Shiva Nataraja, The Lord of Dance
South India, Tamil Nadu
Chola Dynasty (850–1278 c.e.), early 13th century
The dancing lord Shiva represents the constant process of creation, preservation and destruction of the tangible universe. We see him here in a dynamic pose with his leg raised, beginning his dance. Walk around the sculpture and notice how balanced and well-sculpted it is from all sides—a superb example of Chola workmanship. Shiva stands upon a dwarf, intended to represent ignorance, which must be eliminated in order for a believer to be released from the eternal cycle of birth and death. In his upper hands he carries a drum that beats the rhythm of his dance, and fire, a symbol of transience and destruction.