as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja)
In the Hindu cosmos, time is conceived of as cyclical, rather than linear. The world is created and, after millennia, destroyed, only to be created once again.
Most Hindus believe in divinity that is formless and all-powerful but may manifest itself in many different gods and goddesses in order to help people who need a deity to worship. For purposes of worship, a god can place his or her power in a visible form (for example, a statue). When that power is made manifest in humanized form, such images represent divine reality, rather than likenesses of earthly beings.
The major Hindu deities are Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi (a goddess). The character of the deity Shiva is complex. He is known by many different names and has numerous manifestations. Shiva is worshiped in symbolic form (known as linga) for his progenitive powers. Although he is regarded as the cosmic destroyer, he is also a creator. Among his manifestations are Cosmic Dancer, creator and destroyer of the universe, wandering mendicant, and family man. He is full of paradoxes. He may be auspicious or inauspicious, male or female. He is all of these things, all opposites reconciled.
This sculpture represents Shiva in his role as Lord of Dance performing his "dance of bliss." It is believed that Shiva first performed this dance in order to redeem a group of sages who were practicing an unorthodox form of Hinduism. In an attempt to resist Shiva, they challenged him with three creatures, a tiger, a snake, and a dwarf-demon. Shiva subdued all three. As a result, he often wears a snake belt and an animal-skin loincloth, and he generally stands on the back of a dwarf. The three creatures symbolize the untamed minds, egoism, and ignorance that Shiva had to destroy in order to guide the sages to a more developed spiritual state. After he had subdued the creatures, Shiva began his dance. The power inherent in his furious dance symbolizes his role as the creator-destroyer of the universe. The dance is the catalyst for the destruction of the universe and the creation of a new cosmos.
This image was created in south India during the Chola period (880-1279 B.C.E.), an era of great Hindu piety in that region. The Chola rulers were devoted to Shiva, in particular in his role as the Lord of Dance and they built great temples in his honor. They patronized the arts and were renowned for the sculptures made in their bronze casting workshops.
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Shiva as Lord of the Dance is represented in the following way:
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