Natraj roop


One of the most visually dramatic and culturally significant forms of the Supreme Being in Hinduism is Nataraja – Lord Shiva as the King of Dance. Shiva is the god of destruction in the Hindu pantheon and the form of Nataraja gained prominence in the Chola dynasty of South India around the 10th century AD. The bronze statues of Nataraja from that era are some of the grandest examples of Hindu art. It is a popular sculptural symbol of Lord Shiva in India and often used to represent Indian culture. Shiva as Nataraja is found in many temples of South India, and is the primary deity of the famous Shiva temple in Chidambaram which is dedicated to Nataraja.

The visual form of Nataraja has Shiva with four arms dancing within a circle of flames, lifting his left leg and standing on a dwarf, Apasmara, who symbolizes ignorance. His upper right hand holds the drum of creation, beating the pulse of the universe and also music for Shiva’s dance. The drum, called udukkai in Tamil, represents sound as the first element of an unfolding universe. In his upper left hand, Nataraja holds the fire of destruction, which according to Hindu mythology is the instrument of annihilation at the end of each cycle of creation. These two symbols, therefore, illustrate the intricate balance of the forces of creation and destruction in the universe.

The lower right hand is held in the abhaya pose, which literally means fear not, and signifying a gesture of grace and protection to righteous souls. The uplifted left leg signifies revealing grace that liberates souls from bondage. The lower left hand, meanwhile, which points to the uplifted leg in assurance that Shiva’s foot is a refuge for all true believers, and surrender to God is the path to liberation.

The ring of fire around the figure of Nataraja represents the manifest universe, while the lotus pedestal on which the entire image rests places this universe within the heart or consciousness of each person. The flowing hair of Lord Shiva in his dance symbolizes a rejection of society, showing Shiva as an ascetic. The figures of Ganges, crescent moon and skull are also usually found in Nataraja sculptures, and are common symbols of Lord Shiva. The snake around the waist of Nataraja represents the ‘kundalini,’ or divine force found in all beings.

The dance of Shiva represents His five divine activites, or panchakriya – shrishti(creation), sthiti (preservation), samhara (destruction), tirobhava (illusion), andanugraha (grace or salvation). It is a dual statement of stillness and motion, the static sculpture representing the intense activity of Lord Shiva. The stoic face of Lord Shiva represents his composure and neutrality, unaffected and above all forces.

