Aatithya - Of Lord Nataraja

The Indian Civilization that reflects the theosophical values of human life is manifested in many different traditions in which God is venerated and worshipped. One such form of the various traditions is the temple rituals of which the most important is the rendition of a Mallari, which forms a special pattern for temple processions.

The Chidambaram temple of Tamil Nadu is perhaps the most beautiful example of this temple ritual during which Lord Nataraja descends twice a year. His palanquin is drawn by several thousand devotees during a prescribed festival calendar. Since the Lord is moving out of the temple, to carry his sandals in the procession in the form of a Mallari becomes mandatory. This age old practice continues even today.

The devotees then serve God as they would guests (atithi), by chanting Vedic mantras along with sixteen temple rituals – shodshopachara. These upacharas or rites are commonly practiced even during routine household rituals and also vary from temple to temple.

The purpose is absolutely mystic. From dawn to dusk and often extending into late night, the Hindu temples in India observe a very busy schedule with a proper system and process through which the people are educated and then attracted towards the worship of God who is formless, nirguna- nirakara. The devotees gradually advance in their understanding of the formless through the forms. The ritual practice is a useful prelude to create a mental concentration, establishing a sort of intimacy with God; a divine exercise of experiencing cosmic play through corporeal.

As a preparation the devotees meditate for the worship, a ritualistic practice. They pray to God “how shall I meditate on you whose greatness is beyond the reach of my intelligence? With the little resources I have, I cannot fathom your greatness”.

They then request the God, who is all pervading, to come to them. The metaphysical idea of offering a seat to Him in the heart of the devotees is given a concrete form by offering Him a seat, which is beautiful and divine.

The devotees, then serve God as they would serve guests, offer Him warm water to wash His feet, give Him a bath with waters of divine rivers like the Ganga and other auspicious ingredients. The devotees offer the best of what is available to Him in the form of flowers, garments, sandal paste, food etc. They offer the fragrance of incense and light lamps symbolically to ward off the evil forces – all this ultimately leading to the enlightenment of the devotees.  As a result, the devotees, while taking a vestibule, pradakshina, absorb the meaning of the cosmic play of the Almighty.

The devotee also trains himself to enjoy the dance and music which, according to scriptures, are the highest forms of offering to Lord.

“pushpa naivedhya danebhyo nritta danam vishishte” (Vishnudharmottarapurana).

The composition of the human body is the perfect and most beautiful of all creations. Hence, dance is the perfect manifestation of a ritualistic offering to Him, more so because it makes use of a total body language as also of the mind, heart and spirit.

The devotees sing and dance in praise of Lord Nataraja who is an embodiment of the five principals of eternal energy: Pancha kriya.

It is based on the Sanskrit hymns from shastrik traditions and rhythmic syllables set to Carnatic and Hindustani music systems. The taut, well-constructed production AATITHYA is set to music in Raga Malika and Tala Malika.

  • Music by Shri Jayan Nair
  • Duration – 35 mins