Nataraja (The Lord (or King) of Dance) ,Tamil: கூத்தன் [Kooththan] is the dancing posture of the Hindu god Shiva, who performs his divine dance as a part of his activities of creation and destruction. Nataraja is most often depicted through a statue. The sculpture is usually made in bronze, with Shiva dancing in a aureole of flames, lifting his left leg (and in rare cases, the right leg) and balancing over a demon or dwarf (Apasmara) who symbolizes ignorance. It is a well known scultptural symbol in India and popularly used as a symbol of Indian culture[1]. The form is present in most Shiva temples in South India, and is the main deity in the famous temple at Chidambaram.

Properties of the Nataraja form

Nataraja, Lord Shiva as the Cosmic Dancer representing the rhythmic movement of the entire cosmos.
  • The upper right hand holds a small drum shaped like an hourglass that is called a ḍamaru in Sanskrit.[2][3][4] It is called Udukkai in Tamil .A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta (Sanskrit for "ḍamaru-hand") is used to hold the drum.[5] It symbolizes sound originating Creation.
  • The upper left hand contains Agni or fire, which signifies destruction. The opposing concepts in the upper hands show the counterpoise of creation and destruction.
  • The second right hand shows the Abhaya mudra (meaning fearlessness in Sanskrit), bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the righteousness of dharma.
  • The second left hand points towards the raised foot which signifies upliftment and salvation.
  • The dwarf on which Nataraja dances is the demon Apasmara, which symbolises Shiva's victory over ignorance.
  • As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the tandava, the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and resolved. Shiva's long, matted tresses, usually piled up in a knot, loosen during the dance and crash into the heavenly bodies, knocking them off course or destroying them utterly.
  • The surrounding flames represent the manifest Universe.
  • The snake swirling around his waist is kundalini, the Shakti or divine force thought to reside within everything.
  • The stoic face of Shiva represents his neutrality, thus being in balance.

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Shiva Nataraja