Dance of Shiva

Schermata 2014-07-05 alle 16.52.09The Dance of Shiva – Nataraja in Hawaii

Preparations and inspirations for our annual retreat hosted by: Aloha Namaste  (August 2014)  in Kauai, Hawaii.

Nataraja, an image we have become familiar with through yoga and Indian dance, but what wisdom lies within the symbolism?

Several years ago I found myself on a pilgrimage, at the alter of the great South Indian temple – Chidambaram. The temple at its peak of patronage employed 10’s of thousands of dancers and musicians; I could feel the impressions their feet made into the stone floor. After years of reading about it, I finally saw the famed 108 dance postures of Shiva carved on the massive ancient walls. The complex rituals and chanting went on as I stood in awe, just as it had for thousands of years. There was a palpable resonance from the history of Patanjali (who brought us works like: Yoga Sutras) and all the great sages who had gathered there through out time. All of these vibrant connections sent chills down my spine!

My visit sparked years of passionate research into: The famous image of Nataraja, Natya Shastra and the 108 Karana (dance postures) of Shiva, Stories and analogies from the Shiva Puranas, Theories of Kashmir Shaivism in art and aesthetics, the 5 transcendent dances / bhavas (moods) of Shiva’s dance and many other mudras and practices of Yoga. My experience with the living traditions of this temple that have carried on for millennia reinforced my passion and commitment to preserving classical Indian dance traditions.

Temple rituals and related arts (such as classical dance) are physical actions that a community can participate in together to express deeper esoteric shifts in consciousness. As we loose these traditions to the modern lifestyle, we loose communal support on this quest of the soul’s longing

This upcoming Hawaii Odissi retreat has inspired me to culminate my humble understanding of Shiva’s divine dance language through the window of Classical Odissi dance and Yoga. During the retreat we will have the privilege to visit Kauai’s authentic Shiva temple and Vedic monastery, where one of the worlds few collections of “108 Karana” are on display and I will offer an Odissi dance performance to Lord Shiva and the monks who live at the monastery. This is a unique opportunity for Western students to be in an incredibly authentic Vedic setting, that one normally would have to travel across the world to India just to be a part of.

The Kauai retreat is a chance to immerse in a home-like setting of a private Auyurvedic healing and arts center that offers: exquisite art and architecture from South India, Sattvic Ayurvedic food and relaxing Ayurvedic massage. The classes will focus on precious and rarely discussed topics that relate to Indian Classical Dance, as well as the timeless fundamentals of Odissi dance from the lineage of Guru Kulu Charan Mohapatra.

Art is a tool for meditation and intention setting – sparked into action through dance! I hope those yearning hearts can make it to this special event.

” He brought this possibility that a human being need not be contained in the defined limitations of our species. There is a way to be contained in physicality but not to belong to it. There is a way to inhabit the body but never become the body. There is a way to use your mind in the highest possible way but still never know the miseries of the mind. Whatever dimension of existence you are in right now, you can go beyond that – there is another way to live. You can evolve beyond your present limitations if you do the necessary work upon yourself. – That is the significance of Shiva as Yogishwara, the supreme yogi.”

“The essential significance of Shiva’s dance is threefold: First, it is the image of His rhythmic play as the source of all movement within the cosmos. Secondly, the purpose of His dance is to release countless souls from the snare of illusion. Thirdly, the place of the dance, Chidambaram, the center of the universe… it is within the Heart.” –Coomaraswamy