Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nataraj... Lord of the Dance

Of various forms in which Shiva is worshipped, Nataraja is one of the most important. Shiva is the Lord of Dance (Nataraja).

Popularity of this aspect of Shiva in south India is due to the fact that religious dancing was very much in vogue there. In this aspect, Shiva is depicted as dancing on the high slopes of the Himalayan Mount Kailasha or in the temple of Chidambaram or Tillai, located near the seacoast in Cuddalore District of Tamil Nadu and 78 km south of Pondicherry.

The temple of Chidambaram is mystically identified with Kailasha. This Nataraj has been described as the cultural epitome of the Chola empire which was at its zenith of glory for three hundred years from about 850AD to 1150AD.

Shiva is credited with the invention of 108 different forms of dances. Some of these dances are calm and gentle while others are fierce. Of the latter, tandava is the most famous. In tandava, Shiva, flanked by his drunken attendants (ganas) dances terribly to the accompaniment of wild rhythm which destroys the world at the end of cosmic cycle.

The term 'Nataraj' literary means 'King of Dancers'. According to Ananda K. Coomaraswamy in his The Dance of Shiva, Nataraj is the "clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of…A more fluid and energetic representation of a moving figure than the dancing figure of Shiva can scarcely be found anywhere,"

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