Skip to content

Homage to Lord Shiva

Dancing Nataraja
In his second epistle to his friend Bala, Vivek muses about the history of the Tamils, their evacuation from their sinking homeland, the ancient Tamil “myth” of Kumari Kandam.

Attached to this so-called mythical narrative is the depiction of the formless with Form, the endless dance within the atom (which Charles Darwin called the etym … how prescient was he?) of swirling neutrons, protons and electrons. The unknown artificer of the Dancing Nadaraja encircled the God within boundaries of fire. Salt sea and sunken lands aside, Vivek takes his friend Bala from Holy Arunachala to Puttaparthi, to the archipelago of islands spanning the waters up to Japan and possibly to Hawaii.

Now read on: The Homage of Shiva

Homage to Lord Shiva

This homage to Lord Shiva was scribed at the Ramana Maharishi Ashram at the foot of the Holy Hill Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, on Christmas Day, 2006. This Hill has always represented the Fire aspect of Lord Shiva, Supreme Lord of the Universe. Elsewhere in my works, I have noted the origins and history of this oldest – and largest – of all mankind’s spiritual symbols, known to untold generations of Tamils as the “Column Of Light”. It is one of the age-old centres of Saivite belief on the Indian subcontinent.

Arunachala on Karthika Deepam night, 2006

Arunachala early in the evening of Karthagai Deepam, November, 2006. The giant flame at the crest of the Hill had just been lit when this photograph was taken under a full moon across a flooded paddy field. The brightly lit spot to the bottom left of the Hill is Arunacheleswara, foremost among India’s greatest Shivan temples, festooned in coloured lights for the occasion.

Spiritual souls knew from time immemorial that a beam of cosmic energy emanating from the summit of Arunachala penetrates into the farthest reaches of the universe. The sub-continent of India is the holiest segment of sacred Mother Earth. Hallowed Arunachala is geologically the oldest and undoubtedly the most sacred mount in this storied land. In geological terms, the Himalayas are babies compared to this grandfather of ancient hills.

According to Saivite tradition, Arunachala is not a relic of Shiva but is the Lord Himself. After He had created the Earth and her denizens including man, He turned Himself into the mountain to placate those who were loath to see him depart after His work of Creation. The name of the Hill is a compound of two words: Aruna, one of the thousand names of Lord Shiva, and achala, which means stoic and immovable, in Sanskrit.

In the planetarium at the ashram of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, there is a large photograph of a part of India taken, some twenty years ago, from an American satellite on a cartographic mission. It shows a bright light emanating from a locality in South India and shining deep into space.

NASA scientists were puzzled at the time, for no man-made device on Earth is capable of throwing light so far into space. Indian scientists working for NASA calculated the coordinates and found that the light emanated from the then almost unknown Deccan village of Puttaparthi, where Sri Sathya Sai Baba resides.

In 2005, while meditating in the Skanda Ashramm half-way up Arunachala, where the great sage Ramana Maharishi lived in deep silence for seven years, I saw in a vision that the light now emanating from Puttaparthi had once shone deep into the cosmos from the summit of Arunachala. Yet, on the 23rd of November, 1926, that Light had mysteriously moved to the remote peasant village of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh, where Divinity had descended into a poor peasant household.

In that vision, I was intuitively assured that when Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi leaves His present incarnation, the Column of Light would return from Puttaparthi to the Holy Hill Arunachala, from where it would continue to shine as the Beacon of Mother Earth into the unknown reaches of the cosmos.

The ancients believed that holy Arunachala, through its Column of Cosmic Energy, is in constant communion with known and unknown worlds throughout the universe.


Few of the millions in India and elsewhere around the world, even among Hindus, who have seen bronze, brass or stone reproductions of South India’s ancient Dancing Nadaraja are aware of its profound meaning.

It is far more than the high-stepping, strangely four-armed Hindu god letting off a burst of celestial steam that it appears to be. Its real purpose is to convey, within its elegant form, primal knowledge of the true nature of the universe.

