Lord Shiva’s first depiction as Nataraja, his king of dancers' form,
is believed to have been in the famous bronze sculptures of
Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, dating from the time of the mighty Chola
empire of South India. The dance of Shiva falls under two categories: the
Lasya, the gentle form of the dance, and Tandava, the fearsome dance
Shiva’s long matted tresses are usually shown as piled up in a
knot. But in his Nataraja’s form, they loosen. His rear left hand makes
the half-moon as the flame burns in his palm.
His rear right hand holds
his hour-glass drum, the damru. The front right hand is raised in Abhay
Mudra while the corresponding left complements it, pointing down
towards his raised leg, in the dancer’s pose.
The raised left leg is a symbol of upliftment and liberation.
Nataraja’s right foot is shown crushing a dwarfish demon, the
Muyalakan, a symbol of man’s ego. The circle of flames around the
Nataraja represents the endless cycle of birth and death. It emerges
from the lotus pedestal, a symbol of the creative force of the universe,
and that’s where it ends.
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