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Cosmic Dance of Lord Shiva

We always wonder as to how existence came into being! Is the whole of the universe made of energy particles that abide by the rules of matter and energy? Or is it still impossible to know the intrinsic nature of the Universe and existence in its entirety? There are a lot of philosophies attached to these questions with no perfect answer and yet there have come sages and saints who have clearly expressed that everything is as simple as it is complex in nature. It is just about experiencing this Brahman (cosmos) within yourself. One of the mythological stories interestingly says that the dance of Shiva created the universe and the same dance in a different form can destroy it as well. Dance, here, is a form of energy that vibrated throughout the cosmos when Shiva became the Nataraja (Nata = dance and raja = lord).

In Yogic science, it is believed that the whole of cosmos exists on the lap of Shiva (Shiva is equivalent to nothingness, which is why it is referred to as “that which is not”). Furthermore, the Nataraja form of Shiva denotes the cyclic nature of the cosmos and it also signifies how the whole of the universe is in the form of a dance, an ecstatic dance. The universe seems to be an unimaginable random chaotic phenomenon that cannot be explained by logic or with an intellectual understanding.

This is beautifully expressed by Carl Jung who once said that “In all chaos, there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order”.

Therefore, even though existence in itself seems to be accidental, erratic, unsystematic and arbitrary, a close and deeper look at it feels that it is more systematic and planned than anything else we could ever discover. Similarly, the cosmic dance of Shiva is sacred and in absolute geometry, not just mere random movements of the body, but a perfect dance by a perfect dancer. Scientists across the world, also postulate that the whole of existence is nothing but the dance of energy particles in different forms. Thus, resembling this creation with a superlative dance form which is mystical, transcendent and magnificent in its nature.

This ecstatic dance, performed by the ecstatic and blissful dancer Shiva, is called Lasya and Tandava, one associated with the creation of the world and the latter associated with the destruction of all the things that resist the evolution of a being to a higher possibility. The statue of Nataraja is described in many Hindu textbooks and the artwork is carved in unique ways at the Ellora and Badami caves in around 6th century BC. Also around 10th century BC, the Chola Dynasty had built a bronze sculpture of this form of Shiva with precise details and arrangements taken from the various Hindu texts, which now stands at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Nataraja pose of Lord Shiva has the following important features and attributes:

This art shows Shiva standing on his left leg and uplifting his right one with respect to the Natya Shashtra pose while dancing in extreme ecstasy.

In his left hand at the back, he holds Agni (fire) representing the forces of creation as well as destruction, the front hand is in the elephant hand mode also known as the Gajahasta Mudra or in the stick hand mode also known as the Dandahasta Mudra.

The hand in the front is wrapped around with a snake which depicts Abhaya or fearlessness and the other hand at the back holds the Damru, in the Damaruhasta Mudra, which denotes time and rhythm.

The other body parts of Shiva in the Nataraja pose like the fingers, neck, face, ankles, head, ear lobes, etc is decorated with symbolic items that have their own significance.

Shiva, in this form, is also seen with three eyes representing the Sun, the Moon and the Third Eye which is the eye of wisdom. He is also seen smiling, portraying that in spite of being in this immense energetic form, he is still calm and blissed out from the inside.

He is shown standing on a lotus pedestal and is surrounded by a circle of flame which symbolises the cosmos. This arch of flames is also called Prabha Mandala which, in Hindu mythology, represents the cyclic existence of life which creates and consumes everything.

The statue also shows Shiva lifting his left leg, and balancing himself on his right one over a dwarf demon Apasmara Purusha who symbolises ignorance and evil. Thus, crushing down the phrase “Ignorance is bliss” which is often used to solace oneself and others around. But you can't ignore your life, right? Know more about your life's challenges and strengths with our Janampatri.

The cosmic dance of Shiva is believed to be the source of energy from where it all started. It signifies the rhythm of life that one needs to flow with to know the cosmos, to know the ultimate and to know oneself from the core. Also, it has been repeatedly said by many yogis that life, the self, and the cosmos are a part of the same design and that it is only about finding the dance, rhythm, and flow of life which can unite us with the ultimate.

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