Opinion: India and ISRO's Cosmic Dance To Resonate At G20 Summit

Shiv Shakti to Nataraja; Chandrayaan-3 to Aditya, India's big achievements will echo in the minds of leaders who gather at the Bharat Mandapam for the G-20 summit this weekend. Not to be missed in the skies above - more than 50 Indian satellites performing a cosmic dance of sorts.

India's "moonwalk to sundance" will reverberate at the G-20 Summit. Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone with these words: "India's successful moon mission is not India's alone. This is a year in which the world is witnessing India's G20 presidency. Our approach of 'One Earth, One Family, One Future' is resonating across the globe. This human-centric approach that we represent has been welcomed universally. Our moon mission is also based on the same human-centric approach. Therefore, this success belongs to all of humanity. And it will help moon missions by other countries in the future. I am confident that all countries in the world, including those from the Global South, are capable of achieving such feats. We can all aspire for the moon and beyond."

So it is not surprising that the iconic Nataraja statue of Lord Shiva performing the Tandava Nritya will greet world leaders as they enter the newly minted Bharat Mandapam. As they drive to the venue, they will see roads lined with paintings and murals of India's successful landing near the South Pole of the moon. The blend of India's rich tradition and its technological march will not be lost on the leaders.


Nataraja statue, standing at an impressive 28 feet, will greet world leaders at G20

The Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts, which helped make the iconic Nataraja statue, said, "The Nataraja statue made of Ashtadhatu is installed at the Bharat Mandapam. The 27 feet or 8 m tall, 18-ton-weight statue is the tallest statue made of Ashtadhatu and is sculpted by the renowned sculptor Radhakrishnan Sthapaty of Swami Malai in Tamil Nadu and his team in a record seven months. Thirty-four generations of Radhakrishnan have been making idols since the Chola Empire period. This statue of Nataraja, an important symbol of cosmic energy, creativity, and power, is going to be an attraction at the G-20 summit."

Nataraja is the human portrayal of Lord Shiva as a divine cosmic dancer and his dance, the Tandava, depicts the belief that He created the universe, motivates it and will eventually destroy it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing team ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) on the success of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, elaborated on the duality of science and spirituality in his own unique way by saying, "The point where Chandrayaan-3's moon lander has landed will now be known as 'Shiv Shakti'. Shiva contains the resolution for the welfare of humanity and 'Shakti' gives us the ability to fulfil those resolutions. The 'Shiv Shakti' point of the Moon gives the sense of a connection between Kanyakumari and the Himalayas."

PM Modi continued, "Our sages have said - That is, the mind with which we perform our duties, give motion to thoughts and science, and which is present within everyone, that mind should be associated with auspicious and beneficial resolutions. To fulfil these auspicious resolutions of the mind, the blessings of Shakti are essential. And this power is our women-power; our mothers and sisters. It has been said here - That is, from creation to destruction, the basis of the entire universe is womanpower. You all have seen the major role played by our women scientists, the women power of the country in Chandrayaan-3. The 'Shiv Shakti' point of the moon will witness this scientific and philosophical thinking of India for centuries. This Shiv Shakti Point will inspire the upcoming generations to use science only for the welfare of humanity. The welfare of humanity is our supreme commitment."

India today has about 50 satellites in the Earth's orbit; two satellites in the moon's orbit; two robotic instruments Vikram and Pragyaan on the moon surface; one satellite Aditya L1 on the way to study the Sun and possibly the Mangalyaan still orbits Mars, even though ISRO declared its mission life as over.

Incidentally, in 2004, a smaller two-meter tall Nataraja statue was gifted by India to European Organization for Nuclear Research or CERN at Geneva by the Department of Atomic Energy. A statement by CERN says, "The statue is a gift from India, celebrating CERN's long association with India." It was gifted to CERN by Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Dept of Atomic Energy, India.

CERN says, "In the Hindu religion, this form of the dancing Lord Shiva is known as the Nataraj and symbolises Shakti, or life force. As a plaque alongside the statue explains, the belief is that Lord Shiva danced the Universe into existence, motivates it, and will eventually extinguish it. The statue was made in India."

Archana Sharma, a scientist at CERN, said, "Carl Sagan [the cosmologist] drew the metaphor between the cosmic dance of the Nataraj and modern study of 'cosmic dance' of subatomic particles'.

Bengaluru-based Professor Sharda Srinivasan, one of India's best known scholars of science, religion and culture, says one of Hinduism's globally admired icons is the Chola bronze of Siva Nataraja, or "king of dance".

"It is more popularly described as the "Cosmic Dance of Siva", drawing from the writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy and writers with a scientific background such as Fritjof Capra and Carl Sagan. This icon presents an intriguing case study in exploring facets of the inter-relationships between nature, art and culture," said Professor Srinivasan, who teaches at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru said.

Exploration is integral to Indians and ISRO Chairman S Somanath recently said, "I am an explorer. I explore the Moon. I explore the inner space. So it's a part of the journey of my life to explore both science and spirituality. So I visit many temples and I read many scriptures. So try to find the meaning of our existence and our journey in this cosmos. So it's a part of the culture that we are all built to explore, find out the inner self as well as outer self. So for the outer, I do science, for the inner I come to temples."

(Pallava Bagla a science communicator is co-author of books 'Destination Moon and 'Reaching for the Stars, India's Journey to Moon, Mars and, Beyond'. He can be reached at Pallava.bagla@gmail.com )

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.