Art & Culture Culture of India

Amazing Nataraja Statue: A Celebration of Chola Art

  • The tallest statue of Lord Shiva in his dancing form in the world, the 27-foot Nataraja statue, is waiting for the G20 leaders in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan.
  • The sculptors can trace their ancestry 34 generations back to the Cholas.

The Nataraja Work of Art

  • Created by talented craftsmen from Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu, using an eight-metal alloy (ashtadhatu).
  • It was transported across the nation on a 36-wheel trailer and weighed about 18 tonnes.

The statue’s design draws inspiration from three revered Nataraja idols:

  1. Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.
  2. Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram.
  3. Brihadeeswara (Big) Temple in Thanjavur (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Nataraja and the Cholas

  • The Cholas were the ones who first built all three of the temples that served as inspiration for the Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue.
  • The Cholas, who governed most of peninsular India between the ninth and eleventh centuries AD, were renowned for their support of the arts and culture.
  • Throughout the Cholas’ geographical expansion, their art and architecture blossomed.

Shiva’s significance as the Lord of Dance

  • From the Vedic god Rudra, Lord Shiva transformed into Nataraja.
  • Shiva is a complicated god who embodies both nefarious and beneficent traits.
  • Shiva is represented as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, as both the destroyer and the guardian.
  • He is credited with creating a wide variety of dances, from serene to ferocious and orgiastic.

Symbolism of Nataraja

  • Nataraja is frequently shown surrounded by a fiery aureole or halo, which stands for the circumference of the globe.
  • He has four arms and lengthy dreadlocks that symbolise the power of his dance.
  • He is holding an agni (fire) in his upper left hand and a damru (hand drum) in his upper right.
  • Under his foot, a dwarf-like figure stands for deception.
  • The ‘abhayamudra’ (gesture to assuage fear) is made by Nataraja with his front right hand, while he points with his front left hand to his raised feet.
  • Nataraja usually has a tranquil smile on his face, which symbolises the duality of life and death despite its complicated connotation.

Lost Wax Technique

  • The age-old “lost-wax” casting technique, which originated during the Chola era, was used to produce the 27-foot Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue.
  • This technique has been used for at least 6,000 years.
  • A wax model must be made, covered with a particular soil paste, heated to dissolve the wax, and then the soil paste is removed, leaving a hollow mould that must then be filled with molten metal.
  • The Cholas perfected this method, which is regarded as the height of metallurgical craftsmanship.
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