Lord Shiva is also known as Nataraj, the Dancing God. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva and his divine consort Goddess Parvati. The dance performed by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava. Shiva’s Tandava is a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. Tandava depicts his violent nature as the destroyer of the universe.
According to scholars, ‘Characteristics of the Tandava Dance’ have been described in the fourth chapter of Bharat Muni’s Nata Shastra, which is referred to as fifth Veda and an expression of Lord Shiva’s eternal dance - Tandava. It says that Shiva’s Tandava is embellished with 108 karanas and the 32 anghaharas - the composite parts of the dance. Bharat Muni further says that Lord Shiva conceived the dance, as he was very much fond of dancing every evening. Shiva further mentioned that 108 karnas included in tandava could be employed in the course of dance, fight, and personal combats and in other special movements like strolling.
Some scholars believe that there are seven different types of Tandava. The tandava performed with joy is called Ananda Tandava and that which is performed in violent mood is called Rudra Tandava. The other types of tandava identified are Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali Tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava. However, there are few people who believe that there are 16 types of Tandava.
According to religious scholars, the cosmic dance of Shiva, called ′Anandatandava,′ meaning, ‘the Dance of Bliss’ symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy - creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion.
According to learned scholar, Coomerswamy, the dance of Shiva also represents his five activities namely,
The overall temper of the image is paradoxical, uniting the inner tranquillity, and outside activity of Shiva.
The dance performed by Goddess Parvati is known as Lasya. In Lasya, the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic. Some scholars call Lasya, the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya is of two kinds - Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya. According to the Puranas, Shiva dances a wild and vigorous (tandava) dance in the cremation grounds at night but dances a soft and graceful (lasya) dance in the tranquillity of the twilight.