‘Ya’ in Namassivaya represents Jiva or the individual soul. The Panchakshara Namassivaya forms the body of Lord Siva. The hand that wears fire is ‘Na’. The foot that presses the demon Muyalaka is ‘Ma’. The hand that holds Damaru is ‘Si’. The right and left hand that move about are ‘Va’. The hand that shows Abhaya is ‘Ya’.
Once upon a time, a group of Rishis abandoned their faith in the true Lord and took to the worship of false deities. Lord Siva wanted to teach them a lesson. He stirred in them strange passions. The Rishis became very furious. They created many evils through their power of penance and let them loose upon Siva. Lord Siva overcame them and finally defeated the great Kali, a creation of the Rishis, by the cosmic dance.
At the time of Sri Nataraja’s dance, Patanjali Rishi and Vyaghrapada were witnessing the dance and enjoying it. They were standing on either side of the Lord. Even in paintings and sculpture of the Nataraja’s Murti, you will find the figures of Patanjali and Vyaghrapada on either side of Nataraja. The lower part of the body of Vyaghrapada will resemble that of tiger and the corresponding part of Patanjali that of the serpent.
The most wonderful dance of Nataraja is the Urdhva Tandava. In this dance the left leg is lifted up and the toe points to the sky. This is the most difficult form of dance. Nataraja defeated Kali by this pose in dancing. Kali successfully competed with Nataraja in all other modes of dance. Nataraja lost His earring while dancing. He succeeded by means of His toe, in this form of dance, in restoring the ornament to its original place without the knowledge of the audience.
Nataraja danced with His right leg lifted upwards. This is the Gajahasta pose in dancing or Nritya. He danced continuously without changing His legs once.
There is another dance pose of Siva on the head of an elephant. In this form, Lord Siva is known as Gajasana Murti. At the foot of Lord Siva, there is the head of an elephant monster. Lord Siva has eight hands. He holds the trident, the drum and the noose in His three right hands. He holds the shield and the skull in His two hands. The third left hand is held in Vismaya pose.
An Asura assumed the form of an elephant to kill the Brahmins who were sitting round the Linga of Visvanath in Banares, absorbed in meditation. Lord Siva came out suddenly from the Linga and killed the elephant-monster and used the skin as His garment.