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Discipline & Danse Macabre

It is believed that Nataraja (or the King of Dancers) – the dancing form of Lord Shiva and a symbolic synthesis of the most important aspects of Hinduism – completes the synchronisation of the aspects of creation, stability in nurturing or preservation and destruction. In other words, Nataraja is represented at times in his three roles as the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer in Hinduism. Currently, some Western scientists are conducting researches in order to find out whether any scientific formula is hidden in the gesture of Lord Shiva’s Tandava (devastating or vigorous) dance!
So far, many Indians have claimed that the Puranas – the sacred literature of Hinduism or a number of popular encyclopaedic collections of myth, legend and genealogy – have scientific bases! However, some scientists, archaeologists and dancers are trying hard to transcend to a different periphery and to relate the Indian thoughts to scientific logic… and they are concentrating mainly on the statue of Nataraja!

Dancer Sonal Mansingh, Director of the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) Dr Somak Raychaudhury, archaeologist G B Deglurkar and other eminent personalities attended an event in western Indian city of Pune on January 12-13 to discuss this issue. Speaking at the event, Dr Raychaudhury said: “We, usually, reject the claim that Albert Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ was present in ancient Indian literature. It’s important for us to trace the presence of such scientific reasoning in traditional Indian literature and culture.
It is to be noted that the Nataraja had found his place in the courtyard of science in the past. There is a 2m-tall statue of Nataraja inside the headquarters of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. On June 18, 2004, the landmark was unveiled after India presented it to CERN in order to celebrate the research centre’s long association with the South Asian nation. On that occasion, Indian physicist Bikash Sinha said that Nataraja is the God of both creation and destruction (where, in places the three aspects are accredited to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). At CERN, scientists create the image of universe (as it looks like some microseconds after its creation) through a Large Hadron Collider. And the image is destroyed again. So, there is a philosophical connection between the Nataraja and science.


The Statue of Nataraja at CERN, Switzerland

According to Dr Raychaudhury, noted American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist and astro-biologist Carl Edward Sagan repeatedly discussed about the symbol of Nataraja. Physicist Dipak Chandra Ghosh, too, believes that the rhymes of song and dance are all about science. Song basically means the frequency of some words that stimulates our emotions by influencing the nervous system, he explained. So, different songs create different feelings – joy, love, patriotism, anger, pathos, and the like… The manifestation or egression is even more in case of dance! That’s why dance is being considered as a branch of the cognitive neuroscience in many countries. This particular form of art helps scientists understand whether each and every part of the brain is working fine.
Dancer Mamata Shankar opined that life begins with the heartbeat and that’s the rhythm. The universe adheres to certain rhythm and dance is no exception, said Shankar. She stressed that her father and great Indian dancer Uday Shankar used to consider dance as a perfect harmony between body, mind and spirit, based on rhythm.

Physics says that we have to break a mass to get atom, nucleus, proton and neutron. Dr Raychaudhury is trying to break the dance in order to understand this particular art form in a better way. According to the IUCAA director, the essence of dance lies in some ‘mudra’s (or hand and body gestures)! Dancers emulate certain expressions through the hand gestures which are called mudras. Many believe that the creator of Tandav dance or artistry of Nataraja (perhaps) tried to portray the rhythm of creation and destruction of the universe! It seems that the creator of this had seriously attempted at relishing (and relinquishing in a way) the essence of this universe (or creation or life) through the rhythm of the Supreme Being!

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