This article covers “Daily Current Affairs” and the topic details “Nataraja”. This topic has relevance in the Art and Culture section of the UPSC CSE exam.

For Prelims:

About the Nataraja statue at G20 Summit?

For Mains:

GS 1: Art and Culture

About the Nataraja?

Why in the news:

The splendid Nataraja sculpture, displayed at Bharat Mandapam for the G20 Leaders’ Summit, depicts Lord Shiva in a form that initially emerged in the 5th century AD but gained iconic status during the reign of the Great Cholas.


Craftsmanship and Materials: The Nataraja statue, towering at 27 feet in height, is meticulously fashioned from ‘Ashtadhatu,’ an eight-metal alloy, rendering it one of the world’s tallest representations of Lord Shiva in his dancing form. The statue possesses an approximate weight of 18 tonnes.


Master Sculptor: Renowned sculptor Radhakrishnan Sthapaty, originating from Swami Malai in Tamil Nadu, is the creative genius behind this magnificent masterpiece.


Inspiration from Sacred Temples

Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram The design of the Nataraja statue draws profound inspiration from three esteemed Nataraja idols housed in prominent South Indian temples. These temples include:

  • Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram
  • Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram
  • Brihadeeswara (Big) Temple in Thanjavur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site


The Cholas and Nataraja: The Nataraja depiction of Lord Shiva carries rich historical associations with the Chola dynasty, which flourished during the 9th to the 11th centuries AD. The Cholas, renowned for their generous patronage of art and culture, left a lasting legacy through the construction of elaborate Shiva temples, with the iconic Brihadeeswara Temple being a notable example.


Chola Art and Culture


  • Prosperous Civilization: During the height of its power, the Chola empire thrived as a prosperous and culturally affluent civilization in Southern India.
  • Flourishing Art and Architecture: The Cholas made significant contributions to the realm of art and architecture, marked by the creation of intricate sculptures and other artistic endeavors that experienced a flourishing period during this era.


Evolution of the Nataraja Form


  • Origins of the Nataraja Depiction: The portrayal of Lord Shiva as Nataraja, or the ‘Lord of Dance,’ began to emerge in sculptural art around the 5th century AD.
  • Chola Era Iconography: It was during the Chola dynasty’s rule that the Nataraja form of Shiva achieved iconic status, particularly through the creation of bronze sculptures.


Shiva’s Multifaceted Identity


  • Diverse Attributes: Shiva, a central deity in Hinduism, embodies a multifaceted identity encompassing various attributes and roles.
  • Destroyer and Ascetic: He is revered both as a destroyer, known as Mahakala, and as a great ascetic. Additionally, he serves as the patron of ascetics.
  • Nataraja – The ‘Lord of Dance’: In the form of Nataraja, Shiva is celebrated as the ‘Lord of Dance.’ He is attributed with the creation of 108 distinct dances, each symbolizing various facets of existence.


Overview of Shiva’s Nataraja Form


  • Iconography: Nataraja is commonly represented as a four-armed deity, poised in a dance posture upon a circular platform symbolizing the universe.
    • His upper right hand holds the damaru (a small drum), signifying the rhythm of creation.
    • The upper left hand bears fire or a flame, symbolizing destruction and transformation.
    • The lower right hand is positioned in the abhaya mudra, symbolizing fearlessness.
    • The lower left hand points toward the raised left foot, symbolizing liberation.


  • Cosmic Dance: Shiva’s dance embodies the cosmic cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction (Srishti, Sthiti, and Samhara). It also signifies the passage of time, from creation to dissolution, with the rhythm of the dance representing the heartbeat of the universe.


  • Apasmara: Beneath Shiva’s right foot, a demon-like figure called Apasmara Purusha or Muyalaka represents ignorance and illusion. Shiva’s act of crushing this demon signifies the triumph of knowledge and wisdom over ignorance.


  • Tandava and Lasya: Nataraja’s dance can be categorized into two forms: Tandava, representing destruction and power, and Lasya, symbolizing creation and grace.


  • Cultural Significance: The Nataraja form holds not only religious significance but also serves as a prominent motif in Indian art and culture. It has inspired numerous sculptures, paintings, and dance forms like Bharatanatyam. The Chidambaram Nataraja Temple in Tamil Nadu, India, is a renowned shrine dedicated to Lord Nataraja.


  • Philosophical Interpretation: Nataraja’s dance is often interpreted as a representation of the concept of Advaita (nondualism), where the apparent duality of the universe is considered an illusion, and everything is seen as a manifestation of the same divine essence.


  • Spiritual Significance: Devotees of Shiva regard the Nataraja form as a source of inspiration for their spiritual journey, reminding them of the transient nature of the material world and the necessity to seek inner transformation and realization.


  • Symbolism of Nataraja: Nataraja’s dance symbolizes the equilibrium between opposing forces such as creation and destruction, chaos and order, birth and death. It represents the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth and signifies the ultimate goal of life – liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death.


  • The Lost Wax Method: The creation of the Nataraja statue adhered to the traditional ‘lost-wax’ casting method, an ancient technique that dates back over 6,000 years. This method involves creating a wax model, covering it with a special soil paste, drying it, heating it to melt away the wax, and then pouring molten metal into the mold to craft the sculpture.


  • Artistic Heritage: The sculptors responsible for crafting the Nataraja statue can trace their lineage back 34 generations to the Chola period, preserving ancient artistic techniques. The project, entailing the creation of such a monumental statue, spanned seven months and incurred a cost of approximately Rs 10 crore.

SOURCE:The Lord of Dance: History and symbolism of Shiva’s Nataraja form | Explained News – The Indian Express


Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Nataraja:


  1. The Nataraja sculpture is predominantly associated with the Chola dynasty.
  2. The Nataraja dance represents the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? 

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2




Q.2 Regarding the Nataraja statue featured at the G20 venue, consider the following statements:

  1. The Nataraja statue is made from Bronze.
  2. Radhakrishnan Sthapaty is behind this remarkable creation.

Which of the statements above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2




Q.3 Explore the historical importance and religious symbolism embedded in Lord Shiva’s Nataraja form. Analyze the pivotal role played by the Chola dynasty in advancing the evolution of the Nataraja sculpture

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