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bhagwan shiv ka swarup

Lord Shiva (भगवान शिव) :- represents the aspect of the Supreme Being (Brahman of the Upanishads) that continuously dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. As stated earlier, Lord Shiva is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu.
Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. The symbolism discussed below includes major symbols that are common to all pictures and images of Shiva venerated by Hindus. Since the tasks of Lord Shiva are numerous, He cannot be symbolized in one form. For this reason the images of Shiva vary significantly in their symbolism.
•             The unclad body covered with ashes (नंगा शरीर राख के साथ कवर): the unclad body symbolizes the transcendental aspect of the Lord. Since most things reduce to ashes when burned, ashes symbolize the physical universe. The ashes on the unclad body of the Lord signify that Shiva is the source of the entire universe which emanates from Him, but He transcends the physical phenomena and is not affected by it.
•             Matted locks (योग): Lord Shiva is the Master of yoga. The three matted locks on the head of the Lord convey the idea that integration of the physical, mental and spiritual energies is the ideal of yoga.
•             Ganga (गंगा): Ganga (river Ganges) is associated with Hindu mythology and is the most sacred river of Hindus. According to tradition, one who bathes in Ganga (revered as Mother Ganga) in accordance with traditional rites and ceremonies on religious occasions in combination with certain astrological events, is freed from sin and attains knowledge, purity and peace. Ganga, symbolically represented on the head of the Lord by a female (Mother Ganga) with a jet of water emanating from her mouth and falling on the ground, signifies that the Lord destroys sin, removes ignorance, and bestows knowledge, purity and peace on the devotees.
•             The crescent moon (चाँद): is shown on the side of the Lord’s head as an ornament, and not as an integral part of His countenance. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end. Since the Lord is the Eternal Reality, He is beyond time. Thus, the crescent moon is only one of His ornaments, and not an integral part of Him.
•             Three eyes (तीसरी आंख): Lord Shiva, also called Tryambaka Deva (literally, \\\”three-eyed Lord\\\”), is depicted as having three eyes: the sun is His right eye, the moon the left eye and fire the third eye. The two eyes on the right and left indicate His activity in the physical world. The third eye in the center of the forehead symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power, and is thus called the eye of wisdom or knowledge. Like fire, the powerful gaze of Shiva\\\’s third eye annihilates evil, and thus the evil-doers fear His third eye.
•             Half-open eyes: when the Lord opens His eyes, a new cycle of creation emerges and when He closes them, the universe dissolves for creation of the next cycle. The half-open eyes convey the idea that creation is going through cyclic process, with no beginning and no end. Lord Shiva is the Master of Yoga, as He uses His yogic power to project the universe from Himself. The half-open eyes also symbolize His yogic posture.
•             Kundalas (two ear rings) कुण्डल: two Kundalas, Alakshya (meaning \\\”which cannot be shown by any sign\\\”) and Niranjan (meaning \\\”which cannot be seen by mortal eyes\\\”) in the ears of the Lord signify that He is beyond ordinary perception. Since the kundala in the left ear of the Lord is of the type used by women and the one in His right ear is of the type used by men, these Kundalas also symbolize the Shiva and Shakti (male and female) principle of creation.
•             Snake around the neck: sages have used snakes to symbolize the yogic power of Lord Shiva with which He dissolves and recreates the universe. Like a yogi, a snake hoards nothing, carries nothing, builds nothing, lives on air alone for a long time, and lives in mountains and forests. The venom of a snake, therefore, symbolizes the yogic power.
•             A snake (Vasuki Naga) (सर्प): is shown curled three times around the neck of the Lord and is looking towards His right side. The three coils of the snake symbolize the past, present and future – time in cycles. The Lord wearing the curled snake like an ornament signifies that creation proceeds in cycles and is time dependent, but the Lord Himself transcends time. The right side of the body symbolizes the human activities based upon knowledge, reason and logic. The snake looking towards the right side of the Lord signifies that the Lord\\\’s eternal laws of reason and justice preserve natural order in the universe.
•             Rudraksha necklace (रुद्राक्ष की माला): Rudra is another name of Shiva. Rudra also means \\\”strict or uncompromising\\\” and aksha means \\\”eye.\\\” Rudraksha necklace worn by the Lord illustrates that He uses His cosmic laws firmly – without compromise – to maintain law and order in the universe. The necklace has 108 beads which symbolize the elements used in the creation of the world.
•             Varda Mudra (सिद्धासन): the Lord\\\’s right hand is shown in a boon- bestowing and blessing pose. As stated earlier, Lord Shiva annihilates evil, grants boons, bestows grace, destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in His devotees.
•             Trident (Trisula) त्रिशुल: a three-pronged trident shown adjacent to the Lord symbolizes His three fundamental powers (shakti) of will (iccha), action (kriya) and knowledge (jnana). The trident also symbolizes the Lord\\\’s power to destroy evil and ignorance.
•             Damaru (drum) डमरू: a small drum with two sides separated from each other by a thin neck-like structure symbolizes the two utterly dissimilar states of existence, unmanifest and manifest. When a damaru is vibrated, it produces dissimilar sounds which are fused together by resonance to create one sound. The sound thus produced symbolizes Nada, the cosmic sound of AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. According to Hindu scriptures, Nada is the source of creation.
•             Kamandalu  (कमण्डल) : a water pot (Kamandalu) made from a dry pumpkin contains nectar and is shown on the ground next to Shiva. The process of making Kamandalu has deep spiritual significance. A ripe pumpkin is plucked from a plant, its fruit is removed and the shell is cleaned for containing the nectar. In the same way, an individual must break away from attachment to the physical world and clean his inner self of egoistic desires in order to experience the bliss of the Self, symbolized by the nectar in the Kamandalu.
•             Nandi (नंदी): the bull is associated with Shiva and is said to be His vehicle. The bull symbolizes both power and ignorance. Lord Shiva\\\’s use of the bull as a vehicle conveys the idea that He removes ignorance and bestows power of wisdom on His devotees. The bull is called Vrisha in Sanskrit. Vrisha also means dharma (righteousness). Thus a bull shown next to Shiva also indicates that He is the etemal companion of righteousness.
•             Tiger skin (बाघ की खाल): a tiger skin symbolizes potential energy. Lord Shiva, sitting on or wearing a tiger skin, illustrates the idea that He is the source of the creative energy that remains in potential form during the dissolution state of the universe. Of His own Divine Will, the Lord activates the potential form of the creative energy to project the universe in endless cycles.
•             Cremation ground (श्मशान भूमि): Shiva sitting in the cremation ground signifies that He is the controller of death in the physical world. Since birth and death are cyclic, controlling one implies controlling the other. Thus, Lord Shiva is revered as the ultimate controller of birth and death in the phenomenal world.

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