Considered as one of the most prominent Hindu deities, Lord Shiva‘s mention in mythology often refers to him as the destroyer. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh — of which Brahma is regarded as the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva (Mahesh) the destroyer or regenerator. In fact, Lord Shiva has a total of 108 names — he is also referred to as Natraja, the God of Dance.
However, despite known for his temper and fierceness, not a lot know of his ‘dance of joy’. ‘Tandava’ today has become synonymous with rage, or Lord Shiva’s anger. But this iconic dance form is performed by several Hindu deities, and there are two forms of this iconic dance form that Lord Shiva would perform.
What is Tandava?
It is a divine dance form performed by Hindu Gods. According to ancient scriptures, there are multiple occasions when Gods would perform the dance. The dance form is recognised by its vigorous, brisk movements and is today performed in India and considered as the sacred dance-drama of the country. Indian classical dance form Kathak primarily teaches three types of Tandavas: Krishna Tandava, Shiva Tandava and Ravana Tandava, although sometimes, there’s a fourth category — Kalika Tandava.
About Lord Shiva’s Dance
Unlike popular belief, Lord Shiva doesn’t only dance when he’s enraged. Instead, there are two types of Tandava that he has performed, as per scriptures.
Known as the God of destruction, Lord Shiva converts into his most vicious form while performing this form. It is said that when Lord Shiva performs the Rudra Tandava, it often means that the end of the cosmos and destruction is near. This act also symbolises anger that has resurfaced from within. Although Lord Shiva’s Rudra Tandava is considered an act of destruction, it has an underlying meaning to it. The deeper meaning of this dance form talks about how Shiva, the destroyer, will pave the way for the good to succeed over the evil.
The Rudra form of dance obliterates the darkness that seeks shelter within you, which in turn makes you deserving of achieving redemption — thereby releasing you from the cycle of birth and death. It is also said that this act paves the way for the advent of ‘novel’ in the corporeal world. The cosmic form of dance was first performed when Sati, Lord Shiva’s first wife, killed herself by jumping into her father Daksha’s sacrificial fire. This dance, today, often is referred to as an act of rage.
In contrast to the Rudra Tandava, the Ananda Tandava is performed as an act of bliss. During this dance, the inherent nature of Lord Shiva emerges as ‘Shivam’, which is considered as his most refined form — Satchidananda. Unlike the Rudra form, there’s no cause-effect theory that leads to this experience of pleasure. The Ananda Tandava emerges from within as the purest form of ecstasy; one that cannot be touched by the mundaneness of the corporal life.
Both, the Rudra and the Ananda are a reflection of the two distinct yet diverse nature of the Lord that we worship as Shiva.