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7 Significant Aspects Of Nataraja's Dance One Should Know

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By Author: Nitin Jain
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The word Nataraja is derived from 'Nata' meaning dance and 'Raja' meaning King. His Tandav Nritya & stories around how he performed it as Natarajan are very prevalent. The Nataraja form comes from Southern India, which marks the happiness of creation.

The Bronze nataraja statue depicts him with a round face, almond eyes, long arms surrounded by a circle of fire. These are kept at museums, temples and other important places while avoiding home due to its destructive property.

Lord Shiva was famous for his Dance which mesmerised everyone. His Dance was full of energy. The Tandav dance, which is the 'Destroyer' side of Lord Shiva, is not negative energy, but the one that is expansive in its impact. It was an art which combined perfect synchronisation of cosmic and human energy.


When was the Dance first performed?


Aadi Sesha, the Serpent God came to know about Lord Shiva's dance art. He could not resist himself from being a witness to the same. Since it was not possible to view the same, he requested Lord Vishnu to let him witness Lord Shiva's such Dance. Lord Vishnu agreed for the ...
... same and blessed him that he would personally see Lord Shiva dancing.

For the same Aadi Seshan came to the earth in the form of Patanjali. Then at Chidambaram, Lord Shiva displayed his grandeur cosmic dance performance also called as 'Aananda Thaandavam'.

In his dance theme, Aadi Seshan saw sharp moves combined with cosmic energies that created and destroyed the universe. Patanjali was so overwhelmed by witnessing the artful and powerful dance performance of Lord Shiva that he made a temple there for religious worship as a mark of respect to the deity.

Nowadays this Ananda Tandava posture of Lord Shiva is known by all around the world & has several symbolic and religious significance.

Significance of Nataraja's Dance:

His dance form had many aspects & significance, which has deep meaning when understood in details. Some of them are given here below :

The circle that surrounds the Nataraja idol are cosmos evolved due to rhythmic & aesthetic dance steps being done by Lord Shiva. It is the source of all movement occurring in the universe. A circle was created in the space around Shiva due to his energy, which is believed to release all from the snare of illusion. Hence he has been reverted as a Cosmic Dancer. Interestingly, some people believe that the frame around Nataraja is an illusion, which is experienced through the cycle of birth and death.

Shiva held a Damaru during his Dance in his upper right hand. The beats of this Damaru were very soothing and signified the origin of life and the endless time gap. It has a message that signifies the endless process through which the universe collapses from where it is expanding. Damaru in the hands of Shiva represented a sense of enjoyment & recreation.

Shiva's upper left hand, shown in the posture, holds fire in a vessel. Its flame represents the destructive energy with which Lord Shiva dances and signifies the destruction of the evil. It is significantly a step towards transformation.

Shiva's lower right hand, with a snake wrapped on it and a raised palm facing the viewers, is depicted in the posture. It is called Abhaya Mudra, which gives the message that one who follows the right path shall be blessed by him and need not be afraid of anything. It assures all of his being the saviour of lives.

Shiva's lower left-hand located near his chest & raised left foot signifies spiritualism and contentment through meditation.


The demon under Shiva's right foot is a dwarf known as Apasmara. He was a demon who could not be killed but only subdued, and his presence balances knowledge and ignorance in this world. Thus dancing on Apasmara signifies ignorance in a tangible form, which needs to be removed. It is the symbol of release/Moksha.

Shiva's in this form bears long hairs streaming down. They are a matter of pride and provide spiritualism and closeness to God. They give a peaceful expression of a yogi, who in all situations, does not get perturbed. The long hairs symbolises the longer duration of devotion by an individual.


Hence, the portrait of Shiva as Nataraja is the literal embodiment of the divine. The faith of the devotees activates as soon as one comes in front of the statue, and a feeling of Lord Shiva seeing him emerges. His Dance of bliss represented rhythmic and synchronised movements, creation and transformation of life.

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