Lord Shiva is also known by the name Nataraj
or the dancing God. The form of dance that is performed by Lord Shiva is known as the tandava dance. It is a vigorous form of dance which is performed by the Lord. This form of dance represents the cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. Tandava dance has derived its name from the word tandu who was the attendant of Lord Shiva. The tandava dance performed by Lord Shiva is composed of 108 karanas and 32 anghaharas according to Bharat Muni`s Nata Shastra. According to some scholars there are around seven types of tandava which are performed by the Lord. The most important among the forms of tandava are the Ananda Tandava and the Rudra Tandava. The Ananda Tandava is performed by the Lord in a joyous mood. This form of dance can be called an expression of happiness. The Rudra Tandava on the other hand symbolizes a violent mood. The other types of tandava which are believed to be performed by the Lord are the Tripura Tandava, Gauri Tandava, Uma Tandava, Sandhya Tandava and Samara Tandava.
The religious scholars are of the opinion that Ananda Tandava is the celestial dance by Lord Shiva
. All the mudras of Ananda Tandava are associated with the rhythmic beat of creation, ensuing the lila or play of the wind with the waves and the tides, the cosmic swirl of the galaxies and the frolic of ethereal beings. In Ananda Tandava His hands are directed in four different ways denoting four principal directions. The flame is on upper left hand and the lower left hand is pointed down to the dwarf who is holding a cobra. The "damaru" that refers to the male female vital principle, is on the upper right hand. The lower right hand shows the gesture of assertion. The snakes which are uncoiling from all parts of His body, denotes egotism. The skull is on his head defining his conquest over death and Goddess Ganges is placed on his hairdo. The third eye represents his omnipresence, omnipotence and insight. The sound of "damaru" originates the pristine sound of Om (the first syllable of the ancient Sanskrit language).
The "Ananda tandava" of Shiva signifies wholeness. The "damaru" is symbolic of the continuity of creation, the open hand indicates preservation and the hand which is kept pointing downwards is indicative of the destruction of the Universe. His foot which is stamping the dwarf form connotes the Universe under the concealment of darkness and another foot which is uplifted shows the act of demanding God`s grace, "anugraha". The dance of Shiva represents five activities which are Shrishti(creation), Sthiti(preservation), Samhara(destruction), Tirobhava (illusion) and Anugraha(grace). The dance of lord Shiva and Kali transcends all boundaries of infinity and consciousness.
The Hindu scriptures have said that Lord Shiva has performed the tandava dance on various occasions. For instance it is believed that Lord Shiva had performed the Rudra Tandava when Sati
had jumped into fire at the yajna
ceremony of Daksha. This form of dance was performed by the Lord to express his grief and anger. Some scholars believe that the feminine form of the tandava dance is the lasya
which is performed by Goddess Parvati. Lasya involves graceful movements of the body parts. The body movements in this form of dance are sometimes erotic and sometimes are gentle in nature.
Therefore it can be said that the Tandava Dance which is performed by Lord Shiva actually exhibits the various experiences and different states of life. It represents the diverse moods and emotional states which are experienced by any living creature. Rather it can be said that the tandava form of dance is an all encompassing divine art form.