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Shiva
SHIVA
LORD OF THE DANCE

by Stephen Markel

Universally regarded as the quintessential image of Hindu art and culture, representations of the god Shiva dancing in joyous abandonment within a circle of flames graphically depict his five cosmic acts of creation, preservation, destruction, unveiling of illusion, and liberation of the soul.

His creative aspect is symbolized by the hourglass-shaped drum, in his proper upper right hand, which reproduces the primordial sound of creation. Shiva’s preservation of the universe is suggested by his lower right hand held in the gesture of reassurance and safety. The flame in his upper left hand and that encircling the aureole represent the fire by which he destroys the universe in order to recreate it. He lifts the veil of illusion through his engendering act of dancing. His liberation of the soul is shown by his upraised left leg, which tramples on a prostrate infant signifying forgetfulness and is thus a source of grace.

 


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