The Tao of Thandavam, The Cosmic and Microcosmic Dance

Lord Siva is generally worshipped in His abstract form. A smooth shiny lump or shaft of stone or some such other material, or even a heap of smmoth wet sand, called linga (phallus, if you will in English).
In Amarnath He is worshipped as the smooth shaft of ice that forms in witer months in the cave at the foothills of the Himalayas. Arunachala, the hill in Tamil Nadu, itself is believed to be a manifestation of The Lord. The abstract form of Siva is believed to have its origin in the epic story that The Lord manifested as a tall shaft of effulgent light the two extremes of which were unfathomable even to the other two Deities of the ultimate Hindu Trinity, Vishnu and Brahma.
In Chidambaram He is worshipped in His three forms, first as the Cosmic Dancer Nataraja, the Lord of the Golden Pavilion or Kanaka Sabhapati in Sanskrit. He is worshipped there also as a Crystal (sphatika)linga, presented to the temple by Adi Sankaracharya. He is regarded there again as a third manifestation, that is as the formless void, the empty space behind an elaborate curtain, leading to what people call as the the secret behind Chidambaram,(the Chidambara rahasyam, as it is called in Sanskrit).
There is another charming form that the Lord takes, to the delight of the devotees. It is the Sundareswara, The Beautiful and charming Bridegroom at Madurai Meenakshi temple.

Nataraja is the form the believers visualise, the Lord of the Universe to assume, while he steers the cosmos around, at his will.
The graceful icons of Nataraja as conceived by anonymous sculptors of India, even as they are sacred to the Hindus, are found fascinatingly beautiful by many other people across the world, (when I say others I mean the open-minded, not the iconoclasts who blinded by dogma destroy precious icons of human heritage)
Nataraja has inspired not only artists like Ananda Coomaraswamy and Auguste Rodin but also hard-headed physicists like Fritjof Capra, (The Tao of Physics).
No wonder, the icon of Nataraja dances on the lawns of the CERN building in Geneva.(CERN is discerning, I discern.)

Siva is the epitome of masculine grace. He is the ultimate simpleton, Bhola Sankar. Benevolent and beatific most of the times, (but when angry very rarely, verily He is anger personified. )

There are a number of captivating Carnatic lyrics extolling the dancing Siva. One of them which I like is the “Kaapalee”, in Mohanam, in the Tamil tongue by Sri Papanasam Sivan. I have not had occassion to hear the version of the legendary D.K.Pattammal, but have heard the rendering of Nityasri, her beautiful and accomplished grand daughter, which I like very much.
I will talk about the others lyrics on the dancing Deity later.

P. Sivan chose Mohanam to portray the Kapaleeswara of Mylapore as Nataraja, to depict the fluid grace of The Lord flimsily masked In a fearful form. I reproduce the lyric here.


kaapaalee karunai nilavu pozhi vadhana madhiyan oru , kaapaalee


aabaala gopaalam, aazhisoozh thalath aavarum,
boopaalarum, ashta-dikpaalarum potrum adbhuta kaapaalee


Madi, punal, aravu, konrai, thumbai, arugu,
unmattai, punnai, maasadaiyaan
Vidhi-thalai-maalai maarban,
Uritta kariyin vem-puliyin tholudaiyaan.
Adhira-muzhangum udukkaiyum, thirisoolamum,
angiyum, kurangamum, ilangidu kaiyaan.
Dyuthi-migu thiru meni muzhudhum saambal thulanga
Edir mangaiyar man ankavar jagan mohana kaapaali

The Pallavi (refrain), itself sets the tone. Just after addressing The Lord as Kapali, The One wearing a fearful garland of kapalas, ( cephals or skulls ), Sivan extolls Him as an abode of kindness and compassion and the One who wears the sickle-moon over his head. (Nilavu besides meaning an abode is also an allusion to cool moonlight)

Just after mentioning of The One, (Oru), in the Pallavi, Sivan juxtaposes The One with the lowly many, in the anupallavii.
He states in the anupallavi that The One is regarded, as the Wonderful One, by all and sundry, starting right from simple folk like children and innocent shepherds, to great emperors across the entire world bounded by the seas, and then even to the mighty celestials who guard the eight corners of the universe,.

In the Charanam, Sivan starts listing the embellishments like, the crescent moon, the Ganga river, the simple wild flowers and the sacred grass that adorn His matted dreadlocks,
Sivan then briefly glosses over the skull of Brahma which is the centerpiece of the garland of skulls adorning His broad chest, and the skins of elephant and tiger which The Lord drapes Himself with.
Then follow the small noisy kettledrum, the trident, the ball of sacred fire and the antelope that He holds in His strong hands.
And finally Sivan concludes that the effulgent body despite being smeared with ashes all over, is nevertheless so alluring to the entire universe that the soul of whoever damsel comes across Him is captivated by His charming visage.


About versa kay

Agile, keen, versatile,considerate,patient
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2 Responses to The Tao of Thandavam, The Cosmic and Microcosmic Dance

  1. shree says:

    Stumbled across your blog and read most of your older posts too. Your love for Mohanam is obvious. A humble and knowledgeable person you are. Combined with your talent to write your posts are amazing and a treat to read.

    ” the soul of whoever damsel comes across Him is captivated by His charming visage” – True. The ‘damsel’ is none other than us humans who are bewitched by the lord and his charm. He is the Parama’Purushan’.

    • versa kay says:

      It is the love for certain things I find worthwhile to share with kindred souls that propels me to put thesethings on paper. Otherwise I am just an indolent old fellow who is content to curl up on the couch with a good book, of course with the idiot box on simultaneously.
      Thanks for the visit and the kind comment.

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