dancing and the philosophy of Brahma (Part I)
proudest art of all
The nature-worshipping Aryans invaded India about
4,000 years ago. It was in that age that the Hindus
always regarded dancing as the most ancient and
proudest of all Arts. The language of Indian dance
tells of the daily dance – Dainie Nrtya – attuned to
the infinite with its essence in nature. It tells of
every aspect of Creation: Man, birds, beasts,
flowers, fruits and trees, wind and waves. With it
all, they hold, there is harmony and rhythm. There
is the murmur of the waves; the whispers of leaves
and grass; the warbles of the birds; the humming of
the insects and the plaintive, notes of the wind.
All this, Hindi legend says, is part of the creation
of the world and of the way Brahma moved with three
majestic strides – a downward pace to bring the
Earth into being; upward to give space; and a third
stride to lay the sky over us.
In this Brahmanic philosophy there lie vast
tracts of time, the cycles of the ages and the souls
of men and women who move through their countless
lives that slowly and calmly work out their
salvation or Nirvana – peace everlasting.
This is what we know as the turning of the cosmic
wheel that runs its course through numberless
evolutions and over which is the trinity of Brahma,
the Creator; Vishnu the Preserver; and Shiva who is
looked upon as the first dancer and whose cosmic
power brings all the aspects of nature to life,
maintains and then destroys.
Lord of dance
The Shiva Dance – he is known in every nook and
cranny of India as the Natarajah – Lord/King of the
Dance. Hindi takes Nata as Dance, Rajah as Lord
King. Even in the sight of Brahma, Nature lies inert
and only Shiva can will it to dance as he rises in
rapture and sends his waves of awakening sound to
make all matter dance and surround him in glory.
As the Natarajah dances, he sustains all around him
and, in the fullness of time, even as he continues
to dance, he destroys all names and forms by fire
and gives nature a new rest. My readers will find
all this in Ananda K. Coomaraswamy’s fascinating
study, Dance of Shiva.
In so many Shiva temples throughout India the
Natarajah is depicted in the many dance forms. When
his upper right hand holds the Damaru – the Sacred
Drum – it implies Creation, and the Brahmanic
inscription tells that... ‘Thy hand holding the
Sacred Drum has made and ordered the Heavens and the
Earth and other worlds and innumerable souls...’ If
depicted with lower right hand held high it tells of
protection or Pataka while the inscription tells
of... ‘Thy lifted hand protects the conscious and
unconscious order o/thy Creation...’
If the upper left hand holds a flame it symbolizes
Destruction ... ‘All these worlds are transformed by
thy hand bearing fire...’ and when the
painting/statue places the right foot that holds
down the demon Mayulaga… ‘Thy sacred foot planted
firmly on the demon Mayulaga stamps out all evil and
gives abode to the tired souls that are struggling
in the toils of causality...’ If the Natarajah’s
left foot is raised high, it signifies release...
‘It is that lifted foot that gives eternal bliss to
all those that approach thee – so are these five
works thy handiwork...’
As we see, Shiva is very like a master conductor,
and the daily dance is his eternal response to all
creation, combining the Tandava Dance – the
Panchakritiya – that tell of the fivefold activities
as given above. Each of these activities also relate
to five Gods: The Brahma who creates through Shrshti
(Abirbhava); Vishnu who preserves through Sthiti;
Rudra who destroys through Samhara; Maheshwara who
confers illusion (Tirobhava); and Sadashiva who,
through Anugraha, releases the human soul from its
cycles of rebirth.
The Dance of Shiva carries many fascinating legends.
