Thiruvilayadal puranam - 6. Dance upon silver altar

6. The Tale of Dance on Silver stage

Saivism is unique in worshipping dance as a manifestation of the divine, not seen in any other religions of the world.

The constant cosmic movement can be called the divine dance. To make one realise this, people started worshipping the divine through various dance postures. In the various Siva sthalas in Tamil Nadu, Siva is worshipped in various dance postures, each posture signifying something profound.

Saivaite scriptures refer to five places where Siva is depicted in a dancing form:

  1. Chidambaram – Golden tower
  2. Madurai – Silver tower
  3. Tirunelveli – Copper tower
  4. Thiru Alankadu – Gems tower
  5. Kutralam – Painted tower

Each of these towers is covered by one of the metals. In Kutralam it is covered by painting. Each metal signifies a state.

  1. Painting – Drawn creatively with many colours, it signifies our body
  2. Nine gems – It represents the nine qualities of human beings
  3. Copper – It absorbs everything quickly. This signifies knowledge
  4. Silver – With each polish, it shines more. When knowledge is internalised through experience, the mind shines too. Silver signifies self-knowledge 
  5. Gold – This is a rare metal and signifies enlightenment - which is also rare.

We can realise the divine within us with the extreme attentiveness of the snake and alertness of a tiger. The resulting understanding of the Truth and the joy that is born by serving others through knowledge is epitomised in the divine dance. The yoga sakthi and self knowledge within us have been given the form of Patanjali – the sage in the form of a snake – and Vyaghrapathar – the tiger-claw-footed sage.

The dance was performed in the wedding reception in Madurai. The city is different in many ways. Normally, the reception used to be held after the wedding, though these days it is held before. Patanjali and Vyaghrapathar wanted to witness the divine dance of Siva, who obliged by performing on top of the silver tower.

Thatatakai beseeched her husband to perform the dance before their wedding. Her deep desire is born from her knowledge and awareness.

The Groom’s Dance

Understanding his wife’s knowledge, Lord Siva must have explained the significance of the Divine Dance to the assembled guests in detail. The Mother and the others would have absorbed the essence and witnessed the dance with their Inner Eye. Later the silver tower must have been constructed near Somasundareshwara’s sanctum sanctorum, and the 10-armed, dancing sculpture of the lord consecrated. The 10-arms idol of the lord is unique to this city where each arm wields a different weapon. They represent the conversion of arrogance to knowledge. That tower is broad and long. Thatathakai’s wedding could have taken place there.

On the first evening of the wedding, the Lord in the form of the husband displays the purpose of the wedding through the Divine Dance. Since he danced at dusk, it is called Sandhya Dance. Sandhya also indicates the end- that is the experience of complete knowledge. Maybe this was the greatest wedding gift for the Mother.

Seeing the divine dance with the inner eye is realising the non-duality between the divine and the self. The dance shows that the Atma and the Paramatma are one and the same.

Om Namah Shivaya! 

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