Lord Nataraja: The Dancing Avatar of Lord Shiva
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is a Hindu God and epitomizes the blend of power and holy being. In Sanskrit, Lord Shiva means ‘pure and destroyer’. Holy Scriptures describe Lord Shiva as one of the divinity and destroyer among Trimurti.
Popularly known as the deity of Saints and Yogis, Lord Shiva is a sagacious Yogi leading an austere life on Kailash Parvat. Mahadev, Bhole Nath, Bhootnath, Pashupati, Shambhu, Vishwanath, Shankar, and Bhairav are some of the most popular names of Shankar Bhagwan. It has been found that “Lord Shiv Lingam” is another of Lord Shiva and is placed separately in the temple from other divinities.
Hindus recognize Shiv Bhagwan as the 3rd associate of the Hindu Trinity and one of the supreme Gods who personify incongruous qualities. According to Indian mythology, the name ‘Shiv’ has enormous meaning. Lord Shiva, an auspicious power known as both a defender and a destroyer.
Like Shakti, Lord Shiva has taken countless enigmatic forms. Well-known as the holistic deity of Yogis and hermits, Lord Shiv is austere, celibate, and self-defined and has been depicted in abysmal meditation in the Himalayas.
Shankar Bhagwan symbolizes the epoch itself. He is both a destroyer and a creator. Both conception and destruction are indissolubly interconnected- and cannot be existent without each other. Often we have read in Vedic scriptures that, unlike other divine energies, Lord Shiva is a great source of inspiration and a fiery role model with the ability of self-control and aplomb.
Apart from a creator, Lord Shiva has a family consisting of four members- Shiva, Goddess Parvati, and sons- Kartikeya and Ganesh. Kartikeya is known as the God of war, while Ganesh is known as the remover of hurdles. According to Holy Scriptures, Lord Shiva got married to Sati before he wedded Goddess Parvati.
Certain aspects are usually found in the Lord Shiva idols; images and pictures are acclaimed by Hindus, which describe Lord Shiva differently from other Hindu deities. His knotted, tangled hair amassed on the top of the head with a semi-circular moon tugged to it, and the river Ganga is gracefully flowing down from his matted hair. A snake would always be seen wrapped around his wrist or neck. He is holding a Trishul in his left hand. He has been depicted sitting on a tiger skin, a kamandal beside his right hand.
Lord Shiva has been usually seen wearing Rudraksha beads on his head, and his body is covered with holy ash. Shankar Bhagwan is also known as “Trinetra” because of 3rd eye on his forehead.
Festivals Celebrated In Reverence of Lord Shiva
India is the land of colourful festivals celebrated throughout the year. Each festival holds an important place, and the reasons are different behind celebrating each festival. Maha Shivaratri is one of the most popular festivals among Hindus. Every month on the 14th day or before the Full moon night is known as Shivaratri. Shivratri occurs every month, but the Shivaratri that falls in the month of February-March is considered the country’s most celebrated festival.
This festival is devoted to Shiva Mahadev. In accordance with Indian mythology, Lord Shiva is the protector and saviour of his devotees. He guards devotees against evil eyes and gives them the power to control their needs or requirements such as envy, greediness, self-indulgence, and annoyance.
Maha Shivaratri has a great significance for married women in our Indian culture. Married women keep fast and pray for the wellness and good fortune of their spouses. In India, unmarried women also worship Lord Shankar to get an idealistic partner like Lord Mahadev.
In Holy Scriptures, devotees who worship Goddess Parvati on the auspicious day of Maha Shivaratri will be precious to Lord Shiva rather than Kartikeya. Devotees keep fast on Maha Shivaratri and follow all the rituals. It has been believed that worshipping Lord Mahadev on the day of Maha Shivaratri set a person free from all the bad deeds and the lifecycle of death and life.
Followers of Lord Shiva get up early morning during MahaShivaratri. After taking a bath and dressing in fresh clothes on Mahashivaratri, devotees visit their nearest Shiva temple, giving a traditional bath to the Shiva Lingam (with milk, honey, water, etc.). They continue to pray throughout the day and night.
