In the history of Mankind, the most beautiful Tattva (a fundamental underlying element or principle) that has been conceived or discovered is the Shiva Tattva, and in that too, in particular is the form of Lord Shiva as Nataraja – the Lord of Dance.
The essence behind Nataraja is in itself so unique and beautiful. Our life is composed of different stages or levels. Life is not experienced at just one level alone.
Scientists today say that our brain is a frequency analyser. For example, if you set your television to a particular channel, then you get to see and hear only that channel. Isn’t it so? When we change the channel, then we see and experience another different channel. Our brain works in the same way like the TV and its channels. There is a multitude of channels across the whole world today, but we are tuned into and living in one particular channel – and that channel is this World, this Creation.
When we change the channel, then an altogether different world, a different realm gets revealed to us – and that is the subtle world. In this subtle world, there is a constant dance of consciousness.
This world before us, and whatever we are going through and experiencing (at the level of the gross material world) are actually the effects or results of this cosmic dance at the subtle level. When Nataraja’s dance comes to an end, the entire creation too will come to an end.
It is not that the Divine performed this cosmic dance some 10,000 or 20,000 years ago. It cannot be dated back in time. People have a wrong notion about this and say that this dance happened on a particular day, at a certain time. No, it is not so. Nataraja’s dance is eternal, and has been constantly in motion in this Creation. The Purush Tattva, or God (the Cosmic Being as the substratum and most fundamental principle of Existence) is that which pervades and permeates every particle of this Creation – and that is whom we call as Nataraja.
In the idol representation, you will see that Lord Nataraja is standing with one foot on top of an asura (demon). That demon is called Apasmara. Do you know what Apasmara means? Apasmara refers to the disease of Epilepsy. It also represents ignorance and inertia. When one overcomes the inertia and negativity, then one dances in pure bliss – and that is called Ananda Tandava. The demon here represents that inertia which is beyond one’s control. It is inertia that comes when the mind depends on external or outward sources for happiness, and strays outwards through the senses. When the mind overcomes this inertia and turns inwards to repose in the Self; when it returns to the real source of all joy, then it is a sign of being established in the Shiva Tattva.
How is Lord Nataraja depicted in idols and pictures? He is shown dancing in absolute bliss and has four arms. In the palm of one hand, he holds Agni or fire element. Here, the fire element represents Shakti - the totality of the Energy of this Creation. This Energy is upheld and supported by the Shiva Tattva, the Divine consciousness.
In the other hand, he wields a Damaru (a small two-sided musical instrument). The Damaru represents infinity. You must have seen in Mathematics also, that when one writes the symbol for infinity, it is written in the form of a Damaru. The Damaru represents both the Space element, and the Air element. The quality associated with the Space element is Shabda or sound. It is said that when the Damaru played, then from its sounds was born the science of language, grammar and phonetics.
Every child since its birth is a born Yogi. Does anyone teach the baby how to hold its thumb in Adi Mudra; or how to fold the fingers in Chhinna Mudra? When a baby is born, its fingers are clasped in Adi Mudra very naturally. Babies and young children are effortlessly able to perform the Bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose, Pavanamuktasana pose, Hasta-padasana etc. Every child at that tender young age is able to do these Asanas very easily and naturally. Has anyone taught them these at that age?
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar