Friday, August 6, 2021

Ananda Tandava Of Nataraja - 17

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The Interpretation of Zimmer (Continued)

           Zimmer observes the traditional interpretations of prabhā-maṇḍala or tiru-vāsi—the ring of flames and light encompassing the god—as signifying the 'energy of Wisdom' and, also notes the reading of this as the utterance of the mystical syllable Aum. The famous interpretations of A-U-M are given next, as referring to the various states as jāgrat ("the waking state") svapna ("the dreaming state") and suṣupti ("the dreamless sleep"). Beyond the pronunciation of the three, A, U, and M, lies the Silence, the Ultimate Unmanifest. (ibid., p.154.)

           When considering the five activities (Pañcakṛtya), Zimmer recognises how the first three viz. sṛṣṭi ("creation"), sthiti ("preservation"), and laya ("destruction"), and the last two, anugraha ("release") and tirodhāna ("rest") - can be seen as two groups of 'cooperative mutual antagonisms'. (ibid., p.154). Śiva-Naṭarāja expresses the paradox of opposition and balance: the creative force and the quiescence of the Absolute—Kāla and Mahākāla, Time and Eternity; the cyclic rhythm and sovereign calm blend in Him. As Zimmer remarks, Nataraja displays these patterns 'not only simultaneously but in sequence.' (ibid., p.154). Elsewhere he observes the 'tension between the marvel of the dance and the serene tranquillity of his expressively inexpressive countenance.'  (ibid., p.156). Śiva is the embodiment of 'Super Death' (Yamāntaka, "The Ender of the Tamer, He who conquers and exterminates Yama the God of Death, The Tamer"), as indicated by the skull shown in the icon. At the same time, 'as Shishu, the babe, the crescent moon, Shiva is a sheer delight and the most auspicious thing to see, a promise of life and life'. (ibid., p.167). As Zimmer says, 'Shiva is apparently, thus, two opposite things: archetypal ascetic, and archetypal dancer'; again, Total Tranquillity and Total Activity. 'These aspects' remarks, Zimmer, 'are the dual manifestations of an absolutely non-dual, ultimate Reality.' (ibid., p.167).

           For Zimmer, the dance of Shiva thus expresses a 'marvellous blending of opposites': 'The dance, like life itself, is a mixture of the terrific and the auspicious, a juxtaposition and unification of destruction, death and vital triumph, the volcanic bursting of the lavas of life.' (ibid., p.174).