ஸ்ரீ சக்ர ராஜ ஸிம்ஹாஸனேஸ்வரி துணை
|| ஓம் ஹ்ரீம் லலிதாம்பிகாயை நம: ||
|| க எ ஈ ல ஹ்ரீம்; ஹ ஸ க ஹ ல ஹ்ரீம்; ஸ க ல ஹ்ரீம் ||
* * *
“The Cosmic Dance of Lord Shiva”
The Arudra-Darisanam, a festival in which the devotee gets to see the dance of Lord Shiva falls on 22-12-2010. The dance of Lord Shiva is also referred to as the cosmic dance and has both philosophical and scientific significance.
Tradition has it that there are five Shivalingas in the Tamil realm of South India, within a certain radius, that correspond to the pancha-mahabhutas or the five elements of the universe: earth, water, fire, wind and ether. The earth or Prithvi-Linga is worshipped at Kanchi, the water or Apa-Linga at Jambukeshwara, the fire or Tejas-Linga at Tiruvannamalai, the wind or Vayu-Linga at Kalahasti and the ether or Akasha-Linga at Chidambaram.
The emotions evoked by myth and symbol in the Indian tradition cover the entire spectrum of human existence; and so too at Chidambaram, where the form of Shiva as Nataraja, the great dancer, has been the subject of veneration and interpretation through the ages.
Shiva as Nataraja stands in a halo or circle of flames. The circle issues from the mouth of a pair of dolphins or makara. The halo symbolises Pranava, the mystic syllable Om. The drum in Shiva’s right hand symbolises sound, primal creation. The primordial sounds of the alphabet emerged from Shiva’s drum, and formed the basis of grammar or Vyakarana.
Legend has it that Shiva danced at Chidambaram to please his two devotees,
Vyaghrapada and Patanjali, the latter being credited with the science of grammar. The deer on one side symbolises the mind – and just as the deer leaps all around, so too the human mind leaps from one thing to another. The tiger-skin that Shiva wears is the skin of Ahamkara, egoism, which he has killed.
The Ganga issuing from Shiva’s head is the Chittashakti or wisdom, which is cool and refreshing. The moon symbolises the ethereal light and bliss of Atman. One foot is planted over the demon Muyalaka, symbolising Maya or the delusion that has been torn asunder. The raised right foot signifies renunciation, the fourth state of mental absorption called Turiya. The second right hand represents peace, and in one the left hands is held Agni, symbolising the lighting up of the Atman. The place of the dance is the Thillai Vanam, the body of the individual self, the heart itself.
Shiva is represented with three eyes, symbols of the Sun, Moon and Fire; of time past, present and future. He wears in his right ear a man’s earring called the Makara-Kundala, and in his left a woman’s earring called the Tatanka, demonstrating his Ardhanarishvara form, combining the masculine and the feminine aspects of the Universe. Besides the Rudrakshas, he wears the Upavita, the sacred thread consisting of 96 strands representing the 96 Tattvas or categories. Shiva’s serpent represents the cosmic force or the Kundalini Shakti in Yogic parlance.
The mystical significance of the dance of Shiva is poetically summed up by Ananda Coomaraswamy when he describes this awesome form of Shiva-Nataraja as the synthesis of religion, science and art, “with an appeal universal to the philosopher, lover and artist”. Coomaraswamy goes on to view the dance as a metaphor for the five-fold activities of Srishti or creation, Sthiti or preservation, Samhara or destruction, Tirobhava or veiling and finally, Anugraha or blessing.
Pushpadanta’s Mahima Stotra eloquently describes the effects of Shiva’s cosmic dance, with the god’s matted hair striking terror in the hearts of the wicked and imparting joy to the bhakta. In a well-known form of the cosmic dance, the Pradosha dance, Shiva dances at twilight in Parvati’s presence to alleviate the suffering of his devotees.
The stone steps leading to the Chittasabha, the sanctum sanctorum, are five in number and are said to represent the five mystic letters of the Panchakshara Mantra, ‘Na Ma Si Va Ya’, and Vyaghrapada and Patanjali figure as Dvarapalas or doorkeepers. Venerated by sages and mystics down the ages, the Shiva-Nataraja temple has also been closely associated with the four great Shaivite Acharyas, Appar, Sambandhar, Sundarar and Manikkavachakar.
Together, they represent the four paths of Bhakti, Kriya, Yoga, and Jnana. The temple itself has been managed by a special class of priests called the Dikshitars for many centuries now, as Shiva-Nataraja was the family deity of the Cholas and the temple buildings are considered an architectural feat.
The dance of Shiva embodies the primal rhythmic energy, and the secret of Chidambaram is that there is no Linga in the sanctum sanctorum, or rather, as tradition says, there is an invisible Linga of Akasha, The veil is removed only on special occasions, when the puja is performed. Chidambaram is the inner space of the heart; away from the formalisms of religion and ritual in the temple, it is a space where, as the poet says, “tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection”.
“ந மந்த்ரம் நோ யந்த்ரம் ததபி ச ந ஜானி ஸ்துதிமஹோ; ந ச்ச ஆவாஹனம் த்யானம் ததபி ச்ச ந ஜானே ஸ்துதி-கதா: |
ந ஜானே முத்ரிஸ்தே ததபி ச்ச ந ஜானே விலபனம்; பரம் ஜானே மாதாஸ்தவதனுசரணம் க்லேஷஹரணம்” ||