Dancing Diety Essay

This essay has a total of 1050 words and 5 pages.

Dancing Diety



For a long time I have had a vast interest in a small sculpture located in my parentís
entryway. This sculpture is a figure with four arms, stands on one leg atop what appears
to be a baby, and wears a funny looking headdress of some sort. For years Iíve wondered
why this little man had four arms, stood in such an uncomfortable-looking fashion, and
what meaning he has. Finally, my wonder has turned to insight, as a course I took in
college, Art History, has suddenly shown me the light.

The first real picture that I saw of this funny little guy, Nataraja, was in our textbook
where I learned he is a god adopted by the ancient Indian imperial Cholas. We were then
assigned a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts where I had my first look at an
original sculpture of the dancing god. The piece is named Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the
Dance). It is an archetypal sculpture made in the late tenth century by an unknown artist
and was found in a temple near Pondicherry, India. The sculpture my parents have is a
cast metal one with a very dull gray luster, about six inches high. You can tell with
close examination that this was most likely one of many made from the same cast and sold
as a souvenir type item. The one at the museum was quite different as it is made from
bronze with a much smoother appearance and stands about twenty-eight inches high.
Aligning the nose, naval, and weight bearing foot, the central axis of the figure
maintains his center of balance and equilibrium, while his arms extend asymmetrically to
each side. The smaller figure at my parentís is much more flat, and looks as if he is
struggling to stand on his one leg. The one at the museum is much more three-dimensional,
and looks much more relaxed.

At first glance of this graceful dancing deity, my first reaction was one of awe. The
fact that the piece is very old and is still fully intact is amazing in itself. Also, I
didnít think a real sculpture of the one in my parentís house would be so large, standing
more than two feet high. The Shiva has a very calm expression on his face, with a quaint
smile, which gives the feeling of invitation, almost like he wants you to partake in the
dance with him, which is exactly what I did. He is balanced on his bent right leg, with
his left leg up and bent over his right leg, extended into the air with his foot pointed
outward in the same direction. He has two right arms and two left arms. One of his right
arms is bent, extended outward to his right and holds a small object which looks like a
drinking cup, (itís actually a drum). The other is extending out to the right and then to
his front as if he is attempting to give a ďhigh fiveĒ. One of his left arms is bent and
extending outward to his left, his palm cupped and facing upward holding what appears to
be a flame. The other is extending to his right, across his body, with his hand pointed
downward toward his left foot. I may have looked funny standing there mimicking his
stance, but the invitational gesture was too hard to resist.

Atop his head is a headdress, which has a tall feathery-looking top and what looks almost
like seven stiffened hair locks protruding from each side. There are flowers at the end
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