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LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 741-742

Response to the "Endocrinology and the arts at the feet of the dancing Lord: Parathyroid hormone resistance in an Indian icon"


Center for Study of World Religions, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Date of Web Publication19-Aug-2014

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Parameshwaran Ramakrishnan
Center for Study of World Religions Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University 42 Francis Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.139225

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How to cite this article:
Ramakrishnan P. Response to the "Endocrinology and the arts at the feet of the dancing Lord: Parathyroid hormone resistance in an Indian icon". Indian J Endocr Metab 2014;18:741-2

How to cite this URL:
Ramakrishnan P. Response to the "Endocrinology and the arts at the feet of the dancing Lord: Parathyroid hormone resistance in an Indian icon". Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2014 [cited 2020 Sep 27];18:741-2. Available from: http://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2014/18/5/741/139225

Sir,

Dr. Seshadri's [1] article on Apasmara in the religious image of Nataraja, Lord of dance, is interesting. Though there have been several publications on the image of Nataraja, since it was first studied by Coomaraswamy, [2] there have not been any scientific publications focusing on the dwarf devil, Apasmara. Hence, Seshadri's article is an important publication in this newly emerging field of "Religious art and Science." However, basing our conclusions solely on the visual inspection of one particular art work and also without incorporating the theological concepts into scientific analysis may be an unscholarly approach to develop a new field. Correlating the images of Apasmara in different Nataraja images would have been helpful; readers may find a "normal-looking," i.e. lacking hypothyroid or any neurological stigmata, Apasmara in the image of Nallur Nataraja created by artists of Chola dynasty [3] [Figure 1] and [Figure 2] who also had created the Chidambaram Nataraja image that Dr. Seshadri refers. [1]
Figure 1: A bronze image of Nallur Nataraja, early Chola dynasty, 900 CE; Library ARTstore, University of California, San Diego. Note the Apasmara seated below the dancing Shiva

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Figure 2: Magnified picture of Apasmara (left) and Nataraja's face (right). Note that Apasmara is comfortably seated, his face and neck are not cringed by Lord's weight and he seems to be oblivious of the presence of the Lord dancing on top of him. His facial features are not significantly different to that of Shiva (right) and apparently there are no neuropsychiatric or endocrinal stigmata

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Scientific study of religious art should include theological, literary, socio-cultural, and historical viewpoints apart from visual inspection of the art. Dr. Seshadri's article provides enough mythological/literary background of this image of Nataraja and Apasmara but fails to incorporate various other angles of scholarly study. Theological studies related to the story of Nataraja reveal that the dwarf-devil, Apasmara, was a mental concoction of ignorant sages who had forgotten that their spiritual powers were because of the grace of Lord Shiva himself. [1],[2] There is no indication in scriptural literature that the Lord had to subdue a disabled or crippled being, rather, the devil Apasmara may be considered as a symbolical, artistic representation of spiritual weakness/"dwarfism" that the sages had demonstrated towards Lord Shiva, because of their growing arrogance and/or ignorance. One may note that the synonyms of the word Apasmara, in Sanskrit, include mental derangements such as forgetfulness or loss of memory (apa = loss and smara = remembrance), confusion of mind and Epilepsy (http://www.spokensanskrit.de/). Hence, apasmara can be found as a symptom in various neuropsychiatric disorders and even among clinically "normal" individuals. Historically, many of the temples of the Chola period had also functioned as mental health centers [4] and one may only speculate about the use of dance as a therapeutic tool by ancient Ayurvedic/Siddha physicians in those temples. While socio-culturally, all the varieties of dances around the world, including Bharatanatyam in our context, have been used for entertainment and mood elevation, modern researchers have started to use dance as body-mind exercises in treatment programs for neuropsychiatric disorders. [5]

 
   References Top

1.Seshadri KG. Endocrinology and the arts at the feet of the dancing Lord: Parathyroid hormone resistance in an Indian icon. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2014;18:226-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]    
2.Coomaraswamy A. The Lord of Dance. The Sunwise Turn Inc. 2 East 31 st Street, New York, Published 1918. Available from: http://www.oriente-e-occidente.com/PDF/The_Dance_of_Siva.pdf [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 14].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Nallur Natarajan, Harvard Artstor. Available from: http://library.artstor.org.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/library/welcome.html#3|search|6|All20Collections 3A20nallur20nataraja |Filtered 20 Search|||type3D3626kw3Dnallur 20 nataraja 26 geoIds 3D26 clsIds3D26collTypes3D26id3Dall26bDate3D26eDate3D26d Exact3D26prGeoId3D||1| [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 14].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.Raghavan DV, Tejus Murthy AG, Somasundaram O. Treatment of the mentally ill in the Chola Empire in 11 th -12 th centuries AD: A study of epigraphs. Indian J Psychiatry 2014;56:202-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
5.Guzmán-García A, Hughes JC, James IA, Rochester L. Dancing as a psychosocial intervention in care homes: A systematic review of the literature. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2013;28:914-24.  Back to cited text no. 5
    


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