South Indian / Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja) / Chola period, c. 970South Indian
Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja)
Chola period, c. 970

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: South Indian
Creator Active Place: South Indian
Creator Name-CRT: South Indian
Title: Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 960
Creation End Date: 980
Creation Date: Chola period, c. 970
Creation Place: India, Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 26 3/4 in. (67.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.020
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The bronze sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddhist deities cast during the Chola period (880-1279) are among the most renowned sculptures in world art. The Cholas came to power in the late 9th century, and until the late 13th century ruled a large part of south India from their homeland near Thanjavur on the southeastern coast, maintaining diplomatic ties with countries as distant as China and Indonesia. Chola rulers were active patrons of the arts, and during their rule, literature, dance, and the other performing arts flourished. They also constructed enormous temple complexes decorated with stone representations of the Hindu gods.

Admired for the sensuous depiction of the figure and the detailed treatment of their clothing and jewelry, Chola-period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique, commonly known by its French name, cire perdue. Because each sculpture made in this fashion requires a separate wax model, each is unique, but because they are religious icons, Chola-period sculptures also conform to well-established iconographic conventions.

As devout Hindus, the Cholas revered Shiva as their tutelary deity in his role as Lord of the Dance, or Shiva Nataraja. Under Chola patronage the concept of Shiva Nataraja became closely associated with the performance of one particular dance, the dance of bliss (or ananda tandava), and with one particular pose--a four-armed Shiva standing on the back of a dwarf with his left leg poised in front of his body. The image of Shiva shown here illustrates the complexity and sophistication of this icon. The positions of Shiva's hands, the objects he holds, and the ornaments he wears are intended to explain the significance of his dance and narrate the events surrounding his performance.

It is believed that Shiva first performed the dance of bliss in order to redeem a group of sages who were practicing an unorthodox form of Hinduism. In an attempt to resist Shiva, the sages challenged him with a
Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 14.
Related Document Description: Balasubhahmanyam, S. R. Early Chola Art. Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1966, part 1, p. 157.
Related Document Description: Del Bonta, Robert. 'Review of Manifestations of Shiva.' Oriental Art (Summer 1982), p. 194.
Related Document Description: Kramrisch, Stella. Manifestations of Shiva. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1981, pp. 116-17.
Related Document Description: Master Bronzes of India. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1965, cat. no. 29.
Related Document Description: Tarapor, Mahrukh. 'A Note on Chola Bronzes.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 415.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.020
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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