Nataraja - The Lord of Dance
Significance of Nataraja
Shiva is holding fire on his left hand and a damaru on his right. His front left hand is pointing downwards facing the raised foot. His front right hand shows Abhaya Mudra. He wears anklets on his legs. Shiva is dancing on the back of the Apaswara, who is on the lotus base. The fire halo starts from the lotus peeta, surrounds the entire idol and ends on the same lotus peeta.
The extent to which Shiva’s Jata is spread is indicative of the vigour with which he is dancing. The half moon on his head signifies beauty and eternity. The Ganga, flowing down from his head signifies the eternity of life form. The eye on his forehead, one way signifies knowledge (path to knowledge) and other way shows that Shiva can destroy every thing with that eye.
The damaru on his back right hand signifies generation or creation and also is the one that brought out ‘Nada’ for the first time. His back left hand is holding fire with Ardha Chandra hastha. This signifies that Shiva is for Samhara. Front left hand, is dropped before his body in a Gaja hastha, while this hand, pointing towards his raised foot indicates or calls for people to take shelter in him, his front right hand with Abhaya Mudra, assures that, those who comes to his shelter shall be protected.
The very form of Ajnana or Thamas, the Apaswara or Muyalaka, is lying down under Shiva’s Kunchitha Pada, with his back broken. His left foot is raised with “Bhujanga Thrasa chari.” The halo or Prabhavali that is surrounding Shiva’s idol is called Thiru vasi. This is nothing but the regular movement of nature. Shiva becomes the centre point of this movement and sustains it by his dance.
This Ananda Thandava signifies Shiva’s 5 works (Pancha Kriya) - Shrishti, Sthithi, Samhara, Thirobhva and Anugraha.
Shrishti- Birth of lives,
All these are the Philosophical imagination of this idol.
Significance of Nataraja
As the name implies, Nataraja is the prime lord for the art of dance. He is the superior dancer. The idol what we see today is the one what was made during Chola empire in 10th century, when that empire was in its highest state. This idol’s design and posture is incomparable to any other idols in the world. It is not an exaggeration if we tell that the marvelous posture of dance, while in movement is this idol. It is universally accepted by all artists, that this is the best piece of art produced by the art of sculpture. There are many hidden meanings in every part of Nataraja’s pose, and there are explanations also. This posture of Nataraja is called”Nadanatha vidya” or “Ananda Thandava.”.
Nataraja idol is formed with a hexagonal base, or frame (Rekhe vinyasa). The body forms the center part while head and top two hands form the 3 top 3 triangles or angles. While his one foot placed on the head of the demon, is in the lower most triangle, his other rose foot and his spread dress are placed in the other two triangles. All these 6 triangles are circumscribed by a circle formed by the bright light of the Agni (fire) held by him.
Here Shiva is a Jatadhari. His unhealed hair (not bound by his jata) is spread on both the sides. On his Jata, Ganga and half moon are shining. The Jata is decorated with peacock feathers. His beautiful smiling face has 3 eyes. While his 2 eyes signify sun and moon, his 3rd eye on his fore head is shining with Agni or fire. On his right ear, he is wearing Makara Kundala. His right ear has a pathra kundala, worn by women. His neck is surrounded by snakes. He is wearing a tiger skin around his hip and also is wearing sacred thread. His cloth that is worn tightly around his hip is moving with wind. He is stamping on the demon (Apasmara) with his right foot.