The Nataraja Statue at the G20 Venue: A Marvel of Ashtadhatu Craftsmanship and Divine Symbolism

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This article by Chaitali Basu

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सदञ्चित मुदञ्चित निकुञ्चित पदं झलझलञ्चलित मञ्जु कटकम.ह

पतञ्जलि दृगञ्जन मनञ्जन मचञ्चलपदं जनन भञ्जन करम.ह ।

कदम्बरुचिमम्बरवसं परमम्बुद कदम्ब कविडम्बक कगलम.ह

चिदम्बुधि मणिं बुध हृदम्बुज रविं पर चिदम्बर नटं हृदि भज ॥


I humbly pray to the great dancer Shiva, who resides in the sacred city of Chidambaram. Hara (the destroyer) shattered the three towns (of the demon Tripura). His ardent devotees revere him. He had elevated one bent foot while dancing. His beautiful bracelets are placed in motion by dance moves, making a jingling sound. He is like balm to Patanjali's eyes, whose application clears the eyesight for acquiring knowledge. He is, nonetheless, devoid of any pollution. He breaks the cycle of birth and death. He possesses the beauty of the Kadamba tree and wears the sky as clothing. His neck is as black as the many gloomy clouds. His neck is as black as the many grey clouds. He is the pearl amid the ocean of consciousness. He is the Sun blooming the lotus heart of intelligent people.


Nataraja, Shiva as Nat or performance, and Raja, or king of dancers, is adored zealously in India and worldwide. Shiva has been a symbol of knowledge and meditation for centuries as the cosmic dancer and destroyer of the Apasamara, or dwarf of darkness. However, this picture as a work of art was more prominent in the early twentieth century. This form of Shiva was depicted in A. K. Coomarsawamy's expressive essay "The Dance of Siva" in 1912. Following that, the entire world became aware of the spiritual and aesthetic vision of Shiva performing the Anandatandava.

This specific image of Shiva became connected with dancing academies; practically every dance theatre had a Nataraja statue at the entrance. It has been customary to pay homage to this monument before beginning any task involving the performing arts.

To keep this tradition alive and to showcase India as a beacon of wisdom and enlightenment, the current G20 summit was graced with Nataraja, the tallest statue of Natya Shromani. The Nataraja statue, created by skilled artisans from Swamimalai, a little hamlet on the banks of the river Kaveri, is a tribute to the history of bronze sculpture that has been fostered in the womb of this small town in Tami Nadu for centuries. Swamimalai bronze statues are the most authentic Chola bronze sculptures available. The Nataraja statue is not just a symbol of wisdom but also emancipation.

The Anandatandava that he performs is a type of rapture that can only be attained by letting go of worldly concerns. Another motivation for erecting the monument at the entrance to the Bharat Mandap was to remind the world that only knowledge can keep the planet in balance. The Narataja is the most appropriate symbol for the panchakritya, which includes shrishti, creation or evolution, sthiti, preservation or continued maintenance, samhara, destruction or involution, tirobhava, veiling, illusion or incarnation, and anuraga, release or salvation of the supreme immanent power.

A testament to the marriage between form and substance, the Nataraja statue, an Ashtadhatu alloy creation, looms large as a symbol of transcendence. Transcending time and space, this incredible artwork captures the minds of those who behold it within the G20 location. This article sheds light on the significance and historical context of the Nataraja statue by examining relevant literature.


I. Significance of Ashtadhatu idol

The Nataraja idol in Bharat Mandapam is an Ashtadhatu figure. It is known as the octo-alloy or a combination of eight metals in metallurgical terminology: gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, tin, iron, and mercury. These metals are meticulously mixed in precise quantities using old metallurgical procedures passed through centuries. Ashtadhatu was not chosen randomly; it is symbolic in Hindu culture.

One of the primary reasons Ashtadhatu is utilized to create sacred sculptures such as Nataraja's idol is its capacity to conduct and retain cosmic energy. This energy is said to augment the model's spiritual aura and vibrational frequencies, transforming it into a strong image of the divine. Ashtadhatu represents the eight cardinal qualities: knowledge, bravery, moderation, justice, love, compassion, serenity, and truth. Ashtadhatu is also nonmagnetic and does not corrode in the presence of other elements.

