The first law of thermodynamics or the law of conservation of energy states that “energy can neither be created nor be destroyed but can change from one form to another”. Energy can take different forms – heat, electrical, chemical, gravitational, motion, and so on. For example, apple falling from tree is given gravitational energy from the earth is then transformed into motion or kinetic energy, when it hits the ground it becomes static energy, and attracts anything between ants, gnomes, to humans. The theory of relativity says amount of energy contained in a particle is equal to the particle’s mass, m, times c2, the square of the speed of light; thus
E = mc2
Once to be in the form of energy, mass is not indestructible but can be transformed to other forms of energy. This happens when subatomic particles collide, particles can be destroyed, and their kinetic energy in the masses can be used to form new particles. This creation and destruction of material particles is the stunning result of mass and energy equivalence. They form dynamic patterns in the fourth dimension of space-time making everything connected at the subatomic world.
That I learnt in school. Being raised as Hindu and adding my own nerdy inquisitiveness, I know that the Lord Shiva as dancing Natarajar, His “ananda thandavam” or “dance of bliss’” is the creation of universe. His upper left hand holding a small drum symbolizes “creation”, fire on the upper right hand symbolizes “destruction, the second right hand showing “abhaya mudra” symbolizes “protection”, the second left hand pointing to his feet represents “salvation and grace”, and all these happens in the ring of fire around him that represents continuous cycle that holds all the four said representations in the universe. He dances on a small demon “muyalakan” who represents “ignorance”. Altogether the iconography represents if you put your “ignorance” at God’s feet, He’ll protect you from the continuous cycle of creation and destruction, and leading up to salvation.
While researching for my painting, although it is nothing but a classical Tanjore one, the revelations were mind boggling. Sharada Srinivasan in her paper “Shiva as ‘cosmic dancer’: on Pallava origins for the Nataraja bronze” proves with archaeometallurgical, iconographic and literary evidences that the iconography originated from Tamil Nadu, India between 7th to mid-9th century C.E. first in stone sculptures and later in timeless bronzes. I also stumbled upon Fritjof Capra’s “Tha Tao of Physics” where the parallels between modern physics and the cosmic dance of Shiva are beautifully pictured. To quote
For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all existence and of all natural phenomena. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics
Indian government acknowledged the insightful significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s dance for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles, which is observed and analyzed by CERN’s physicists with a 2m tall statue of Natarajar in 2004. Here is my own to remind my future family and me of the deep and profound cultural and heritage roots in Tamil and India.