Lord Shiva: The Natesh

Lord Shiva: The Natesh

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Item Code: EI84
Brass Statue
3.3 ft X 1.5 ft X 0.8 ft
36 kg
This 41" tall and 20" wide brass statue of Shiva as Natesh, the king of dancers, is a rare image-type as in the optimum images representing Shiva performing the dance of dissolution – Tandava or Anandatandava, he is seen lifting his left leg and not the right one, as here. In most cases, the image of Nataraj is contained inside a fire-arch, which has great symbolic significance in Nataraj iconography. This Nataraj statue does not have such fire-arch. This form of Shiva with right leg raised was more popular with the Madurai artists in Tamilnadu and is hence sometimes identified as Madurai type image of Nataraj. The best known Nataraj image with the right leg lifted, is from the early eleventh century, that is, the period of Early Pandyas. It was reported from Poruppumettupatti in Madurai district and is now in the collection of Government Museum, Madras. The image has an iconography corresponding to the South Indian Chola art style, world-wide known for its bronzes. The deer motif, held in one of his left hands, with its hind part and face turned inwards, that is, towards Shiva, is a characteristic feature of Chola art. Exceptionally fine ornamentation, thoughtful face, sharp features, balanced and proportionate figure, a highly communicative body-language, which mark Shiva's figure, and a workmanship which is magnificent by any parameters, are other features of Chola bronzes of early medieval days. Obviously, this present image has been modeled pursuing the classical South Indian Chola art style and the rare Madurai model of Nataraj images.

Shiva, the Natesh or Nataraj, is represented as performing Anandatandava. Anandatandava is the dance of absolute bliss, which Shiva performs after the Great Age has ended and dissolution becomes imperative, as it is only Shiva who is beyond dissolution. He dances over the head of dissolution, and the body of Apasmara, the demon of forgetfulness. Apasmara is abyssal darkness, which succeeds dissolution. Darkness is opposite to light but does not oppose it. Hence, Apasmara only supports the Divine Dancer by upholding upon its hip one of his legs, the right one in most icons but the left one in this image, and looks at Shiva with immense satisfaction, as Apasmara knows that it will prevail even after dissolution has taken place.

The eight-armed image of Natesh has been installed on a podium-like solid pedestal consisting of three steps carved with lotus motifs. Shive is in loin cloth, though tied with a long sash, end of which trails to ground and the caster has balanced his image with its aid. He is wearing a towering crown so unlike Shiva. It has three distinct parts, suggestive of three cosmic regions, which Shiva contains in his being. Close to the forehead, in the centre of the crown, there is the motif of skull, symbolising Kala-Bhairava. Towards its right, there is a small icon with folded hands, representing Ganga. The lowermost right arm reveals a warning note and the uppermost left reveal a gesture of dance. Other right hands are carrying goad, sword, and bull, and the left ones, deer, flame of fire, and damaru, small drum, the symbol of sound, which vibrates the space. Sound is the first of the five elements that announces creation. The flame of fire symbolises final conflagration. Bull, as one of Shiva's attributes, is a rare presence.

In Shaivite mysticism, 'Anandatandava' is the manifestation of fivefold activity - creating, maintaining, unveiling, veiling and destroying, and celestial revelation of six bhavas, shrishti, creation, sanhara, dissolution, vidya, knowlege, avidya, ignorance, gati, motion, and agati, inertness. 'Anandatandava', thus encompasses within it the entire cosmos and its phenomenal existence.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

Click Here to View the Reverse of the Sculpture

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