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A Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance) - c.1900

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

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Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja

A Carved Ivory Figure of Shiva Nataraja
(Lord of the Dance) - c.1900


The intricate carving with Shiva shown performing the dance of destruction and recreation of the universe on the back of the prostrate dwarf goblin.

His matted hair, in a chignon on top and flowing down over his back, supporting a stylised flaming body halo (prabhamandala).

His upper two hands hold a drum (damaru) and fire (agni).

His lower hands in gyan mudra (right hand) and gaja hasta (left hand).

Around his neck, arms and legs are several cobras, with a further cobra being clasped by the dwarf goblin.

All set on a raised hardwood plinth.


Super quality carving with much liveliness and movement.


Excellent condition

6 3/4" ( 17.1 cm ) including base



The symbolism of this iconic figure derives from Shiva's dance performed at the centre of the universe, in the golden hall of Chidambaram.

The sages living there had spent their lives studying the cosmos, seeking the supreme truth. But as time passed their sense of self-importance and pride overtook and deluded them.

Shiva, in order to teach them a lesson, appeared in the form of a hermit and seduced the sages and their wives.

He then became a target of the sages wrath, who having considered him a temptation, set about to destroy him.

Using their magic powers they created a serpent, a tiger and a dwarf goblin and set them upon Shiva. Shiva responded by skinning the tiger alive, wearing the serpent around his neck and jumping on the dwarf goblin and started dancing on his back.

The sages saw that in doing these feats Shiva had, in fact, flayed the tiger of their ambition, tamed the serpent of their passion and crushed the goblin of their ego.

He thus imparted the lesson that through belief in him, the soul can be transported from the bondage of illusion and ignorance to salvation and eternal serenity.

Shiva's dance of ecstasy captures the cosmic cycle of generation, organization and destruction. Or in other words, the rhythm of life.

It encapsulates the essence of cosmic truth.

The flaming body halo (prabhamandala) encircling Shiva (on this figure very much stylised) represents both the great wheel of samsara, filled with the infinite cycle of births and rebirths and also symbolizes the boundaries of the cosmos.

Through this act he became to be known as
Shiva Nataraja the Lord of Dance.




Item no; I-250309-333-2
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© Copyright; Richard Willsher Antique Asian Art 2011

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