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by K. C. KAMALAIAH
[For a proper understanding of the Nataraja Theme a study of the 82 verses of Tirumantiram by Tirumular is a must. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy has quoted a number of verses from the Vision of the Sacred Dance in his Dance of Siva.]
Everywhere is the Holy Frame, everywhere is Siva Sakti. Everywhere is Chidambaram and everywhere is the Sacred Dance. Everywhere as Sivam pervades it is a play for Sivan And He exists anywhere, everywhere and bestows His Grace. This (1)
Effulgent Light of Wisdom; this Siva Ananda Dancer, The end of the Word, this Dancer of Beauty, This Dancer of the Golden City, this Dancer of Golden Tillai, This Marvellous Dancer - who can know Him? (2)
Siva’s Dance of Delight
See ye the lofty Dance of Delight, sweet as honey, O’er the Sakti of everlasting bliss, endless! To the Dancing Lord transcending wisdom, It is the dance stage for the Dance of Delight. (3)
The dancing stage is bliss, the songs are delightful, The many instruments and organs give tunes delightful. The movables and the motionless are in delight. It is delight to the lord taking to the Dance of Delight. (4)
Sivakami is an amalgam of the Supreme Radiant and Perennial Being. To the faithful, the Supreme imparts eternal joy. The destination of Siva’s Dance of Delight It the Heart as the Lord’s habitat. And the mind gets pure. (5)
The dances are five. The Formless Dancer Taking a Form with the five vocations in view, Merciful in all His actions, carries on the five activities. The Partner of the Damsel of Honey’d Word dances the Sacred Dance. (6)
The world of five elements and others different, The one of enjoyment, the one of Yoga, The one embracing all these, the one of salvation And the one of yearning for it, the bodily world And the one of thirst – all these go to make The vast universe united to the Feet of the Lord Who in his five vocations rules over it. (7)
The Vedas are chanted, the lofty Agamas are followed; The psalms are sung; the seven universes are moving; The elements dance, the satellites all vibrate, With the Lord dancing to rhythm the Dance of Delight and Wisdom. (8)
The Lord He is the Siddha dancing in collusion With the five elements, organs and senses, With the Five Vedas and Agamas in plenty, With the practising arts, Time, Eternity, Universe and Knowledge. (9)
The gods and the demons, the humans, the supernals, The Vidyadhars, the Three and the ancient Thirty-three,
The ascetics, the Sattars, the religious, the Still and the Unstill, All throb to life with our Lord dancing. (10)
The Dance of Beauty
Beyond and far beyond the seven worlds is a power Enthroned at the pinnacle of the ever auspicious, Where the Lord with a black throat, the very Grace personified, Took to dancing witnessed by Uma. (11)
The Monarch of the reputed forest of Tillai, The Heavenly Tree with deep roots, Seeks for dancing besides Kodukotti, Pandarangam and Kodu, The Dance of Destruction, the eight dances And also the Five and Six. (12)
In the universe far beyond rest the feet of Parasakti. On the universe far beyond fall the luminous rays of the lord. Far beyond the universe spread the sound waves. In the universe far beyond the Sovereign Lord dances. (13)
Of branches of knowledge, Faith is the leaping hook. To the rhythmic time beats of thom-theem, Sankara dances His eternal dance at a vitat spot, Permeating the innermost recesses, ceaselessly. (14)
My Lord dances acts of vocation and also the nine modes. He dances in the crematorium and in the heart too. He dances at the central point, concluding His dance recital, dancing in endless wisdom. (15)
In the five Saktis and the five forms of Siva, In the eight deliverances and the foremost eight positions, In the eight siddhis, the eight destinations, And in the eight suttis, the Lord dances the ancient dance. (17)
The clouds seven and the seven islands of the vast sea, The bodies seven and the seven rays of Sivabhaskaran, The tastes seven and the seven Santis– All these subsist under the feet of the Lord. (18)
The Dance of the Golden City
In the south and the north, the east, the west and the top In each one of the marvellous five faces, In the unequalled celestial delight, The One, the Absolute executes the only dance. (19)
Devotees are those who had the vision of joy of Haran’s Feet; Devotees are those who have been the beneficiaries of the Lord’s Grace; Devotees are those who journeyed to the Feet of the Lord; Devotees are those who had a vision of the Sacred Dance in the Hall of Gold. (20)
Repressing the irrepressible ‘I’ in me, He places His Feet on my head, Taking me to the Tower of Bliss, the eternal abode, Dances Nandi the Dancer, from whom knowledge springs, The Omniscient, who in me too lies deposited. (21)
The Dancer among the gods, the Foremost of dancers, The knightly Dancer in the lofty golden theatre, The Dancer among the souls, the Supreme Dancer
Him I seek with joy and worship with love.
