Friday, March 17, 2017

Hidden Layers in Idols

Last night, my older one sat me down to explain the principle behind the idol of Lord Nataraja and why it is present in CERN, as told to her by her Tamil teacher. Since I am a dancer, he wanted her to explain it to me.

Though I decided I will blog about it, it slipped my mind this morning. But a speech I saw by Sri Narendra Modi on feeling pride in Indian technology and how idols and statues code some of them symbolically, reminded me of this.

The circle around Siva stands for electrons. The fire around it represents fire energy, the space in between - the space, the Ganges on his matted locks - water, the flying garment, wind energy and the base, earth. That's the five elements.

The matted locks are the stars and the planets. He holds a damaru, a small percussion instrument, on his right hand - symbolising sound energy; and the fire in the left hand stands for light energy.

The third eye on His forehead stands for awareness. Snake too is said to be a symbol of awakening. The demon under His foot is the ego, which He suppresses. The dance with one leg raise represents movement, and thus, life, creation and destruction.

In India, many of the knowledge and understanding seem to have been codified as sculptures. The one Sri Modi referred to was that of a pregnant woman, with her abdomen cut open. It showed every layer of the skin and how the foetus looks.

Indeed, I have seen sculptures which show every bone that can be seen when the archer bends, or a mace-wielder stretches, which muscles stand out, how the blood vessels seem to burst forth.

Why, even the tender expression on the face of man and woman when expressing love.

Was that the way we documented our findings and research - through idols that were really symbols? What deeper understanding the sculptors had to have of the body, life, universe itself, to be able to bring alive abstract and hidden meanings! Can we even begin to fathom them?

 Next time we look at an idol, it maybe more fruitful to know the layered meaning than simply appreciate the more evident beauty.

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