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.

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~ by bethiarose on April 21, 2010.

4 Responses to “Shiva – Lord of the Cosmic Dance”

  1. Thanks for this blog and best wishes for its success. I’ve always been attracted to Lord Shiva even as a small boy in Ireland.

  2. It s true what u say about thsi posture resembling teh delicate balance, but not only this pose. Last week i had an Indian classical peformance based right on Shiva and it was probably teh most difficult of the all items learned till now; each pose was about balance on one foot, very powerful indeed. p.s. i am so happy to know abt this blog, come and check my artstical posts too, i love art in all its most beautiful aspects and interconnctions!

  3. Thanks for your comment Radha. It is interesting to hear your point of view as you actually have experience with these postures – perhaps the art was based on the dance? Or the other way round? Do you know which is more ancient?

  4. i love natraj photos

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