In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is the fountainhead of all arts. One of his most awesome forms is that of taraja, the King of Dance.
According to legend, a group of sages once lived in a primeval forest, acquiring great powers through meditation and austerities. Growing vain, they began seeing themselves as gods. To bring them back to the path of righteousness, Lord Shiva went to the forest and began dancing the Tandava.
At this, the sages became furious and resolved to destroy Him. By means of incantations, they let loose a fierce tiger, but He stripped off the tiger’s skin and wrapped it around himself. Then the sages created a monstrous serpent which He seized and wore around his neck like a garland.
Filly, the sages dug into their deepest reserves to unleash a demon, the malignt dwarf known as Apasmara. In order to preserve knowledge in the world, Apasmara could not be killed. For to do so would destroy the balance between knowledge and ignorance; it would mean that knowledge could be attained without dedication and effort, thereby resulting in its devaluation.
Apasmara was thus immortal and went on to challenge Lord Shiva. Speeding up his Tandava dance, He placed his right foot on the demon’s back and crushed its spine. The chastened sages realized the error of their ways and started praying to Lord Shiva.
Ever since, Apasmara the demonic dwarf has come to signify ignorance. And Lord Shiva liberates souls by destroying their ignorance. The fact that He places his foot upon ignorance for all time, denotes that Tandava is not a destructive dance but an act of liberation.
The supreme objective of Tandava is to release humans from the illusions of ‘self’ and the materialistic world. It initiates a trance-like state akin to yoga, through which the devotee gets to experience divine reality and thereby unite with the Creator.
Tandava is the cosmic dance, source of the endless cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. While Rudra Tandava depicts Lord Shiva’s violent ture, first as Creator and ultimately as Destroyer of the Universe, Anda Tandava depicts him in supreme bliss.
In his taraja form, Lord Shiva holds a damru in his upper right hand symbolizing the sound of creation. In his upper left hand, he holds agni which signifies fil destruction. His second right hand is in abhay mudra, assuring freedom from fear. And his second left hand points towards the raised foot signifying upliftment and salvation. The ske around His waist symbolizes kundalini shakti, the divine force which lies latent within everything.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as the divine patron of music and dance. taraja form has five elements — Shrishti or creation, Sthiti or support, Samhara or destruction, Triobhava or illusion, and Anugraha or release and divine grace.
If Lord Shiva is the Mahayogi, supremely calm and absorbed in Himself, He is also the creative, playful, ceaselessly dymic force that pulsates through the Universe. His taraja form is an eterl message that ignorance can only be overcome by true knowledge.