Who can describe Him – This Dancer gem of purest serene, This Dancer with matted locks of hair on the bedecked stage, This Bright Blaze of Light, this Siva Ananda Dancer, This Dancer of unalloyed gold of the purest variety? (23)
They breathe long, feel restive and stumble; The body gets tired. They are not themselves. Such are those who bestow their affection. On the tender Flower-like Foot, In dance on the Sacred Stage, the best and flawless. (23)
The mind wanders not, perplexes not; The body rids itself of tiresomeness. The breath is held; the inner self drives away desires The yearning for blissful union gets goaded within– All to witness the Dance Drama. (24)
The Lord dances with Kali and on the Mount of Gold; He dances with the devil and over the world,
In the vast sheet of water, fire, wind and endless ether, Day in and day out in the open theatre. (25)
Midway between the left and the right lines, Runs the central line touching Meru, Signs of which Lanka exhibits. The land between the Tillai Forest and Malayam, Is the Land of Siva in the central region. (26)
The Meru Mountain in the north, And the Deccanam in the far away south, Between the two is the Sacred Stage in the Centre of the universe, Where the Lord donning the crescent moon dances. (27)
The Dance of Golden Tillai
As with the seven universes as his cities, With the five ethers of old also as his cities, Keeping Shakti as His theatrical stage, The Luminous Supreme took to dancing His vogue. (28)
In the company of the Dame enjoying the dance, As Teacher treading a path immersed in lofty pleasure The Lord arriving in the South, Danced a dance steeped in eternal bliss. (29)
With the Almighty dancing flickers the flame in palm. The matted locks float. When He dances devoid of calm, The crescent moon jumps. While dancing o’er the universe, He dances to rhythm the Dance of Rhythm. (30)
Worshipped by the faithful, the Lord danced in the Assembly Hall. That’s the Dance of the Lord spanning the universe. It’s salvation for one to reach the World of Siva, Verily the pinnacle of lofty wisdom. (31)
The Sacred Feet of the Lord activate The world three times seven, the universes seven, The supporting schools of thought one hundred and eight. The paths blessed by the Half of Siva are four. The Lord executes His rhythmic dance of delight,
Dancing with His other Half, the very fountain of life for all.
Corresponding to the vital centre and the outer parts of the body, Lies the Tillai forest flanked by the Himalayas and Lanka. That’s the patent potent origin that energises, Hence the Omnipresent Lord of Tillai is the Supremest of Supremes. (33)
Between Kanya Kumari in the extreme and the Kaveri, Besides the seven mountains resplendent with holy bathing spots, As the cherished treasure of Vedas and Agamas are recited The never changing Southern world is pure. (34)
He dances to rhythm, dancing to the four paths. He makes the Vedas dance, dancing over the burning fire. He makes knowledge dance, dancing all over the universe – This Supreme God of the gods of unalloyed purity. (35)
He dances amidst the gods and dances on the theatre too. He dances with the gods of the Trinity and a galaxy of sages. He dances to the singing of sacred hymns as also with Parasakti.
He dances in the hearts of the faithful, this King of Dance.
The Lord of Six Faces He is, The Supreme Teacher of Faiths He is : So understood the faithful On the Sacred Stage of the South, The Luminous lord exhibits Himself fully integrated. (37)
In the court of the dancing stage, My Lord dances. His two Luminous Feet Emit two rays of light. To the reverberation of five melodies, The Lord of his own accord bestows Grace. (38)
The dancing foot, the sound of the tinkling bells, The songs that are sung and the varying steps, The form assumed by our dancing Gurupara– Find out these within yourself, then shall your fetters fall away. (39)
In the Hall of Diamonds, the Gem of Dancers, Pleased Himself dancing, witnessing which The very life melting the heart
Flowed and permeated the limbs.
