Alidhanrita Shiva, Kailasanatha temple, KanchipuramThe most famous form of Nataraja that we know envelops the Panchakriyas, i.e. the five activities comprising of:
Shristi - the process of creation and evolution,
Sthiti - the process of continuous maintenance,
Samhara - the process of destruction,
Tirobhava - the curtain of illusions by his various incarnations, and
Anugraha - ultimate salvation and release.
The form of Alidhanrita Shiva is the expression of victory or Samhara brought out through natya and shilpa shastras. This form of Shiva has been described in sculpture, painting and dance as the victory over evil, over the cities of Tripura. Alidhanrita Shiva is the culmination of the dance form of Tripurantaka Shiva and depicts a warrior's victory over one's own evils.
What does the form of Tripurantaka Shiva signify?
While destroying the three cities of Tripura, Shiva plays the warrior who rides the chariot into space to destroy the three flying cities. This celestial chariot vividly paints Brahma as the charioteer who rides the earth, one of Shiva's Ashtamurtis* that makes up the chariot. The Sun and the Moon who also are a part of the Ashtamurtis and are the very eyes of Lord Shiva Trayambakeshwara, take up their significant roles as the wheels of this celestial chariot. Shiva's ornament Vasuki, the snake plays the bow-string and Mount Meru is the very bow that twangs sending reverberations of victory over the three cities. Vishnu, is the arrow that is aimed at Tripura along with Agni who is again a part of the Ashtamurtis of Shiva. The four horses that pull this divine chariot are the Vedas that are the very breath of Brahma. Shiva, the great warrior rides this divine chariot. This is described in the dance form of Alidha depicting Tripurantaka Shiva vanquishing the three cities.
Raghuvamsa describes: (Raghuvamsa 3, 52)
atishthad alidhaviseshasobhina vupuhprakarshena vidambitesvarah
Lord Shiva Tripurantaka destroys the three cities in terrific rage, the furious emotion that is expressed in his gaze is called Raudra Drishti in the Natya Shastra. This expression is depicted in only the paintings at the Tanjore temple murals and is not captured in the sculptural version of this form, where the expression is more of Karuna or compassion. His fury is vividly described in the painting, where his eyebrows are raised and his eyes are wide open displaying pupils that are depicted as wide rounded balls. The eyes are crooked and depict the severe fury raging out of the being of Tripurantaka Shiva.
How do we relive the experience of Tripurantaka Shiva and the victorious dance of Alidhanrita Shiva when we worship the Lord?
With emotions tuned into the realm of Shiva we as a Bhakta surrender to Lord Shiva during puja. As the sacred syllables roll out into mantras in rhythmic flow, in the light of the ghee lamp we offer flowers and vilva leaves to the Lord.
Om Trighalam trigunadharam trinetram chakrayuttam
Trijanmapapa sangharam yega vilvam Shivarpanam
With this prayer to Lord Shiva residing within the chamber of my heart, I offer myself to the Lord, and to the divine three eyed Lord I give up my sins and karma of the last three janmas. I take on the very same warrior like form of Alidhanrita Shiva and destroy my own three cities of evil and dance my own victorious dance of liberation destroying my own karma. I am Him, I am alidha, I am what remains when I vanquish my own desires and bad thinking with my own furious gaze and burn those thoughts to ash. And after giving up myself into an egoless existence, I pray to the Lord to free me off this misery. In pure adoration to the Lord I offer myself, and with my chariot symbolized by Agni, Surya and Chandra, each signified by the three leaves of the Vilva, the very embodiment of Trayambaka, the three eyes of the Lord Himself, each defined by Chandra, Surya and Agni, I embark on my chariot to destroy my own demons, with every offering of Vilva leaves I make during my worship.
Thus, having imbibed the very form of Tripurantaka Shiva and having destroyed our own karma, one enters the realm of Alidhanrita Shiva where one is in union with the Lord dancing the joyous dance of victory after severing (samhara) one's own deep desire of self pride.
*The Ashtamurtis are Prithvi, Chandra, Surya, Agni, Vayu, Water, Varuna and Dikpalas.
Photo courtesy:Origin of photo unknown
Reference: Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature - C.Sivaramamurti