“This is the Lord of Dance. His gestures and attributes represent three phases - creation, sustenance and destruction. His movements are rhythmic, his poise perfect..,” the guide tries to attract the attention of the visitors to Nataraja, a finely modelled bronze item prominently shown at the Salarjung Museum’s South Indian bronzes section.
It is important that those visiting the South Indian arts section see the dancing Siva, for is it not the symbol of South Indian arts? As an embodiment of universe, Nataraja is widely worshipped.
More still, as a perfect piece of art, Nataraja is peerless, for in the words of Coomaraswamy, the savant of South Indian arts “Nataraja is one of the greatest creations of Indian art.”
The perfect representation of the Nataraja exhibit has earned the admiration of renowned sculptors including the French man Rodin (1840-1917).
An excellently crafted piece of the metal beater’s art, the Museum’s Nataraja, encircled in a halo of flames, performs the magic dance in a majestic manner. The drum in his upper hand beats out cosmic sound. The flame in the upper left hand signifies divine fire. The left leg swings to the rhythm of dance.
Wriggling underneath his dancing feet is ‘Apasmarapurusha’, the symbol of evil; hissing forth the illusion is the snake coiled around his forearm.
The Lord with the fleshy cheeks, pointed stare, straight nose, elaborate drapery, matted locks, comes from the 14th century Vijayanagara period.
The prolific production of the best bronzes took place during the Chola period (10th to 13th centuries). The kings of the Vijayanagara period (14th to 16th centuries AD) also encouraged the metal worker’s art. Their feudatories - the Nayaka rulers - extended patronage to the craft. After 17th century this metal craft seems to have declined.
Dep. Keeper (Retd)