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 in his role as Lord of the Dance, or Shiva Nataraja. Under Chola patronage the concept of Shiva Nataraja became closely associated with the performance of one particular dance, the dance of bliss (or ananda tandava), and with one particular pose--a four-armed Shiva standing on the back of a dwarf with his left leg poised in front of his body. The image of Shiva shown here illustrates the complexity and sophistication of this icon. The positions of Shiva's hands, the objects he holds, and the ornaments he wears are intended to explain the significance of his dance and narrate the events surrounding his performance.
It is believed that Shiva first performed the dance of bliss in order to redeem a group of sages who were practicing an unorthodox form of Hinduism. In an attempt to resist Shiva, the sages challenged him with a