Thursday, 26 January 2017

Hindu God Shiva's mysterious cosmic dance!!

Cosmic dancer Shiva (Nataraja)Lotus Sculptur
Nataraja, a form of lord Shiva.
 Among the Hindu Trinity Gods - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma,
the most fascinating and perplexing form is that of  Shiva. The concept of Nataraja, the lord of dancers or simply a cosmic dancer is unique in Hinduism. The cosmos being his theater, he himself is the actor as well as the audience. The word Shiva means “one whose actions are good,” and is believed to be derived from Shankara meaning auspicious and benevolent.  Shiva is worshipped in the form of a  linga which is symbolic of no end and no beginning. He also represents Arthanariswara thathva - the concept of half woman and half man. Among his dance forms, the one at Chidambaram or Thillai called Ananda Thandava (dance of delight) forms the motif of south Indian Iyempon ( an alloy of five metals including gold) or copper iconic images of Sri Nataraja.  Physicists give much importance to the metaphor of Shiva’s dance - the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is analysed in depth by CERN’s physicists. Fritjof Capra, a famous physicist in an article titled “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics,” published in Main Currents in Modern Thought in 1972 discussed at length  Shiva’s cosmic dance, the main theme in Capra’s international bestseller 'The Tao of Physics', first published in 1975 and still in print in over 40 editions around the world. He found a correlation between Shiva's dance and the dance of subatomic particles.

The late Ananda K. Coomaraswamy,  a reputed philosopher of Indian art and an early interpreter of Indian culture to the West, commenting on the cosmic dancer, said, "It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.” Literally, he was overwhelmed by the  revelation that went  beyond the unsurpassed rhythm, beauty, power and grace of  Nataraja.
Fritjof Capra in 2010.
 A special plaque next to the Shiva statue at CERN explains the significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s cosmic dance with several quotations from The Tao of Physics. Fritjof Capra, Austrian-born American physicist explained;  here is the text of the plaque 

'' ... Shiva's cosmic dance in magnificent bronze sculptures of dancing figures with four arms whose superbly balanced and yet dynamic gestures express the rhythm and unity of life. The various meanings of the dance are conveyed by the details of these figures in a complex pictorial allegory. The upper right hand of the god holds a drum, to symbolize the primal sound of creation. The upper left bears a tongue of flame, the elements of destruction. The balance of the two hands represents the dynamic balance of creation and destruction in the world, accentuated further by the dancer's calm and detached face in the center of the two hands in which the polarity of creation and destruction is dissolved and transcended. The second right hand is raised in the sign of 'do not fear' synbolizing maintenance, peace, while the remaining left hand points down to the uplifted foot which symbolizes release from the spell of maya. The god is dancing on the demon, the symbol of man's ignorance.

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.  ...... Modern Physics has revealed that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance in a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter.”

Capra, further explained, "As in Hindu Mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos, the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena". Capra drew the conclusion: "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.”

 Shiva’s dance represents the dynamic flow and ‘dance’ of the universe.  The dancing universe is a  continual one , ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns, which fuse into one another in a dynamic universal interplay.  His dance is symbolic of  the daily rhythm of birth and death, and the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction.  Shiva's dance makes us realize that  the many forms in the world are transient in nature - maya (not constant, but ever-changing), while He is eternally Real as He continually keeps creating and dissolving the forms in the external flow of His dance. The intuition of reality is  personified in the form of the cosmic dance of Shiva. 

Interestingly, Shiva who symbolizes creation, represents   sanguinary aspects in the form of destruction and cannot be separated from creation.  To create anew, Shiva has to destroy what has been created to maintain order.  Rudra  is symbolic of   destructive attributes in their totality as he dances for the annihilation of everything.  Shiva and Rudra are two images that seem to be inimical to one another initially, but one can see the assimilation of these two  divergent aspects.  Shiva himself takes on the role of Rudra and his attributes when  the latter became unpopular  after the Vedic period. It is a paradox that the same god represents  two different attributes that mingle into one, an integral part of Eastern Mysticism. It is a  bipolar synthesis, in which the opposite poles cannot exist without the other. 

The paradoxical aspect of Eastern mysticism is though it recognizes only one Reality as the Transcendent, yet there exist a myriad of forms. According to ‘Advaita’ (Non-Dual) Vedanta Brahman is the  Fundamental Reality, or the Ultimate Reality. But the world that may appear in transient is ultimately unreal (maya or mithya).On the contrary, it is ever changing, transient in nature. 

Lord Shiva in meditative mood.

The medieval Hinduism accepts  God is not only  Formless but is often worshipped  in many forms.  God is Formless and One 
(Advaitic),  but in reality He is  being  worshipped in  many forms with true devotion in daily life.  Hence, in the Hindu pantheon, as synthesized by the  tradition,  we observe  that these myriad forms are grouped under the Trimurti (the Hindu Trinity):  Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (Protector), and Mahesvara (Modifier, destroyer i.e. Shiva).  

The Nataraja concept of Shiva is an embodiment of three important activities that govern the universe. They are  creative, sustaining, and destructive activities.  His Nataraja form is in tune  with religious, philosophical, and scientific investigation.  Somewhere in the universe, the never ending processes of Creation and Dissolution are taking place each moment and are symbolized by the Rudra-Shiva dance.  The amazing dancer in the fullness of time destroys all forms and many by fire and creates anew. This is the  multidimensional aspect of  Shiva's dance, the supreme cosmic dance that is not primitive superstition, as it was thought in the past, but it is an exploration of the infinity. 

 “I am God.  I do not recognize the hell.  I do not recognize the three worlds of heaven, hell and earth.  I am the Lord, the Controller.  I am still the witness after everything else is dissolved.  Nobody else is God for me; nobody else controls me.  I am I-less, I am my-less. ” Sankara

Capra, Fritof. The Tao of Physics. London: Wildwood House, 1975