Reciting the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” during the entire day brings peace, harmony, and happiness in life.
Introduction of Lord Nataraja
“Nataraja” means king or king of dance. The name Nata means “dance”, and the word raja means king. Shiva is said to dance the Lasya, a gentle dance linked with creation, in the form of Nataraja. It is said that Lord Shiva goes through two forms of dance, Lasya for creation and Thandava for destruction. These forms represent two aspects of his same nature, which is represented by his Nataraja form, which he is said to perform during an eclipse.
Delineation of Lord Nataraj
Lord Nataraja is portrayed in a performing arts cause with long, matted hair flying in all directions, showing his ecstasy. His right leg is held firmly on a dwarf, who in Tamil is known as Muyalaka. With his left leg bent and raised, he portrays victory over demonic forces. He has four hands, the upper right holding Damru, a drum symbolizing time and rhythm, and the left holding Agni, the fire symbolizing the essence of creation and destruction.
According to Hindu belief, Lord Nataraja is said to dance this cosmic dance to create, maintain, and dissolve the universe. The form of his body is thought to represent these profound activities. While dancing and balancing the forces of the universe, Nataraja’s face reveals a serene smile, signifying his calmness.
The Implication of Lord Nataraja
Lord Nataraja is believed to be the creator of this cosmic dance as a process of making, maintaining, and dissolving the universe. His form itself is claimed to symbolize these profound activities. Nataraja dances within an arch of flames, which denotes the good cycle of existence. There’s a smile on Nataraja’s face signifying his calmness amidst his energetic dancing and balancing the forces of the universe.
The Story behind Lord Nataraja
According to one of the legends, there lived some ascetics within the forest called Darukavana or Daruvana. They did intense meditation, austerities, and penance and obtained immense power. But this made them arrogant, and that they began losing their qualities of virtue and indulged in unfair practices. Lord Shiva decided to correct them and convey them back to the proper path. He appeared before them in his Nataraja form and commenced dancing merrily.
Considering this as a severe insult to the ascetics, they created a ferocious tiger and directed it to maul the Lord. But, Nataraja simply tamed the animal, skinned it, and adorned himself with its hide. Stunned, they sent a monster of a serpent, which the Lord wore around his neck as a precious ornament. The ascetics then created a deadly demon within a dwarf called Apasmara and unleashed him on Nataraja. The Lord continued his dance, this point stepping on the demon himself and breaking his back. The chastised ascetics realized their mistakes, understood the greatness of the Lord, and bowed to Nataraja in total surrender.
Another story speaks a few sages who did penance towards Lord Shiva in Chidambaram, wishing that he should get the feet of a tiger and would also see the Lord’s divine dance. The Lord granted him the needs and did the cosmic dance in Chidambaram for the sake of the tiger-footed sage Vyaagrapada. There’s also a story in which Shiva assumed Nataraja form and did the dance to satisfy the needs of Lord Vishnu and his serpent couch, Adi Sesha.
Blessings of Lord Nataraja
Nataraja is known as another incarnation of Shankar Bhagwan, a very fashionable deity worshipped throughout the country. One of the most renowned Nataraja temples is in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, which also signifies one of the five vital elements that edifice the universe – the ‘space’. It’s believed that the Lord, who is the creator of this universe, can guide his devotees that there is a life beyond the cycle of life and death.
Festivities Related to Lord Nataraja
Nataraja has been believed as one of the most passionate and gracious incarnations of Lord Mahadev. Lord Nataraja was incarnated during the Full Moon day, and this day has its significance according to Hindu mythology.
The Full Moon day or Arudra Darshan is celebrated during Marghazi – Tamil Month (Dec-Jan). This festivity is celebrated with great pomp and show in all Shiv Bhagwan temples in Chidambaram Nataraja temple. Abishekams and puja are performed during the day. “Thiruvadirai Kali”, a very special Prasad offered to devotees once the rituals are done.