Shiva as Nataraja: Lord of Dance

We have read about the Chola Empire of 9th to 12th Century CE. It was the age of magnificent temples and extravagant sculpture. The most significant and extraordinary bronze sculpture of this time is Shiva as Natajara. Here we will discuss the significance of the Nataraja, Lord of Dance.

Nataraja: Lord of Dance

Nataraja, the meaning of this word can be understood by dividing the word into two words. One is ‘Nata’ which means dance and ‘Raja’ which means King or Lord. So, it is Lord of Dance. According to Hindu mythology Shiva is destroyer!…

Destroyer of Desire (Kamantaka), Destroyer of Death (Yamantaka) and Tripurantaka meaning Destroyer of Three Worlds. Shiva as Nataraja is Lord of Dance and Bharat Muni, who compiled the Natya Shastra describes Shiva as the Lord of Dance. From Shiva, the both forms of Classical Dances evolved. The one is Lasya or Lavanya and another one is Tandava.

Lord Shiva doing dance assumed as communicating God. His each and every posture denotes something about the worldly life and path for Salvation. The pose of Nataraja contained the wisdom of Vedas. The posture of Nataraja Shiva denotes the Ananda-Tandava ie the dance of bliss.

Nataraja: Lord of Dance
Nataraja: Lord of Dance

Significance of Nataraja

The Bronze Sculpture of the Lord of Dance shows the following things,

  1. Damaru or Rattle-Drum in the upper right arm.
  2. Upraised lower right palm: A-Bhaya Mudra (posture).
  3. Fire in the upper left arm.
  4. Upraised right palm placed on the left hand.
  5. Left-hand pointing towards the left foot.
  6. Left foot swings across the right leg.
  7. Right leg on which Shiva is Standing: Ekapada.
  8. Shiva standing on a Demon.
  9. The wheel surrounds the sculpture of Shiva.

The Shiva as Nataraja represents his triple role as creator, preserver and destroyer.

Hand Gestures Signifies

The upraised right palm is A-Bhaya Mudra which means do not fear. The upraised right palm is strategically placed on the left hand. However, this left-hand points to left leg. left leg depicts the Maya or illusion that creates fear. So, left-hand points left leg states that the world is full of illusion. One has to grow spiritually to attain salvation or stability.

The upper right arm of Nataraja holds Damaru or Rattle drum. And another upper left arm holds fuel-less fire. The both upper arms represent two options.

  • One option is to spend our lives ignoring the reality of life like monkeys denoted by the rattle-drum. One can say rattle-drum or Damaru represents distraction because of Maya.
  • The other option is to introspect. The fuel-less fire of the upper left arm indicates the Tapa or Meditative power of oneself. One can lit this fire by providing fuel of our Tapa.
Shiva: Lord of Dance
Shiva: Lord of Dance

Leg Gestures Signifies

Left leg is swinging around right leg. This left leg denotes the Samsara, the world that is impermanent and that causes fear. The fear of world causes the imbalance in the lives of people. So, the left leg is in continuous motion depicting that Maya or illusion is continuously moving around us. This creates fear, desire and death.

But the right leg denotes stability and by acquiring spiritual growth one can attain stability. So, Nataraja also called as Ekapada, one who dances on one foot. This foot represents spiritual reality. It also states that Shiva is balanced, calm and composed. The Shiva stands on the demon called Apasmara, meaning demon of fear, forgetfulness and ignorance.

Wheel of Samsara

The wheel around the Nataraja is the wheel of Samsara, where everything is created and destroyed. This nimbus of light symbolises vast unending cycles of time.

This was all about the Nataraja: Lord of Dance. Is not it very interesting that the dance forms of India also gave messages for the spiritual growth? There are many things of Indian culture, which always gives importance to the spiritual growth of a man. So, this was the reason, India was known as the Jagat Guru. 🙂 I am very much fortunate that I have born in the land of great Sages and culture.

Thank you so much. 🙂 Stay Connected. 🙂