The Marvellous Dance
The Form to brood over is that of the Teacher. The Form-cum-formless is Abstract. The Resplendent Tiripurai is none but The Form-cum-formless Uma. (41)
The Sacred Path leads to the Hall of Wisdom. The Teacher’s Form must be treasured in thought. To the Realised Souls, the Form-cum-formless Is the Path of Grace, the ideal one too. (42)
Life’s sphere of activity extends upto Twelve finger-widths up above the head. Seek ye, the arena dear to the Lord for dancing. That’s the Lord’s Sacred Hall of Dance. (43)
As in the sky above, the wind, the cloud and lightning,
Rainbow and thunder are conspicuous by their appearance, But are different from it, Rivers of Delight and Light mingle but different from each other. The Lord conceals Himself in Light. (44)
The five beginning with fire, the eight directions, above and below, Stands Bliss beyond the comprehension of those who can comprehend. Visible to those who pass over Maya and Mahamaya, Our Lord dances His eternal dance. (45)
The Dancer partakes along with the bangled Danseuse. The Dancer-partakes in undiluted bliss. The Dancer partakes in undiluted knowledge. The Dancer and Denseuse are after the dance. (46)
I’ve known Shakti, who has taken in Him a place, And Our Heavenly Father, are in the midst of a dance. They dance having in them deposited, vast and varied, Living beings, the entire lot spread far and wide. (47)
The form of the Shakti is all delight– The united delight is Uma’s body; This form of Shakti arising in time And uniting the twain is the dance. (48)
Concentrating the gaze between the eyebrows on the forehead, Is the illuminating mantra. That is where the Lord sits in court, Joined by His devotees, I’ve learnt. (49)
The worlds and their contents, the seven states Of Sadasivam, Sattavi and Sambhavi, That constitute the seat of Siva, The Supreme Luminous Lord pleases Himself dancing there. (50)
The Hall of Dance is a luminous flower, Good and lovely of petals numbering One hundred and four and two hundred and ten. Such is the expanding land of the Lord. (51)
The world numbering seven crores and the bodies seven crores The directions surrounded by waves clear numbering seven crores, The Lingas scattered all over the quarters numbering seven crores – These are the temples where the Lord of the Universe dances. (52)
The sky is the body, Muyalakan the dark cloud, The eight directions are the lovely hands of the sage. With the three eyes as the three lights, The Lord dances with the mind as the stage. (53)
The immoblles and the mobiles form His theatre. The Foot of the Supreme Lord is the theatre. The fire and the water regions are His theatre. The Five letters too become the Lord’s theatre. (54)
The powerful drum and the pipe mingled tunes. ‘Hail, Supreme Being!’ leapt the human beings. The celestial horde sought after Him And the demons sang and lo, a Pandarangam! (55)
Gods of the Universe and those beyond, Gods on earth encircled by waves clear, Seeing the dance of the Sacred Feet in the Hall of Gold, They worship and attain salvation. (56)
As to those whose mouths water at the sight of tamarind, To all those who witness the enervating dance, Tears of delight swell, the heart is in a trance. In the aureole of light, nectar of delight springs in mind. (57)
The wandering hand stretched across is Siva Ananda. The sacred dance danced in the acclaimed stage Is food for those who eat it and are mad of it. The gain to those who have the vision is that of the listeners too. (58)
With the fire and the drum, Rudraksha garland and noose With Ankusam and trident and stull and wisdom, Subsisting in the blue throat striking terror, With the Girl in teens on one side, the Lord executes a mighty dance. (59)
With the eleven kinds of dances seeking refuge
In the ankleted foot, the hand having the drum And the lengthening rhythm, danced Nandi with love, The Supremest Being inside and outside. (60)
The Nine dancing as also the Sixteen, The denominations Six of good dancing, The pleasant Seven dancing as also Seven and Fifty-six, He danced lovingly, the Dance of Delight eternal. (61)
Sevens of the Seven He is, as also the basic seven letters, One of the Seven He percolates and unites, Of the seven paths, Our Supreme Luminous Lord is the Path of Truth. He is One with the Dance of Seven musical notes. (62)
