Once, several heretic sages, to the tune of ten thousand refused to believe in the gods and in the Triad. Shiva decided to visit them in their forest home and teach them the truth. He was received by the sages or rishis with violent and venomous curses. As these curses had no effect, they released a ferocious tiger. Shiva ripped the skin off the tiger and wore it around the lower part of his body like a sarong. The rishis then brought forth a hideous snake. Shiva seized it and put it around his neck. The rishis then set a fierce black dwarf demon [named Forgetfulness], armed with a club, on Shiva. Shiva felled him to the ground, put his foot on the back of the demon, and began to dance. The rhythm was marvellous, and as he danced, beating his drum, he glowed with a dazzling splendour. The gods came down from heaven and worshipped him as Nataraja, the king of dance. The heretic rishis were awed by Shiva's splendour and fell on their knees before him. - The Dance of Shiva and Other Tales From India, by Oroon Ghosh
"Shiva Nataraj, King of Dancers, symbolizes the alchemy of Yoga. Nataraja's dance activates dormant vital energy (kundalini shakti) and becomes an act of both creation, symbolized by the upper right hand holding a drum, and destruction, represented by the flame held by the upper left hand. The lower right hand is in the abhaya mudra position, bestowing peace and protection. The second left hand points downward to the uplifted left foot, signifying release. The right foot, planted on the prostrate body of Apasmara Purusha, the demon of forgetfulness, symbolizes human ignorance of our divine nature. A ring of flames and light arises from and surrounds the dancer, representing the purifying power of the dance. Nataraja's face, meanwhile, remains calm, quietly witnessing the tremendous display of his own energy with just the hint of a smile.
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