Sacred and the Visual

Chola Bronze 

The Cholas were one of the longest ruling dynasties in the history of southern India form; they came into power in the late 9th century and stayed in power until the late 13th century. During this period art, literature and religion flourished. The Cholas were Hinduism believers and the rise of other religions didn’t shake their faith.

The Cholas were greatly known for their bronze sculptures. These sculptures were created so that they could be carried out of the temples and used daily in temple festivities and rituals. On many of these statues holes were found on the base, which were said to be used to carry them during the rituals. The sculptures would be heavily decorated with jewelry.

The Bronze sculpture I chose was the Shiva Nataraja, which can be found in The British Museum. It is also called “Dancing Shiva in a ring of fire”




Hindus believe Shiva appears in this form at the end of the cosmic cycle and in the beginning of the next one and therefore associated with creation and destruction. Through the pose he seems to be peaceful yet in his dance pose yet in a ring of fire symbolizing destruction. Shiva is most likely preforming the tandava in this sculpture, his dance style. The figure seems to have a rather expressionless face, probably trying to strike a balance between the creative and destructive nature.

It’s said that in his wild hair that extends towards the sides during his dance, rests the goddess Ganga. Which is a personification of the holy river that was said to have streamed out of his hair showing him in the form of a creator. Along with the Ganga there are crescent moons in his hair, which as associated with his wild nature therefore his destructive form.

He also tramples over the Hindu mythological creature “Apasmara”, the dwarf of ignorance.

Ritualistic Dance 

In Hindu mythology Lord Shiva is said to maintain the cosmic cycle, of creation, preservation and dissolution. Tandava is lord Shiva’s sacred dance that fuels this cosmic cycle. While dancing this vigorous dance form he is called Nataraj, the Dancing God. Tandava depicts Nataraj’s violent nature as the destroyer of the universe. Along with symbolizing creation and destruction, the Tandava also shows the daily rhythm of birth and death. Some beilive that there are seven types of Tandavs, each performed with different emotions. Andnda Tandava depicts him enjoying, Rudra Tandava depicts his violent nature. However these are the main forms of the Tandava, the others include, Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali Tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava.

The Tandava is the sacred dance- dram of southern India, performed to appease Lord Shiva and recognize the cosmic cycle. The Tandava has energetic and sharp movements making it an extremely hard dance to perform. Tandava is performed by Lord Shiva and in response to his vigorous dance, Parvati, his wife preforms the Lasya. Lasya is just the opposite of Tandava, with gentle and graceful movements. Its also sometimes called the feminine version of Tandava.


One comment

  1. aparnaandhare · February 15, 2015

    Hi Kripa,

    You’ve picked one of the most iconic images, but you need to explore the iconography and stories in greater detail. I’d like to see your sources, too. Perhaps if you’d spent time in looking at this image, and writing about what YOU felt, it’d be very interesting.

    A tip: proof read and pay attention to grammar for a better blogpost!


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