Shiva as Nataraja
Shiva as Nataraja is lost in his ecstatic dance, Ananda Tandava, as he dissolves a weary universe before its regeneration by Brahma, the Creator, and protected by Vishnu, the Preserver, in the eternal cosmic cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution.
Nataraja in Sanskrit is; Natya (dance) and Raja (Lord), and in this piece Shiva is Lord of Dance, forever young, lithe and powerful in his ecstatic dance of destruction. As he swirls and turns he blesses and assures us with his right hand (abhyamudra), while offering enlightenment, salvation and protection with his left (dandamudra). Shiva’s rear right hand (damarumudra) beats the heartbeat rhythm of the cosmos, while his left rear hand (ardhacandramudra) holds the flame (agni) of purifying destruction. His right foot crushes Muyalaka, the dwarf of ignorance and illusion.
Surrounding Nataraja, a prabha symbolizes the cosmos and everything in it. Early images of Nataraja show a simple ovoid archway of single flames, but by the 11th and 12th centuries the prabha had became ever more elaborate.
Shiva’s adornment (alankara) is appropriate for the Auspicious One. He wears a dancer’s bells around his ankles, as well as bracelets, rings, necklaces and armbands. A jewelled belt around his waist secures a tiger-skin. A simple headdress of crane feathers crowns him, while at the nape of his neck, a disc of egret feathers (siraschakra). Within his flying dreadlocks, tipped with poisonous datura blossoms, is a figure of Ganga, the goddess who in time of drought was brought gently from heaven to earth, breaking the river’s fall in the Great God’s hair. Also in his hair is a skull (kapala) symbolizing both Shiva’s immortality and the transient nature of all things A crescent moon (Chandra) shows us Shiva as omnipresent even if not always visible.
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48 in / 122 cm
194.67 lb / 88.3 kg
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