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Dr. Padmaja Suresh, Director Aatmalaya Academy of Art and Culture, Bengaluru, presented a lecture at Chinmaya Eswar Gurukula on June 1, 2017, correlating the two streams of tantra and natya and demonstrated the concepts with a specially choreographed Ardhanarishwarashtakam of Adi Sankara and Navavarnam Kriti of Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar.

Nrtya, the art of dance, when co-related with tantra, the science of energy, is the union of Shiva and Shakti, when the Ardhanareeshwara within one’s subtle body is portraying the generative, operative and destructive forces. Natya Shastra refers to dramaturgy as the fifth Veda which, like the Tantras is open to all people with no barriers. Natya is a discipline synthesising all other art forms, encompasses in its totality the physical, the psychical, and the metaphysical. The fundamental principle of Tantra is that man is a microcosm of whatever exists in the outer universe. The body, with its solar and lunar energies, five elements, senses and the mind becomes the perfect temple for this inner worship.

Bharata’s replicating the stage as a vedika and making offerings, reveals the coexistence of Agamic Puja with Natya. The stage acquires the same potency as an icon through infusing life – pranapratishta. The manifest and unmanifest are a part of one unified reality, displaying multiple forms.

In the Tantric philosophy the ultimate enlightenment consists of recognition that one’s own true identity is Shiva. There is emphasis on experiencing Spanda, the vibration or pulse of Consciousness. The symbiosis of Tantra with artistic bliss has been elaborated by the Tantrik Yogi Abhinavagupta. All forms of objective “this” are absorbed into the universal “I” in the realization “I am this”. “The Self of the self-realised yogin experiences itself as a sheer actor in the drama of life: in the world playing various roles but remaining absolutely detached from the entire play essentially”.[1]

The subtle body is composed of seven chakras or energy centres. The Dissolution and Creation endlessly played as a dance of Shiva–Shakti is represented by the ascent and descent of energy through the chakras. An insight into the Chakras indicates how the syllables in pure dance movements would have originated. The beeja (seed) Mantras of each Chakra according to Tāntric Yoga were practiced by the sages of yore and were absorbed into dances, which included the important aspect of silence. ‘In our yoga there is no willed opening of the chakras, they open of themselves by the descent of the Force. The ascension and descent of the Force in this yoga accomplishes itself in its own way without any necessary reproduction of the details laid down in the Tantric books’.[2]

‘Laya’ is self- absorption and dissolution –Shiva Vyapti/ fusion with Shiva through the path shown by Shakti, energized in the yantra of body-mind-spirit. In this manner, “a contemplative discipline and an art process are connected”.[3]

[1] Abhinavagupta, Tantrāloka 3.208b-210, Dwivedi and Rastogi 1987
[2] Sri Aurobindo on Tantra, compiled by M.P. Pandit , Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department
[3] Natya Tantra- The Liberating Dance, Dr.Padmaja Suresh. Aatmalaya Academy of Art and Culture Trust

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Unless we have a definite faith in the goal of our existence, and unless we believe, work for, and actually come to experience the goal positively as an existent factor, there is no hope of any plan becoming successful. —Swami Chinmayananda
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