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Significance of Nataraja and the Chidambara Rahasya
Nataraja, the dancing form of Lord Shiva, is a very beautiful symbol of the union of nature and the Divine.
Nataraja holds fire in one hand, representing the fire element. A damaru in his other hand depicts the space element. Many forces in the universe are represented by a shape similar to that of a damaru, like a chromosome, or shapes of galaxies and so on. Time also is said to have a conical representation. ∞ is the symbol (shape of the damru) and represents infinity.
Shiva’s hair is open and flying representing the air element. One foot on ground symbolizes prithvi (earth element), another in the air. One hand is the symbolic abhaya hasta offering protection and the other points to his feet symbolizing surrender. With one foot already in the air, he has already taken a step towards the devotee. He says “You are dear to me” even before beginning. Even in the Bhagvad Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna – “You are very dear to me”. When you know that you are dear to someone, trust and love arises in the heart.
Shiva is dancing. Life should be like this. If both feet are stuck in the ground then you cannot dance. Even to walk you need to take one foot up.
The entire creation is full of bliss.
The entire creation is dancing in bliss.
The entire creation is longing for bliss.
Nataraja represents the Ananda Tattva (bliss) that the whole world is longing for.
Every atom in the world is filled with the potential for action yet it is at peace. Shiva, the principle of infinite peace and bliss is not inert. It is peaceful, yet dancing.
Underneath his feet, there is Apasmaar (the demon symbolizing desires). He is standing with his foot on top of desires. If desire eats us up then we are in trouble. Only when we rise above desires and we are dancing on it, then it is a dance of joy and bliss. This is not just imagination. This is the truth. This energy awakens within us and we rise in dance. This is true. The Divine energy pervading the entire creation is eternally dancing.
Chidambaram is the place of Shiva symbolizing the akasha tattva (the principle of space). Space is formless. In the sanctum of this temple, there is a veil. Beyond the veil there is nothing but empty space. Tthe secret of Shiva tattva can be known only by going within. When you remove the veil of illusion and desires, you experience the vast infinite inner space. For a few moments your mind becomes free from thoughts. You realize that there is some secret of which you have had a small glimpse, like a flash, and this experience brings a transformation in life.
There are three types of space that is described. Bhutakash – the physical body, Chittakash – thoughts and emotions and Chidakash – the vast, Supreme Consciousness. The life-force energy is awakened in the Chidakash. The secret of the Chidambara can only be experienced through self-effort on the spiritual path.