Admired for the sensuous depiction of the figure and the detailed treatment of their clothing and jewelry, Chola-period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique, commonly known by its French name, cire perdue. Because each sculpture made in this fashion requires a separate wax model, each is unique, but because they are religious icons, Chola-period sculptures also conform to well-established iconographic conventions.
In addition to representations of Shiva and members of his family, other prominent Hindu deities are depicted in Chola-period bronzes. As it is assumed that each individual is at a different point of spiritual development, Hinduism accepts that each will pursue her or his religious life in the most appropriate manner, and most Hindus venerate several deities, choosing gods or aspects of gods that are appropriate to different situations and life passages. Moreover, Hinduism can be broadly categorized into three branches, each of which is focused on one of three major deities: Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi.
According to Hindu beliefs, Vishnu descends to earth in different manifestations known as avatars in order to save the world and restore the balance of the universe. Vishnu appears in several guises, including a man-lion, a giant boar, and the gods Krishna and Rama. Dating to the 11th century, this striking sculpture of Rama was once part of a larger group of images representing the principal characters in the great Indian Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana. Loosely based on events in early Indian history, the Ramayana tells the story of Rama's life, the abduction of his wife Sita by the evil demon-king Ravanna, and her rescue by Rama and Hanuman, the beloved king of the monkeys.
This figure can be identified as Rama by his high crown, the position of his hands, which indicates that he once held a bow and arrow, and details of his jewelry and hairstyle that help to differentiate him from other divinities. In addition to this sculpture of Rama, the set would have included images of Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman.