The world that Shiva Nataraja paints to us is very different from what we get to see around us daily. It requries some amount of imagination or divya dristi to view this realm and for that it requires emotion and belief that that world exists to start with. :)
Reading about the dance of Nataraja and the Pancha sthalas where he has given great performances to supreme beings like Vishnu, Narada, Adhisesha, Agastya, Vyagabhadra and Patanjali to name a few one begins to wonder what kind of a realm that would have been! They make great references to the Ratna Sabha, Chitra sabha, Rajata Sabha, Tamra Sabha and the Kanaka Sabha where the great Lord is known to have performed the Tandava either to please his audience or to overpower Kali.
There seems to be no immediate connect between gold, silver, ruby, copper and earth (murals) to the great dance except that the location of this event now hosts a great hall boasting of such grandeur in metal or earth. Thinking about the form of expression in dance and its relation to the grand hall that hosts the performance, the Lord is adorned in these temples in various poses of Tandava. The location now houses an idol of the Lord himself in this climactic form frozen in Gold, silver, copper or painted on to the murals that fade away into the background to blind pilgrims.
But lets stop for a second and imagine this very same location without the Hall that was built by great and rich kings who patronized these temples transforming them such that what remains in the lesser mortals mind is not the form of the Tandava being performed but the metal in which it has been made!
Situation: Shiva Kalyanasundareshwarar
During the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, Lord Vishnu himself descends to view this great event. All the great intellects, siddhars, rishis and celestial beings are here to view this wedlock. The beauty of the divine couple turns everyone breathless with excitement and reverence as the great Lord ties the knot with his beloved. The ambiance is charged for it is Lord Vishnu who gives Parvati in hand to Lord Shiva who accepts her has his wedded wife. With the conch shells blowing and the drums beating, the universe echos just one note, the primordial sound of creation. The intensity is high and the great souls themselves have been driven to excitement and high emotion. The sheer brilliance of the moment, the shimmering lights, the shining glow on the faces of these great beings makes this an exalted experience that one cannot forget, for it is not driven by time but its driven by high blissful emotion that renders any great soul who is a part of this pantheon a complete slave to this supreme blissful state.
And then Lord Shiva dances... for all those assembled in this great hall of charm and brilliance shining strong like a million suns glowing together, a small mortal version of which we see on earth today. Imagine the extravaganza, I cant explain it... the riches, the enigma, the mysticism on each face, the clarity in their eyes, the glowing skin and the frangrance of flowers as it falls to the great floor where the Lord performs... the dance begins, not with the theatrical performance we have reduced it to but with reverberation all around as Nandikeshwar beats the mridangam and Lord Shiva's shalangai take the beat on. The music is in the drums, the feeling of natya is in his vigor, the victory of Nataraja is in the primordial sound of the damaru as he dances on shaking it vigorously, his eyes twinkling, the ganges flowing over, the snake trooping on with a gem studded hood. The air is in motion, there is silence for its not just this hall but all of nature, all of the universe that witnessed this grand performance of life, of dance, of vigor, of movement, of grace and of enlightenment. This feeling of bliss where all divine imagination takes over mere worldly troubles and the form of Shiva Tandava Nataraja echoes in Abhaya is known as the Ananda Tandava.
Situation: Urdhva Tandava in the forest by night
In the darkness of the night, the crescent moon lights up the dance floor where two graceful performers come together to perform one of the greatest dances ever. There is silence around, like a lull before the storm and not even the whispering wind can be heard. Its a challenge, of life and of grace, of form and of art, of performance and of intensity. 2 forces bring together the most powerful form of art, performing art, dance and the ode of expression of subtle intensity.
This is a dance of vigor, of energy and of power that can shatter everything around and yet there is synergy, there is music, there is rhythm and there is bliss. In a time when few are awake to witness, in a place where few dare to go, in a moment where few await the elixir in the rays of the crescent moon...there is a dance of motion and vigor and beat to experience.
What an amazing picture it paints to see two forms dance and move around, with the moonlight glowing in their matted locks, which flow across cutting through the air as they challenge each other to the next step. Powerful eyes that meet, chemistry rolls forth and sure steps guide these two forms to move in harmony, sparking wilderness between themselves. The night is on fire, the spirit world is awake and witnessing this brilliant performance, and the night sky luminates the dance floor. This is expression in the art of Bharata, expression in the art of yoga that transforms the dancer into a supreme being, into Shiva and Kali. Such motion and vigor brings the earth to tremor, brings the universe to unrest as the Lord dances on engulfing all into himself.
What remains now of this experience is the presence of 5 halls that leave the intrigued pilgrim wondering about the mysticism that once ruled these lands as they look up to a frozen Nataraja at the South end of the temple.