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Paintings > Hindu > Shiva > Lord Shiva in Ecstatic Dance
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Lord Shiva in Ecstatic Dance

Lord Shiva in Ecstatic Dance

Lord Shiva in Ecstatic Dance

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Water Color Painting on Paper
Artist: Kailash Raj

10.0 inch X 7.6 inch
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HL02
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This miniature, a timeless art-piece, rendered using mid-eighteenth century Chamba idiom of the Pahari art style, represents Lord Shiva engaged in ecstatic dance. The tradition perceives Lord Shiva as revealing him and thereby the entire cosmos which is his mere manifest form, and all its aspects : beauty, good, and even ugly and destruction, in dance. He hence created as many forms of dance as the aspects of the cosmos, each revealing one of them. He danced to create as also to destroy, the two ultimate aspects of his cosmic act. This form of his dance has been identified as ‘lasya’, one of his two major dance-forms, the other being ‘tandava’. In ‘lasya’ revealed creation and consequentially all that related to it : beauty, good, creativity, love, union, sensualism, emotion, desire, ecstasy, joy, jubilation, all colours, all softer aspects, whether of creation or of a created being, and all fascinations, and in ‘tandava’, destruction and dissolution, and thus, annihilation of forms and formal world. The dance of creation ‘lasya’ is said to descend into oceanic depths and to bud within, blooming in eyes, in the lustre of crimson cheeks, sensually glowing lips, and in the entire being. Love, union and creation are its modes.

Apparently, his figure bursting with great ecstasy and energy, he seems to be dancing for his own delight and for the delight of all around him : his family, consort, sons, and by extension those adopted as sons, and the sons-like dear devotees, with the faces of men or animals. However, under broad Shaivite metaphysical tradition Shiva’s dance is Shiva’s ‘cosmic act’ and this dance-forms manifests his act of creation which the presence of his consort, the source of love, union and creation, of his sons, the source of worldly attachment, and of his devotees in whose act the ties of the material world get credence, consolidates. The artist further strengthens this analogy of ‘lasya’ and creation when he paints trees bursting with colours and twisting to dance; the earth as green, to symbolize abundance, and the silvery sky, to reflect the time’s pace – rising and setting of the sun. In ‘tandava’ forms dissolve, colours diffuse into darkness, and time leaves no traces. Contrary from ‘lasya’ that love defines, ‘tandava’ is fire in which everything dissolves; and, Shiva, the Natesh, is the Lord of both, ‘lasya’ and ‘tandava’.

Bare footed and with normal two arms, his usual humanized form, Shiva has been represented in the centre of the canvas as dancing in full ecstasy and delight. The force of his action reveals in the motion of his matted hair wind-like shooting to his right while his figure throws itself to left. Whether disabled by the pace of the movement of his feet or to keep pace with it and to the rhythm that the music created, his loincloth, consisting of two parts, a leopard-skin on the front, and elephant hide, on the back, his sole ensemble, whirls off his body, and his serpent – his adornment, coiling around his neck, floats into the air. As if intoxicated with his favourite drink ‘bhanga’ his eyes reveal amour and great emotionality.

Not mere witnesses, the entire Shiva family joins the dance : his consort Parvati is playing on ‘vina’, a stringed musical instrument of gods and celestial beings; six-faced Karttikeya, beating a metal disc by two of his hands, and by other two, cymbals; the four-armed Ganesh seems to have taken his father’s ‘damaru’ – double drum, and is beating it. By his other two hands he is playing on a lyre, perhaps consisting of a single string; the multi-armed Bana, Shiva’s ardent devotee, and loved by Shiva and Parvati as their another son, is playing on innumerable drums, holding them in his multiple hands; his devotees, humane as well as those with heads like parrot, goat, sheep and monkey are blowing pipes, beating kettledrums, flat drums, and cymbals.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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