1Shawn Bose = "Pictured here is Shiva Nataraja " Lord of the Dance". A wonderful description from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: "As a symbol, Shiva Nataraja is a brilliant invention. It combines in a single image Shiva's roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time. Although it appeared in sculpture as early as the fifth century, its present, world-famous form evolved under the rule of the Cholas. Shiva's dance is set within a flaming halo. The god holds in his upper right hand the damaru (hand drum that made the first sounds of creation). His upper left hand holds agni (the fire that will destroy the universe). With his lower right hand, he makes abhayamudra (the gesture that allays fear). The dwarflike figure being trampled by his right foot represents apasmara purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray). Shiva's front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, signifies refuge for the troubled soul. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. The symbols imply that, through belief in Shiva, his devotees can achieve salvation.""
2Shawn Bose = "The idea that ritual itself is needed even in the absence of faith within the human experience has been a long held theory amongst scholars and anthropologists. In fact many argue that it is the cultural traditions and rituals of the communities in which we live that is the real connection to religiosity far more so than doctrine.A great piece in the New York Times from last year by T.M. Luhrmann titled Religion Without God stated:"Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be. Much of what people actually do in church — finding fellowship, celebrating birth and marriage, remembering those we have lost, affirming the values we cherish — can be accomplished with a sense of God as metaphor, as story, or even without any mention of God at all.""