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v t e

Nataraja
Nataraja
(Sanskrit: नटराज, translit. Naṭarāja, Tamil: நடராஜர், translit. Naṭarāja,Telugu: నటరాజు, translit. Naṭarāju, meaning "the lord of dance") is a depiction of the Hindu
Hindu
god Shiva
Shiva
as the cosmic ecstatic dancer. His dance is called Tandavam or Nadanta, depending on the context of the dance.[1][2] The pose and artwork is described in many Hindu texts
Hindu texts
such as the Anshumadbhed agama and Uttarakamika agama, the dance relief or idol featured in all major Hindu
Hindu
temples of Shaivism.[3] The classical form of the depiction appears in stone reliefs, as at the Ellora Caves
Ellora Caves
and the Badami Caves, by around the 6th-century.[4][5] Around the 10th century, it emerged in Tamil Nadu in its mature and best-known expression in Chola bronzes, of various heights typically less than four feet,[6] some over.[7] The Nataraja reliefs have been identified in historic artwork from many parts of South Asia, in southeast Asia such as in Bali, Cambodia, and in central Asia.[8][9][10] The sculpture is symbolic of Shiva
Shiva
as the lord of dance and dramatic arts,[8] with its style and proportions made according to Hindu
Hindu
texts on arts.[6] It typically shows Shiva
Shiva
dancing in one of the Natya Shastra poses, holding Agni
Agni
(fire) in his left back hand, the front hand in gajahasta or dandahasta mudra, the front right hand with a wrapped snake that is in abhaya (fear not) mudra while pointing to a Sutra text, and the back hand holding a musical instrument usually a damaru.[6] His body, fingers, ankles, neck, face, head, ear lobes and dress are shown decorated with symbolic items, which vary with historic period and region.[1][11] He is surrounded by a ring of flames, standing on a lotus pedestal, lifting his left leg (or in rare cases, the right leg) and balancing over a demon shown as a dwarf (Apasmara[2] or Muyalaka) who symbolizes ignorance.[6][12] The dynamism of the energetic dance is depicted with the whirling hair which spread out in thin strands as a fan behind his head.[13][14] The details in the Nataraja
Nataraja
artwork has been variously interpreted by Indian scholars since the 12th-century for its symbolic meaning and theological essence.[7][15] Nataraja
Nataraja
is a well known sculptural symbol in India
India
and popularly used as a symbol of Indian culture,[16][17] in particular as one of the finest illustrations of Hindu
Hindu
art.[18][19]

Contents

1 Etymology 2 Depiction 3 Characteristics 4 Significance 5 History 6 Gallery 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Etymology[edit]

Nataraja
Nataraja
iconography

The Sanskrit
Sanskrit
word Naṭarāja (Tamil: "நடராசர்" or Kooththan கூத்தன்) is variously translated as Lord of dance or King of dancers.[20][21] According to Ananda Coomaraswamy, the name is related to Shiva's fame as the "Lord of Dancers" or "King of Actors".[15] Nataraja
Nataraja
is sometimes also referred to as Nateshvara (from Nata which means "act, drama, dance", and Ishvara
Ishvara
or "lord").[22] Koothan is derived from the Tamil word Koothu, which means dance or performance. A male dancer is termed Koothan. Also known as Natarajan in Tamil, meaning "Naatiyathin" (of dance) "Raajan" (king). Naatiyam is another word for dance in Tamil. Depiction[edit] The dance of Shiva
Shiva
in Tillai, the traditional name for Chidambaram, forms the motif for all the depictions of Shiva
Shiva
as Nataraja. He is also known as "Sabesan" which splits as "Sabayil aadum eesan" in Tamil which means "The Lord who dances on the dais". This form is present in most Shiva
Shiva
temples, and is the prime deity in the Nataraja
Nataraja
Temple at Chidambaram.[23] The two most common forms of Shiva's dance are the Lasya (the gentle form of dance), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava
Tandava
(the vigorous form of dance), associated with the destruction of weary worldviews - weary perspectives and lifestyles. In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava
Tandava
are just two aspects of Shiva's nature; for he destroys in order to create, tearing down to build again.[24] According to Alice Boner, the historic Nataraja
Nataraja
artworks found in different parts of India
India
are set in geometric patterns and along symmetric lines, particularly the satkona mandala (hexagram) that in the Indian tradition means the interdependence and fusion of masculine and feminine principles.[25] Characteristics[edit]

