Shiva as Sathir Thandava
As Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, Shiva dances his ecstatic cosmic dance in his role as eradicator of ignorance, bestower of solace, and ultimate destroyer. Underscoring all these powers, however, it is important to remember his wild dance (anandatandava) is primarily a blessing, offering solace and protection to humankind. His unspoken message to us is, “Don’t worry. Everything is going to be okay”.
As an aspect of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality, Shiva dates from the beginnings of Hinduism. However, as a dancing figure, he first appeared in south India in the 5th and 6th century CE as a fixed stone sculpture in the temples. By the 10th century CE, however, Shiva as Nataraja began to be created in bronze and, over time, became his best-known form.
As creator, Shiva beats out the cosmos’s heartbeat with his rear right hand on a drum (damaru), while the rear left-hand holds the flame (Agni) of purifying destruction. His forward right-hand gestures, “Fear not. I am here” (abhayamudra), while his forward left-hand gestures protection, dandahasta. His feet trample the dwarf of spiritual ignorance, Apasmara.
In this example, Shiva’s dance is unusually subdued. His left leg is down rather than crossed and lifted. The matted hair of the ascetic is tucked and braided into a crown (jatamukuta) rather than flung outward in a twirling dance of ecstasy. The ring of fire (prabhamandala) is missing, and four rings on the double lotus base (padmapitha), used to secure the icon to a palanquin, mark it as a processional icon.
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18 in / 46 cm
10.8 lb / 4.9 kg