The three expanding into five and three hundred and sixty, The three expanding into six and the twelve basics, Culminating in the soul of the three, The Lord danced the attractive dance. (63)
The Sacred Feet of the Lord rest on the heads of gods The Flowery Feet of the Lord, the brightest ruby,
Shine resplendent in the hearts of the faithful. The transcendent Lord is the celestial tree and unfailing treasure. (64)
With the Omniscient dancing, the worlds tremble and shake. The Lord dances knowing the limits of our hearts. With the Omniscient dancing, the many elements are on the move, Deriving pleasure from the dance of the Holy Flame. The Lord danced as anybody else, say those with little knowledge. The first act of dance none could comprehend. After every one came to know the original dance danced, The Dance of Origin is but the Love of Grace. (66) (65)
While the nine and nine of the two words Are held together lovingly at the end by ‘act’, With the activating energy appearing and dancing, My Loving Father takes to dancing. (67)
The scriptural essence dancing and Sadasivam too dancing, The mind dancing and dancing too the energy of Siva, The still and the unstill dancing along with sacred lore, The Heavenly Father danced the Dance of Bliss. (68)
For the two to witness at the lovely stage, He with a Form, Formless and the Form-cum-formless, Within the divine Love of Grace, the Siddha, the Blissful, As the very Grace personified commenced dancing. (69)
While Siva dances, Sakti dances too. While in the universe, Evil is shaken to its roots, the unshakable ether shakes. While the ever-fresh philosophy of the Essence of Rhythm dances, Within the periphery of Vedanta-Siddhanta Siva dances. (70)
The finale to rhythm and the peak of four pronged knowledge, The ultimate goal of the Vedas and the Impeccable Siva Ananda, In the good and eternal Siva Ananda without roots, Are rhythm personified. That is the Dance of Siva. (71)
Releasing the toll of the five beginning with Sivam, Life and bondage detaching themselves from that of penance, The Supreme Lord dancing of His own will, That’s the Siva Ananda Dance of Wisdom – the Penance. (72)
The Perennial Lord engulfs, Since the dim past He perennially stands, While gods perish. The Lord perennially stands While being searched by the name of ‘Vikirtan.’ While the three lights waver, He stands for ever. How he has made a thrall of me! (73)
The Lord transcending primordial sound, Stands entwined appearing not different, From the Faithful in the know of separation and elimination, Who derived immense pleasure of Siva consciousness. (74)
’Tis Bliss, ’Tis Bliss, say the ignorant. To none is intelligible the lofty dance of delight. To whomsoever is intelligible the lofty dance of delight, ’Tis Bliss, the very end of self-effacement. (75)
The well-formed hand is thrown across. The tender hand invites and offers refuge to ascetics. The lovely hand keeps eternal vigil. The fire is purificatory. That’s the Lord, the Sacred Still. (76)
Holding a drum in a hand and throwing one across
Having water and also a hand with fire, And the Lotus Foot trampling evil, That is SI VA Y A NA MA in shape, chantest thou so. (77)
Haran’s drum is creation, Fear Not hand is protection. If it needs any telling, in the fire is destruction. In Haran’s embrace settles illusion. Haran’s Foot is Grace in perpetuation. (78)
A Blaze of Light, the Guiding Light, the Inner Light She of handsome eyes had a vision of Him such as these. With the sight of three Supreme Gods merging in him, She broke into singing songs of His glory. (79)
What say we about Nandi, the Presiding Deity of Wisdom, My Father! Pierced into the Mantras, crossing further, Beyond the hanging sky still farther, The Supreme Eternal Handsome Dancer! (80)
None comprehends the Leonine Form on the Sacred Stage
Of the lofty Teacher Nandi. The red and white noticed in fire Is the Form in which one can take refuge. (81)
The Invincible Sakti is the Willpower of the Invincible Lord, Goading Him and the Souls into action, Instilling in the latter a sense of discrimination. That is the agent provocateur, guide and instrument of love
Leading the Souls unto the Poet of Haran.
