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Nataraja (Shiva): The King of dancers
Famous among the various aspects of Shiva that are worshipped is the Nrtta or Tandava murti from. Here Shiva is shown as Nataraja, the king of dancers. The Nataraja icon is a unified and dynamic composition expressing the rhythm and harmony of life. This cosmic dance of Shiva is called 'Ananda Tandava,' the Dance of Delight, it signifies the cosmic cycles of creation, preservation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death.
The Legend of Shiva Nataraja
In the Thillai forests resided a group of sages who believed in the supremacy of magic and the thought that God can be controlled by rituals and mantras or magical words. In order to defy the sages, Shiva came into the forest assuming the form of Bhikshatana, a simple mendicant seeking alms. He was accompanied by his consort, Vishnu as Mohini. On seeing the handsome form of Shiva, the wives of the sages were enchanted. This enraged the rishis and they invoked scores of serpents by performing magical rituals. Shiva lifted the serpents and donned them as ornaments on his matted locks, neck and waist. Further enraged, the sages summoned a fierce tiger, whose skins were used by Shiva as a wrap around his waist.
The rishis gathered all their spiritual strength and invoked a powerful demon Muyalakan or Apasmārapuruṣa - a symbol of complete arrogance and ignorance. Shiva wore a gentle smile, stepped on the demon's back, immobilized him and performed the Ananda Tandava disclosing his true form. The sages surrender, realizing that Shiva is the truth and he is beyond magic and rituals.
Interesting facts about Nataraja (Shiva)
Shiva was first depicted as Nataraja in the famous Chola bronzes and sculptures of Chidambaram, east-central Tamil Nadu, South India..
The two most common forms of Shiva's dance are the Lasya (the gentle form of dance), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance) associated with destruction of the world..
It is said that he dances every evening in order to relieve the suffering of creatures and entertain the gods who gather at Kailasa.
Srinivasan, S. (2004). Shiva as ‘cosmic dancer’: on Pallava origins for the Nataraja bronze.
World Archaeology, The Archaeology of Hinduism , 36 (3), 432 – 450.