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Shiva as Lord of the Dance.

Indian, Tamil Nadu, Thanjavur, Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja), Choir dynasty, 10th-11th century Bronze, 27 1/4 x 27 1/4" (69 x 69 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Kate 5. Buckingham Endowment, 1965. 1130.

In this sculpture, the Hindu deity Shiva performs the mystical dance by which he destroys and regenerates the universe. This sculpture would have resided in a Hindu temple and been carried through the streets by worshippers during festival days.

Shiva's gestures and attributes carry specific meanings, often balancing opposite forces. The ring of fire surrounding him refers to the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Shiva beats the rhythm of life with the drum in one of his right hands and holds the flame by which the universe is destroyed in another. His raised hand signals "fear not," while the hand pointing downward to his raised foot signals release from ignorance. The other foot stomps out ignorance, seen in the form of a demon-dwarf. Shiva's wild hair breaks the fall of the torrents of the Ganges River, personified in the small image on Shiva's right.


What kind of feelings do you think Shiva Nataraja is supposed to inspire? How does the sculpture elicit those responses?

Elijah Burgher, teacher resource center assistant, Department of Museum Education, The Art Institute of Chicago.
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Title Annotation:GalleryCard Diversity
Author:Burgher, Elijah
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
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