Thursday, May 31, 2012

Shiva...The Cosmic Dancer

Natraj the dancing form of Lord Shiva, - the cosmic dancer - represents the constant biodance of life creation, maintenance and transformation and indicates the perfect balance between life and death, symbolic synthesis of the central tenets of this Vedic religion. The term 'Nataraj' means 'King of Dancers' (Sanskrit nata = dance; raja = king). It also reminds us of the balance between form and void, as well as the time before the divine created form from the void.



The Vital Form & Symbolism:
The statues of Natraj are framed by a circle representing cosmic energy; the four hands represent the cardinal directions. He is dancing, with his left foot elegantly raised and the right foot on a prostrate figure — 'Apasmara Purusha', the personification of illusion and ignorance over whom Shiva triumphs.

The fiery ring surrounding Shiva, prahabhamandala, represents the universe with all its illusion, suffering and pain. The outer edge is fire the inner edge the waters of the oceans. The surrounding flames represent the manifest Universe.

The crescent moon in his matted hair keeps Kama, the god of nightly love, alive. Through the waxing and the waning of the moon Shiva creates different seasons and rejuvenates life. The stoic face of Shiva represents his neutrality, thus being in balance.

The upper right hand holds a small drum shaped like an hourglass that is called a ḍamaru in Sanskrit. A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta (Sanskrit for "ḍamaru-hand") is used to hold the drum. It symbolizes sound originating creation or the beat of the drum is the passage of time.

The upper left hand contains Agni or fire, which signifies destruction. The opposing concepts in the upper hands show the counterpoise of creation and destruction or the fire of life.

The second right hand shows the Abhaya mudra (meaning fearlessness in Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the righteousness of dharma.
The second left hand points towards the raised foot which signifies upliftment and liberation. It also points to the left foot with the sign of the elephant which leads the way through the jungle of ignorance.

His uplifted left foot, grants eternal bliss to those who approach him. The other foot treads firmly upon the dwarf of ignorance, allowing the birth of knowledge.

The dwarf on which Nataraja dances is the demon Apasmara (Muyalaka. as known in Tamil), which symbolises Shiva's victory over ignorance. It also represents the passage of spirit from the divine into material.
As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. Shiva's long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a knot, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.
The snake swirling around his waist is kundalini, the Shakti or divine force thought to reside within everything. This also parallels the cords of life warn by the brahmins to represent the second rebirth.



The Significance of Shiva's Dance:
This cosmic dance of Shiva is called 'Anandatandava,' meaning the Dance of Bliss, and symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. According to Coomerswamy, the dance of Shiva also represents his five activities: 'Shrishti' (creation, evolution); 'Sthiti' (preservation, support); 'Samhara' (destruction, evolution); 'Tirobhava' (illusion); and 'Anugraha' (release, emancipation, grace).


Om Shanti,
Nirvani

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