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Shiva, the Natesh or Nataraj, is represented as performing Anandatandava. Anandatandava is the dance of absolute bliss, which Shiva performs after the Great Age has ended and dissolution becomes imperative, as it is only Shiva who is beyond dissolution. He dances over the head of dissolution, and the body of Apasmara, the demon of forgetfulness. Apasmara is abyssal darkness, which succeeds dissolution. Darkness is opposite to light but does not oppose it. Hence, Apasmara only supports the Divine Dancer by upholding upon its hip one of his legs, the right one in most icons but the left one in this image, and looks at Shiva with immense satisfaction, as Apasmara knows that it will prevail even after dissolution has taken place.
The eight-armed image of Natesh has been installed on a podium-like solid pedestal consisting of three steps carved with lotus motifs. Shive is in loin cloth, though tied with a long sash, end of which trails to ground and the caster has balanced his image with its aid. He is wearing a towering crown so unlike Shiva. It has three distinct parts, suggestive of three cosmic regions, which Shiva contains in his being. Close to the forehead, in the centre of the crown, there is the motif of skull, symbolising Kala-Bhairava. Towards its right, there is a small icon with folded hands, representing Ganga. The lowermost right arm reveals a warning note and the uppermost left reveal a gesture of dance. Other right hands are carrying goad, sword, and bull, and the left ones, deer, flame of fire, and damaru, small drum, the symbol of sound, which vibrates the space. Sound is the first of the five elements that announces creation. The flame of fire symbolises final conflagration. Bull, as one of Shiva's attributes, is a rare presence.
In Shaivite mysticism, 'Anandatandava' is the manifestation of fivefold activity - creating, maintaining, unveiling, veiling and destroying, and celestial revelation of six bhavas, shrishti, creation, sanhara, dissolution, vidya, knowlege, avidya, ignorance, gati, motion, and agati, inertness. 'Anandatandava', thus encompasses within it the entire cosmos and its phenomenal existence.
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.