Nataraja – The Lord of Dance

nataraja-british museum
Since yesterday (the 2nd of December 2014) and the post Shiva, Shakti, Laasya, my thoughts have been pre-occupied by Lord Shiva as the Lord of Performers and Dance. Known in this avatar as Nataraja, his physical personification (as seen in the image above) can be attributed to the bronze sculptors of the Chola Dynasty in South India from 10th Century A.D. This dancing figure of Lord Shiva, as Nataraja, has been appropriated repeatedly and extensively in the last 1000 years, since the patronage of the Chola Kings.
Nataraja is seen as the bringer of destruction and creation. Within Hindu mythology and Vedic philosophy this avatar of Lord Shiva comes at the end of every cycle to cleanse the Universe and restore balance. essentially preparing new and fertile ground for construction and regeneration to occur led by Brahma and Vishnu. The form of Nataraja is thus depicted as dancing in the middle of a ring of fire, with Ganga and the crecent moon adorning his flowing locks, his feet lifted and ready to come down in the rhythm set by his Damroo ( an Indian percussion instrument synonymous with Lord Shiva). This dancing Shiva is seen by some as an entity to be feared, however, for performing artists in India, he is worshipped as the presiding presence for their creative output and inspiration.
For the Indian Classical Dancer, especially, there is no mudra, bhava, rasa, abhinay, nritya, nritta or natt, without the force and blessings of Nataraja.
So today for the 45 Days of Dance Stories I give you a list of resources that have been helpful in my exploration into this God, mythical personification and unlimited source of inspiration that is Nataraja – the Lord of Dance.
Let me begin by sharing two texts, one academic and one fictional that to me hold the key to unravelling, in large part, to the the mystique and reverance this God within the Hindu Pantheon has garnered from most performing artists in India.
  1. The Dance of Shiva – fourteen essays, by : Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1918)
  2. Dance Like a Man , by Mahesh Dattani
Other Resources to begin your journey into this subject are the academic texts :
       3.  Manifestations of Shiva, S. Kranrisch (1980)
       4. Hindu Art, T.R. Blurton (1992)
And finally the temple that holds this personification as God
       5. Thillai Natarajah Temple, in Chidambaram , here are some interesting articles that delve into the why and what of the creation of this temple – Creation and The Temple Stats
And a final post worth reading is the
“Fire is His head, the sun and moon His eyes, space His ears, the Vedas His speech, the wind His breath, the universe His heart. From His feet the Earth has originated. Verily, He is the inner self of all beings.” – Describing Shiva, from the Upanishads.

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