As a result, Ashtadhatu is used as a building material for sculptures to give them a longer life span rather than making them imperishable against natural forces. Ashtadhatus are also utilized to make ceremonial artifacts and Shri Yantras because of their many characteristics. The statue of Lord Hanuman, which is 72 feet tall and was completed in Madhya Pradesh's Indore and placed in the year 2000, is an example of Ashtadhatus utilized for building excellent statues.


II. Why the Nataraja Statue Matters.


The image of Lord Shiva vanquishing the Apasamara is symbolic of liberation from ignorance or darkness. The idea of the statue is a message that inspires the human race to look for knowledge and avoid getting caught up in unintellectual activities. The figure of Nataraja carries deep symbolism with significant icons.

The third eye on Lord Nataraja’s forehead symbolizes his activity in the metaphysical, spiritual world and represents the power of knowledge. The log-matted locks flowing without any hindrance are the destroyers, hence the primordial forces for creation. The image of Goddess Ganga sitting on those locks signifies Shiva's dedication to preserving humankind by controlling the river's power in his locks. On the other side, Chandra represents his role as the preserver and re-narrates how he saved Chandra from the curse of Daksha by providing Soma. The Damru in the upper right arm symbolizes sound and ether. The upper left hand of Shiva holding the Pralayagni signifies the destruction of the world during utter dissolution. The snake coiled around his lower right arm (in Varada Mudra) symbolizes reincarnation, thus making Lord Shiva the controller of life and death. The lower left hand depicts the Gaja hasta mudra or posture. His uplifted left foot grants eternal bliss to those who approach him. The other foot treads firmly upon the dwarf of ignorance, allowing the birth of knowledge. He stands on the Apasmara, whom he has killed; in this role, he is called Natesa.  Apasmara, the dwarf demon, represents the ignorance of teaching that all opposites (good and evil) are false. Finally, the circle of fire represents the cosmos and especially consciousness.

Dynamic and graceful, the dance of Lord Shiva represents an intricate balance between creation and destruction. The Nataraja statue epitomizes Cosmic Balance, Liberation, and Apocalyptic Power.


III. Historical Context


The appearance of the magnificent form of Nataraja traces back to the 9th to 13th century CE when the Chola dynasty ruled South India. The Cholas were known to be ardent followers of art, culture, and religion and patronized some essential art forms. To show their reverence towards their favorite deities and preserve the artists, they commissioned many magnificent temples and statues. The Nataraja statue is one of such art. The Tanjavur Nataraja is found in the 11th-century Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, and is one of the most celebrated Nataraja statues commissioned by the Cholas.  Lord Shiva's four arms, the cosmic circle, and the dwarf demon crushed underfoot are just some of the intricate details that have made this sculpture famous.


At the G20 venue, the Nataraja statue stands as evidence of India's lasting cultural and spiritual legacy. Generations of artisans have infused their expertise into this creation by utilizing the divine Ashtadhatu alloy. A symbol representing Lord Shiva's celestial performance, the statue encompasses comprehensive teachings about spirituality and philosophy; this symbol holds excellent importance.

This marvelous work brings to mind the cultural heritage of Chola royalty, supporting the fine arts and the timeless attraction of Lord Shiva dancing. Through transcending time and place, the Nataraja statue calls for reflection upon the universal rhythms of birth and being. The figure stands tall as a significant step towards the vision of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbaka” or the "One Earth, One Family, One Future,"


V. References and Books

  1. Sivaramamurti, C. 1994. Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature. N.p.: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  2. Dehejia, Vidya, and Richard H. Davis. 2002. The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India. N.p.: American Federation of Arts.
  3. The Dance of Shiva : Fourteen Indian Essays : Coomaraswamy, Ananda K. (Ananda Kentish), 1877-1947 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, January 1, 1970. 
  4. Chidambaram Nataraja Temple
  5. Pimenta, Sherline. n.d. “D'source Nataraja | Iconography in Hinduism | D'Source Digital Online Learning Environment for Design: Courses, Resources, Case Studies, Galleries, Videos.” D'source. Accessed September 14, 2023. 
  6. n.d. Siva.html. Accessed September 14, 2023. Shiva As Nataraja - The Lord of Dance
  7. G20 Nataraja statue created by master craftsmen from Tamil Nadu



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