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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Symbols and Substance - Nataraja


Lord Nataraja


This is another form of Lord Shiva, made famous in the western world because of the icons of Nataraja of great artistic beauty.

Nataraja means the King of Dances. In His dancing pose, one foot is on the ground, standing on a demon. The other foot is free in space. There is fire in one hand and a drum in another. He has the river Ganges (Ganga)and crescent moon on his head. What do all these represent?

His dance is the Cosmic dance of creation. His dancing theatre is the Universe. Mayalaka, the demon on whom Nataraja is standing with one foot, is maya, the illusion (ignorance), suggesting that we crush our ignorance and illusion.

But the other foot is free, free of dependence and attachment. He says that even as we live in this world of reality, we have to keep one foot free. In other words, He asks us to learn to be free of attachment to worldly things.

One hand has the drum; the drum makes noise only when the hand moves, when His hand moves. The drum also represents cosmic sound, from which this Universe was created by Him. The drum, therefore, represents the world that He creates and controls.

The other hand holds fire. This represents human mind that like the flames of the fire, wavers and is unsteady. It also represents the opposite of creation (the drum), the dissolution of the universe.

On the head, the Ganges (Ganga) represents cool and refreshing wisdom and the crescent moon represents eternal, blissful and soft Divine Light.

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