Radiating with fiery energy, Shiva is surrounded by a circle of flames that burn in the heavens, mid-air, and earth. His flower-ladened locks hold the river goddess Ganga, who fell from heaven through his hair, and a small crescent moon. Because it waxes and wanes, the moon symbolizes the passage of time and, therefore, death; but at the same time, according to Hindu myth, it is also the source of the elixir of life (amrita) and immortality. A woman's earring appears in one of his ears, for Shiva is both male and female. Equally as ambiguous are the serpents wrapped around his body-their bite brings death, but their phallic shape suggests procreation and life.
('Hymn of Jesus', Acts of St John.)
When the mind inquires into the existence of the world, it answers itself in
terms of; causality, quoting a primary cause. The myths of man speak of the
creation of the world as the dance of God. Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the
Dance, sends pulsating waves of awakening sound through matter, thereby
seducing it to life from lethargy. And matter dances, appearing round about
him as an aureole of fiery emanations. Dancing, he creates and sustains the
manifold phenomena of the universe; dancing he destroys by fire all forms
and names and gives new rest:
His form is everywhere, all pervading. ...
Everywhere is Shiva's gracious dance made manifest.....
He dances with Water , Fire, Wind and Ether.
Thus our Lord dances ever in the court.
Dance, as an expression of man being moved by the transcendent power is the
earliest art form; before man experiences his experience of life through
materials he does so with his own body, Early man dances on every occasion:
for joy, grief, love, fear; of his experience. In his dancing, the imitation
of sound and movement observed around him, and especially the involuntary
expression of motion through sound and gestures, precedes any consciously
articulated sound and dance formation. Before the dance develops into a
deliberate religious rite, it is a rhythmic release of energy, an ecstatic
act. Only very gradually, under the influence of established cults, is the
dance transformed from a spontaneous expression of movement to a fixed
pattern of steps, gestures and poses. Yet, in whatever form the dance
presents itself, it always aims at approaching the god. As an act of
sacrifice, as man giving himself to his god, the dance is total surrender.
The creator is seen as the 'unmoved mover' behind events in the cosmos, the
still point round which everything must turn, simply because it holds its
peace, encompassing both movement and perfect immobility. Rhythmic sound, in
cosmogonic myths, is at the root of all creation; and the gods are -or God
is -the formulated power through which the life-force manifests itself.
Truth, being beyond sound and rhythm, is the invisible divine center round
which all creation dances.
In his upper right hand, the Great God holds a drum-the symbol of sound, the
first of the five elements that signal creation and the beginning of time.
In the palm of his upper left hand, he reveals the flickering flame -symbol
of the conflagration that will engulf the universe at the end of time. His
other right hand is raised.in the
gesture of reassurance; the other left hand points to his upraised left
foot, which symbolizes release. His right foot tramples Apasmarapurusha, the
demon of ignorant forgetfulness: if the devotee overcomes ignorance by
realizing the meaning of ultimate reality as revealed in Shiva's form and
dance, he will be delivered from fear and attain final release from this
finite world forever. As S. Kramrisch has written: "Siva, Lord of Dancers,
dances the world into and out of existence. Dancing, he veils ultimate,
reality and unveils it for his devotee who recognizes the paramatman,
ultimate reality, within his heart."
Dye III, Joseph M. The Arts of India: New Delhi, 2001.
Wosien, Maria, Gabriele. Sacred Dance: New York, 1974.
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