In this icon, Shiva is performing the tandava, in which he is shown destroying the old universe and dancing a new one into creation. In his hands he holds fire to destroy the universe and a hand drum whose sound creates the universe. His lower right hand makes the abhayamudra, the gesture which removes fear, and his lower left hand points to his left leg, signifying liberation. Under his foot is the demon Muyalaka, which represents the ignorance that has led mankind astray. The ring of fire that surrounds Shiva represents samsara: the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. The ultimate ascetic, Shiva’s hair is matted and put up to form a crown atop his head. As he dances, though, Shiva’s matted tresses come loose and start to crash into celestial bodies, another element of his role as Destroyer. His stoic face is a reminder that Shiva balances light and dark, Creation and Destruction, Life and Death. This balance comes from a cycle between opposites, always moving forward.