Title:Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance)Artist:Artist UnknownDate:11th centuryCreation Place:Asia, India, Tamil Nadu, Credit Line:Gift of Mrs. E. C. GaleAccession Number:29.2
Shiva, in his form of Nataraja or Lord of the Dance, was adopted by the imperial Cholas as their family deity. For this reason, images of Shiva performing his cosmic dance became widely popular in South India where the Cholas ruled from the early tenth century. The dance symbolizes the five activities of Shiva as the cosmic deity: creator, preserver, destroyer, remover of illusion, and dispenser of grace. The great god tramples the prostrate dwarf Apasmarapurusa, the demon of ignorance. Found in a temple near Pondicherry, the frenzied, destructive force of the cosmic cycle, Shiva's perpetual motion, and the sense of unearthly power are fully expressed in this archetypal sculpture.