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.
As devout Hindus, the Cholas revered Shiva as their tutelary deity. Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayan Mountains, is worshipped as both Shivaâ??s wife and as an independent deity. She is identified by her conical crown with mountainlike tiers (karandamukuta) and by the distinctive â??flower-holding gestureâ?? of her right hand. The goddess stands in a triple-bend (tribhanga) pose with a pronounced sway. Her long garment clings to her legs in a stylized fashion.
The gestures and posture suggest that this sculpture was once part of a set of images in which Parvati accompanied Shiva in one of his manifestations. Sculptures of a goddess standing in this posture often represent Parvati with Shiva as Lord of the Dance, or Shiva Nataraja. Parvati is one of the few beings privileged to have watched Shiva perform the dance of bliss, and, despite the fact that most pairs of this type have been separated, an attendant statue of Parvati is an integral part of the Shiva Nataraja imagery. Such sculptures of Parvati show her with her left hip thrust out and her left hand down, and it appears these sculptures were placed to the left side of the god.
Parvati, the Great Goddess, was often the subject of devotional hymns. Praises in poems reflected her depiction in the visual arts: Banded with a tinkling girdle, heavy with breasts like the frontal lobes of young elephants./ slender of waist, with face like the full moon of autumn.../ let there be seated before us the pride of him [Shiva] who shook the cities...