(21) Siva as Natarajan, who performs his cosmic dance in the Chidambaram temple
(22) There is a puranic story in which Siva appeared before some
rishis in the Taraka forest in the guise of a beggar. Through his power he caused the
rishi's wives to fall in love with him. The rishis, angered by his behaviour, decided to kill him. They dug a pit, out of which emerged a tiger. Siva killed it and wore its skin. Later snakes came out of the pit, but they had no effect on Siva. He wound them around his body and used them as ornaments. Because of this incident Siva is almost always depicted as having at least one poisonous snake wrapped around his body. Siva began his cosmic dance in this forest, but later moved it to Chidambaram because the Taraka forest was not a powerful enough place to contain the energy. When Siva, in the form of Natarajan, performs his cosmic dance, only three people are permitted to witness it: Siva's consort and two
rishis who were blessed by Siva with the boon of being able to witness the dance. It is widely believed that no one else could endure the power of such a
(23) After Siva decapitated Brahma's fifth head, he threaded the skull on the necklace he wears.
(24) Saiva Siddhanta, the philosophy that grew out of the poems of the early Saiva saints, is at heart a dualistic creed. Though it accepts that freedom from bondage can be obtained through Siva's grace, it does not accept that one can ever know Siva fully, as he knows himself. An echo of this can be found in the word Annamalai, one of the most common names for Arunachala. It means
'unreachable or unapproachable mountain'.
(25) At a time when the devas and the
asuras were having one of their many wars, the three cities of the asuras were protected by a boon which specified that they could only be destroyed by one shot of a single arrow. When the
devas were on the point of finally losing, they appealed to Siva and he obliged them by destroying all the
asura cities with a single shot.
(26) The threefold impurity (karma, ego and
maya) is held to be inherent in the soul's nature. This 'original defilement' can only be removed by the grace of the teacher. In Saivism, Siva is often perceived to be both Guru and God. Occasionally, as with Manikkavachagar, he even takes on a human form to act as a Guru. Thus, in addition to his godly functions such as world-creation, Siva also fulfils the role of an embodied teacher, instructing and removing the ignorance of those he deems worthy.
Butler learned classical Tamil during a stay at Ramanasramam in the
1980s. He is currently working on translations of Kuruntogai verses,
Tamil love poetry written about 2,000 years ago. Samples of his work
can be found at: http://homepage.