Nandanar, a pure-hearted devotee, asks permission of the presiding Brahmin priest to enter the temple so he might gaze on the statue of Lord Śiva. Being of a lower caste, he is summarily dismissed by the haughty priest, who then suggests that Nandanar might gain admittance to the temple if he single-handedly completes a virtually impossible task. Nandanar collapses in despair, but when he raises his head again, he sees that the task has been miraculously completed by the Lord Śiva Himself! Nandanar joyously rushes to show the hard-hearted Brahmin, who not only denies him entrance again, but beats him cruelly. As Nandanar limps away, crushed, he ventures one last glance back at the temple – and sees that the statue of Nandi has miraculously moved aside to allow Nandanar a clear view of his beloved Lord Śiva! Joy ignites his being as he prostrates before his Lord.
In the following video, you will see this story exquisitely portrayed through dance by Supratim Talukder. Pay special attention to the central retelling of the story through mime…
…there is a point in the mimed section where the dancer turns from incarnating the brutal Brahmin to becoming the despairing Nandanar.
This pivotal point has the feeling of a gravitational well… as I have watched this video again and again, I feel drawn more and more deeply into this transitional point.
These two characters – opposites – can one exist without the other? Does the one not in fact define the other? Is this not a microcosm of the world of samsara? Are these polarities not continually orbiting one another on a gradual spiral toward ultimate meaning?
The wild tāndava of Lord Śiva – does it not take in all this? The good and the evil in the world are not static entities, but energies that dance together, continually transforming towards the bliss that has no opposite.
Swirling. Ecstatic. Light within Light.