About Shiva – The Cosmic Dancer and Modern Physics
Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifested in the succession of the seasons and in all living creatures , but it is also the very essence of inorganic matter!
For modern physicists, the dance of Shiva is the very dance of subatomic matter …
“Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of Shiva embodied as a celestial dancer in beautiful bronze statuettes.
In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technologies to portray the patterns of cosmic dance.
The metaphor of cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics …”
This is a quote of the famous physicist Fritjof Capra, in which it is spoken so beautifully about the place where quantum physics and Hindu mythology meet, namely the image of the cosmic dancer personified by the god Shiva.
The quote can be found on a plaque displayed next to the statue of Shiva in his hypostasis as a cosmic dancer, which was made in 2004 and which is found at CERN, switzerland, at the European Center for Research in Subatomic Particles in Geneva.
Nataraja or Nataraj, represents the manifestation of the god Shiva in the form of the cosmic dancer.
It is a symbolic synthesis of one of the most important aspects of Hindu philosophy and also sums up the central principles of vedantic writings.
The term “Nataraj” translates to “King of Dance” from Sanskrit (nata = dance and raja = king)
Another interpretation of this word is given by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy ( contemporary Indian philosopher) who says:
“There is no art or religion that can boast of a clearer picture of God’s activity,… a more fluid and energetic image can hardly be found than the image of the god Shiva dancing”
What is the significance of Shiva’s dance in the Hindu tradition?
Shiva’s cosmic dance is called “Anandatandava,” which means Ecstatic Dance.
It symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and dissolution, as well as the cycle of life and death in the human world.
Shiva’s dance sums up in an allegory of images the five main manifestations of the eternal energy: creation, destruction, conservation, occultation and grace.
According to Coomerswamy, Shiva’s dance also represents his five activities:
- “Shrishti” (creation, evolution);
- “Sthiti” (preservation, maintenance or support);
- “Samhara” (destruction, dissolution);
- “Tirobhava” (illusion, occultation),
- and “Anugraha” (liberation, emancipation, grace).
The characteristic of the image of Shiva is paradoxical.
It suggests perfect inner stillness at the same time as an outer frantic activity.
In closing, below is an excerpt about Shiva, extracted from an inspired poem by Ruth Peel:
“[…] The source of any movement,
It is he who gives rhythm to the entire universe,
He dances in demoniac places
But also in the sacred ones.
He creates and sustains,
Destroy and release.
We are part of his dance,
This eternal myth,
And woe to us, if you are blinded being
We detach ourselves from the cosmic dance,
From universal harmony[…]”