Play media

As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva
Shiva
performs the Ananda Tandava (dance of bliss, Tamil: ஆனந்த தாண்டவம்), the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. The symbolism in the art has been variously interpreted by scholars since the Chola empire era:[6][15][26]

He dances within an circular or cyclically closed arch of flames (prabha mandala), which symbolically represent the cosmic fire that in Hindu
Hindu
cosmology creates everything and consumes everything, in cyclic existence or cycle of life. The fire also represents the evils, dangers, heat, warmth, light and joys of daily life. The arch of fire emerges from two makara on each end, which are water creatures of water and part of Hindu
Hindu
mythologies. His legs are bent, which suggests an energetic dance. His long, matted tresses, are shown to be loose and flying out in thin strands during the dance, spread into a fan behind his head, because of the wildness and ecstasy of the dance. On his right side, meshed in with one of the flying strands of his hair near his forehead, is typically the river Ganges
Ganges
personified as a goddess, from the Hindu
Hindu
mythology where the danger of a mighty river is creatively tied to a calm river for the regeneration of life. The upper right hand holds a small drum shaped like an hourglass that is called a ḍamaru in Sanskrit.[27][28] A specific hand gesture (mudra) called ḍamaru-hasta ( Sanskrit
Sanskrit
for "ḍamaru-hand") is used to hold the drum.[29] It symbolizes rhythm and time. The upper left hand contains Agni
Agni
or fire, which signifies forces of creation and destruction. The opposing concepts show the counterpoise nature of life. A cobra uncoils from his lower right forearm, while his palm shows the Abhaya mudra (meaning fearlessness in Sanskrit), suggesting not to fear nearby evil, as well as evil and ignorance surrounding the devotee as he or she follows the righteousness of dharma. The second left hand points towards the raised foot which suggests the viewer to be active and dance despite the circumstances, or alternatively as a sign of upliftment and liberation. The face shows two eyes plus a slightly open third on the forehead, which symbolize the triune in Shaivism. The eyes represent the sun, the moon and the third has been interpreted as the inner eye, or symbol of knowledge (jnana), urging the viewer to seek the inner wisdom, self-realization. The three eyes alternatively symbolize an equilibrium of the three Guṇa: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The dwarf on which Nataraja
Nataraja
dances is the demon Apasmara
Apasmara
purusha (Muyalaka, as it is known in Tamil), and which symbolises action and dance that leads to victory over demonic evil and ignorance. The slightly smiling face of Shiva
Shiva
represents his calmness despite being immersed in the contrasting forces of universe and his energetic dance.[7]

The above interpretations of symbolism are largely based on historic Indian texts published in and after 12th-century, such as Unmai Vilakkam, Mummani Kovai, Tirukuttu Darshana and Tiruvatavurar Puranam.[15] Padma Kaimal questions some of these interpretations by referring to a 10th-century text and Nataraja
Nataraja
icons, suggesting that the Nataraja
Nataraja
statue may have symbolized different things to different people or in different contexts, such as Shiva
Shiva
being the lord of cremation or as an emblem of Chola dynasty.[30] In contrast, Sharada Srinivasan questions the link to Chola, and has presented archaeological evidence suggesting that Nataraja
Nataraja
bronzes and dancing Shiva
Shiva
artwork in South India
India
was a Pallava
Pallava
innovation, tracing back to 7th to 9th-centuries, and its symbolism should be pushed back by a few centuries.[31] Significance[edit]

Nataraja
Nataraja
at Thanjavur Palace

An essential significance of Shiva's dance at Tillai, the traditional name of Chidambaram, can be explained as:[32]

First, it is seen as the image of his rhythmic play which is the source of all movement within the universe. This is represented by the circular or elliptical frame surrounding Shiva. Secondly, the purpose of his dance is to release the souls of all men from the snare of illusion. Lastly, the place of the dance, Chidambaram, which is portrayed as the center of the universe, is actually within the heart.

