Lord Nataraja is the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva dancing. The word 'Nataraj' means 'king of dance', wherein 'Nata' means 'dance' and 'Raja' means 'king'. Shiva's dance is called 'tandava' or 'nandata' depending upon the nature of his dance. The representation of Lord Nataraja varied from ages to ages. The scriptures show Lord Shiva dancing in one of the Natya Shastra poses. The classical form is depicted in Tamil Nadu's Chola bronze, typically 4 feet or above. Lord Nataraja is shown dancing in a classical way, holding his left leg over his right leg and thereby balancing his right foot standing on a lotus. He is surrounded by a ring of flames. He holds fire in one hand, while the front hand in gajahasta or dandhasta mudra. Another hand has a snake wrapped around it in a fearless manner. His head, ears, fingers, body, ankles, face and dress is shown decorated with jewels. Nataraja has special significance in Tamil Nadu.
Dancing for Gods Dance forms were nurtured with a purpose in the sacred premises of temples. Temple dancing had a mission : to take art to the people and conveying a message to the masses. The monotony of the life of commonness as well as the elite was equally shared in the premises of a Temple. True religion sanctified every element with a touch of beauty. Art was an effective means to suggest the cosmic truth touching the hearts of the devotees through dance, music, sculpture, architecture or a piece of jewelery, when compared to the effect created by rigid ritualistic practices. The earliest historical illustration of Nataraja preaching Natyagama in its pure form originates in the Chalukyan sanctuaries of Badami and Aihole in the mid 6th century A.D. The temple rituals necessitated the physical presence of women replacing the imaginative celestials, propitiating the Gods. The allegorical view of dance used for the purpose of the pleasure of devas, transformed into a divine service in the medieval temple traditions. As a result temples vied with one another in having the best dancers and musicians in their services. Thus temple dancing was institutionalized and the dancing girls were patronized by the kings and mahajans and were often respectfully mentioned in many inscriptions of temples built in the medieval age. The famous temple of Belurhas several epithets glorifying the Hoysala queen Shantala as Natya Saraswati, Vichitra Suthradhare etc.
Translation:The Sanskrit word nata means dancer and raja means king. Nataraja is another name for Shiva, the Lord of the Dance,whose cosmic dance is the creation and destruction of the world.
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King Hiranyavarman abdicated his Gowda kingdom and crowned his brother to the throne to behold the blissful dance of Lord Shiva in Chidambaram. When sage Vyagrapadha came to know this he crowned Hiranyavarman as Chola king and gave him the royal flag with the emblem of a jumping tiger. Saint Arunagirinathar refers to this in his Thiruppugazh Avaguna virahanai. He praises him as an acclaimed just ruler.
The 10th century Saiva saint, Nayanmar Basavanna, echoed the concept of the human body as the highest abode for worship. He values the living devotee who carries god in his heart as he is in movement, in comparison to a structured static form. Swami Chemburkar states that in the 11th and 12th centuries, the resurgence of the bhakti devotional movement in India brought direct connection to the deity through the form of dance and music in temple rituals. The bhakti devotional revival in Hinduism had an impact on the kingdom of Jayavarman VII, as he brought the bhakti movement into Angkor. 2b1af7f3a8