Both the dance of Nadaraja – the supreme God Shiva in his aspect as the Lord of Dance – and the odd anatomy are inspired artistic devices to convey a profound scientific truth: the constant motion of the atomic elements of all matter within the universe. The manner in which some unknown Tamil sculptor in the dawn of time captured and embedded abstract scientific and philosophical concepts within this graceful work is in itself a marvel.

Nobody knows exactly when the original of this scientific truth expressed as an evocative work of art was created; it seems to have always been in existence. In their jaundiced view of much of Indian pre-history, Western academics arrogantly attributed the prehistoric Dancing Nadaraja to the comparatively recent Chola period.

My own view is that this profound scientific concept expressed as a seminal work of symbolic art was already in existence when the first Tamil refugees arrived on the Deccan Plateau from a slowly sinking Kumari Kandam much farther south east and south west after the world-wide rising of ocean levels following the great thaw of the ice sheet covering Europe in the last Ice Age.

Those first refugees fleeing the sinking Kumari Kandam were advised by their sages to establish a sangam on the first high ground that they encountered in their flight north-westwards. A sangam is a depository of all cultural knowledge. According to Tamil myths, the first two sangams were inundated by the relentlessly rising waters. Only the third to be established survives to this day, the great Shivan temple at Madurai. I believe that this is where the first Dancing Nadaraja was installed on the Indian subcontinent.

Nataraja idol at Madurai

Nadaraja idol at Madurai

The Dancing Nadaraja icon has been copied infinitely by South Indian artists throughout the ages, particularly during the Chola period when skilful copies were cast in bronze. This would seem to endorse Tamil traditional folklore of their vanished homeland Kumari Kandam below the Indian Ocean to the south east and south west of India and Sri Lanka. Recently discovered twin cities each five kilometres wide and nine or ten long and built to a grid pattern under the Bay of Bengal to the east of Chennai add credibility to the traditional beliefs.

Modern “scientific” man discovered in comparatively recent times that all matter reduced to it basic components consists of atoms. Every atom in turn consists of protons, neutrons and electrons whirling ceaselessly around a central nucleus, much like a solar system in miniature. All matter, both animate and inanimate, consists of these whirling elements called molecules. Quantum physicists now know that atoms contain more empty space than solid matter. It is only the constant, swirling motion of the molecules that creates the illusion of solidity.

So the Dancing Nadaraja conveys considerably more than is apparent at first glance. It asserts, basically, that all matter consists primarily of hollow atoms, in other words, that all that seems to exist is really what the Hindu sage has always said it is: maya or illusion. The dancing stance conveys the concept of the constant motion of the atomic elements of all matter and thus the changeability of the universe and all within it.

The right hand is held upwards in benediction of all life, while the left blesses even the Dwarf of Ignorance beneath Nadaraja’s right foot, thus signifying the non-judgemental, equitable Cosmic Love that holds all that exists together and, most of all, emphasises the oneness of all that is within the universe.

The other elements of this grandest of all symbolic works of art are somewhat more obvious: the circle within which the Cosmic Dancer whirls represents the constantly changing universe, with the flames around its periphery symbolising fire, one of the basic elements of creation.

Nadaraja’s wavy hair symbolises water (note the fish placed there, playfully almost, by the thoughtful sculptor for those of us who might otherwise not fathom the message), while a drum in one of the right hands indicates the cosmic rhythm to which all that exists pulsates. The conch shell in another hand symbolises the Aum sound, the Song of the Universe, the Breath of Life and the basis of all mantras.

Flames in the left hand represents Fire as the Destroyer aspect of Shiva which reduces matter to ash. All-knowing Nadaraja’s figure, symbolic of Complete Knowledge or the Absolute, whirls within a circle of fire resting on a base upon which the Dwarf of Ignorance is suppressed underfoot. The symbolism is obvious: knowledge triumphs over ignorance. The circle represents the universe while the base represents the firmament.

The north-facing gopuram on the outer wall of the Arunachelaswara Temple

The north-facing gopuram on the outer wall of the Arunachelaswara Temple. Note the motor vehicle at the bottom right corner of the photograph for scale.

