The Nataraja - extension of the Trinity

The misconception of this sculpture being a part of the trinity is age old. The assumption is that the preserver as seen in Elephanta is Vishnu when actually, as mentioned earlier its Vamadeva, while the destroyer is Bhairava. Very clearly these are aspects of Lord Shiva himself.

The sculpture has been given another form in the later Chola sculptures. Here of course the three forces of Shiva have been depicted symbolically, there is no human form representing all three forms of Shiva, but instead the feminine form of Vamadeva the creator is replaced by the Damaru - the symbol from which creation issues forth. The other hand carries fire, the symbol of distruction or Bhairava.

Shiva himself in the center is the preserver and this dance of Anandha Tandava depicts reassurance and perservation of all those who seek refuge in him. This is Shiva Nataraja from the Chola period dated bck to the 11 -12th cen AD, Madras Museum.

Courtesy: photo copyright © Madras Museum

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