The Shiva Tattva that pervades in every particle of this Creation – this knowledge comes from that very Shiva Tattva. Who has taught the birds how to chirp? Who showed the birds how to build nests? When you think about these aspects, then a deep sense of wonder dawns within you. You then realize that there is one Supreme underlying intelligence which has all the knowledge and Lord Shiva is the personification and representation of that Divine knowledge.
Lord Shiva is said to have three eyes. The Third Eye represents knowledge that is beyond the reach of the senses. One kind of knowledge is that which we receive through our sense organs. The other kind of knowledge is that which is beyond the limited comprehension of the senses – which is represented by Lord Shiva.
One of Lord Nataraja’s hands is placed in Abhaya Mudra (the pose dispelling fear and giving blessing and protection). It means to convey, “My dear one!
There is nothing to fear. Be free of worries, be happy. Have patience and total faith”. This is what is represented by the Abhaya Mura. The other hand is swayed across and slightly bent downwards, pointing to the feet. What does that mean? It means to say, “Dance! Rejoice and celebrate! Be humble in life, but also walk confidently with your head held high.” One who is arrogant is not necessarily free from fear. Here, it means to be free from fear and yet not stiff with ego. It means to be simple, to be natural. It means to become Sharanagat – to be totally surrendered to the Divine. You have everything with you that you need – this is what is meant by the position of the other hand. This is the deeper meaning behind the representation of Lord Shiva in Ananda Tandava.
There is a snake around Lord Shiva’s neck. What is the meaning behind that? The snake represents awareness, alertness. It means to be free from inertia and ignorance. What is the meaning behind Mother Ganga flowing from the matted locks of Lord Shiva? Ganga here does not indicate a certain lady, or the waters of the divine river. Ganga represents knowledge.
There is a deep inseparable connection between knowledge and the River Ganga; just like the connection between River Yamuna and Love. Countless immortal tales of love have taken place at the banks of the River Yamuna. All the sacred congregations and gatherings for spiritual knowledge have taken place on the banks of the River Ganga.
Here in India, we have since time immemorial believed in the inseparable connection between Love and Knowledge. It means that both the Buddhi (intellect) and Bhava (feelings or emotions) have their place in Life. This is why Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “When you unite and become so totally one with Me, then not only shall your intellect become sharp and endowed with knowledge, you shall also not have any lack of intense love and emotion”. In the absence of feelings and emotions, you cannot experience peace.
There is a verse in the Gita which says, “Nasti buddhir ayuktasya na cha-yuktasya bhavana. Na cha-bhavayatah shantir' ashantasya kutah sukham”. (2.66)
Lord Krishna says, “One who does not surrender and unite totally cannot experience the intense feeling of love, devotion and bliss. Such a person becomes so dry and emotionless, as if a living corpse. Yet, he who becomes one with Me, experiences intense feelings of love and joy; his eyes shine and radiate love; his intellect becomes sharp and one-pointed”.
Lord Krishna has spoken about all the signs one experiences when one surrenders to the Divine. When feelings of love arise from within, and at the same time the intellect becomes sharp - only then can one experience deep rest and peace.
Life itself is a dance – we have to take the material and the spiritual aspects of life together, hand in hand. Let one foot rest upon the Earth, and let the other foot rise upwards into the Heavens – then that is when a dance happens spontaneously.
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar