Lord of the Dance

How belief makes the world

This is Shiva, in the form of Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. The statue was given to me by a friend, Bapu, who died on January 8th 2020. He left it me in his will although, due to various complications, I didn’t actually receive it till Christmas Eve. It was one of the best Christmas presents I ever had.

It’s just under 10 and a half inches high by nine inches across. It’s made of brass, using the lost wax method, based upon a form that dates to the sixth century AD at the latest. It’s probably much older. 

The dance is called the Tandava. It’s the dance of creation and destruction. It’s the dance that brought the Universe into being. It’s the dance that will destroy the Universe once its time is up. It’s energetic and full of life. It’s ecstatic, expressive, poised, precise, evocative, erotic, wild, cosmic, and eternal, all at the same time.

Shiva’s hair fans out in sinuous threads behind his head, signifying his cosmic abandon. They’re dreadlocks. He’s the original Rastaman before Rastafari existed. His plant is cannabis, which his followers consume in heroic quantities in pipes called chillums. In one hand he beats out a vigorous rhythm on a hand drum. It’s the rhythm of the Universe in its eternal becoming. It’s the rhythm of rage. It’s the rhythm of ecstasy. It’s the rhythm of existence at the fundamental level of being.

Another hand holds a lighting bolt, or a flame, while his two forward hands make symbolic gestures of peace and poise. So there’s a balance here, between the rhythm and the fire of the rear hands, and the poise and precision of the front hands. He has four arms altogether, though earlier forms of the image allow him as many as 10.

He’s dancing in a ring of fire upon a corpse, or on a sleeping form. Wikipedia tells me that this is the demon of ignorance, but I also like to imagine that it’s yourself, your mortal body which is destined to die, and that Shiva is the energy-form which will emerge from that once all matter is consumed at the end of the Universe.

Continue reading here: https://www.splicetoday.com/writing/lord-of-the-dance

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