One is told of in the Dhakshya Jagna season. This is
the sacred fire ceremony that was offered to King
Dakshya, the Father of Parvati who was the wife of
Shiva. I have told of this in my Travelogue, Indian
Journeys, but to repeat, King Dhakshya refused to
invite Shiva to his feast because he abhorred the
manner in which Shiva associated with gods as well
as demons, wore ragged clothing and frequented
cemeteries and places that hold the ashes and graves
of the dead. Parvati was insulted by her father’s
behaviour and threw herself into the fire. On
finding her corpse, Shiva placed it around his
shoulders and, in intense grief, performed a
My readers are also to note that in many ancient
sculptures, Shiva and Parvati are shown as one
composite figure. Such sculptures have been founding
Mohenjo-daro and Harappa as well. Such figures are
the Ardharariswara-Natarajah, half male, half female
and Shiva wears a man’s ring on one ear and a
woman’s ring on the other. Does this tell us that
the age-old dances from the beginning of time had
been performed by men and women?
A study of the Shiva Purana gives us more. Brahma
was not satisfied with the Prajapatis he assigned to
help his work of creation. He called on Maheshwara,
the God of illusion who came to him in dual-sex
form. Brahma then gave to the female half the
responsibility of creation. There is also an ancient
sloka that tells of the composite aspect of Shiva
and Parvati who was also Shakti. It declares: ‘Pure
as crystal and having Parvati as one half of his
body.’ (Suddha spatika sankasan umadardhadharinam).
We also have emotional impulses that urge dancing –
such dances as those that express the fervour of the
soul, or the hunter’s dance that is inspired by the
joy of the chase, and other ritual performances that
give to the blood wildness and courage.
Havelock Ellis, who made a tremendous study of it
all, said: ‘If we are indifferent to the Art of
Dancing, we have failed to understand not only the
supreme manifestation of physical life, but also the
supreme symbol of spiritual life.’
Another writer, Collum – (incidentally, I have
written to my Indian Editor to locate and send me
his book) – has said ‘...all matter, as total nature
must dance, for in its entirety lies the pattern of
atoms that build it. An Indian dance is truly of
these patterns that keep melting into one another.
They form the symbolism of the dance of Shiva and as
poetic as the highest sense where poetry is of the
highest significance – the beauty that tells us all
of an idea or thing that makes it alive and valid.
The conception of the dance of Shiva will remain
innate is all Eastern ideas of movement – and of
history. Construction and destruction are mutually
antagonistic realities. But since Rontgen’s
accidental discovery of physics, so many have
revealed the scientific facts that fully justify the
dance of Shiva – everlasting, both constructive and
destructive at the same time...’
It is now known of and accepted throughout much of
the world that there exists all nature’s
reverberation to the rhythm of Shiva’s dancing feet.
This is why through Hindu Asia he is also given five
image forms: The Samhara Murti, Dakshina Murti,
Bhikkatara Murti, Anugraha Murti and the Nrtta Murti.
The first is in his role as destroyer, even if it is
understood that he destroys only evil and the clasps
of illusion. The second sees him as a Yogi, the
third as a mendicant, the fourth as a boon-giver and
the fifth as Lord of the Dance, wiping out time,
space and evil.
found off Alexandria
For 2,000 years, the magnificent Greek city of
Herakleion lay hidden beneath the sea, four miles
off the Egyptian coast of Alexandria.
The city was built in 5BC on the principal mouth of
the Nile, but in 2AD an earthquake dragged it out in
monstrous shoals of sand and buried it. It was only
in the 1930s that an Egyptian prince, when diving,
had found old stone slabs on the ocean floor. On
bringing up one of the slabs and reporting his find,
it was obvious that somewhere beneath the sand lay
the city that had disappeared.
Short shrift from Kipling
In 1925, a women’s rights campaigner, Marie
Stopes, wrote to Rudyard Kipling, asking him to
change then last line of his poem If from ‘As what
is more – you’ll be a man, my son’ to ‘And – what is
more – a sweeter round you’ve won!’
Kipling tossed the letter into the Mississippi,
watched it float, then disappear.
‘Women,’ he muttered, ‘now they don’t like the whiff
Writers who left ‘muggy,
Both Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis moved to the
USA. They dismissed England as ‘A smug, scelerotic,
closed-in country, gently sliding into oblivion on a
mangy tide of warm beer.’
