FACT CHECK: Why Lord Shiva’s Natraj Statue Is Installed At The European Nuclear Research Facility?

One of the world’s premier institute, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, has the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – fundamental particles. It houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.

Interestingly, this premier institute has a 2-metre tall statue of Natraja installed on the premises.

While netizens have been trying to guess how that statue reached Europe, several stories have emerged on social media about it.

Some say that the Natraja statute explains the structure of the atom and therefore scientists decided to place it in the CERN campus. Another one goes as saying the posture of the statue called ‘Anand Tandavam’ as the motion is similar to the motion of sub atoms.

While all the of these reasons are fake news, the CERN website acknowledges the presence of the statue and explains how it got there.

The statue was gifted by the Government of India to celebrate its association with CERN, which started in the 1960s and remains strong today. India enjoys the position of Associate Member State.

“India is one of CERN’s associate member states. CERN is a multicultural organisation that welcomes scientists from more than 100 countries and 680 institutions. The Shiva statue is only one of the many statues and art pieces at CERN,” says the CERN’s website.

File:Shiva's statue at CERN engaging in the Nataraja dance.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

In the Hindu religion, Lord Shiva practised Nataraj dance which symbolises Shakti, or life force. This deity was chosen by the Indian government because of a metaphor that was drawn between the cosmic dance of the Nataraj and the modern study of the ‘cosmic dance’ of subatomic particles.

It was installed on June 18, 2004, and the plaque beside the statue further explains its significance by quoting by Fritjof Capra, physicist, systems theorist and the author of several books including ‘The Tao of Physics’.

“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,” the plaque reads.

Interestingly, while the statue is a religious and spiritual symbol, it was created by an atheist artist from Tamil Nadu. According to a BBC report, popularly known as ‘Sirpi’ (craftsman), Rajan is one of the active supporters of Periyar’s principles in Tamil social media circles.

He actively criticises the superstition, caste system, religious belief and astrology, in Tamil Nadu. He told BBC that he received an order by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs through the Central Cottage Industries Emporium in 1998 to build the statue. Rajan said he had a close association with the Central Cottage Industries Emporium for professional reasons.

“From the 1980s onwards I used to go to Delhi and Northern states and was in touch with the Central Cottage Industries Emporium for professional reasons. They ordered me to make this statue. There is no conflict between my theory and my profession,” he said. The report added that Rajan has employed Dalit artisans who work at the sculptures.

In conclusion, the state represents a metaphor between mythology and science and was offered by the Government of India as a gift to CERN.