Nataraja, states James Lochtefeld, symbolizes "the connection between religion and the arts", and it represents Shiva
Shiva
as the lord of dance, encompassing all "creation, destruction and all things in between".[33] The Nataraja
Nataraja
iconography incorporates contrasting elements,[16] a fearless celebration of the joys of dance while being surrounded by fire, untouched by forces of ignorance and evil, signifying a spirituality that transcends all duality.[34] Nataraja
Nataraja
is a significant visual interpretation of Brahman
Brahman
and a dance posture of Lord Shiva. The details in the Nataraja
Nataraja
artwork has attracted commentaries and secondary literature such as poems detailing its theological significance.[7][15] It is one of the widely studied and supreme illustrations of Hindu art
Hindu art
from the medieval era.[35][36] History[edit] See also: Pancha Sabhai

A statue of Shiva
Shiva
engaging in the Nataraja
Nataraja
dance gifted by India placed at CERN
CERN
in Geneva, Switzerland

One of earliest known Nataraja
Nataraja
artworks has been found in the archaeological site at Asanapat village in Odisha, which includes an inscription, and is dated to about the 6th century CE.[37] The Asanapat inscription also mentions a Shiva
Shiva
temple in the Saivacaryas kingdom. Stone reliefs depicting the classical form of Nataraja
Nataraja
are found in numerous cave temples of India, such as the Ellora Caves (Maharashtra), the Elephanta Caves, and the Badami Caves
Badami Caves
(Karnataka), by around the 6th-century.[4][5] Archaeological discoveries have yielded a red Nataraja
Nataraja
sandstone statue, from 9th to 10th century from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, now held at the Gwalior Archaeological Museum.[38][39] Similarly, Nataraja
Nataraja
artwork has been found in archaeological sites in the Himalayan region such as Kashmir, albeit in with somewhat different dance pose and iconography, such as just two arms or with eight arms.[40] In medieval era artworks and texts on dancing Shiva
Shiva
found in Nepal, Assam
Assam
and Bengal, he is sometimes shown as dancing on his vahana Nandi, the bull; further, he is regionally known as Narteshvara.[41] Nataraja
Nataraja
artwork have also been discovered in Gujarat, Kerala
Kerala
and Andhra Pradesh.[42] Nataraja
Nataraja
gained special significance and became a symbol of royalty in Tamil Nadu. The dancing Shiva
Shiva
became a part of Chola era processions and religious festivals, a practice that continued thereafter.[43] The depiction was informed of cosmic or metaphysical connotations is also argued on the basis of the testimony of the hymns of Tamil saints.[44] The largest Nataraja
Nataraja
statue is in Neyveli, in Tamil Nadu.[citation needed] In the contemporary Hindu
Hindu
culture of Bali
Bali
Indonesia, Siwa (Shiva) Nataraja
Nataraja
is the god who created dance.[45] Siwa and his dance as Nataraja
Nataraja
was also celebrated in the art of Java Indonesia when Hinduism thrived there, while in Cambodia
Cambodia
he was referred to as Nrittesvara.[46] In 2004, a 2m statue of the dancing Shiva
Shiva
was unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva. The statue, symbolizing Shiva's cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN
CERN
by the Indian government to celebrate the research center's long association with India.[47] A special plaque next to the Shiva
Shiva
statue explains the significance of the metaphor of Shiva's cosmic dance with quotations from Fritjof Capra:

Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physics.[48]

Though named " Nataraja
Nataraja
bronzes" in Western literature, the Chola Nataraja
Nataraja
artworks are mostly in copper, and a few are in brass, typically cast by the cire-perdue process.[13] Nataraja
Nataraja
is celebrated in 108 poses of Bharatanatyam, with Sanskrit inscriptions from Natya Shastra, at the Nataraja
Nataraja
temple in Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu, India.[1][3] Gallery[edit]

6th/7th century Nataraja
Nataraja
in Cave 1 of Badami cave temples

A damaged 6th-century Nataraja, Elephanta Caves[49]

6th-century Nataraja
Nataraja
in Cave 21, Ellora Caves[4]

