Shiva – Lord of the Cosmic Dance
This is an 11th century bronze Chola (South Indian) sculpture of Shiva Nataraja, the great Hindu god of destruction. Not destruction as an end in itself, but as a means to creation. He is the destroyer of ignorance and this is illustrated in all images of Nataraja which portray him dancing on Apasmara, the dwarf demon of ignorance.
Shiva is surrounded by a circle of flames symbolic of the never ending cycle of destruction and creation – the closing and dawning of different yugas (ages). His four hands represent the four cardinal directions. In Shiva’s top right hand he holds a drum which symbolises the rhythm of creation. In his upper left hand he holds a flame symbolic of destruction. His lower right hand is raised in blessing and his lower left hand points towards his foot, indicating that He is the path to liberation. Perhaps his posture indicates the delicate balancing act of the entire universe.
These wonderful sculptures are technically not art works at all, but (ex) living temple gods. However, one cannot help but admire the beauty of these sculpures, their sinuous elegance, artistry and completeness of composition. Anyhow, it could be said that beauty and truth are very closely connected.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man – I always think of this image when I see a Shiva Nataraja.