By Diptimayee parida | bangalore August 12, 2017
In many museums, temples, restaurants and esoteric shops we see the dancing figure of lord Shiva within a circle of fire that is called the “Shiva Nataraja,” lord of the dance. In his appearance as Nataraja he shows his triple role as creator, preserver and destroyer. Shiva in this figure first appeared in Indian stone temple sculpture in the 5th and 6th century CE. The God is shown dancing with in a prabhamandala (flaming halo) which represents time and which is shown as a circle to symbolize the Hindu belief that is both cyclical and without end.
The dance form performing in nataraja image is “Tandava,” the cosmic dance. The energy and wildness of the dance is shown in his bent knees and the extravagant spreading of the god’s hair. Shiva is providing his own music, as in his upper right hand he holds a small damru which provides rhythm and first sounds of the creation. On the left hand he holds Agni the supreme fire which will destroy the world. The lower right hand makes the abhaya mudra gesture which calms all fear and lower left arm sweeps across his torso with the hand pointing to his left foot in the gesture of gaja hasta which means the salvation and liberation. Shiva’s right foot stands upon the demon “Apasmara” the embodiment of ignorance. The cobra around nataraja’s waist is kundalini Shakti the soul impelling cosmic power resident within all.
The Nataraja dance isn’t just a symbol, it is taking place within each of us, at the atomic level. Thus lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja clears the ignorance from our minds through the supreme act of dance. It is a message that ignorance can only be overcome by knowledge, music and dance.