In Hindu mythology, it is a common practice to tell stories about gods, people, and animals and indirectly use the stories to convey complex ideas and important messages. The stories are narrated through dance. Because there was no television or cinema at this time, Hindu saints and philosophers used dance as a medium to tell stories. Ancient Hindus, believed that dance was created by nature. The orderliness of the stars and constellations, the movement of the rivers, the waves in the seas, and the gentle fluttering of the leaves in the trees – produced images of dancing in their minds. For them, dance represented nature and movement of the universe.
Dance is also a visual medium to illustrate stories. It can be used to illustrate not only religion and religious beliefs but also emotions such as anger, love, bravery, sadness, and kindness. If a movie or the dance you are watching is produced well and has a powerful story to tell you, it leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Similarly, the mythological stories and the images created by ancient Hindus were very appealing to the people. The messages that these stories and images conveyed attract us even today. We can relate to these stories, interpret them according to our modern age and learn from them. In this sense, they have universal appeal.
The dance of Shiva is one of the greatest examples of this tradition – using images to convey great truths and values.
My first encounter with the Lord Nataraja Statue was when am three year old. . It opened with a tale of Shiva’s dance of creation and destruction. distinguish good and bad and how both needs each other to be in the Universe.
In most Indian dance Schools, you find an idol or a picture of the dancing Shiva also called as Nataraja — dancing on a lotus pedestal with one leg raised and crushing a baby-like demon by his foot. A semi-circle arch of flames surrounds the dancing Shiva. Shiva’s hair is flying all across. A cobra sits on top of his head and the goddess Ganges and a crescent moon also adorn his hair.
Shiva is considered the master of dance. His dance is called the cosmic dance. Shiva is dancing on a dwarf-demon, Apasmara. Apasmara was a dwarf who represented ignorance and epilepsy. Apasmara got a wish granted from Lord Brahma that when he dies, he will take all the wisdom with him from the World. In order to preserve knowledge in the world, Apasmara could not be killed. So, he became highly ignorant and a trouble creator. He was causing lots of problems to people and they prayed to Shiva to save them from the demon’s bad deeds. Lord Shiva started to think about the solution, since we can’t wipe out wisdom from universe. So Shiva was waiting for the right opportunity to have an Encounter with him. In the meantime, Apasmara heard about Shiva Dance skills and he challenged Shiva for a dance competition…
Shiva and Apasmara met at the Sabha for the dance competition. Shiva started to perform his Ananda dhandava (Cosmic Dance) with his udukai. It was bliss. The crowd was enchanted and started to dance with Shiva. Apasmara also indulged in the dance. While Dancing Shiva captured Apasmara and trapped him under his foot. So Apasmara is not killed but he is trapped all his life under Nataraja foot. The ignorance is controlled and the wisdom is existing in the universe.
Apasmara is a symbol of laziness, forgetfulness, bad feelings, and evil thoughts that all of us have within us. This story connect to us a greater message — get rid of your dark thoughts – jealousy, envy, hatred and laziness. It is like you choosing to stay in and of the world while still maintaining a higher awareness and doing appropriate action if you do so, you will live happily and peacefully. The Shiva’s dance is just an attractive way to convey this message.
The Universe Bows To Lord Shiva, I Bow To Lord Shiva.