Unknown artist, Indian, Tamil Nadu
Nataraja, 16th Century
Bronze: lost wax process
Height: 117.5 cm (46 1/4 inches)
Museum Appropriation Fund 33.026
The Hindu god Shiva performs his ‘dance of bliss,’ which creates and destroys the cosmos in an eternal cycle of regeneration. Shiva balances on one leg upon a demon-dwarf, symbol of darkness and ignorance, with the other leg raised, representing deliverance from those evils. A blazing aura surrounds him as he moves to the rhythm of creation tapped out on the drum he holds. The flame in his upper left hand is cosmic destruction. His lower left points downward to his raised foot, while his lower right hand makes a gesture of protection. Depictions of Shiva as Nataraja, King of the Dance, were first created during the Chola Period (ca. 907—1279). Cult images such as this were used in temples and were sometimes carried in processions.