Saturday, January 23, 2021

SHIVA NATRAJA,THE COSMIC DANCER

                                           
SHIVA NATRAJA 

( Copper Alloy ,11th century sculpture created during Chola period in South India on display at MET Museum ,New York.)

" The whole thing is there, you see. The world of space and time, and matter and energy, the world of creation and destruction, the world of psychology…We (the West) don’t have anything remotely approaching such a comprehensive symbol, which is both cosmic and psychological, and spiritual."

( Aldous Huxley on Shiva Natraja sculptures of India)

Chola Kings were perhaps the greatest patrons of art and sculpture .The well-known dancing figure of Shiva as Nataraja was evolved and fully developed during the Chola Period and since then many variations of this complex bronze image have been modelled. 
 In Natraja sculptures, Lord Shiva is shown performing TANDAVA with a flaming halo .He holds a Damru and  Agni in his two hands and makes Abhayamudra gesture with another hand. This gesture is done to dispel all fears while he tramples the Apasmara Purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray) under his right foot.The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides.

The cosmic dance of Shiva symbolises the interplay of dynamic and static divine energy flow, containing the five principles of eternal energy — creation, preservation, destruction, illusion and emancipation.

French sculptor,Auguste Rodin ( 1840-1917)  was a great admirer of Natraja sculptures. Auguste Rodin, considered the ‘father of modern sculpture', was widely respected for his works such as ‘Thinker' (1904). I saw 'Thinker' in the MET Museum, New York.
Housed in a hall on the first floor, I saw many  Rodin sculptures in the  MET Museum,New York and also  came to know what Rodin has said about Shiva Natraja sculptures. I quote Rodin:

"Shiva Nataraja is  a perfect expression of rhythmic movement in the world. I saw the cascades of energy coming down from outer space in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulse. Shiva Nataraja has what many people cannot see—the unknown depths, the core of life. There is grace in elegance, but beyond grace there is perfection."

One of the world’s premier institute known as CERN, has the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – fundamental particles. It houses  the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Interestingly, the scientists at this premier institute in Geneva  have installed a 2-metre tall statue of Shiva Natraja in the premises.The plaque to this sculpture reads this :-

“Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing  Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have  used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic  dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology,  religious art and modern physics.” 

The artist who conceived and fashioned the form of Nataraja has undoubtedly created the greatest masterpiece in Indian art.   The renowned art historian, A.K. Coomarasamy writes this :-

“A great motif in religion or art or any great symbol becomes all things to all men, age after age, it yields to men such treasure as .they find in their own hearts” 

Noted Physicist Fritjof Capra , in his book Tao of Physics days this:-

' Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures but is also the very essence of inorganic matter, For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shiva’s in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art, and modern physics.”


 The grandeur of the conception of Siva as a cosmic dancer is a synthesis of science, religion and art with Nataraja, the "Lord of Dance"  as its greatest exponent

( Avtar Mota)




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