Nataraja – The Dancing Deity
Nataraja, also known as Koothan, is the title given to the dancing aspect and the depiction of Shiva. The name NatarajaNataraja
Nataraja, also known as Koothan, is the title given to the dancing aspect and the depiction of Shiva. The name Nataraja is a combination of two Sanskrit words – “Nata” and “Raja”. is a combination of two Sanskrit words – “Nata” and “Raja”. The word “nata” means “dance”, and “raja” translates to “king”. Hence, the name Nataraja translates to “the king or lord of dance”. The dance performed by Nataraja is known as cosmic dance. And as such, the deity is also known as the cosmic dancer. There are two opposite aspects of Nataraja namely Lasya– which is the gentle and the polite form of Shiva’s dance and is associated with the creation of the world, and Tandava– which is the violent and aggressive form of the deity’s dance and is a representation of the world’s destruction. Nevertheless, the two aspects of the deity are, in a way, symbolic of the destruction of the world for it to be recreated again by Brahma. And as such Nataraja always works in collaboration with BrahmaBrahma
According to Hinduism, the whole creation is the work of Trimurti (the Hindu Trinity)..., the creator. The aforementioned process of the destruction of the world is one of the laws of nature as it is mandatory for the fatigued worldviews, perspectives and lifestyles to be destroyed to start afresh and begin all over again.
Nataraja is most often depicted as a four-armed man in a dancing posture, with a halo of flames around him. He is portrayed standing on a dwarf or a demon and lifting his left leg. From the lower left arm of Nataraja, a cobra is shown to be uncoiled, and it carries a skull and the crescent moon on the crest. He is shown to be dancing within the aura of flames and this dance from is known as AanandaTanndavam. In his upper right hand, Nataraja holds a small drum shaped musical instrument called damaru. He assumes a special gesture called damaru hasta which in Sanskrit translates to “the damaru hand”. Damaru hasta is believed to symbolize the passing of time with the beating of the damaru and also the creative aspect of the world. The upper left hand of Nataraja is shown containing the fire that symbolizes destruction. The upper hands, thus, represent two opposite concepts of creation and destruction. Nataraja assumes the gesture of Abhaya Mudra with his lower right hand and protects dharma and the devotees from the evils of the world. The other left hand of Nataraja points towards the raised foot of the deity and symbolizes liberation and upliftment. Nataraja stands on a dwarf or demon named Apasmaraor Muyalakaand this gesture symbolizes the destruction of ignorance. Thus, Nataraja is portrayed performing his cosmic dance under which the creation, maintenance and destruction of the world take place. It is believed that when the long matted tresses of the deity get loosened, they collide with the heavenly bodies and cause utter destruction of the same. The whirling snake around the waist of the deity is known as Kundaliniand represents Shakti, i.e., the divine power which is present in everything. Nataraja bears a stoic expression on his face which represents balance and neutrality.
A very famous legend associated with Nataraja states that once there was a group of ascetics who used to live in a forest. The forest was known as Daruvanna. The ascetics used to meditate and perform other activities to gain power. After gaining much power, one day, all of a sudden, they started fighting among themselves. They started resorting to unfair tactics like lying and cheating to prove their supremacy. ShivaShiva
Shiva is one of the Supreme Gods of Hindu Trinity that ... saw all of their activities and, to teach them a lesson, went to the forest. He then appeared before them and assumed his Nataraja form and began dancing. The ascetics were infuriated by Shiva’s dance and considered it as an insult to their powers. They then chanted some conjurations and created a ferocious tiger and unleashed it towards Nataraja. However, even before the Tiger was able to come near the deity, Nataraja skinned it and wore the tiger’s skin wrapping around his body. The ascetics were perplexed by it. They then chanted some other conjurations and brought forth a monstrous serpent. Nataraja then continued his dance and captured the serpent and wore it around his neck like an ornament. The ascetics then with their powers created a demonic dwarf called Apasmara and released it towards Nataraja. Nataraja then while dancing stepped onto the dwarf and broke its spine by placing his foot on Apasmara. The ascetics then realized the true supremacy of the deity and bowed down in front of Nataraja.
Another legend states that once VishnuVishnu
Vishnu is one of the Supreme Gods of Hindus and is a part of Hindu Trinity,.. was longing to see the dance of Shiva, and his companion Shesha Naga got to know about it. He asked the deity how he could help in fulfilling the desire of his Lord. On this Vishnu told Shesha Naga that he should observe penance at Chidambaram. Shesha Naga followed the instructions of his Lord and went to Chidambaram. At the same time, a sage called ViyaagraPaadha was observing penance for Shiva to get the legs of a tiger so that he could offer the purest and untouched flowers to Shiva in the morning as soon as possible. Moreover, he wanted to see the dance of Shiva too. Pleased by the devotion of his worshippers, Shiva appeared before them in the form of Nataraja and blessed them, and fulfilled their desires.
Temples and Significance
There are many temples of Nataraja in India. One of the most important temples dedicated solely to the deity is the Chidambaram Temple at Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu. One of the most notable features of the temple is that in it the deity is represented in anthropomorphic form rather than the usual ones. The statues and idols of Nataraja are found all around the world. The deity signifies the rhythmic play of the God which is the flow and movement of the entire universe. Nataraja is believed to liberate the souls of the beings from the trap of illusion. Nataraja is regarded as the ocular representative of Brahman and the dance stance of Shiva. It is a widely popular belief that the half moon presents on the head of Nataraja is a crucial symbol. When the moon falls, it will result in the destruction of the world. The most ancient imageries and statues of Nataraja that have been found dating back to around the seventh or ninth century, and are believed to belong to the Pallavadynasty, rather than the traditional belief of it being a Cholainnovation. The deity, therefore, possesses great importance both historical and archeological. Nataraja symbolizes art, power, balance, grace, liberation, creation and destruction.