Chola Bronzes

Krishna dancing on Kaliya

Krishna dancing on Kaliya

The Chola dynasty came into power in the 9th century, and ruled till the 13th century, over South India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives Islands, and even parts of the Indonesian island. During their reign poetry, drama, music, and dance flourished.

Temple bronzes produced under the Chola dynasty of south India are among the most spectacular works of art ever created in the world. During this period bronze casting reached a level of excellence, and sculptures developed a level of artistry finesse.

These works of art exemplified the graceful forms, delicate modeling, and technical sophistication. They also played a big role in demonstrating the integral role they played, and continue to play, in the rich tradition of Hindu mythology. Another key feature of these bronze sculptures is their paradoxical mix of the spiritual and the sensual.

Krishna dancing on Kaliya, one of the famous Chola bronze sculptures, rests in the Asia Society Museum, New York. This sculpture depicts the victory of Lord Krishna in overcoming Kaliya, a snake king who had been poisoning the waters of the sacred Yamuna River and terrifying the local population.[1]

Lord Krishna’s hand gesture is like a gesture of reassurance, done to comfort his devotees. Apart from the spiritual characteristics that makes this sculpture an idol of worship, the sensual appearances are unique, and seen only in the Chola works of art. The figure of this masculine God isn’t like the perceived body of an extremely built figure but holds a petite persona yet embodying masculinity. The snake holds a sexual connotation as is phallic in nature.

The Chola sculptures have idolised forms of beauty, which make the art works striking and different. The position of Lord Krishna is popular symbol for Gods. The intricate detail giving for ornamentation makes the model seem real, projecting the excellence of their craftsmanship.

[1] http://www.asiasocietymuseum.org/region_object.asp?RegionID=1&CountryID=1&ChapterID=7&ObjectID=527

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