Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

Overall: 113 x 102 x 30 cm (44 1/2 x 40 3/16 x 11 13/16 in.); Base: 35 x 24 cm (13 3/4 x 9 7/16 in.)
Weight: 116.573 kg (257 lbs.)
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

The trampled figure holds a serpent in his left hand and with his right points up to Shiva.


One of the most celebrated sculptural forms in the history of Indian art, this elegant and dynamic figure embodies some of Hinduism’s most fundamental tenets. According to Hindu thought, time is cyclical; the world is created, maintained, preserved for a time, then destroyed, only to be created again an infinite number of times. For those Hindus who view Shiva to be the all-powerful creator divinity, he is responsible for both creation and destruction. The ring of fire and the tongue of flame he holds in his left hand refer to destruction, and the drum in his raised right hand refers to the relentless beat of time as it moves inevitably forward. His lower right hand, held up with the palm facing out, signals to his devotees not to be afraid of the impending destruction; they can be liberated from the cycles of birth and death through devotion to him, which he indicates by pointing to his upraised foot. With every step in his dance, he lands on a dwarfish figure personifying ignorance.
Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance


South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola period (900-1200s)


The Lord of the Dance

Chola Bronzes

Cultural Context

Indian Dance

What's the Story?

Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.