Symbols Of The Shiva Nataraja

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The statues of Shiva Nataraja, also known as Shiva as the Lord of Dance, came from the sculptors of the south Indian Chola dynasty. These statues, from the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, are some of the most significant icons from the Hindu religion. This important symbol bears all of the characteristics that Shiva represents: creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe.
This religious piece of art, made using the ‘lost-wax’ method of sculpting, has gotten a lot more prominent since the twentieth century. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy wrote an essay in 1912 explaining the significance of the Shiva Nataraja, and why it was an important statue to the Hindu religion, but in a very different representation. After this essay, Hindu people
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The symbols all mean different things, with one outcome at the end. Starting with the pair of Shiva’s hands holding objects, they contain two objects that mean the exact opposite of each other. In his left hand, he holds fire. The fire signifies the destruction of the universe, samasara (the cycle of death and rebirth), and of maya, or illusion. According to Hindu mythology, Shiva destroys everything at the end of each cosmic cycle. In Hindu mythology, fire is the method of annihilation at the end of each cosmic cycle. This is why Shiva of Nataraja holds a flame, and reason for the ring of fire that surrounds him.
In the right hand of the sculpture, is a two-sided drum. This not only beats the rhythm of Shiva Nataraja’s dance, but beats to the rhythm of creation. According to Malaysia Hundudharma Mamandram, the drum, called an udukkai, “…represents sound as the first element of an unfolding universe” (A Comparison to Asian Art and
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The dance that Shiva is performing is a dance that Hinduism translates to that of the universe’s cycle of life and death. The way that Shiva Nataraja looks is also a key factor to the religious aspect of this piece of art. His lack of clothing shows off his ‘perfect’ body. He has some jewelry, but just enough to not take away from his figure and appearance. There is a legend that has been told of Shiva as Nataraja’s loincloth. It is said that he fought a tiger in the forest, stripped it of its pelt, and made it into an article of clothing.
The ring of fire around Shiva Nataraja has a very important meaning as well. The fire represents the cosmos and everything that goes with it. The flames of the cosmos beat to the rhythm of the drum that Shiva is holding.
In Coomaraswamy’s essay, his beliefs proved to be exactly of what the majority of the Hindu people wanted to believe. According to A Comparison to Asian Art and Culture, Coomaraswamy was the person who changed the Hindu’s beliefs about the Shiva Nataraja. Before this change of understanding, people thought that deities were “…monstrous, baby-killing devils” (A Comparison to Asian Art and Culture). Another belief that Coomaraswamy reversed was that of Shiva Nataraja destroying the universe – not for evil, but because destruction is necessary for life to occur, in the cosmic cycle. Shiva is a deity who delivers people from

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