In June 2004, India gifted CERN which is the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva a 2-meter tall statue of lord Shiva, performing Nataraja, the cosmic dance of creation and destruction.
The unusual statue was Indian government’s gift to CERN, so as to celebrate the long association that India had with the research center.
This particular statue though had a huge symbolic significance behind it and soon became a landmark for the research center.
The Nataraja statue symbolizes Shiva’s cosmic dance of creation and destruction and by choosing the particular image of Shiva, India had in a way acknowledged the profound significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s dance. The Nataraja is called the ‘cosmic dance of subatomic particles’, which scientifically is observed and analyzed by CERN’s physicists.
There is a huge parallel between Nataraj and CERN, as this particular dance was first discussed by Fritjof Capra in his article “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics.”
Though the article was published in 1972, it had in detail discussed the subatomic particles and Shiva’s cosmic dance. then became a central metaphor in Capra’s international bestseller
Following that publication, Nataraja had taken a central role in Capra’s 1975 book ‘The Tao of Physics’, which later went on to become an international bestseller.
CERN, in a special plaque placed beside this Nataraja’s statue, explains the significance Shiva’s cosmic dance and even gives out several quotes that was published in the book ‘The Tao of Physics’
. The plaque says
“Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, seeing beyond the unsurpassed rhythm, beauty, power and grace of the Nataraja, once wrote of it “It is the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.” More recently, Fritjof Capra explained that “Modern physics has shown that the rhythm of creation and destruction is not only manifest in the turn of the seasons and in the birth and death of all living creatures, but is also the very essence of inorganic matter,” and that “For the modern physicists, then, Shiva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter.”
But it is the last paraph of the plaque that shows just how huge of an impact this form of dance has for Physicists across the world and how it connects ancient mythology, art, and modern physics.
“It is indeed as Capra concluded: “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.”