the destroyer in the Hindu pantheon is popularly known
as the hermit of the netherworld, as the one who resides
in cremation grounds. However, there is another aspect
to Shiva- as Nataraja. Nataraja literally translates as
the Lord of the Stage.
western world is familiar with Shakespeare’s words,
“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women
merely actors.” The soul assumes a physical form only
to perform certain functions, duties, to give and
receive pleasure, learn karmic lessons, and finally move
on to a different realm. In this gross body, we humans
who are supposed to be of a higher intellect are merely
players and puppets in the hands of an unseen force
birth gives us new pleasures, even as it gives us pain.
We as living beings, are caught in the grasp of
illusions, attachments, bonds that further pull us
towards more cycles of birth. Suffering bothers man who
ultimately seeks salvation, and he finds himself
grappling with the results of his deed. Even as the soul
leaves one gross body, it steps onto another womb, in
the hope of fulfilling unfulfilled desires, to cleanse
itself and perform certain karmas.
in his cosmic dance form shows us the path to liberate
ourselves from this continuous cycle of birth and death.
Shiva stands majestically on the body of ‘Apasmara
purusha’ and performs his dance. This body represents
the ego, ignorance, the soul’s illusions. By trampling
on it, Shiva is seen as controlling this ego and urge.
one hand, Shiva holds the drum that symbolizes creative
energy. By holding it in his hand, he portrays man as
the powerful force with the entire cosmos in his hands!
The world is in your hand-to be folded and unfolded at
your will. The world exists only if you feel it does. In
reality, life or the world is merely an illusion. Sorrow
exists only if you allow it to seep into your
consciousness and joy too exists if you give it place in
your world. Feelings are what you express and allow your
senses to feel.
another hand, he is seen holding fire. The illumination
of the flames is the realization of the soul. The
ultimate aim is to realize the atman or the self. Only
by understanding and realizing the self, can anything be
has at his feet, sprightly deer that leaps from one
desire to another. The mind is compared to the deer, but
the soul is far beyond the capricious mind. By placing
the deer at his feet, Nataraja symbolizes that desires
and worldly goals have little importance in comparison
to the ultimate goal of the soul.
Chandrashekhara, he has the creascent moon on his crown,
symbolizing intuition and the feminine force. As
Gangadhara, he wears the river Ganges or the ganga on
his matted crown, the cool waters of which is supposed
to refresh the flames of desire.
theatre where he performs his cosmic dance is the lush
forest because of the multitude of its components,
vegetation and life. The platform in that theatre is
nothing but the cremation ground, where the gross body
returns to dust! The cremation ground is the place where
all passions, names, forms that represent illusion are
all burnt to ashes. We spend a lifetime earning a name,
carving a niche for ourselves, amassing a fortune, and
in a minute, the toil comes to naught!