They had to be knocked down a peg or two, naturally,
and Ferdinand Mount took up the cudgels. He was
welcomed to say his all in the Times Literary
Supplement and this is what emerged:
‘It’s very odd. America, although wonderful, is a
polite, orderly, sleepy republic, chugging along
with very few upheavals. Modern Britain is an almost
insanely-minded, casually reckless place... but
there’s a quarter of a million French citizens
living here, soaking up the excitement. Not long
ago, Britain was about the last place a Frenchman
would think of settling in. I decry Amis and his
kind who call us dull. We British have to become
more like our 18th Century ancestors and coarsely
freeboot these people whose licentiousness is
contained by a certain underlying patriotic
So, America has no upheavals! Great stuff to tell
the troops. And what have the French to do with what
Rushdie and Amis think? Poles apart! And is America
all that polite and orderly? Not on your Nelly!
Forced into glory
A new book by Lerone Bennett had taken a
sledgehammer to one of America’s most revered
figures. Abraham Lincoln is the subject of Bennett’s
book, Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White
Bennett claims that Lincoln wanted to reserve the
West of the country for whites only and also opposed
the settlement of blacks in his home state of
Illinois. Instead, he advocated that all freed
slaves be sent to some fertile country with a good
climate which they could have for themselves.
Author Bennett was fiercely attacked by right-wing
critics but he insisted that Lincoln’s true racist
beliefs are very apparent in all his writings and
speeches. The book sold like wildfire!
Teenage author with a £50,000 advance
Anslew Audley is only 17 years old. And he is
revising for his A/Levels at Milfield School in
He began to write a novel; titled it Heresy.
It was accepted for publication and he pocketed a
£50,000 publisher’s advance!
tucked away have new formations
By Carl Muller
There is this book, Living and Dying in
England, 1100-1540 by Barbara Harvey who has
explored every aspect of monastic life and
especially of the monks’ diet. It’s a strange thing
to write of, but Barbara gives documentary evidence
of a skeletal disease with association with obesity.
Chasing up a Medical Dictionary, I found that Spinal
Fusion has several names. There is Forrestier’s
Disease of the spine. There is the better known
Senile Ankylosing Hyperostosis. This latter has been
called DISH in many clinical studies and is known to
occur in 2-5% of populations, but how many over 50s,
usually males, know how terrible DISH can be? They
may have some spinal stiffness and a few aches and
pains, but will it really matter if new bone
formations begin to appear in their skeletons after
they are in their graves? Ah, but as medical studies
show, a quarter of these patients were also
associated with obesity and diabetics!
Digging up bones
There is also Dr. Juliet Rogers whose tale of
monastic skeletons was featured in the Journal of
the Department of English, Bristol. My readers could
always write to Professor Timothy Webb should they
think it a necessity, but will this fusion business
really trouble us? Who’s going to dig up our bones
and examine them anyway?
What Dr. Rogers says is that most medieval monks
were fat. She sees this in Art, even the cinema, and
points immensely to Friar Tuck in the many Robin
Hood stories – and it was not just spinal but large
areas of new bone formation.
Science agrees. Friar Tuck must have not only
tucked in all the venison and pork he could get, but
he also drank too much ale, beer and wine each day.
Dr. Rogers is a lecturer in Palacopathology. She
says the evidence from monastic graveyards showed a
much higher frequency than normal of the fusion
forms, and this was also in high status burial
sites. However, she said that not all who show DISH
are monks and, after all, there monks who had never
been fat at all. High living and obesity were
widespread in other ecclesiastics and the nobles in
medieval times. It was nice of her to also reveal
that for the monks, the daily calorie allowance was
as high as 7,000 calories. ‘That is ample
explanation for the popular message of gross fat,
rotund monks like Friar Tuck!’
This whole unnerving (or is it more-boning?) began
in 1978 with the Bishop of Giso of Wells Cathedral.
