Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Magnificent Nataraja Statue: A Tribute to Chola Artistry


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Natraja

Mains level : Not Much


Central Idea

  • In New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, a grand 27-foot Nataraja statue, the world’s tallest depiction of Lord Shiva in his dancing form, awaits the arrival of G20 leaders.
  • Craftsmen behind the statue trace their lineage 34 generations back to the Cholas.

The Nataraja Masterpiece

  • Crafted from an eight-metal alloy (ashtadhatu) by skilled artisans from Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu.
  • Weighing approximately 18 tonnes, it was transported across the country on a 36-wheel trailer.
  • 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).

The Cholas and Nataraja

  • All three temples that inspired the Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue were originally constructed by the Cholas.
  • During the 9th-11th centuries AD, the Cholas ruled much of peninsular India and were known for their patronage of art and culture.
  • Chola art and architecture flourished during their territorial expansion.

Significance: Shiva as the Lord of Dance

  • Lord Shiva’s portrayal as Nataraja evolved from the Vedic deity Rudra.
  • Shiva is a complex deity, embodying both destructive and protective aspects.
  • Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, symbolizes Shiva’s role as both the destroyer and protector.
  • He is known to have invented numerous dances, ranging from calm to fierce and orgiastic.

Iconography of Nataraja

  • Nataraja is often depicted within a flaming aureole or halo, representing the circle of the world.
  • He has long dreadlocks, signifying the energy of his dance, and four arms.
  • In his upper right hand, he holds a damru (hand drum), in the upper left, agni (fire).
  • A dwarf-like figure beneath his foot symbolizes illusion.
  • Nataraja’s front right hand makes the ‘abhayamudra’ (gesture to allay fear), and he points to his raised feet with his front left hand.
  • Despite its complex symbolism, Nataraja typically wears a serene smile, signifying the duality of life and death.

The Lost Wax Method

  • The 27-foot Bharat Mandapam Nataraja statue was created using the traditional ‘lost-wax’ casting method, indigenous to the Chola era.
  • This method dates back at least 6,000 years.
  • It involves creating a wax model, covering it with a special soil paste, heating it to remove the wax, leaving behind a hollow mould, which is then filled with molten metal.
  • This technique was mastered by the Cholas and is considered a pinnacle of metallurgical artistry.

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