Today, we celebrate the occasion of Tiruvadirai – the holy festival day of Lord Nataraja – Lord Shiva the Dancer.
Below is a picture of a bronze idol of Lord Nataraja, installed at the CERN Complex (the European Center for Research in Particle Physics) in Geneva… This is the world’s pre-eminent particle physics research centre, housing the Large Hadron Collider, which discovered the ‘God Particle’… Here, Lord Nataraja dances in snow… As he would, in Kailasa mountain….
A plaque adjacent to the bronze statue has quotations from Ananda Coomeraswamy (Scholer, Philosopher, Writer) and Fritjof Capra (American Physicist)
The quotes read :
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, seeing beyond the unsurpassed rhythm, beauty, power and grace of the Nataraja, once wrote of it, “It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.”
More recently, Capra explained, “Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter”, and that “For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter.”
It is indeed as Capra concluded: “Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics.”…
Today, Tiruvadirai star in the month of Margazhi, is the day India celebrates the Dance of Siva. On this day the bronze idols of the Dancing God will be taken in processions around Siva temples , especially in the temples of Tamil Nadu… Today is the most important festive day in the great temple of Nataraja at Chidambaram….
And as we celebrate the day, let us recall the great hymn “Shiva Tandava Stotram” – The Prayer to Dancing Siva, composed by the Rakshasa King, Ravana. It is a beautiful hymn, set in a metre where long and short syllables alternate, providing a terrific beat for the dance of Nataraja…
Here is the setting, as narrated in Uttara Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana….
Ravana, the ten-headed Rakshasa King of Lanka, is in Kailasa region. He has just defeated his own uncle Kubera who lives here. Having captured the aircraft Pushpaka-Vimana from Kubera, Ravana is flying about. Suddenly his aircraft stops mid-air. On enquiring he comes to know from Nandi, the mount of Shiva, that he is trespassing the region of Lord Shiva. Ravana in his arrogance decides to defeat Shiva. With that in mind, he tries to uproot Kailasa – the very mountain on which Shiva resides. So strong is Ravana, that he manages to shake the mountain at its very base, sending all deities, even Paravati, the consort of Shiva, into fear. Lord Siva, seeing this, playfully presses the mountain with his toe, and Ravana’s hands are caught in a crush beneath the mountain. Seeing that he has been overpowered by Shiva, Ravana seeks to atone, does immense penance in that state, and composes and sings many a hymn in praise of Shiva.
Tradition has it that one among them is the song of Shiva’s Dance – Shiva Tandava Stotram – the only song of Ravana that is now available to us.
He begins the song –
गलेऽवलम्ब्य लम्बितां भुजङ्गतुङ्गमालिकाम् |
चकार चण्डताण्डवं तनोतु नः शिवः शिवम् ||१||
From the forest of his matted lock, water flows and wets his neck,
On which hangs the greatest of snake like a garland,
And his drum incessantly plays damat, damat, damat, damat,
And Shiva is engaged in the very vigorous manly dance,
To bless and shower, prosperity on all of us.
(Translation by the learned scholar Sri P R Ramachander, taken from this link )
This is a song of fifteen verses… A wonderful rendering of this, by Bhaiji Sri Ramesh Bhai Ozha, can be seen in the video below.
The waters flowing down from Siva’s matted locks, flowing down from Kailasa mountain, finally fall into a lake… That is Rakshas Tal (pronounced Raakshas Taal), the twin lake of Maanasarovar. As per ancient tradition, this is the place of penance of Ravana, as he propitiated Siva.
Here’s a google earth picture of the twin lakes. The oval, disc shaped Manasarovar, in contrast to the crooked, chicken-leg shaped Rakshas Tal – labeled as Lan’ga Co, in the picture… Maanas is next to it. And Hanuman Tal on the far right…Lan’ga Co is the Tibetan name for Rakshas Tal… Also ‘Langag Tso’ or, more correctly, ‘Lha-nag-Tso’, which means the ‘Lake of the Dark Deities’… Known in common parlance, as the “Ghost Lake”.
Here’s a NASA satellite photograph of Rakshas Tal (Source Link, Click here )
Date : 1/July/2013
Today, we are leaving Manasarovar and are on our way to the base camp for our Kailasa trip. On the way we halt at Rakshas Tal…
Here is a view of the lake, on the ground… Click on the picture to get a larger view…
Isn’t it beautiful!
A very-very short video of Rakshas Tal, that Soota managed from the bus…
As one stops at this lake, one cannot help noticing the stark contrast between this lake and Manas. One saw no aquatic bird at all in Rakshas Tal. At the time we went there, the whole lake is deathly still – in contrast to the lively vibrancy of Maanas nearby…A salt water lake, in contrast to the sweet fresh waters of Maanas… Call it conditioned thinking or otherwise, it sure does feel eerie…. This is the “ghost lake”, the Lake of Ravana.
Sanjeev, one of our co-yatri-s, strikes a Ravana pose near the lake
Yes indeed, there is a whole gulf of difference that makes Rakshas Tal and Maanas as dissimilar as chalk and cheese.
Lama Anagarika Govinda, the German born poet, scholar, practitioner and preacher of Tibetan Buddhism, has this to say about Rakastal (Rakshas Tal) in his most wonderful book – “The Way of the White Clouds”
“A strange, uncanny atmosphere seems to hover over the placid blue waters of the long, comparatively narrow lake, an atmosphere of utter loneliness and severity, which never occurred to him on the shores of Manasarovar.
It is difficult to find an explanation for it, because the landscape surrounding Rakastal is of superb beauty-the soft, red-brown hill at both sides and the mighty, snow-covered massif of the Gurla Mandhata (the Swastika Mountain) give an impressive and colourful frame to the deep blue lake. And yet a feeling of sadness weighs down the beauty, and the very inexplicability of it makes it all the more uncanny. Apparently others have felt the same , and this feeling must have been so strong that nobody dared to build monasteries or hermitages, as on the shores of Manasarovar. There are mysteries which man is called upon to unveil, and there are others which are meant to be felt, but not to be touched, whose secrecy must be respected. Rakastal is one of these….
Signing off this post with two pictures… Click on the photographs to get a larger view…
The first is a carving in Kailasanatha Temple in Ellora… This is of Siva and Parvati in Mt Kailasa, while the ten-headed twenty-handed Ravana below is trying to uproot the mountain..
And the second photo is of the CERN Nataraja of Geneva once more… A night shot… Casting a shadow dance on the CERN building…
*** To be continued ***