The Old Saxon and late-medieval cemetery had to be
excavated and this gave the opportunity to examine
the tombs that contained seven Saxon Bishops of
Wells. A single body was found in one tomb while the
others held multiple bodies. The Bishop Giso, who
was a native of Lorraine and at one-time Chaplain to
King Edward the Confessor, had died in 1088.
Spectacular layers were found on his skeleton. New
bone formation had grown; looking like candle wax
and even the eight separate vertebrae in the middle
of the spine had been joined together by three
This graveyard provided the testing of another
hypothesis. There were remains of two Lady Chapels;
one 13th Century, the other 16th, and they overlaid
one another. Each had burials – all identifiable by
the Chapel records – of priests, high status
officials and benefactors. Many had bone-formations
in various parts of the skeleton, particularly where
ligaments attach. There were new rims of bone at
joint margins .called Osteophyte. This is common of
many joint diseases, but what brought in the
‘Bone-formers?’ Do the bones develop after death?
In Wells Chapels there was a very high proportion of
Bone-formers. The dead were also very much older at
death than the rest of the people but they all had a
stronger association with status, obesity, rich
foods and much drink.
Food and wine
Studies have also been made at St. Peter’s Church
and St. Oswald’s Priory at Barton-on-Humber where
the great masses of bone formation were found on
nineteen joint sites and twelve ligament sites.
Merton priory in London and Saint Alban’s Cathedral
also provided many examples and it was then agreed,
considering all that had been seen, that it could be
survival to an older age of better nutrition as well
as guzzling drink and taking in the richest and
fattest of food.
I have a picture to show of a very thin monk of
the ancient days who had opened the monastery
cellars and with a tureen and the cellar keys in one
hand and a long potted goblet in the other, kept
filling the ale from a large barrel into the goblet
while he emptied the tureen. Obviously he was not
going to take a quick drink and creep away. He was
going to drink until he could feel his stomach
swell, it wouldn’t be long before he could boast a
very big belly and gladly tell whoever he wishes to
tell that he feels very much a priest! This print is
found in the British Library and should tell us a
We have heard of a read so much of the old
legends, but this is no more a legend. Do our bodies
rot away to reveal skeletons that keep growing?
Doesn’t death take away all this or not? There are
so many Biblical yarns about the rich (the fat?) not
being able to pass through the eye of a needle.
There is to come the time when the dead shall rise
again and face judgement. What manner of Diffuse
Idiopathic Skeleton Hyperostosis skeletons will
burrow out of their graves and what will a DISH tell
What form of Earthly disease can cause new bone-life
in a wasted pile of bone?
Just look at our poor, our starving, our children
eating from dustbins, asleep on the pavements. Will
they be the dead that will truly die, free of a
deadly curse, while our fat, obese, and diabetic big
shots are lauded to the skies? Should we waste
ourselves honouring them or just say we have no
truck with these other Friar Tucks?
|Hollywood a vendetta against
We did see the Hollywood blockbuster when it was
shown here. Mel Gibson was the ‘Patriot’ and the
film was all the rage here. But it has been roundly
criticized in England for a pernicious distortion of
facts! Hollywood is accused of re-writing British
history and the film had been deliberately made to
malign the British involvement in the American War
As British newspapers said: ‘The reportedly true
story of a peaceful farmer who is dragged into the
war has been transformed into a 160-minute polemic
against the British.’
I suppose there is a degree of poetic licence that
can be expected, but there is growing concern in
England of a post-literate society where children
get more information from films and TV than books.
This is why the routine distortion of British
history needs to be stopped. It could create a sort
of international pat-a-cake that could get ugly.
This hasn’t been the first blackballing of British
history. There was V-571 – a film that purported to
tell the true story behind the capture of an English
code-breaking machine from a German V-Boat in 1942.
The film had a crew of American sailors steal the
machine. Britain goggled. The device was stolen and
brought back by the British Navy!
Anyway, let America run with its lousy vendetta.
Should we care? Three years ago I would have said
‘yes.’ What if somebody had made a Prabhakaran
blockbuster and called it ‘Our Patriot?’