Siva-Nataraja, one leg zhanzhuang and quantum mechanics

Further to the above posts on the Tigerchess site on one-leg zhanzhuang, here’s an off-tangent to possibly the source of all zhanzhuang, be it one or two-legged; and perhaps even the fount of all martial artforms.

The Siva-Nataraja –amongst the most recognizable of Hindu iconography– is one of the depictions of Lord Shiva, who is one of the three aspects of the Hindu cosmic trimurti.



The symbolism of the Siva-Nataraja or Lord of Dance, are manifold. Suffice to say that Lord Shiva (known as the most powerful and most skilled warrior across the cosmos) holds in this depiction of him as Cosmic Dancer, the power to destroy and create again the world, through his dual dances of the Lasya and the Tandava.
Shiva’s personification as the Hindu warrior-god was the founding inspiration for many Indian martial artforms and which still continues today, with his veneration as being the ‘patron saint’ of their arts.

Shiva is shown in most nataraja statues as balancing on the demon of ignorance. Somehow one gathers that this may probably be a bit harder than finding your balance on solid ground or even shifting sand…

The Nataraj Statue at CERN, Geneva:



In 2004, a 2m statue of the dancing Shiva was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva. A special plaque next to the Shiva statue explains the significance of the metaphor of Shiva’s cosmic dance with the quote from Fritjof Capra:

“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.”

More quotes from Fritjof Capra, in his The Tao of Physics, relating the Nataraj’s dance with modern physics:

“every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction…without end…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.”


9 thoughts on “Siva-Nataraja, one leg zhanzhuang and quantum mechanics

  1. I sometimes have lunch with an old friend who is very much into Yoga and we’ve found that some of the exercises from our respective practices (mine being Zhan Zhuang) are very similar. However the postures in Zhan Zhuang are simpler and held for much longer which might suggest a different origin, or perhaps a common ancestor.

    As many ancient cultures had form of energy practice perhaps the common root lies in some form of shamanism. And another hypothesis might be that these practices were discovered quite independently because they ‘felt’ interesting. Nigel

  2. Hi Nigel,

    The post above was intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and was made in a rather dilettantish yet pensive frame of mind — born of the prior thoughts on one leg ZZ, memories from a college freshman fine arts course (particularly on ethnic arts), and the unexpected passing of a generational icon…
    Not meant for strict historicism of course.

    And what you said of “shamanism” and “common ancestor” rings very true, and on several levels.
    For if all men were to follow ‘universal common descent’ and hail from the same one ‘primordial ancestor’ (for those partial to evolutionary genetics), or if indeed we are all “created in His own image” (Genesis 1:27, for those more partial to immanent creationism);
    whichever way one chooses to take his first-principles from, it all seems to point to the human self/body as the one common unitary representation/referent of the entire universal human race.
    And this allows us to have valuable perspective, when considering whether certain indigenous local traits were to have been developed quite independently, or were traced to have had received influences (one-way, two-way or multiples).

    And historical findings certainly seem to align with what you said of the “common root” being some form of common “shamanism”.

    Continuing the case here of different “energetics” practices, we have the well-known chakras of Hinduism, especially of the Kundalini yoga tradition.
    This of course has very well-mapped correspondence with the meridians/经 and acupuncture points/穴 of traditional chinese medicine and chinese internal energetics arts, with its strong influences from taoistic+pre-taoistic lineage philosophies.
    A similar system may be found (but this a rather forced mapping) in ancient Greek thought: in Plato’s Timaeus (probably exhibiting his more mystical Pythagorean influence), with his Desire (epithymia), Spiritedness (thymos), Wisdom (Nous) bodily centers, running from the bottom below (ahem) the stomach to the top at the head. These probably continued through to the Romanic period and beyond in the Hermetic traditions of western esotericism.
    Nearer afield, the Lataif-e-sitta (or six subtleties of bodily/spiritual centers) of Sufism also bears some resemblance to the Indian chakras, forming an internal methodology for the sufic dervish to undergo to reach spiritual completion.

    Leaving aside the question of whether these practices developed independently or not, the Indian (and to a lesser extent, the Chinese) tradition is fascinating mainly because it allows investigation into a long, continuous and almost-uninterrupted historical tradition across millenia.
    [and still, the ancient Indian texts and historicity of Indo-aryan movements+linkages does suggest that after that ‘first move’ out of Africa, ancient Indian mythology/history pretty much documented much of human prehistory]

    Anway, what you said above does dovetail with my own thinking on how different and distinct human groups in space and time may share homeomorphic and self-similar (yet independent) cultural traits/continuities.


  3. Hi Don,

    Be warned that I suffer from a surfeit of seriousness when away from home! I believe we can add the Toltecs and Druids to the list of energy practitioners, though their PR might have been better without human sacrifice..


  4. Nigel,

    Ah! I was hoping for your addition of Druidic arts to the list…

    Now if we can get some pointers to the Mayan and Kabbalistic practices, that will be perfect…

    Is your reason for being away another tournament? If so, my best wishes for a successful campaign.


  5. Don,

    I meant away from ‘Grandmaster Growl’ and out here in the big www. I try to behave myself when I’m a guest.

    I have a big tournament coming up in London next month after which I may be devoting myself more to markets than chess.


  6. Nigel,

    The big bad entangled web…
    Perhaps it is no more than a giant sandbox of overgrown children throwing wilful tantrums and sand at each other.

    Well, here in this little corner of the sandbox at least, please feel free to shovel, dump and sling as much as you like… nothing but dusty sand here.

    Campaign preparations for your tournament should be underway then. Nothing like a good battle to bring out the warrior in you!

    The markets battleground, on the other hand, still seems to be in a bit of holiday stupor.


  7. Don,

    Actually I’m thinking about my next 3 DVDs and moving house! I may get a few days to prepare, but gone are the days when one could take months off for such important matters as a tournament…

    The web is a very strange place. You can create a social circle with like-minded people from across the oceans and find enemies on your own doorstep. I sometimes wonder about the implications of it all, globalisation on a social level.

    Markets can be very strange during the summer, and perhaps especially since subprime. I don’t think it’s an especially good time to trade which is why I’m happy to take care of other business for a while.


  8. Nigel,

    Sounds like a hectic next few months.

    Moving is of course always a hassle; but at the same time, can be very cathartic — my last move about 2 years back allowed a much-needed purging of ‘baggage’, in every sense of the word.
    Losing worldly physical ‘things’ and even the space/rooms to house them in can be extremely liberating:
    am now 1400 square feet and 3 rooms closer to the Equanimity ideal of a simple bamboo hut or dusty cell.

    But of course, worldly events and needs conspire to deny one the latitude for simplicity; the opportunities of the local still near-depressed property market and the larger familial need for greater inflation hedges forces once again upon one, the yoke of being a landlord.

    In any case, enjoy your move.


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