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«Cosmic Dance of Lord Shiva Written and also arranged from various manuscripts and articles by Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D. Gita Satsang Ghent, ...»

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Gita Society of Belgium

Branch of International Gita Society (IGS/USA)

© 2001-2012

Cosmic Dance of Lord Shiva

Written and also arranged from various manuscripts and articles by

Philippe L. De Coster, B.Th., D.D.

Gita Satsang Ghent, Belgium

© November 2012 – Philippe L. De Coster, Ghent, Belgium

(Non commercial, for personal and satsang use only)

Cosmic Dance of Lord Shiva

Review along the author’s two E-books: Shiva Devotion and Meditation As

It Is; and, Shiva The Destroyer and the Restorer, A Study in Psychosynthesis and Meditation, both published on Scribd and Internet Archives.

In the twenty-first century, the image of Shiva Nataraja has become popularised and repurposed across the globe. There is a natural tension when such a powerful deity in Hindu belief is brought into new secular contexts. People worldwide are seeing Nataraja through a multitude of lenses—commercial, personal, scientific, and artistic—and finding deep but differing meanings.

One striking example has its roots in twentieth-century physics. After physicist Fritjof Capra's book The Tao of Physics was published in 1975, Shiva Nataraja became a symbol of the movement of matter in the pattern of creation and destruction. A large sculpture of Nataraja stands outside the European Centre for Research in Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, underlining the link between cosmic forces and subatomic matter. In this context, Nataraja is also a political symbol for India's contribution to the sciences.

Along with appearing as a popular image on merchandise, Nataraja has been reinterpreted by artists to address issues in today's global society. Israeli artist Izhar Patkin, for example, created a glass sculpture fusing the deity with Brazilian entertainer Carmen Miranda and African-American performer Josephine Baker. The work, titled “Where Each is Both”, explores the confluences of these three figures as dancers and as boundary-crossers, creating and destroying on cosmic and human scales.

Indian-American graphic designer Sanjay Patel has depicted Nataraja in his unique illustration style, which is partly inspired by Japanese cartoons and comics. His brightly colored, two-dimensional deities sport large heads, big eyes, and stubby limbs. In his collection of illustrations and information on the Hindu pantheon, The Little Book of Hindu Deities, Patel uses this style to bring a deliberate playfulness to the exploration of Hindu gods and epics.

LORD SHIVA is the Father of all that is was and Shall be, he is Creator Preserver and Destroyer, the Great Lord Of Immortality giver of Immortality, Supreme Conciousness. Representing male divinity, He is Rudra Lord of the sky. Lord Shiva's Holy day of the week is monday and Holy day of month according to the lunar calendar is the fourteenth day of the dark half of the month usually the eve of the new moon, known as Masa Shivaratri and ofcourse Lord Shiva's great Festival Maha Shivaratri on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the month in the Hindu Month of Phalguna usually febuary or march on the western calendar. Lord shiva is Propritiated for Healing, Cleansing, for stimulating the third eye, and for wisdom as he is the great teacher Dakshinamurthi.

Shiva (or Siva ) is one of the chief deities of Hinduism. His name means "Auspicious One." Devotees of Shiva are called " Saivites." Shiva is known by many other names, including Sambhu ("Benignant"), Samkara ("Beneficent"), Pasupati ("Lord of Beasts"), Mahesa ("Great Lord") and Mahadeva ("Great God").

Shiva is a paradoxical deity: "both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger." In the most famous myth concerning Shiva, he saves humanity by holding in his throat the poison that churned up in the waters and threatened mankind. For this reason he is often depicted with a blue neck.

In the Vedas, shiva is an aspect of the god Rudra, not a separate god. However, a joint form Rudra-Shiva appears in early household rites, making Shiva one of the most ancient Hindu gods still worshipped today. By the 2nd century BCE, Rudra's significance began to wane and Shiva rose in popularity as a separate identity.

In the Ramayana, Shiva is a mighty and personal god, and in the Mahabharata he is the equal of Vishnu and worshipped by other gods. Shiva became associated with generation and destruction; sometimes fulfilling the role of Destroyer along with Vishnu (the Preserver) and Brahma (the Creator) and sometimes embodying all three roles within himself.

