Dance of Śiva

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The great Hindu god Śiva (see Śiva)—at once the Destroyer and the perfect yogi—is often depicted as a dancer. Traditionally the dance is magical and trance-inducing. It is a high form of cosmic yoga (see yoga). Śiva is Nāṭarāja, the Lord of the Dance, and the dance is, in a sense, the breathing of creation. As he whirls in the meditative and gentle movement called lāsya, with his consort Pārvatī (see Pārvatī), the elements of the living world are the flashes of light made by his movements. These elements are destroyed in turn by the violent turnings of the tāṇḍava. In his dance Śiva-Nāṭarāja holds various symbolic objects. In his top right hand is the hourglass drum connoting the rhythm of the dance of life, which is sound, the means by which understanding is transmitted. Sound is connected in India to the essential element ether, out of which comes air, fire, water, and earth, the necessary elements for creation. In the upper left hand the dancer holds the fire, the agent of the destruction of creation in the sacrifice and in the cosmic cycle. The lower right hand gives the sign of peace and the lower left hand points to the left foot raised in a sign of devotion and release. Sometimes Śiva dances on the body of a demon symbolizing human forgetfulness or ignorance.

Subjects: Religion.

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