Friday, July 30, 2021

Ananda Tandava Of Nataraja - 16

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The Interpretation of Zimmer

Zimmer dedicates a chapter of his book, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization (written towards the middle of the century) to the 'Dance of Shiva.' He states as a mature and responsible critic (that he was) of artefacts that the details of the image are to be read 'according to the Hindu tradition, in terms of a complex pictorial allegory.' (H. Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, ed. Joseph Campbell, 1946, Bollingen Foundation, Washington D.C., Pantheon Books, New York, p.152).

 Each part of the image is capable, he says, of multiple significations. Referring first to the upper right hand holding the drum, he says: 'This connotes Sound, the vehicle of speech, the conveyer of revelation, tradition, incantation, magic and divine truth.' (ibid., p.152). He observes the relationship between sound and Ether, recognising Ether as 'the primary and most subtly pervasive manifestation of the divine substance', hence symbolising creation. Its counterpart on the left side has 'Fire, the element of destruction of the world'.

'In the balance of the hands', he argues, 'is illustrated a counterpoise of creation and destruction'. (ibid., p.153). His interpretation of the other two hands has not much to add to the traditional interpretation. Speaking of Apasmāra, he says it is 'symbolic of life's blindness, man's ignorance. Hence conquering this demon amounts to attainment of true wisdom wherein is 'release from the bondages of the world.' It may be remarked here that the transparency of the very name of the pigmy demon lends itself to this easy interpretation. After noting the signification of the balance of the two hands above, and Apasmāra beneath the foot, he proceeds to interpret the circle of glow that encases the image.