Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lord Shiva and his Different forms

The significance of the Nataraja (Nataraj) sculpture is said to be that Shiva is shown as the source of all movement within the cosmos, represented by the arch of flames. The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the idea of the "self" and of the physical world. The cosmic dance was performed in Chidambaram in South India, called the center of the universe by some Hindus. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva's five activities, creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the "fear not" hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held aloft).

As Nataraja (Sanskrit: Lord of Dance) Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment.

The symbolism of Siva Nataraja is religion, art and science merged as one.
In God's endless dance of creation, preservation, destruction and paired graces
is hidden a deep understanding of our universe. Aum Namah Sivaya.

Bhashya Nataraja, the King of Dance, has four arms. The upper right hand holds the drum from which creation issues forth. The lower right hand is raised in blessing, betokening preservation. The upper left hand holds a flame, which is destruction, the dissolution of form. The right leg, representing obscuring grace, stands upon Apasmarapurusha, a soul temporarily earth-bound by its own sloth, confusion and forgetfulness. The uplifted left leg is revealing grace, which releases the mature soul from bondage. The lower left hand gestures toward that holy foot in assurance that Siva's grace is the refuge for everyone, the way to liberation.

The circle of fire represents the cosmos and especially consciousness.
The all-devouring form looming above is Mahakala, "Great Time." The cobra around Nataraja's waist is kundalini shakti, the soul-impelling cosmic power resident within all. Nataraja's dance is not just a symbol. It is taking place within each of us, at the atomic level, this very moment. The Agamas proclaim, "The birth of the world, its maintenance, its destruction, the soul's obscuration and liberation are the five acts of His dance."

On the Tiruvadiral festival day, Shiva comes forth from the main shrine in the guise of a beggar. the iconographic form of this particular form is known as Bhikshatana or Enchanting Mendicant, and it refers to a well-known narrative of Shiva's manifestation in the Pine Forest hermitage. In order to convert a group of Vedic forest-dwellers to a more efficacious form of worship, the story goes, Shiva once took on the appearance of a naked, ash-smeared beggar and showed up unexpectantly in their ashram. Despite his unprepossessing appearance, the mendicant proved irresistible to the wives of the Pine Forest sages. The women sang, danced and clung to him in erotic abandon. Failing to recognize the disguised deity, and enraged by this invasion of their austere lives, the sages tried to attack the beggar, but all their curses and sacrificial weapons were useless against the god. Finally, in a verbal confrontation, Shiva tore off and threw down his penis (linga) before the astonished hermits and disappeared. In the end, the sages became successful practitioners of the new rites of worshipping the Shiva-linga."

Excerpt taken from "The Sensuous and the Sacred Chola Bronzes From South India".

This Particular form of Lord Shiva is called NALLUR SHIVA.There is an interesting story behind this perticular form, read on to know more.

Shiva is leaping atop Apasmara the dwarf who represents ignorance. The back left hand carries agni (fire) in a vessel or in his hand. The flames represent the destructive energy with which Nataraja dances at the end of each cosmic age, cleansing sins and removing illusion. In the back right hand Shiva often holds an hour glass shaped drum or damaru. The drum represents the rhythmic sound to which Nataraja dances and ceaselessly recreates the universe. The front right hand is in the abhaya-mudra (the "fear not" gesture, made by holding the palm outward with fingers pointing up). The front left hand is across the chest in the gahahasta (elephant trunk) pose, with the wrist limp and the fingers pointed downward toward the uplifted foot.

On the base is the dwarf Apasmara. He is sitting up holding a dagger and shield. The leaping figure of Shiva is in sharp contrast to the fat figure of the dwarf.

The piece is called Nallur Shiva because of the Shiva temple in the Sri Lankan city of Nallur.

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