. For more information please visit our privacy policy. By ticking here, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with them. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.