A popular image of the Hindu deity Shiva. The dance of Shiva is symbolic of the dynamic forces of creation and destruction, and the harmonious balance of opposites. Most images of the dancing Shiva depict him with four arms, which represent the four cardinal directions of space, and are symbolic of Shiva’s omnipresence. In each hand, the figure holds a different symbolic object or makes a meaningful gesture. A drum represents the sound of creation.
A gesture (Abhaya) means “do not be afraid.” A gesture toward the lifted right foot is symbolic of release from the cycles of death and rebirth. Another hand holds a flame, which is the essence of creation and destruction. The small figure under Shiva’s feet is the body of the dwarf Purusha (forgetfulness), who is symbolic of man’s inertia, the ignorance which must be overcome for spiritual liberation. The circle of flames surrounding the figure denotes the universe in its entirety.