8th-century Nataraja
Nataraja
in Kailasa temple (Cave 16), Ellora Caves

8th-century sandstone Nataraja
Nataraja
from Madhya Pradesh

Sukanasa
Sukanasa
with Shiva
Shiva
Nataraja
Nataraja
in Pattadakal

Shiva
Shiva
Nataraja, mid-10th Century AD, British Museum[50]

Shiva- Nataraja
Nataraja
in the Thousand-Pillar-Hall (ஆயிரம் கால் மண்டபம்) of the Meenakshi Amman Temple
Meenakshi Amman Temple
in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

In the Shiva
Shiva
temple of Melakadambur
Melakadambur
is a rare Pala image that shows the ten-armed Nataraja
Nataraja
dancing on his bull.

Nataraja
Nataraja
The Lord of Dance.

References[edit]

^ a b c Archana Verma (2011). Performance and Culture: Narrative, Image and Enactment in India. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 19–26. ISBN 978-1-4438-2832-1.  ^ a b Nataraja, Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
(2015) ^ a b T. A. Gopinatha Rao (1997). Elements of Hindu
Hindu
Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-81-208-0877-5.  ^ a b c James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.  ^ a b Archana Verma (2012). Temple Imagery from Early Mediaeval Peninsular India. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 150–151. ISBN 978-1-4094-3029-2.  ^ a b c d e T. A. Gopinatha Rao (1997). Elements of Hindu
Hindu
Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 223–229, 237. ISBN 978-81-208-0877-5.  ^ a b c d James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. pp. 309–310. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.  ^ a b Saroj Panthey (1987). Iconography of Śiva in Pahāṛī Paintings. Mittal Publications. pp. 59–60, 88. ISBN 978-81-7099-016-1.  ^ Banerjee, P. (1969). "A Siva Icon from Piandjikent". Artibus Asiae. 31 (1): 73–80. doi:10.2307/3249451.  ^ Mahadev Chakravarti (1986). The Concept of Rudra-Śiva Through the Ages. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 178 with footnotes. ISBN 978-81-208-0053-3.  ^ T. A. Gopinatha Rao (1997). Elements of Hindu
Hindu
Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 236–238, 247–258. ISBN 978-81-208-0877-5.  ^ Shiva
Shiva
as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), Chola period, c. 10th/11th century The Art Institute of Chicago, United States ^ a b Ananda Coomaraswamy
Ananda Coomaraswamy
(1922), Saiva Sculptures: Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, Vol. 20, No. 118 (Apr., 1922), pages 18-19 ^ Gomathi Narayanan (1986), SHIVA NATARAJA AS A SYMBOL OF PARADOX, Journal of South Asian Literature, Vol. 21, No. 2, page 215 ^ a b c d e The Dance of Shiva, Ananda Coomaraswamy ^ a b Gomathi Narayanan (1986), SHIVA NATARAJA AS A SYMBOL OF PARADOX, Journal of South Asian Literature, Vol. 21, No. 2, pages 208-216 ^ Anna Libera Dallapiccola (2007). Indian Art in Detail. Harvard University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-674-02691-9.  ^ David Smith (2003). The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-0-521-52865-8.  ^ Frank Burch Brown (2014). The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts. Oxford University Press. pp. 489–490. ISBN 978-0-19-517667-4.  ^ Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. (2013). The dance of Shiva. Rupa. p. 56. ISBN 9788129120908.  ^ Stromer, Richard. " Shiva
Shiva
Nataraja: A Study in Myth, Iconography, and the Meaning of a Sacred Symbol" (PDF). Retrieved 10 March 2016.  ^ Hélène Brunner-Lachaux; Dominic Goodall; André Padoux (2007). Mélanges Tantriques À la Mémoire DʼHélène Brunner. Institut français de Pondichéry. p. 245. ISBN 978-2-85539-666-8.  ^ Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Siva: Fourteen Indian Essays New York, The Sun wise Turn (1918), p. 58. Internet Archive. ^ Carmel Berkson, Wendy Doniger, George Michell, Elephanta: The Cave of Shiva
Shiva
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983). ISBN 0691040095 ^ Alice Boner (1990). Principles of Composition in Hindu