In the Mahadeva image in the Elephanta caves (on an island off of Bombay), which dates to between the 5th and 7th centuries CE, Shiva is shown in his threefold form. This triple aspect of Shiva, which has become a dominant form,

is rich with symbolism:

Shiva's female consort is variously manifested as Uma, Sati, Parvati, Durga, Kali, and sometimes Shakti. Their sons are Skanda, the god of war, and the beloved elephant-headed Ganesh, remover of obstacles.

Shiva is especially associated with the Ganges River, which flows through his hair in images, and Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas.

Shiva's symbols are the bull and the linga. The latter symbol is historically associated with the phallus, but is not generally perceived as such by worshipers.

Other depictions of Shiva have his hair in matted locks and piled atop his head like an ascetic and adorned with the crescent moon and the Ganges River (according to legend, he broke the Ganga's fall to earth by allowing her to trickle through his hair).

The Shiva Lingam is normally a naturally occurring stone formation or a manmade stone sculpture, usually on a square or circular mounting, that is treated as a powerful symbolic object in the Hindu faith. The structure is cylindrical with either a flat or rounded top and is a common feature in Hindu temples, where it is worshiped for its association with the deity Shiva. Hindus believe that the Shiva Lingam possesses metaphysical powers -- qualities inherent to the object but not traceable to its physical substance.

Male Energy

The form of the stone itself -- strongly phallic in shape -- is meant to suggest an inherent, if undetectable, masculine energy. It is believed that the hot-tempered nature associated with the god Shiva is manifested in the volatile energy of the stone itself. Large Shiva Lingam structures are therefore often bathed in water and sandalwood paste to calm this energy prior to worship.

Female Energy

The base of the Shiva Lingam is shaped like a yoni, a symbol suggestive of both the female reproductive organ and the female divinity that is the origin of life.

Carvings and markings on the stone are also said to contain divine female energy. The fact that this feminine symbol underlies the strongly masculine stone results in the metaphysical ability of the stone to be a force of balance, unifying opposing energies.

Healing Properties Another property attributed to Shiva Lingam is a healing force that derives from a cosmic or universal source. As a result, some believers in alternative healing methods, related to the ancient concept of chakras or subtle energy centers, purchase and wear small Shiva Lingam amulets and pendants as jewelry. In particular, polished stones gathered from the Narmada River in India are believed to be potent with metaphysical healing powers.

Shiva the Hindu god of destruction is also known as Nataraja, the Lord of Dancers (In Sanskrit, Nata means dance and raja means Lord). The visual image of Nataraja achieved canonical form in the bronzes cast under the Chola dynasty in the 10th century AD, and then continued to be reproduced in metal, stone and other substances right up to the present times. The Chola Nataraja is often said to be the supreme statement of Hindu art.

The Sanskrit word "Shiva" is an adjective meaning kind, friendly, gracious, or auspicious. As a proper name it means "The Auspicious One", used as a euphemistic name for Rudra. In simple English transliteration it is written either as Shiva or Siva. In English it is pronounced as - ɕivə (IPA). The adjective Shiva meaning "auspicious" is used as an attributive epithet not particularly of Rudra, but of several other Vedic deities. In the Rig Veda, Indra uses this word to describe himself several times. (2:20:3, 6:45:17, 8:93:3) The Sanskrit word saiva means "relating to the god Shiva", and this term is the Sanskrit name both for one of the principal sects of Hinduism, and for a member of one of those sects. It is used as as adjective to characterize certain beliefs and practices, such as Shaivism.

There is an interesting legend behind the conception of Shiva as Nataraja. In a dense forest in South India, there dwelt multitudes of heretical sages. Thither proceeded Shiva to confute them, accompanied by Vishnu disguised as a beautiful woman. The sages were at first led to violent dispute amongst themselves, but their anger was soon directed against Shiva, and they endeavoured to destroy him by means of incantations. A fierce tiger was created in sacrificial fires, and rushed upon him; but smiling gently, he seized it and, with the nail of his little finger, stripped off its skin, and wrapped it about himself like a silken cloth. Undiscouraged by failure, the sages renewed their offerings, and produced a monstrous serpent, which however Shiva seized and wreathed about his neck like a garland. Then he began to dance; but there rushed upon him a last monster in the shape of a malignant dwarf. Upon him the god pressed the tip of his foot, and broke the creatures back, so that it writhed upon the ground; and so, his last foe prostrate, Shiva resumed the dance.

