Shiva as Nataraja

Item Code: ZBB01
White Cedar Wood from Trivandrum (Kerala)
Height: 25 inch
Width: 16 inch
Depth: 7 inch
Weight: 5.30 kg
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Shipped to 153 countries
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This brilliant piece of art, the four-armed image of Lord Shiva representing him as dancing is known in India’s iconographic tradition as Nataraja. The supreme performer, and hence named Nataraja – the king of performers, Shiva danced both to delight and beauty as also to dissolve and destroy, the later being ‘tandava’ or ‘ananda-tandava’, the dance of dissolution, that he performs at the end of the Creation with which it dissolves. The Shaivite philosophers contend that dissolution is only an aspect of creation inherent in all things that compose and then decompose and the process is incessant. Everything, its creation and dissolution, is Shiva’s material manifestation, and the process from creation to dissolution, his dance – his act by which he creates and dissolves.

Outstanding in fine details and breathing a kind of divinity the statue, though from Kerala, reveals the same classicism as reveal the classical Mysore’s sandal wood-carvings. It represents Lord Shiva as engaged in dance – ‘tandava’, fully absorbed though dispassionate and with a gentle smile on his lips, besides absolute calm and divinity bursting out of his entire being. The composition of the image is in exact adherence to the iconographic norms related to Nataraja form in prevalence since ages. It consists of four essential components – the ‘pitha’ or pedestal, Apasmarapurusha or inertness incarnate – the root of decay and dissolution, ‘prabhavali’ or fire-arch, and the figure of dancing Shiva enshrining it. In addition to these four usual components the statue has a floral medallion raised over the ‘pitha’ for supporting the fire-arch on it, and a six-hooded serpent head defining the apex of the ‘prabhavali’ besides canopying Shiva’s head. This six-hooded serpent head substitutes the ‘kirttimukha’ motif often used for defining the apex of fire-arch in many Nataraja statues.

This floral medallion connecting the ‘pitha’ and fire-arch apart, the craftsman has discovered in Shiva’s own figure, in his waves like unfurling locks, upper right and left arms, head and seating posture, the structural unity of the statue. These locks, arms, posture of seating or head hold his figure along the fire-arch. In Shaivite iconography fire-arch is the symbolic representation of the cosmos. In such analogy the artist has further expanded this Creation-related mystique. Besides conceiving his image as pervading the fire-arch which in his analogy is cosmos, he seems to seek in Shiva also the unity of the cosmos. Apart, on the top of the fire-arch is the six-hooded serpent symbolic of long life and wellness, and on the bottom, inertness, symbolic of death and decay and Shiva stands in the centre balancing the opposites. By the waves-like unfurling locks of hair the ultimate ‘Mind’ that is Shiva, Shiva infuses light and energy into ‘prabhavali’, the cosmos, and except towards its bottom where inertness reigns this cosmos bursts with flames.  

The image of Lord Shiva, with his right leg placed on the figure of Apasmarapurusha, and left, turned to right and shot into space, pervades the fire-arch. A larger ring composed of floral arabesques the fire-arch has been fixed on a smaller similarly composed medallion which serves as the junction between the fire-arch and the base, the ‘pitha’ or pedestal. On its upper side this medallion holds the fire-arch while it itself is raised over a two-tiered lotus-base. There enshrines on Shiva’s face a divine bearing and ecstasy in his entire being – the body and mind, though not any kind of agitation. The moves of all four arms have been attuned to moves of dance, its rhythm, fervour and overall spirit, but each also has its own role and meaning. In his upper right hand Lord Shiva is carrying a double drum – his instrument with which he regulates cosmic sound; in the upper left he carries the flame of fire with which he enlivens matter and creates life; the lower right hand reveals the gesture of ’abhaya’ – redemption from fear, and the lower left, the gesture of dissolution – cessation. Excellent anatomical proportions, well-defined features, elaborate ornamentation with a gorgeous tall crown alternating 'jatamukuta', define the image of the great Lord. Interestingly, Lord Shiva does not have on his forehead the Shaivite ‘tri--punda’ mark but instead the mark of Vaishnava ‘tilaka’, perhaps for emphasizing that the two sectarian lines are not two branches but currents of the same stream.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