More than anything else, this sublime work conveys, in mute eloquence, not only the profundity of its concept but also the great antiquity of what has come to be known to modern western historians as the Dravidian civilization that lies deep beneath the Indian Ocean to the south of the Deccan Plateau and Sri Lanka, in what James Churchward and the Theosophists called the sunken continent of Mu (Lemuria, after the lemurs that are common only to Madagascar and the Commores Islands) and which vanished land the Tamils themselves call Kumari Kandam.

Kumari Kandam – The Sunken Sacred Land

It is now known that Tamil cultural influence, including language, stretched throughout South East Asia, including Indonesia and the scattered islands of the eastern Pacific up to China and Japan and perhaps even as far as Hawaii.

What is now visible of South East Asia north of the Timor Sea and Australia across Java, Sumatra and Bali to the islands comprising Indonesia then north to the Malay Peninsula, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and east across the South China Sea to the islands of the Philippines, are the highest points of a large continent that was above the comparatively shallow surrounding seas before the melting of the ice sheet over Europe at the end of the last Ice Age.

Considering oceanic depths from the Bay of Bengal east of India and moving south and eastwards towards Sumatra, it is obvious that much land was submerged around the world by oceans rising two hundred feet or more with the rapid melting of the European ice sheet between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago.

When much of the northern hemisphere was covered by ice, this area would have been dry land capable of supporting a vast number of people. The coastal areas would have been the most heavily populated. This is a significant fact if one takes into consideration the ancient Tamil “myth” of Kumari Kandam.

I believe that the area now known as South East Asia was contiguous to a continent due south and stretching to the south east and perhaps even west of the Indian peninsula to include the present Maldives, Seychelles, Comores, Reunion and Mauritius. That vast continent drowned beneath rising seas worldwide fed by the melt-waters of what was the ice cover of the northern hemisphere. The ice that smothered Europe and North America from east to west for millennia started to melt some 20,000 years ago. That thaw drastically changed the face of the then known world – as well as the composition and cultures of the world’s peoples.

The melting of the ice and the resultant inundation of now sunken continents such as the Kumari Kandam of the Tamils was a slow process lasting many centuries, perhaps even millennia, with a sudden acceleration through another global warming perhaps some 12,000 to 10,000 years ago. This would have speeded the melting of the ice sheets and glaciers and consequently the unprecedented run-off into the world’s oceans.

Increasingly inordinate precipitation would have occurred world-wide, leading to unusually heavy global rainfall in most tropical areas and inundation as recorded in the universal deluge stories of mankind’s mythology. Myth is simply history handed down through word of mouth. There have been cataclysmic times when, battered and buffeted by the vagaries of nature, mankind’s only method of recording has been through its collective memory, and hence our “mythology” of a great deluge.

I believe that the sunken continent of Kumari Kandam and its contiguous lands to the east into the area that is now known as South East Asia was the most highly populated region of the world during the last Ice Age over the northern hemisphere. The area roughly between the tropics was at the time the only habitable part of the world. As the northern hemisphere froze up with the onset of the last Ice Age, this is to where the whole of mankind precipitated to escape the intense cold further north.

With the melting of the northern ice and the rising of oceans world-wide, peoples displaced by rising seas there slowly migrated north-westwards towards India and finally into Europe and North America as well as eastwards across the South Pacific.

As plant life such as grasses and trees spread with the warming up of continental Europe, aided by stabilising atmospheric and oceanic temperatures and ocean currents, the Continent started to become habitable by both man and smaller animals. The humble squirrel and other burrowing small animals and birds played no mean part in the spread of oak, birch, pine and other forests over the once-frozen continent. As forests spread, larger animals such as the hairy mastodon and large predators such as the snow leopard, Siberian tiger and giant bears also migrated northwards.

The Untouchables of Malabar; Dravidian Australoid

Untouchables of Malabar; Dravidian Australoid

South East Asian man, essentially so-called “Dravidian”, began to spread northwards, first into India towards the Himalayas, then later north west through Afghanistan into Persia and the Middle east, then into the Mediterranean lands of North Africa and the peripheries, both north and south, of the Mediterranean Sea.

