"If a single
icon had to be chosen to represent the extraordinarily rich and complex
cultural heritage of India, the Shiva Nataraja might well be the most
remunerative candidate. It is such a brilliant iconographic invention that
it comes as close to being a summation of the genius of the Indian people as
any single icon can."
Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Nataraja (literally, The
King of Dance) is the dancing posture of Lord
the aspect of God as the Destroyer in
right hand holds the drum (called Udukkai in
Tamil and Dhamarukha in
Hindi), which symbolizes sound originating creation.
left hand contains Agni or the fire, which signifies destruction. The
opposing concepts in the upper hands show the counterpoise of creation and
right hand shows Abhaya ("fear not" in
Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to
those who follow the righteousness of
left points towards the raised left foot which signifies upliftment and
salvation. The hand also looks like the trunk of
Ganeśa, the obstacle remover, a symbol of strength.
on which Nataraja dances is a demon that symbolises ignorance in man, which
is defeated by the dance of Śiva.
surrounding flames represent the manifest universe.
swirling around his waist is
kundalini, man's inherent power.
Śiva's dancing manifestation is represented not only all of time and space,
but also the primal creative force that is beyond the circle of illusion
that mortals live within, all movement and vibration of the universe, and
the stillness beyond all existence.
form of Nataraja can be seen to mirror the Hindu sacred syllable
thus implying that Lord Śiva's dance of destruction and creation is
contained within the existential principle of the Divine Sound.
The image of the
Lord as the Cosmic Dancer is shown at the
Chidambaram Temple, an unusual fact as Śiva is depicted in an
anthropomorphic form rather than in the typical non-anthropomorphic
form of the
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