Hindu
Sculpture: Cave Temple Period. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 163–164, 257. ISBN 978-81-208-0705-1.  ^ Shiva
Shiva
Nataraja, lord of the dance Encyclopedia of Ancient History (2013) ^ Alice Boner; Sadāśiva Rath Śarmā (1966). Silpa Prakasa Medieval Orissan Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Text on Temple Architecture. Brill Archive. pp. xxxvi, 144.  ^ For the damaru drum as one of the attributes of Shiva
Shiva
in his dancing representation see: Jansen, page 44. ^ Jansen, page 25. ^ Padma Kaimal (1999), Shiva
Shiva
Nataraja: Shifting Meanings of an Icon, The Art Bulletin Volume 81, Issue 3, pages 390-419 ^ Srinivasan, Sharada (2004). " Shiva
Shiva
as 'cosmic dancer': On Pallava origins for the Nataraja
Nataraja
bronze". World Archaeology. 36 (3): 432–450. doi:10.1080/1468936042000282726821.  ^ Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, The Dance of Śiva: Fourteen Indian Essays New York, The Sun wise Turn (1918), p. 58. Internet Archive. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 147, entry for Chidambaram. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.  ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. The Rosen Publishing Group. pp. 464–466. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.  ^ David Smith (2003). The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–4. ISBN 978-0-521-52865-8.  ^ Roy C. Craven (1976). A concise history of Indian art. Praeger. pp. 144–147, 160–161. ISBN 978-0-275-22950-4.  ^ Rupendra Chattopadhya et al (2013), The Kingdom of the Saivacaryas, Berlin Indological Studies, volume 21, page 200; Archive[dead link] ^ C Yamamoto (1971), Catalogue of Antiquities from East Asia, Vol. 1971, No. 96, pages L74-L92 ^ James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.  ^ Anne-Marie Gaston (1982). Śiva in dance, myth, and iconography. Oxford University Press. pp. 56, 47, 101.  ^ Anne-Marie Gaston (1982). Śiva in dance, myth, and iconography. Oxford University Press. pp. 130, 57.  ^ Anne-Marie Gaston (1982). Śiva in dance, myth, and iconography. Oxford University Press. pp. 48–50.  ^ Aghoraśivācārya; Richard H. Davis (2010). A Priest's Guide for the Great Festival. Oxford University Press. pp. 15–20, 24–25. ISBN 978-0-19-537852-8.  ^ Sharada Srinivasan, " Shiva
Shiva
as 'cosmic dancer': on Pallava
Pallava
origins for the Nataraja
Nataraja
bronze", World Archaeology (2004) 36(3), pages 432–450. ^ Fredrik Eugene DeBoer; I Made Bandem (1995). Balinese Dance in Transition: Kaja and Kelod. Oxford University Press. pp. ii–iii. ISBN 978-967-65-3071-4.  ^ Alessandra Iyer (1998). Prambanan: Sculpture and Dance in Ancient Java : a Study in Dance Iconography. White Lotus. pp. 69–70. ISBN 978-974-8434-12-4.  ^ "Faces and Places (page 3) - CERN
CERN
Courier". cerncourier.com. Retrieved 2017-01-30.  ^ "Shiva's Cosmic Dance at CERN
CERN
Fritjof Capra". www.fritjofcapra.net. Retrieved 2017-01-30.  ^ James C. Harle (1994). The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Yale University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-300-06217-5.  ^ British Museum
British Museum
Collection

Further reading[edit]

Ananda Coomaraswamy
Ananda Coomaraswamy
(1957). The Dance of Śiva: Fourteen Indian Essays. OCLC 2155403.  Jansen, Eva Rudy (1993). The Book of Hindu
Hindu
Imagery. Havelte, Holland: Binkey Kok Publications BV. ISBN 90-74597-07-6.  Vivek Nanda; George Michell (2004). Chidambaram: Home of Nataraja. Marg Publications. ISBN 978-81-85026-64-0. OCLC 56598256.  C Sivaramamurti (1974). Nataraja
Nataraja
in Art, Thought, and Literature. National Museum. ISBN 978-81-230-0092-3. OCLC 1501803.  David Smith (2003). The Dance of Siva: Religion, Art and Poetry in South India. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-52865-8. 

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