Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts
Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
.
Share
Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info@exoticindia.com.

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
|6
Your Cart (0)
Great Shawls Sale... 25% + 10% off on all shawls, stoles and scarves

Shiva, the Nataraja

Article of the Month - September 2016
Viewed 2117 times since 15th Sep, 2016


An image or an aspect of Shiva’s person

Trimurti from Elephanta (Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha)

 

The question ‘Is Shiva’s manifestation as Nataraja an aspect of Shiva’s person or just one of the types of his image in art or worship tradition’ has always haunted the minds of thinkers. As for art critics they have invariably confined themselves to his various manifestations as reveal in his iconographic forms – image-type, and there ends their quest. Contrarily metaphysicians and theologians perceived his form as it manifested in the Upanishads and Puranas. They perceived him as representing one of the ‘Tri-murti’ – three forms or functional aspects of God, namely, creation, preservation and dissolution, that is, bringing the cosmos into existence, sustaining it and finally withdrawing it. Lord Shiva was seen as representing the last of these three aspects, that is, dissolution. Prajapati, or Brahma, and Vishnu were seen as representing other two aspects, creation and preservation. In some contexts the Rig-Veda mentioned Prajapati and Brahma as two independent gods but sometimes also as two names of the Creator. Hence, they were often seen as representing one and the same functional aspect of God.

 

Shiva in Vedic literature

Shiva Linga

 

 

The Shiva-related worship tradition showed two trends. Under one, Shiva was seen as ‘ling’ – his aniconic manifestation;

 

 

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

 

and, under the other, he was seen and worshipped with a very wide range of imagery Nataraja being one of such forms.

 

 

 

Shiva Linga

 

 

He was seen as Sadashiva, One beyond time and beyond ‘kalpa’ – the scheduled tenure of the Creation, that is, time that spanned everything – manifest or unmanifest, was not Shiva’s measuring scale.

 

 

In Indian cosmological tabulation Shiva's life-span is double of Vishnu, and Vishnu's, double of Brahma. Thus, in one kalpa Brahma emerges twice, Vishnu’s tenure ends with every kalpa; Shiva has tenure beyond kalpa.

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

The underlying mystic vein effectively working in the Shaivite worship cult saw Shiva as seed – the root of all things and all beings, male or female, and this gave to his visual image, both in art as well as to enshrine a sanctum a new image form known as Ardhanarishvara – half male and half female. The mystics contended that it was after Shiva split that there came forth both life and matter – ‘pran’ and ‘bhuta’. The Rig-Veda proclaimed in one of the Suktas ‘he (the Rig-Veda does not link this ‘he’ with Shiva but generalizes it) is as much male, as the female’. The ‘Advaita’ philosophy also contends that the entire Creation is just the extension of One.

 

 

All forms of dance initiated

 

Shiva Linga

 

Expressive of two basic tendencies of mind – wrathfulness and delight to include amour and enjoyment of beauty, dance was later classified as ‘tandava’ and ‘lasya; that is, what revealed wrath was classified as ‘tandava’, and that which revealed delight, also amour, ‘lasya’, ‘tandava’ revealing destructive mood, and ‘lasya’, creative. Theologians contend that dance is Shiva’s instrument for both, to create and to dissolve. They hold that his body wrathfully whirled as in dance when he destroyed Tripura – the cluster of three cities sheltering three demon brothers.

 

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

They also contend that immenseness of his ire was absolute when in it the entire universe dissolved. Thus, immensity of wrath determined the class of ‘tandava’, if it was the dance of dissolution or the dance that destroyed an individual or some particular object. Shiva resorted to a dance form similar to 'anandatandava' also when destroying elephant demon Gaya, demon Andhaka and when accomplishing Trailokyavijaya – victory of three worlds.

 

 

In similar vein metaphysicians hold that universe, his manifestation, creation and dissolution, wherever occurring, occur in him. If a leaf falls and decomposes, it is he who decays, and if a new shoot bursts, it is he who re-emerges. It is he who effects creation as also dissolution and is yet above both.

Shiva Linga

 

Thus, unlike a conceptual deity-image for sanctum an image of Shiva engaged in dance, despite that it also involves a lot of symbolism and is highly artistic, portrays an essential aspect of his being. Dance illustrates one of the ever-first cosmic acts with which Shiva seems to have tamed violent motion and separated from it rhythm, moves that communicated emotions and states of mind – human mind and the cosmic, and disciplined and defined pace. Cosmos emerged with roaring horizons, tempestuous winds, turbulent oceans, rocking mountains and moving earths. Shiva arrested their unruliness into his limbs and noises into the beats of his drum.

