Tanjore Nataraja refers to the iconography of Lord Shiva as found in the Brhadeshvara Temple of Tanjore (Thanjavur), Tamil Nadu. Having been built during the Chola dynasty rule, it houses an overpowering Nataraja murti fashioned sometime in the 11th century. The Nataraja that you see on this page is a contemporary reproduction of the incomparable Tanjore Nataraja.
Sculpted from brass, the dancing figure is mounted on a plinth that is almost one-third the height of the murti. On the back of the avidya-roopi Apasmara (the grotesque personification of ignorance) dances the king (‘raja’) of the performing arts (‘nata’), the resplendent Nataraja. His all-powerful tandava has the power to annihilate everything (flames, in the left posterior hand) and give birth anew (damroo, in the right posterior). His locks are flaying about His head from the momentum of His tandava. A crown the shape of a multihooded snake sits on His head. The predominance of snakes - from in His hair to wound around His limbs and waist and neck - is a signature element of the Nataraja iconography.
A perfectly circular aureole frames the slender figure engaged in tandava. With the openwork and the ring of flames emanating from the outer edge, its style is very much in keeping with the Brhadeshvara idiom.
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