A lecture on ‘Heritage Performances’ threw light on the concepts of science and their representation in religion

A major celestial event that happened in the 11th century gave birth to the concept of Lord Nataraja, the cosmic dancer, who is often confined to a ring representing the Earth and a star-studded horizontal hair.

“Indians who witnessed supernova explosion in 1054 AD created the Nataraja concept. Only during this period, large and huge number of Nataraja statues were made and consecrated in many places,” said V.R. Devika, Managing Trustee of ASEEMA Trust in Chennai. She was addressing the students of Jain Vidyalaya during a lecture session on “Heritage performances” organised by INTACH, Madurai.

“Chinese and Arabs have recorded the explosion and India has created the Nataraja concept,” she added.

She explained the horizontal star-studded hair and flying cloth-like structure that show him in a spinning spree and answered questions on why Lord Bairavar sits on Nataraja’s head, why river Ganga flows from Lord Shiva locks and why Nataraja dances on the demon Muyalagan and so on.

“They have conceptualised the observations of the constellation and its star Betelgeuse or Alpha Orions and presented a pictorial representation in the form of Nataraja,” she said and added “the star ‘Canis Minor’ represents ‘Bairavar’ and Lepus represents Muyalagan and Ganges the milky way. There is a link between the Orion constellation and Nataraja.”

“Astrophysicist Dr. Nirupama Raghavan conducted studies on the concept of Nataraja and his worship in various temples of Tamil Nadu,” she said.

Promoting folk arts

Earlier, Devika in her lecture spoke about the importance of folk arts flourishing in villages, which preserve cultural heritage. She spoke about ‘therukoothu’ performances that happen in Thondaimandalam areas around Kanchipuram. “Even today, ‘therukoothu’ is performed in the areas of Kanchipuram from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and villagers are our cultural heritage,” she said. In fact, she showed and narrated the story of Duroyodhana, Draupadi’s vow and Bhima’s vengeance on Duroyodhana.

She also highlighted the tradition of Kambalathu Naickers who assemble once in two years at Kottaipatti near Dindigul to celebrate temple festival where they dance for three nights.

Earlier, she introduced students to the origin and chronology of Vedas, Upanishads, and the two epics of India and definition of verses.

“We are trying to create space for folk arts in urban areas,” she said and added “it is people’s art and we are teaching concept of folk arts, their complexities and richness to the urban students.”

ASEEMA Trust is creating the space through lecture demonstrations, discussions and performances.

Gandhi and Education

Though Devika did not have time to explain it in full, she played clippings on Mahatma Gandhi to show his importance in history, who was neither rich, nor a Prime Minister or President of a nation and yet 60 nations across the globe lowered their flags on his death.