 

His feet re-cast the unruly skies and violent waters, and all their cries and commotion. Thus, unruly sounds were set to syllabic discipline, and cosmic disorder, having been reduced to measured pace, was transformed into ordered movement. A man of stage from his body gestures and movements he revealed, and perhaps guided how to reveal, different emotions and states of mind. He danced in delight as also to destroy. Thus in his case neither a dance-image nor any is an artistic manipulation or just an image for sanctum. Each of his images represents one of his aspects, an aspect of mind but more truly that of the flesh.

 

Dimensions of tandava and lasya manifesting in Shiva

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

 

Shaivite thought – metaphysical as well as devotional, abounds in numerous myths of dance performed by Shiva and his consort Devi in her various manifestations.

 

 

Shiva Linga

 

 

Unlike Vishnu who resorted to dance for accomplishing a contemplated objective, Shiva has been conceived more or less as a regular dancer performing for accomplishing an objective as also for pure aesthetic delight. The tradition hence reveres him, besides as 'Adi-nratya-guru' – the originator and the first teacher of dance, also as Natesh or Nataraja – the king of dance.

 

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

 

In him revealed both faces of dance – 'lasya' as well as 'tandava', of which all subsequent dance forms were offshoots. 'Lasya', the dance of aesthetic delight revealed beauty, grace, love and all tender aspects of existence. 'Lasya' is the mode that defined many of Shiva's iconographic forms – Kalyana-Sundara, Vrashavahana,

 

 

Shiva Linga

 

 

Yogeshvara,

 

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

 

Katyavalambita,

 

 

 

Sukhasanamurti, Chinamudra, Anugrahamurti, and Chandrashekhara.

Shiva Linga

 

 

Vyakhyanamurti

 

 

 

Chinamudra, Anugrahamurti, and Chandrashekhara.

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

'Tandava' – more correctly 'ananda-tandava', was the dance of absolute bliss, for after the Great Age had ended and dissolution had become imperative, He – the Great Shiva, Who alone remained to effect 're-birth' of life on the cosmos, danced in absolute bliss over the head of dissolution. In visual arts dissolution has been represented as Apasmarapurusha, the demon of forgetfulness and darkness, which prevailed after dissolution. Sound, which vibrated the space – the first of the five elements – the basic constituents of creation, fire, the symbol of final conflagration as also of the re-birth of energy – the main source of life, and gestures of re-assurance, fearlessness, release and liberation, accompanied 'ananda-tandava' as its organs. These aspects largely concretized also his image in ananda-tandava as it manifested in art and worship tradition especially in South where Shiva is widely worshipped as Nataraja.

 

Shiva Linga

 

 

In ananda-tandava imagery Shiva carried a damaru – double drum suggestive of sound – an essential component of ananda-tandava.

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

Ananda-tandava conceived Shiva’s image with flames of fire bursting from one of his palms and as running through entire cosmos – symbolized in Shaivite imagery in the form of a fire-arch.

 

 

 

Similarly, assurance, freedom from fear, release … are revealed in the gestures of Shiva’s hands. It was in 'ananda-tandava' that the fivefold activity – creating, maintaining, veiling, unveiling, and destroying, and the six celestial 'bhavas': 'shrishti' – creation; 'sanhara' – dissolution; 'vidya' – knowledge; 'avidya' – ignorance; 'gati' – motion; and 'agati' – inertness, revealed. 'Ananda-tandava', thus, encompassed the entire cosmos and its phenomenal existence.

 

Informal image

Shiva Linga

 

In almost all manifestations Shiva’s images are informal though in a dance form such aspect is best revealed. In a dance form the impassioned Shiva is as a rule portrayed as passionately engaged in it each body-part involving in its ecstasy. Unfurling locks of hair and his snakes floating into space portray the dynamics of the act. Usually he his right leg planted on the figure of Apasmarapurusha, and the left, turned to the right and shot with sublime force into the space.

 

 

Sadashiva (Five-Headed Shiva)

 

 

Shiva is usually a figure with normal two arms

 

 

 

Shiva Linga

 

 

though his images portraying him as engaged in dance are often four-armed.

 

 

 

Besides the normal right and left hands held in ‘abhay’and ‘varad’, the upper right hand carries a double-drum, and the upper left, a flame of fire. The term Nataraja, composed of’Nata’ and ’Raja’ literally means ’king’ of ’natas’. However, in its width the term ‘nata’, an ’acrobat’, means stage-performer. Thus, Nataraja means king of stage-performers or dancers. Shiva danced to destroy and to create or to delight, but containing unruly motion and to make it the instrument of expressing ‘bhavas’, an impulse that required him to teach it to others, also made him the ever first teacher – 'Adiguru' of dance.