Sculpting Serenity: Unveiling the Art of Crafting Wood Statues

Wood has been a preferred material for sculptures and statues since ancient times. It is easy to work with than most metals and stones and therefore requires less effort to shape it into any desired shape or form. The texture of the wood gives an element of realism to the sculpture. The selection of an appropriate wood type is necessary for carving. Woods that are too resinous or coniferous are not considered good for carving as their fiber is very soft and thus lacks strength. On the other hand, wood such as Mahogany, Oakwood, Walnut wood, Weet cherry wood, etc., are preferred by sculptors because their fiber is harder. A wood sculptor uses various tools such as a pointed chisel in one hand and a mallet in another to bring the wood to the desired measurement and to make intricate details on it. A carving knife is used to cut and smooth the wood. Other tools such as the gouge, V-tool, and coping saw also serve as important tools in wood carving. Although the wood carving technique is not as complex and tough as stone carving or metal sculpting, nonetheless, a wood carver requires a high level of skills and expertise to create a stunning sculpture.

1. Selecting the right wood

The process of wood carving begins with selecting a chunk of wood that is required according to the type and shape of the statue to be created by the sculptor. Both hardwoods and softwoods are used for making artistic pieces, however, hardwoods are preferred more than softer woods because of their durability and longevity. But if heavy detailing is to be done on the statue, wood with fine grain would be needed as it would be difficult to work with hardwood.

2. Shaping the wood

Once the wood type is selected, the wood carver begins the general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. A gouge is a tool having a curved cutting edge which is useful in removing large unwanted portions of wood easily without splitting the wood. The sculptor always carves the wood across the grain of the wood and not against it.

3. Adding detailing

When a refined shape of the statue is obtained, it is time for making details on the statue using different tools. This is achieved by using tools such as a veiner to make and a V-tool to create decorative and sharp cuts.

4. Surface finishing

Once finer details have been added, the sculptor is ready to smoothen the surface and give it a perfect finish. Tools such as rasps and rifflers are used to get a smooth surface. The finer polishing is obtained by rubbing the surface with sandpaper. If a textured surface is required, this step is skipped. Finally, to protect the statue from excessive dirt accumulation, the sculptor applies natural oils such as walnut or linseed oil all over it. This also brings a natural sheen to the statue.

How to care for Wood Statues?

Wood is extensively used in sculpting especially in countries like China, Germany, and Japan. One feature that makes the wood extremely suitable for making statues and sculptures is that it is light and can take very fine detail. It is easier for artists to work with wood than with other materials such as metal or stone. Both hardwoods, as well as softwood, are used for making sculptures. Wood is mainly used for indoor sculptures because it is not as durable as stone. Changes in weather cause wooden sculptures to split or be attacked by insects or fungus. The principal woods for making sculptures and statues are cedar, pine, walnut, oak, and mahogany. The most common technique that sculptors use to make sculptures out of wood is carving with a chisel and a mallet. Since wooden statues are prone to damage, fire, and rot, they require proper care and maintenance.


  • Wood tends to expand and contract even after it has been processed, thus it is always recommended to keep the wooden sculptures in rooms with little humidity. Excess moisture can harm your masterpiece.


  • Periodical dusting of the finished piece is necessary to maintain its beauty as dust accumulation on the surface takes away the shine of the sculpture. You can use a clean and soft cloth or a hairbrush for this purpose.


  • You must avoid applying any chemical-based solutions that may damage the wood from the inside. Instead, you can apply lemon oil or coconut oil using a cotton rag to the sculpture to bring out its natural shine. Lemon oil also helps to clean any stains on the sculpture.


  • Applying a layer of beeswax protects the wood from sun damage and hides even the smallest imperfections on the wood.


It is extremely important to preserve and protect wooden sculptures with proper care. A little carelessness and negligence can lead to their decay, resulting in losing all their beauty and strength. Therefore, a regular clean-up of the sculptures is a must to prolong their age and to maintain their shine and luster. 

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