23 January 2010

नटराज




  • A cobra uncoils from his lower right forearm, and the crescent moon and a skull are on his crest. He dances within an arch of flames. This dance is called Ananda Tandava/The Dance of Bliss.


  • The upper right hand holds a small drum shaped like an hourglass that is called a ḍamaru in Sanskrit. A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta (Sanskrit for ḍamaru-hand) is used to hold the drum. It symbolizes sound originating creation.
  • The upper left hand contains Agni or fire, which signifies destruction The opposing concepts in the upper hands show the counterpoise of creation and destruction.
  • The second right hand shows the Abhaya mudra (meaning fearlessness in Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the righteousness of Dharma.
  • The second left hand points towards the raised foot which signifies upliftment and liberation.
  • The dwarf on which Nataraja dances is the demon Apasmara which symbolises Shiva's victory over ignorance (ego).
  • As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. Shiva's long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a knot, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.
  • The surrounding flames represent the manifest Universe. Also, the circle of fire/flames symbolizes the cycle of transmigration/suffering the ego goes through(endless births and rebirths, before attaining salvation).
  • The snake swirling around his waist is Kundalini, the Shakti or divine force thought to reside within everything.
  • The stoic face of Shiva represents his neutrality, thus being in balance.


  • To understand the concept of Nataraja we have to understand the idea of dance itself in Hinduism. Like yoga, dance is used to induce trance, ecstasy and the experience of the divine. In India, consequently, dance has flourished side by side with the austerities of meditation (as fasting, absolute introversion etc.). Shiva, therefore, the arch-yogi of the Gods, is necessarily also the Lord of the dance. Dancing is seen as an art in which the artist and the art s/he creates are one and the same, thought to evoke the oneness of God and creation.

    -From various sources-

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