CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research), is the world’s largest Particle Physics research, on June 18, 2004, an unusual new landmark was unveiled at CERN, a 2m tall statue of the Indian deity Shiva Nataraja- the Lord of Dance. In western culture religion and science are two sets without any intersection. There is a famous saying the ‘Science begins where the religion ends’. How can a scientific research center then unveil a religious deity inside its premises? The answer is simple, the practice of saivam, is a perfect blend of science and spirituality(Spirituality is a deeper science).
The statue of nataraja is not that of a personal god dancing. Saivam doesn’t have any personal gods, it is just representation of spirituality using symbols for everyone to understand. Coming to Nataraja form, the right hand of natraja posses a உடுக்கை (a drum like musical instrument).
Everything is in vibration and all things are just frequencies or ratios of vibration. Nothing can exist outside of vibration and all things are subject to the law of Sympathetic Vibration. Vibration is the cause of all creation. So the உடுக்கை in his hand is the representation of all creation in the universe. The other hand in the other side holds ‘fire’ the representation of all destruction, the whole universe is in a constant process of creation of new matter and destruction of old matter.
The second right hand shows the Abhaya mudra, which represents the process of preservation of universe. The right foot is over முயலாகன் (apasmara pursha), he is not a demon like many think. He is the representation of ignorance and forgetfulness. With him as the base there is a circular ring surrounding nataraja, which represents the cycle of birth and death (everything in this universe move in cycles). Ignorance and forgetfulness are the reason for being trapped in this cycle.
The second left hand points towards the raised foot which signifies upliftment. By lifting his leg away from apasmara, the message conveyed is, the moment one liberates himself from ignorance, he can get out of the cycles of birth and death and can attain liberation. The raised leg is called as “குஞ்சிதபாதம்” about which there are 82 verses sung by nayanmars. Finally, Shiva performing the tandava, is the representation of the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved, this is the never ending process of universe. This concept perfectly blends the outer science and the inner science(spirituality).
Worship of the concept of nataraja is very deep and 100s of great songs were written about the science of nataraja, it is literally impossible to quote all those songs and quotes. It is however compelling to quote a few of the western scientists and writers.
“The Wave Structure of Matter Explains the Atomic Structure of Matter. The ‘Particle’ as the Wave-Center of a Spherical Standing Wave in Space” explains the cosmic dance of Nataraja.”
“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,” and that “For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter.”
-Fritjof Capra in “The Tao of Physics”, 1975
Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), leading English Sculptor, has written about Shiva Nataraja: “Shiva dances, creating the world and destroying it, his large rhythms conjure up vast eons of time, and his movements have a relentless magical power of incantation. Our European allegories are banal and pointless by comparison with these profound works, devoid of the trappings of symbolism, concentrating on the essential, and the essentially plastic”.
Carl Sagan said : ”
“This symbolizes creation of the universe, stars, galaxies and the human being.”
Pointing to the fire in the other hand he added: This symbolizes destruction of what has been created.”
He was wonderstruck on knowing the wonderful aspect of Hindu cosmology. He added that the only tradition in the world to give a correct time frame and the concept of universe is the Nataraja tradition.
P.S: There is a misconception about the iconography of Nataraja, it is said that the pallavas developed it and the Cholas mastered the Nataraja symbol. A part of that is true, as that was time that particular type of bronze was used to make the statues and the symmetry and dimensions were standardized. However the worshiping Linga and Nataraja was in practice for a very long time. Sir John Marshall who lead the team that excavated Harrappa and Mohenjadaro sites unearthed coins that had dancing Shiva (nataraja) on one side of it. We don’t know when this practice began, but we know that it is older than 7000 years.
– To be Continued