A 28-feet Nataraja statue, believed to be the world’s tallest such idol, meant to be placed in front of the venue of the G20 Leaders’ Summit scheduled to be held next month in New Delhi, was sent by road on Friday, August 25, 2023 from Swamimalai, a small town in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district, known for its bronze sculptures.
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The statue, weighing 19 tonnes, and made of eight metals: gold, silver, lead, copper, tin, mercury, iron and zinc (Ashtadhatu), is on its way to the Bharat Mandapam, Pragati Maidan, where the Summit is scheduled to be held on September 9 and 10. .
“Today (Friday, August 25, 2023), we packed and sent the unpolished statue by road to Delhi. The pedestal of the statue will be sent separately. Polishing, and final touches to the statue, will be done in Delhi,” said Srikanta Stapathi of Swamimalai, who along with his brothers Radhakrishna Stapathi and Swaminatha Stapathi, made the statue. The three are the sons of the renowned sculptor Devasenapathy Stapathi.
The statue is 22 feet in height, and the pedestal is six feet, making the entire structure 28 feet tall. “We have followed the model of Chidambaram, Konerirajapuram and other Natarajas of the Chola period in making this statue,” said Mr. Srikanta Stapathi. Sculptors Sadasivam, Gowrisankar, Santosh Kumar and Raghavan were also involved in the project.
Sculptors follow the ‘lost-wax’ casting method to make these statues: the 28-ft Nataraja was also made following this method. This is a time-tested method, used since the days of the Cholas. Sculptors first make a wax model and encase it in clay. “The clay, known as alluvial soil, is available on a stretch of the Cauvery river that runs through Swamimalai,” Mr. Srikanta Stapathi explained.
After allowing the clay to dry, the whole mass is heated to drain away the melted wax. “The space left by the melted wax is filled with molten bronze. After allowing it to cool, we break the mold and chisel the statue to perfection,” he said.
The order for the statue was placed by Union Culture Ministry on February 20, 2023 and it took six months to complete the work. “We could have completed it earlier, but for the rains. The polishing was also delayed because of rains,” Mr. Srikanta Stapathi said. The cost of the statue is around ₹10 crore.
The statue was handed over by the sculptors to Achal Pandya, professor and H0D (Conservation), Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, who will accompany it to New Delhi”
The statue, representing Lord Shiva (Nataraja) dancing, is known as one of the outstanding creations of Tamil culture. Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was keen on a a Nataraja statue adorning the venue of the G20 summit.
A letter from Govind Mohan, Secretary, Union Ministry of Culture, to Tamil Nadu DGP Shankar Jiwal had indicated the routes through which the statue will travel to New Delhi. It will travel through Ulundurpet, Salem, Krishnagiri and Hosur in Tamil Nadu, before reaching Karnataka. Through Hoskote, Devanahalli, Karnool, Adilabad, Nagpur, Seoni, Sagar, Lalitpur, Gwalior, and Agra, it will finally get to Delhi.
Chola bronzes are unique, and occupy a prestigious place in the art world for their beauty and craftsmanship.