Linguistic experts have long known of the similarities between Tamil and the agglutinative languages of Indonesia and the Eastern Pacific to Japan. A similarity between Tamil and the Turkic and Finno-Ugric group of languages of the Urals and other parts of Far Eastern Russia also exists. An affinity between Tamil and Hungarian continues to puzzle.

That there are still huge gaps in modern knowledge of pre-history of the Indo-Pacific region is inherent in even the seemingly insignificant fact that although there are startling similarities between the pictographs found amidst the ruins unearthed at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus Valley and half a world away in Easter Island deep in the Pacific to the west of Chile, the connection is not yet known. The Indus Valley civilization is generally regarded by western historians as of Dravidian origin. What then was their connection with the Easter Islanders? That is another subject in itself though, to be answered in another time by another study.

To come back to the dancing Nadaraja: for the unknown Tamil sculptor beyond the mists of the ages to have reduced a profound scientific and philosophical concept into a comprehensible, symbolic form in which the primal knowledge of the composition of all matter in the universe is embedded, indicates the awesome antiquity of the civilization from which he descended. It is not the age of the statue that is remarkable in itself, but the age and sophistication of the civilization that produced a genius who could convey – in a statue, no less – the concept that only a thin line separates pure science from profound spirituality.

This cosmic rhythm was foremost in my mind while composing the poem below, the seventh stanza of which is the source of the title of my collected writings on reincarnation, Shadows On The Maidan. The poem and this footnote constitute the epilogue to that work.

the south outer wall at Arunachaleswara

Above: A view of the gopuram on the south outer wall at Arunachaleswara, believed to have been built by King Sevappa Naicker circa 1400 AD.

Quest and Testament

I sought God and a voice said,
Go to the mountain.
So I trudged past the shadows
of my existence,
ascended the heights of my being.

From the fickle towers of my ego,
I glimpsed in life’s valleys below
an Unknown Spirit rising,
like an autumn mist,
across the landscape of my soul.

Despite my remoteness,
it rose to me that Spirit,
and with great love said:

I am always
in the days of your life;
I am the breath that stirs
the strings of your soul,
I am the energy
in the fibres of your being,
I am that which you call
Holy Spirit,
I am That.

I am I,
I am always,
I am constant,
Eternal Being.

From the fragile peaks
of my ego I saw
intense humility vibrating,
resplendent across
creation’s limitless expanse.

I glimpsed the frenetic pulse and swirl
of rhythms conjuring empty illusions
of this material plane,
the deluding maya of fleeting
shadows on the maidan
of this yuga’s waning darkness,
ephemeral echoes of reality
in other dimensions.

Then my pride withered and died.
I buried it there, somewhere
in the rueful recesses
of my mind.

I descended from the pinnacle
of my foolishness
to these plains of illusion,
meekly started my search
for the Eternal Being within
the Greater Consciousness
of mankind.

Thus, trembling
with awe yet
in boundless joy,
my journey to God began.

Then, on the shoulders of Arunachala, I invoked the Lord of the Universe…


The Invocation:

Dance, Nadaraj, dance!
Dance, Shambu, prance!
Slant your magic glance, Sankaran,
treasure of my life,
grace my longing spirit Aruna,
let me glimpse
your endless exuberance

Narayana, dance!
I feel faintly,
Lord Of A Thousand Names,
your never-ending pulse.
I glimpse dimly
your ecstatic cosmic prance.

Dance, Nadaraj,
Lord of my life:
in the rhythm
of my existence,
dance your swirling
atomic dance!

The Reply:

I Am, I!
I am Nadaraja:
Atomic Dancer.

Lord of Dance,
I prance without end
in the heart
of all creation.

I swirl:
cosmic, sparkling, glittering,
through creation’s
timeless ages:
Brahman I Am,
dancing ceaselessly
within all things
all beings in
constantly changing

With neither
nor end,
changing forever-
Brahma, Vishnu,
I dance!

I Am I,
I Am One,
I Am Eternal Cosmic Mind:
I am That,

I am That,

written at Ramanashram, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu
on the southern slopes of Holy Arunachala, 25th December, 2006
VivekAnanda Naicker

2777 Total Views 1 Views Today
Published inMists of Maya