 

Some other significant image forms of Shiva in dance

Later, Shiva was celebrated also as Nratya Dakshinamurti – one who is 'daksha' or expert in dance and also as Natesh. Though the terms Natesh and Nratya Dakshinamurti had greater breadth for these terms also included ‘lasya’, besides ‘tandava’, his form that the term Nataraja denoted is largely rigidified, has a better defined iconography and in common perception is seen as better representing Shiva in 'Ananda-tandava' – the dance of dissolution. Various forms of Apasamarapurusha – as variously decoded by Shaivite thinkers, present also some variants of this form. Though ruthlessly trampled under the feet in most cases the image of Apasamarapurusha lies well contented as if awaiting the end of the dance and complete dissolution of the cosmos for after the dissolution is absolute its reign – the reign of inertness, begins. Sometimes Apasamarapurusha is thoughtfully inclined as if meditating on how it shall act after dissolution has taken place, and sometimes carries a flower or some object assuring that soon the process of re-creation shall begin.

 

This article by P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet

 


For Further Reference:

  • Rigveda : (ed.) Vishvabandhu : Vishveshvananda Vedic Research Institute, Hoshiyarpur
  • Shiva Purana, Gita Press, Gorakhpur
  • Upanishad-anka, Gita Press, Gorakhpur
  • Linga Purana : (ed.) J. L. Shashtri, Delhi
  • Natyashashtra by Bharata Muni
  • A Concise Encyclopaedia of Hinduism, Ram Krishna Math, Benglore
  • Shivaramamurti : Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature
  • V. S. Agrawal : Shiva Mahadeva, The Great God : Varanasi
  • Stella Kramrisch : The Presence Of Shiva : Delhi
  • Devdutt Pattanaik : Shiva, an Introduction
Post a Comment
 
