IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


9th September, 2023 Culture

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  • Greeting G20 leaders in front of Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi’s Pragati Maidan this weekend will be a magnificent 27-foot Nataraja, the tallest statue of Lord Shiva’s dancing form in the world.


The Nataraja Statue

  • The 27-foot-tall Nataraja statue is crafted from 'Ashtadhatu,' an eight-metal alloy, making it one of the world's tallest statues depicting Lord Shiva in his dancing form.
  • Renowned sculptor Radhakrishnan Sthapaty, hailing from Swami Malai in Tamil Nadu, created this masterpiece, weighing approximately 18 tonnes.

Inspiration from Revered Temples

  • The design of the Nataraja statue draws inspiration from three revered Nataraja idols in prominent South Indian temples:
    • Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.
    • Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram.
    • Brihadeeswara (Big) Temple in Thanjavur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Cholas and Nataraja

  • The Nataraja form of Lord Shiva has strong historical ties to the Chola dynasty, which thrived from the 9th to the 11th centuries AD.
  • The Cholas, known for their patronage of art and culture, constructed elaborate Shiva temples, including the famous Brihadeeswara Temple.

Chola Art and Culture

  • The Chola empire, during its zenith, was a prosperous and culturally rich civilization in South India.
  • Their art and architecture, including the creation of intricate sculptures, flourished during this period.

Evolution of the Nataraja Form

  • While Shiva has been worshiped for centuries, the portrayal of Shiva as Nataraja, or the Lord of Dance, emerged in sculpture during the 5th century AD.
  • However, it was under the Cholas that the Nataraja form gained iconic status, particularly in bronze sculptures.

Shiva's Complex Identity

  • Shiva is a multifaceted deity in Hinduism, encompassing various attributes and roles.
  • He is both a destroyer (Mahakala) and a great ascetic, as well as the patron of ascetics.
  • As Nataraja, Shiva is celebrated as the 'Lord of Dance' and is said to have created 108 different dances, each symbolizing different aspects of existence.

Comprehensive overview of Shiva's Nataraja form


  • Nataraja is typically depicted as a four-armed deity.
  • He stands in the dancing posture on a circular platform, representing the universe.
  • The upper right hand holds the damaru (a small drum) symbolizing the rhythm of creation.
  • The upper left hand holds the fire (or a flame), symbolizing destruction and transformation.
  • The lower right hand is in the abhaya mudra (a gesture of fearlessness).
  • The lower left hand points towards the raised left foot, symbolizing liberation.

Cosmic Dance

  • Shiva's dance represents the cosmic cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction (Srishti, Sthiti, and Samhara).
  • The dance also signifies the passage of time, from creation to dissolution.
  • The rhythm of the dance symbolizes the heartbeat of the universe.


  • Under Shiva's right foot, there is a demon-like figure known as Apasmara Purusha or Muyalaka, representing ignorance and illusion.
  • Shiva's act of crushing this demon signifies the victory of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance.

Tandava and Lasya

  • Nataraja's dance can be classified into two forms: Tandava and Lasya.
  • Tandava is the vigorous, masculine dance representing destruction and power.
  • Lasya is the gentle, feminine dance representing creation and grace.

Cultural Significance

  • The Nataraja form is not only a religious symbol but also a prominent motif in Indian art and culture.
  • It has inspired countless sculptures, paintings, and dance forms like Bharatanatyam.
  • The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple in Tamil Nadu, India, is a famous shrine dedicated to Lord Nataraja.

Philosophical Interpretation

  • Nataraja's dance is often interpreted as a representation of the concept of Advaita (nondualism), where the apparent duality of the universe is an illusion, and everything is a manifestation of the same divine essence.

Spiritual Significance

  • Devotees of Shiva see the Nataraja form as a source of inspiration for their spiritual journey.
  • It reminds them of the transient nature of the material world and the need to seek inner transformation and realization.

Symbolism of Nataraja

  • Nataraja's dance symbolizes the balance between opposites - creation and destruction, chaos and order, birth and death.
  • It represents the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
  • Shiva's Nataraja form also signifies the ultimate goal of life - liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death.
  • The Nataraja sculpture is characterized by several symbolic elements:
    • Flaming aureole or halo: Represents the circle of the world, which Shiva both fills and transcends.
    • Long dreadlocks: Indicate the energy of Shiva's dance.
    • Four arms: Each holding symbolic items, such as a hand drum (damru) and fire (agni).
    • Dwarf-like figure underfoot: Symbolizes illusion and ignorance, which Shiva triumphs over.
    • 'Abhayamudra' (fear-alleviating gesture): Signifies Shiva's role as a protector and source of reassurance.

The Lost Wax Method

  • The Nataraja statue's creation followed the traditional 'lost-wax' casting method, a technique with roots dating back over 6,000 years.
  • In this method, a wax model is covered in a special soil paste, dried, and then heated, allowing the wax to melt away, leaving a mold. Molten metal is then poured into the mold to create the sculpture.

Artistic Heritage

  • The sculptors responsible for the Nataraja statue trace their lineage back 34 generations to the Chola period, preserving ancient techniques.
  • The project, involving the creation of such a monumental statue, took seven months to complete and cost around Rs 10 crore.


In summary, the Nataraja form of Lord Shiva, with its rich history and symbolism, represents a cultural and artistic legacy that continues to captivate and inspire people around the world. The installation of the 27-foot Nataraja statue at Bharat Mandapam serves as a symbol of this enduring tradition and will greet world leaders during the G20 summit.


Q. Discuss the historical significance and religious symbolism of Lord Shiva's Nataraja form. How did the Chola dynasty contribute to the evolution of the Nataraja sculpture? (150 Words)