To understand the concept of Nataraja we have to understand the idea of dance itself. Like yoga, dance induces trance, ecstasy and the experience of the divine.

In India consequently, dance has flourished side by side with the terrific austerities of the meditation grove (fasting, absolute introversion etc.). Shiva, therefore, the arch-yogi of the gods, is necessarily also the master of the dance.

Shiva Nataraja was first represented thus in a beautiful series of South Indian bronzes dating from the tenth and twelfth centuries A.D. In these images, Nataraja dances with his right foot supported by a crouching figure and his left foot elegantly raised. 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 the Dance of Bliss (anandatandava).

These iconographic details of Nataraja are to be read, according to the Hindu tradition, in terms of a complex pictorial allegory. The most common figures depict a four-armed Shiva. These multiple arms represent the four cardinal directions. Each hand either holds an object or makes a specific mudra (gesture).

The upper right hand holds a hour-glass drum which is a symbol of creation. It is beating the pulse of the universe. The drum also provides the music that accompanies Shivas dance. It represents sound as the first element in an unfolding universe, for sound is the first and most pervasive of the elements.

The story goes that when Shiva granted the boon of wisdom to the ignorant Panini (the great Sanskrit grammarian), the sound of the drum encapsulated the whole of Sanskrit grammar. The first verse of Paninis grammar is in fact called Shiva sutra.

The hour-glass drum also represents the male and female vital principles; two triangles penetrate each other to form a hexagon. When they part, the universe also dissolves. The opposite hand, the upper left, bears on its palm a tongue of flames. Fire is the element of destruction of the world. According to Hindu mythology at the end of the world, it will be fire that will be the instrument of annihilation. Thus in the balance of these two hands is illustrated a counterpoise of creation and destruction. Sound against flames, ceaselessness of production against an insatiate appetite of extermination.

The second right hand is held in the abhaya (literally "without fear") pose and so a gesture of protection, as an open palm is most likely to be interpreted. It depicts the god as a protector.

The left leg is raised towards the right leg and reaches across it; the lower left hand is stretched across the body and points to the upraised left foot which represents release from the cycle of birth and death. Interestingly, the hand pointing to the uplifted foot is held in a pose imitative of the outstretched trunk of an elephant. In Sanskrit this is known as the gaja-hasta-mudra (the posture of the elephant trunk), and is symbolic of Ganesha, Shivas son, the Remover of obstacles.

Shiva dances on the body of a dwarf apasmara-purusha (the man of forgetfulness) who embodies indifference, ignorance and laziness. Creation, indeed all creative energy is possible only when the weight of inertia (the tamasic darkness of the universe) is overcome and suppressed. The Nataraja image thus addresses each individual to overcome complacency and get his or her own act together.

The ring of fire and light, which circumscribes the entire image, identifies the field of the dance with the entire universe. The lotus pedestal on which the image rests locates this universe in the heart or consciousness of each person.

The Nataraja image is also eloquent of the paradox of Eternity and Time. It shows us that the reposeful ocean and the racing stream are not finally distinct.

This wonderful lesson can be read in the significant contrast of the incessant, triumphant motion of the swaying limbs to the balance of the and the immobility of the mask-like countenance. Shiva is Kala, meaning time, but he is also Maha Kala, meaning Great Time or eternity. As Nataraja, King of dancers, his gestures, wild and full of grace, precipitate the cosmic illusion; his flying arms and legs and the swaying of his torso produce the continuous creationdestruction of the universe, death exactly balancing birth. The choreography is the whirligig of time. History and its ruins, the explosion of suns, are flashes from the tireless swinging sequence of the gestures. In the beautiful cast metal figurines, not merely a single phase or movement, but the entirety of this cosmic dance is miraculously rendered. The cyclic rhythm, flowing on and on in the unstayable, irreversible round of the Mahayugas, or Great Eons, is marked by the beating and stamping of the Masters heels. But the face remains, meanwhile in sovereign calm.

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