Post Review
Testimonials
'My' Ganesha-pendant arrived ! Thank you a lot-it's really very lovely ! Greetings from Germany.
Birgit Kukmann
I got the parcel today, and I am very happy about it! a true Bible of Subhashitam! Thanks again a lot.
Eva, France
I have been your customer for many years and everything has always been A++++++++++++ quality.
Delia, USA
I am your customer for many years. I love your products. Thanks for sending high quality products.
Nata, USA
I have been a customer for many years due to the quality products and service.
Mr. Hartley, UK.
Got the package on 9th Nov. I have to say it was one of the excellent packaging I have seen, worth my money I paid. And the books where all in best new conditions as they can be.
Nabahat, Bikaner
Whatever we bought from Exotic India has been wonderful. Excellent transaction,very reasonable price excellent delivery. We bought so many huge statues, clothes, decorative items, jewels etc. Every item was packed with love.
Tom and Roma Florida USA
Namaste. I want to thank you as I have received the statue and I shall always remember the service provided to such good standards.
Dr. B. Saha, UK
I received my Green Tara statue today and it's absolutely lovely, much nicer than I'd hoped--thank you so much for arranging its manufacture for me!
Betsy, California
Parcel received is brilliantly packed by your dispatch team. Excellent collection, beautiful Micro-art work. The items are exactly same as displayed. Hats-off to the collection team. The shiva linga Ring & Garuda pendant were superb. Its pleasure shopping every time. God bless your team with good energy to continue this Real collection work.
Badarinath, India
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Related Links
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"The primary thrust in the Mahabharata is to teach us the nuances of dharma through the poignant love story…. I have full control over my mind, even then it is attracted towards you…. You think you are alone with your own self. But don’t you know that the all-knowing God dwells in every heart…. Those who have wives are the ones who have Lakshmi…. I tell you that truth is equal to studying all the Vedas and bathing in all the pilgrimages…. The immortal dialogue between Shakuntala and her husband is one of the greatest…."
Narrating Dharma - Story of Shakuntala in the Mahabharata
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
"During one such sacrifice, nine spiritually charged men entered the sacrificial hall….As for Bhagavat Dharma, it is the dharma spoken by God directly from his own mouth…. Like a person eating food finds himself gratified simultaneously in three ways…. We are all constantly taught by spiritual texts to offer or dedicate all our actions to God. However, the question remains as to how to practically carry out this injunction…..The only fruit of wealth is dharma... Therefore, there is no need for the Vedas to enjoin us to these things for which we already have a tendency….The real intention of the Vedic injunctions in these matters is to make a person abstain from them…”
Nine Teachings from Nine Yogis: The Essence of Bhagavat Dharma
"Only a certain fraction of this karma is chosen by God in order to form the blueprint of our next birth…. The fruit that one experiences in this birth is due to prarabdha and a portion of the present agami…. Similarly, a fish in the Ganga does not accrue punya because of always living in Ganga…. A good karma can be annulled by a bad karma and a bad one by a good one…. Sometimes we also hear that prarabdha cannot be got rid of. It has to be spent through…. Bhagawan Vyasa says that for the full result of the karma to manifest, three things are necessary…. Then how to understand the statement that prarabdha should unavoidably be experienced?"
Theory and Practice of Karma: Some Salient Features
"It concedes that for an orderly social life a division into four groups based on the principle of varnadharma is necessary…. Each individual sometimes acts in a sattvika manner while at other times he may act in rajasic or tamasic manner, which means that the manifestation of a particular guna depends on circumstances…. Though all the three gunas are present in everyone, different persons are driven to act differently…. The karma that I have to perform should depend on my inherent gunas and should have the ability to regulate these gunas…. There is no instant transition to moksha…. An individual has to make his way towards moksha only through worldly life."
Varnashrama Dharma: A Logical View
"She has always believed that this would redeem her of her distress….A coconut, otherwise an ordinary dried fruit or the source of edible, or at the most, beauty oil, has always been revered as an auspicious object effecting good and well-being and the food that gods most loved….The tree in the Buddhist tradition was later identified as Bodhi-tree, seated under which Buddha had attained Enlightenment….Body gestures and symptoms, signs, indications among others must have been the early man’s tools of communicating oneself and knowing and understanding the world around….Kirttimukha was initially conceived as a mystical mask….Lion does not figure in the wide range of animal toys or figurines excavated from Indus sites."
Auspicious Symbols in Indian tradition
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"Who would not satisfy his wife who is but his better half?…. Later, he took a bath, performed pranayama and meditating silently on the pure, eternal light, repeated internally the Gayatri Mantra…. Once it so happened that goddess Lakshmi was out of Vaikuntha…. Despite being older, they always maintain the appearance of five-year olds…. Seeing the great saints he welcomed them with reverence…. It is never for one single purpose but to fulfil many functions at the same time…. He ensured for them a glorious death."
God’s Lila, Understanding the Collective Impact of Avatara
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"This middle path lies in between extreme asceticism on one side, and extreme indulgence on the other…. When standing under a Ashok tree, tired and exhausted, she raised her right hand for seeking support of a branch of the tree…. The unique balance that defined his entire life was pre-determined in this duality….One day, in the palace garden he frightened his attendants…. He ate less and less till his diet reduced to a sesame seed, and himself, to a mere skeleton…. Seven days after the attainment of enlightenment gods sent food for breaking his fast…. However, he postponed his ‘nirvana’ for three months till he visited the places he had reminiscences of."
The Light That Enlightened Millions
(The life of Buddha in the popular mind)
"Vyasa Ji explained through a story how it came to be that the Pandava's marriage with a single wife was in conformity with dharma….The gods, along with their king Indra, were sitting on the bank of a river when they saw a beautiful golden lotus floating on its waters…. Both were playing a game of dice…. On hearing Shiva’s words, Indra started shaking with fear… Without death, the burden on the earth becomes too much…. Her birth had the sanction of all the three Gods - Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu."
Devi Draupadi: Resolving the Paradox
"Here is a fragment from one of the most poignant episodes of Indian history…. This piece of history is from the Mahabharata…. She was dying with shame but inside, like a true kshatrani (woman of the warrior race), she was burning with anger…. I have heard that women who follow dharma were never brought before a public court….Greed is the destroyer of dharma. I do not desire a third boon…. Draupadi was as forgiving as mother earth herself…. Just then Arjuna saw his dear friend Bhagawan Krishna approaching him…. “Leave him, leave him. He is a brahmin and worthy of our worship. Their mother should not cry, like I have at the death of my children."
Analyzing the Eternal Dimensions of Dharma Through Itihasa (History)
"Once as he was engaged in puja, a saint came to visit him….Like a true householder attached to his family, Gajendra sported in the water with his wives, children and friends…. Understanding that his end was imminent, they all slowly withdrew, till Gajendra was left alone…. If we reflect on it calmly, we will realise that there is no house in the world where the story of Gajendra does not play out…. The one who is careful towards the end is able to reform his death…. Gajendra’s hymn of praise is one of the greatest philosophical poems in the annals of world literature."
Moksha of Gajendra: Liberation by The Formless God
Show More
TRUSTe online privacy certification
Language:
Currency:
All rights reserved. Copyright 2016 © Exotic India