The word ‘Natraja’ is derived from Sanskrit words ‘Natya’ (means Dance) and ‘Raja‘ (means King). This is the first marvelous sculpture which you will see. I know you would feel that it is incomplete. But just imagine this majestic sculpture, rich with color, history, mythology.
The whole sculpture is 13 feet wide and 11 feet high.
The significance of Natraja is that the Lord Shiva is shown as source of all movements within the Cosmos
The central character is a structure of Lord Shiva as a cosmic dancer who performs a divine dance to destroy a weary universe and make preparations for Lord Brahma to start his process of creation. As Natraja, Lord Shiva represents apocalypse and creation as he dances away the illusory world of Maya transforming it into power and enlightenment.
The Details of Natraja
The calm face of Lord Shiva represents neutrality, thus being in balance
The figure of Natraja has eight arms.
1st Arm – Passes across the body to the left side, It symbolizes upliftment and liberation.
2nd Arm – Bent outwards (maybe giving the blessings)
3rd Arm – Probably holding the Parasu (A weapon gifted to Lord Shiva by Parshuram, the 6th avatar of Lord Vishnu), a battle axe with a cobra on it, broken
4th Arm – Bent upwards, touching the parasu, broken. According to many other sculptures it should have been holding a damaru (a small drum), with a specific hand gesture called damaru-hasta. Is symbolizes passage of time or creation of the universe.
5th & 6th Arm – Bent down, broken. One of these two arms should hold fire. which signifies destruction
7th Arm – Bent a little up, broken, the second right hand is in Abhaya Mudra (Fearlessness), gifting protection from both evil and ignorance.
8th Arm – Goes upward, seems to be holding a portion of robe.
The right thigh is broken and the left leg is completely gone.
The armlet worn by Lord Shiva is prominent.
Around the Natraja
To the right side of Lord Shiva is Lord Ganesha
A little below Lord Ganesha there is a skeletal form of Bhiringi.
Bhiringi is the attendant and a devotee of Lord Shiva. You can read more about him here
Bhringi was a ancient rishi (sage). He was also a devotee of Lord Shiva. But he would never worship Parvati. He dedicated himself to worship of Lord Shiva only.
Once Bhringi came to Mount Kailash (Home of Lord Shiva). He expressed that he wants to go around Lord Shiva. But he had no desire to go around Parvati. Bhringi tried to go around Lord Shiva but Parvati sat on Lord Shiva’s lap. Then Bhringi took the form of snake and tried to go around Lord Shiva. But then Lord Shiva, took his form of Ardhanarishwara. So Bhringi took the form of a rat and tried to gnaw through.
Irritated by this, Parvati cursed him and Bhringi lost all his blood and flesh. making him just with bones. He collapsed and realized that he was wrong. Shiva and Parvati makes up the whole, there is no independent entities. They both co-exist. He apologized and he never forgot his lesson.
Seeing Bhringi apologizing. Lord Shiva gave him a third leg so that Bhringi could stand
Below Lord Ganesha, is a male with a high cap holding a spear in his right hand. He is Lord Kumara, the commander in chief of the Gods.
Lord Kumara is the God of War, Victory, Wisdom and Love. Lord Kumara is also known as Murugan.
The figure sitting just below Kumara is probably Tandu.
Tandu is an attendant of Lord Shiva, He is also responsible for Tandava, the posture in which Lord Shiva is right now. It is one of the postures from a collection of 32 Angaharas and 108 Karanas.
Above the whole group there is Lord Brahma, The God of Creation
Lord Brahma sits on his vehicle, the five swans. His front and the rear right hand has an ajya-patra, also called as a sacrificial vessel for holding ghee and butter.
On the Left of Lord Shiva is his wife Parvati.
Above Parvati’s right shoulder we could see Lord Vishnu riding his vehicle Garuda (An Eagle) whose face is badly damaged.
On the Left of Lord Vishnu, there is a man riding an Elephant. That is Lord Indra (Lord of the Heavens ‘swargaloka’ and God of Rains and Thunderstorms), riding his vehicle Airavat, the Elephant.