In the Bharatnatyam dance form there exists a rich tradition of devotional pieces in praise of many God and Goddesses of the Hindu religion and mythology. As such there are many items dedicated to Lord Shiva, be it as a Kautubh, a Varnam or a Padam. Today we try to understand an often played Shloka in praise of Shiva, the Lord of Dance.
The famous Dhyaan Shloka in Praise if Lord Shiva, the Lord of Dance is:
“Aangikam Bhuvanam Yasya
Vachikam Sarva vaanmayam
Ahaaryam Chandra taaradi
Tam Vande Sattwikam shivam”
Let us simply understand the meaning of this shloka word by word before going onto its deeper meaning.
- Aangikam – Body
- Bhuvanam – Universe
- Yasya – Whose
- Vaachikam – Speech
- Sarva – All
- Vaanmayam – Languages (Sound)
- Aaharyam – Ornaments
- Chandra – Moon
- Taara – Stars
- Aadi – Etc.
- Tam – That
- Vande – Bow
- Saatvikam – Pure
- Shivam – Lord Shiva
Hence, the above shloka means … We bow to that Lord Shiva, whose body is the whole Universe, whose speech is the entire world’s languages and whose ornaments are the moon stars etc.
Here Shiva is depicted as the Omnipotent Lord of dance whose body or movements cover everything that is the space around us and beyond that. His speech embodies all languages known to mankind and even all sounds that man has and could ever hear. His ornaments are none other than the moon and stars, celestial objects of space which we can only see and not even reach. Such is his magnified presence that we bow to him in reverence.
Through this shloka, the existence of Lord Shiva is immortalised by his being, transcending space as well as time. There are no barriers that can stop him from conversing in the universal language of dance and that is why all sound comes from him. His ornaments are as simple as the snake around his neck and the leopard skin cloth around his waist, to the magnificent moon and stars. He is so close to humans through his human like form and yet his magnanimous presence supersedes mortal limitations such as controlling the angry river Ganga knotted through his matted locks of hair. Simple, unassuming, yet so powerful, that he is also known as the Lord of destruction.
Through Ganga, he represents prosperity and through the crescent moon, benevolence. His eyes represent the sun and moon, the third eye represents knowledge and that is where we put the tilakam. He is the Ardhanareeshwar, his right ear holds the man’s jewel and left ear, a woman’s jewel. His snake represents the “Kundalini Shakti”. The sacred thread signifies purity empowering him to perform all auspicious deeds. Of his four hands, the one holding the damaru represents Srishti or creation. The uplifted hand represents Sthiti or preservation and protection. The upper left hand holds fire depicting Samhaar or destruction and revolution. The other left hand held as dola hasta represents Anugraha or benevolence. The right foot in sthitapada has the demon Muyalaka representing old age, death, ignorance. And Shiva is the conqueror of all these evils. The Left foot in kunchita pada represents Moksha, ie, salvation and benevolence. He wears the elephant skin and bells on his shanks – this depicts heroism.
Thus, the Tandava incarnation of Shiva not only represents the four main abhinaya aspects of dance, which we have discussed in details earlier, ie, Angikam abhinaya, vaachikam abhinaya, Aaharyam abhinaya and sattwika abhinaya, but it also represents in a holistic perspective his Panchakriya Shakti, or the five- fold power.
- He holds the power of Srishti or the creation himself
- Sthiti or the power of protection and preservation lies within him
- He is capable of Samhaar or destruction
- Tirobhava, or the power of illusion also emanates from him
- Moksha or salvation can also be achieved through him
That is why we bow to this Supreme God, who exists everywhere, speaks everything, wears everything and holds all emotions within him. Beyond that, he is capable of creating, preserving as well as destroying anything and helping mortals achieve salvation through him.