The Shiva Nataraja Murti at CERN in Switzerland. I’ve written about the general characteristics and iconography of the Nataraja Aspect before, but I had this particular statue in mind in light of a RigVedic verse we were working with over the weekend.
Now, the Nataraja at CERN is done in a style which has been particularly prominent, historically, in South India; and I have previously pointed towards the form as demonstrating the manner in which South Indian Hinduism has re-emphasized and re-introduced elements to the Indo-European mythoreligious complex that have lain somewhat more dormant elsewhere (although never entirely extinguished – but the association of Odin with Dance and the performing arts is … not as strong in the minds of many as it might otherwise be, to take but one example).
This is also something I have done in response and riposte to the various people – including some rather well-known names – who go out of their way to attempt to insist that the Puranic and subsequent forms and functions of Shiva are somehow non-Indo-European. Because it just isn’t true.
And the underlying *unity*, *harmony* of this much more recent image and representation, with the RigVedic verses which I’ll get on to in a moment … well, it goes further to illustrate this principle. As well as, funnily enough, providing *additional* grounds for the Murti’s metaphorical salience at CERN 😀
RV I 164 :
“12 They call him in the farther half of heaven the Sire five-footed, of twelve forms, wealthy in watery store.
These others say that he, God with far-seeing eyes, is mounted on the lower seven-wheeled, six-spoked car.
13 Upon this five-spoked wheel revolving ever all living creatures rest and are dependent.
Its axle, heavy-laden, is not heated: the nave from ancient time remains unbroken.”
Now, as ever, the Vedic verses lose something quite considerable in translation. Yet what we see here is but a small slice of a cosmological Hymnal, in which is contained something of a ‘road-map’ of the universe [I say “road-map”, because whereas a map is a map, a road-map also shows a journey, a function, a *progressing* with its unfurling as we go].
At the center of the illustration in these verses is what we might, perhaps, think of as an Axis Mundi, a Pillar (or Sacrificial Post) about which all other forms, happenings, and emanation of the fabric of the world(s) is contingent .
These radiatings are elucidated in poetic terms in these lines as well as others; and include both Time [a strongly Shaivite as well as Shakta concept P And one of the potential interpretations around the Number Twelve – the Number Six also bearing this conceptry … Three Worlds, times Two for Night-Day Cycles, and the Over and Under Up/Down sides of each], and what is inherent in Space, in Matter, in Energy. [the number Seven referring frequently to Piety, to Faith, to the conduits to the Divine, as prime forces within and running through this universe of ours. For instance, the Seven Tongues of Agni, the Seven Voices with which Brihaspati and Vak Sing in Chorus, the Seven Rivers, the Seven Sages, and so forth]
And what do we find around this central pillar? Five Limbs, Five Hands and Feet (well, four hands and one foot, akin to spokes of the Great Wheel, seen in the Circle of Fire that is the Universe and its Energy and Time (Time as Fire .. within which we burn) … the other Foot forming the base of the pillar) . And what do *these* represent? Well, in this Vedic verse, the Five Elements (PanchaBhuta) which make up almost All and Everything.
To return to that Central Pillar also – particularly in light of the ‘nave’ element, the concept of Rta as Cord or Thread or Pillar running through the Universe from Above and Beyond, from AdiParaShakti – in this case, “unbroken”; we again find elements that shall turn up in later Shaivite (and Shakta) depictions, theology. Consider these points from earlier in the hymnal:
“7 Let him who knoweth presently declare it, this lovely Bird’s securely founded station.
Forth from his head the Cows draw milk, and, wearing his vesture, with their foot have drunk the water.
8 The Mother gave the Sire his share of Order: with thought, at first, she wedded him in spirit.”
We see clearly, the concept of the Ganga descending to Shiva’s Hair from the Upplands beyond and above the Universe, and thence emanating out in nourishment to the broader, wider world. We see also, the relationship between Shiva & Shakti – Brihaspati and Vak, in Vedic terms, but also the elements of the famed DeviSukta of the Xth Mandala which I have written about at some length for #NavRatri this year, inter alia. Vak, in a certain sense, also meaning Divine Thought-Form, and both this and Spirit referring to the interaction of Prakriti & Purusha .
I could go on at further length, but this shall do for now.
Contained within the iconographic depictions of the NatarajaMurti are the natural developments and elaborations upon these foundations from Vedic Verse.
Contained within these Vedic verses are observations and elucidations of the fundamental nature and cosmological principles of the Universe.
You know … that thing which CERN is quite big upon – running a particle accelerator’s a rather interesting ‘ring of energy’ approach, as well 😛 (the foot connecting with what is under it being the place and position of ignorance between the ends where we start from in the course of our journeying of discovery; and which is beaten down upon in the progressive dancing of the universe-in-motion, also)
ॐ नमः शिवाय !