Friday, August 20, 2021

Ananda Tandava Of Nataraja - 19

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The Interpretation of Zvelebil (Continued)

As regards the ḍamaru (the "tambourine" used by dancers) Zvelebil quotes Rustam Mehta in saying that it represents 'the primary creative force and the intervals of the beat of time-process'; (ibid., p.35; citing R. J. Mehta, Masterpieces of Indian Temples, Bombay: Taraporewala, 1974), he compares this with Zimmer's remarks about the elements of Sound and Ether 'signifying the first, truth-pregnant moment of creation, the productive energy of the Absolute, in its pristine, cosmogenetic strength.'  (ibid., p.35 ; citing Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, p.152). Zvelebil also remarks on the form of ḍamaru: 'because of its form resembling two triangles, it symbolises the unity of the male and the female principles.'  (ibid., p.35). The foremost significance he perceives here is that of the rhythm of the cosmos, which returns him, like Zimmer, to the idea of Ether as the first manifestation.

           Zvelebil offers an interesting comparison of the abhaya-mudrā hand with the magna manus ("great hand") of Christian art.  (ibid., p.41; cf. R. Beer, The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols, San Fancisco: Shambala, 2003, under 'abhaya-mudrā'). He notes the ardha-candra-hasta, i.e. the outstretched palm forming a crescent or semicircle between the thumb and the index finger to hold a bowl of fire or a flame of fire, suggesting: 'The tongue of the flame is not just a straight line but it too, dances violently or gently like the lamp-flame slightly stirred by a soft breeze'. (ibid., p.41).The two upper hands symbolise thus the balance of creation and destruction. The daṇḍa-hasta, i.e. the staff-like stretched hand, is 'stretched across the body, indicating power and strength' and is pointing to the foot of salvation.

           With respect to the legs, Zvelebil observes that 'the bhujaṅga-trāsita  mode of the position of the legs (= reflecting fear of serpents) has the left leg raised and bent, while the weight of the body rests on the right leg'. (ibid., p.41). The symbolism here is 'Śiva's world-creative force driving life-monads into inert matter, while the left raised foot symbolizes their release.' (ibid., p.41).