Friday, July 16, 2021

Ananda Tandava Of Nataraja - 14

Respond to (


 The Interpretation of Coomaraswamy (Continued)

           Coomaraswamy isolates the features of Śiva in order that one may grasp the specialities of Naṭarāja in better focus. He proceeds to describe the Pañcakṛtya ("the five activities") of Naṭarāja viz: Sṛṣṭi (overlooking, creation, evolution), Sthiti (preservation, support), Saṁhāra (destruction, evolution*), Tirobhāva (veiling, embodiment, illusion, and also, giving rest), Anugraha (release, salvation, grace). This cosmic activity is the central motif of the dance. (ibid., p.87.)

*We discern that what Coomaraswamy intended was "involution" here, and not "evolution", which has already been covered under Sṛṣṭi. We may also note here that Coomaraswamy does not employ diacritics in this chapter (and, for that matter, in this book itself) as it was intended for a very general audience (especially Western); (whence also hardly any Sanskrit citations).

The three key points of his analysis are thus stated by himself:

The Essential Significance of Shiva's Dance is threefold: First, it is the image of his Rhythmic Play as the Source of all Movement within the Cosmos, which is Represented by the Arch; Secondly, the Purpose of his Dance is to Release the Countless souls of men from the Snare of Illusion; Thirdly, the Place of the Dance, Chidambaram, the Centre of the Universe, is within the Heart. (ibid., p.93.) (Italics as in the original).

After identifying the essence of the symbolism, he proceeds to recognise the element of beauty, calling attention to the grandeur of this dance conceived of as a synthesis of science, religion, and art.

How amazing the range of thought and sympathy of those rishi-artists who first conceived such a type as this, affording an image of reality, a key to the complex tissue of life, a theory of nature, not merely satisfactory to a single clique or race, nor acceptable to the thinkers of one century only, but universal in its appeal to the philosopher, the lover, and the artist of all ages and all countries. (ibid., p.94.)