Nataraj Asana is called the representation of cosmic dance of Shiva. So who is Nataraja and what it means? In Sanskrit, Nata means Dance and Raja means King. So Nataraja literally means the King of Dancers. Shiva is represented in the form of Nataraj dancing over a demon or dwarf (representing ignorance). So Shiva or Nataraj dances on the demon Apasmara, which represents his victory over ignorance. It also represents the passage of spirit from the divine into material.
Representation and Meaning
Nataraj is shown with four hands represent the cardinal directions, right leg down, left leg up in the air turned to the right side.
1. The upper right hand holds an hourglass drum or 'dumroo' that stands for the male-female vital principle. It also symbolizes sound originating creation or the beat of the drum is the passage of time
2. The lower right hand shows Shiva's protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the righteousness of dharma. This gesture is known as the Abhaya Mudra. Abhaya means "Be without fear".
3. The upper left hand holds a flame, which
characterizes destruction. Mostly accepted as destruction of all that is
bad. Both these hands are on the same level or, on the same line. This
shows that creation and destruction are both equal
4. The lower left hand is pointing towards his feet, who is shown holding a cobra. It signifies upliftment and liberation. So when you win over ignorance you feel uplifted and liberated. It also points to the left foot with the sign of the elephant which leads the way through the jungle of ignorance.
5. His right foot is pressed downward on a prostrate figure — 'Apasmara Purusha', the personification of illusion and ignorance over whom Shiva triumphs. Apasmara is expressed as ignorance, illusions or forgetfulness in life, whereas, the right leg is at the middle of the figure, which shows the preservation of a state, or Sthiti. It also holds down a demon, which can be perceived as the demon in all of us that shall be suppressed.
6. His left foot elegantly raised and drawn upwards, depicting Anugraha or release from the illusions of the world, towards enlightenment.
Name and Type of Dance
Shiva’s dance is called Tandav dance. Shiva’s Tandav dance is of two types.
Shiva's two different cosmic dances take place in one's 'Chidambaram' or in the sky of the mind, portrayed as the center of consciousness situated at the altar of one's heart.
1. Ananda Tandav or Lasya – This is the gentle form of his dance with consort Shakti, dance of bliss is associated with the creation of the world, after its total destruction. So it symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy — creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion
2. Rudra Tandava – This is dance of destruction in an aureole of fire, creating wild thunder storms all around the universe, even shattering the Sun, the Moon and stellar bodies with his matted hair, marks of ash on the forehead, trident and drum, lifting his left leg and balancing over a demon of ignorance, with snakes crawling over his arms, legs and braided hair that depict egotism.
So the Cosmic dance of Shiva symbolizes the interplay of dynamic and static divine energy flow, containing the five principles of eternal energy
1. Shrishti (creation, evolution)
2. Sthiti (preservation, support)
3. Samhara (destruction, evolution)
4. Tirobhava (illusion)
5. Anugraha (release, emancipation, grace)