Shiva Historical Context
No Indian art, painting, sculpture or architecture was created aimlessly or accidentally. Even the smallest piece of leaflet has its own spiritual content.
Most of the time spiritual content was reached by showing sculptures in movement. The same could be said about sculptures of Indian Gods or Goddesses. Every God does something that has a deep cosmic symbolism. Especially, it can be said about Shiva Nataraja or God of Dance. The term Nataraja means the representation of Shiva during the performance of his “dance of furious bills”.Shiva Nataraja is depicted in a pose called “tribhanga”. Tribhanga is the dance that is commonly used in the traditional India culture and art.
Comparing to the contrapposto pose, Tribhanga means break of a body in three parts; at the “neck, waist and knee” (Purana 2006). Shiva Nataraja is a large statue depicted out of bronze. His body is idealized without any fatness and no scars or marks are presented. The sculpture was done in a non-stop movement as his hands reaching towards the space. Shiva’s face is idealized and naturalized.It is smooth, handsome face without any blemishes or scars, and it is also natural because it resembles human face. Shiva’s nose is perfectly shaped and eyebrows are perfectly elliptical and symmetrical.
The early traditions of Indian culture used a special position of hands called mudra. The two lower hands are posed in a mudra, with both arms reaching to Shiva’s right and both hands are cupped. Mudra would usually be used to carry religious symbolism. In this particular sculpture it is used to show Shiva’s numerous characteristics as a high deity.