(1) Siva Sakti – Siva’s Energy. cf. Tirumular’s another Tirumantiram Verse: “He is the One. The other part of Him is His Sweet Grace.”
(2) Siva Ananda Dancer – Siva who dances the Dance of Delight.
(5) Sivakami: The Beloved of Siva. The Lord is Hermaphrodite. The masculine and feminine parts of Siva have been sculptured in plenty in the form of Ardhanarisvara.
(6) The Supreme who is formless takes a form. The five acts of God are: (1) Creation, (2) Sustenance, (3) Destruction, (4) Illusion and (5) Grace. They form the theme of the Sacred Dance.
(9) The five elements are: (1) Ether, (2) Fire, (3) Water, (4) Air and (5) Earth.
The five organs are: (1) Body, (2) Mouth, (3) Eye, (4) Nose and (5) Ear. The five senses are: 1) Touch, 2) Taste, 3) Sight, 4) Smell and 5) Hearing.
(10) The thirty-three are: Adityas 12, Rudras 11, Vacus 8 and Maruts, 2.
(12) Kodukotti: Dance. Terrible is the Dance of Destruction during the performance of which the Lord dances clapping His hands joyously in victory.
Pandarankam: After destroying the three cities – muppuram, besmearing His body with the burnt ashes of the cities, the Lord dances.
Kodu: The Lord dancing with the skull of Brahma in His hand.
The Eight Dances are: Besides the dances relating to His five acts, three more dances, viz., Kali Dance, Muni Dance and the Dance of Delight.
(15) Nine modes are four with forms, four formless and one form cum-formless.
(16) Parai, Adi, Ichcha, Kriya and Naanam are the five Saktis Brahma, Hari, Haran, Isan and Form-cum-formless Sadasivan.
(25) Dancing with Kali: But for the Lord vanquishing Kali in dance competition, the world would have been devoured by the latter. cf. Manikkavacakar’s Tiruvacakam Verse: The Lord of Tillai’s Court a Mystic Dance performs, What is that, my dear? But for the Lord dancing, it would have been a prey for Kali, Blood thirsty, holding a spear in hand. (28) Five ethers – Ethers of the earth, water, fire, air and sky. (31) The world of siva – Tillai. (32) The four paths are: Cariyai, Kiriyal, Yogam, Jnanam. (33) Tillal – A name of Chidambaram covered with a tree called Tillal (Excoecaria agallocha)
(36) Gods of the Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Hara. (37) The Six Faces are: Isanam, Tatpurusham, Aghoram, Vamadevam, Sadyojatai and Adhomukham. (38) Two rays of light – Two lights of knowledge. Five melodies are: the subtle, the thoughtful, relating to the throat, hearing and making others hear. (39) and (48) As quoted in Dance of Siva by Ananda K. Coomaraswami. (45) The 3rd and the 4th lines as quoted in the Dance of Siva by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. (53) Muyalakan: The dwarf symbolising evil. (61) The Nine: Sivam, Sakti, Vindu, Sadasivam, Isvaran, Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma.
The Sixteen: The eight directions and the eight forms of Siva.
The Six: The six denominations of Saivam, Vaishnavam, Saktam, Ganapatyam, Kaumaram and Sauram.
The Seven: Seven worlds. The Fifty-six: 56 kingdoms of ancient India.
(62) The Seven melodies (Pans) are: Kural, Tuttam, Kaikkilai, Vilari, Taram, Ulai and Ill.
(64) The Heavenly Tree called ‘Kalpakam’ bestows what is asked for and the Heavenly Treasure called ‘Chintamani’ endows one with what is even thought of.
(67) The two words are Tat and Tvam lovingly held together by ‘Aci’ as Tatvamaci. The Nine and Nine refer to the Supreme and the Soul.
(73) Vikirtan: He who is not made, existing neither with a beginning nor with an end. The three lights are the Sun, the Moon and the Fire.
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