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Shiva's Dance in Stone:
Ananda Tandava, Bhujangalalita, Bhujangatrasa

Fig. 7: Shiva Nataraja with his consort Shivakamasundari in the Atmanathaswami temple in Avudayarkoil
Stone, probably granite
Avudaiyarkoil, Tamil Nadu, India
Date unknown
120 centimeter, excluding the pedestal (approximately)

30 December 2010 by Liesbeth Pankaja Bennink, Kandhan Raja Deekshithar, Jayakumar Raja Deekshithar, Shankar Raja Deekshithar.

The shrine of the Nataraja is found in the North-East corner of the main prakara and faces south in the general alignment of the temple. It is situated on the raised platform of the veranda of the corridor with a short flight of steps giving access. In this sanctum we find the Nataraja on a plain square pedestal on which a roughly cut irregular stone forms the actual base of the murti. This stone seems to be decorated with what may be nagas (cobras) or abstract figures. The murti may be approximately 1.20 meter in height. Because of the worship with oil ablutions not all details are clearly distinguishable and because of the dress not all of the murti is visible.

The prabha is oval and consists of a broad and round main body and two thin rims. What seem to be a sun and moon are carved at the top. The flames are clearly and individually carved and have five fingers each. The flames from the proper left hand down seem to have a slightly different shape, but this could be an illusion due to oil residue. The prabha appears from what are probably two makara mouths but these are not very clear. The whole background between the figure and the prabha is solid stone. There is no special medallion or illustration at the top of the prabha.

The Apasmara lies with its head to the proper right of the figure with is face turned to the viewers. It has baby-like features and holds what is probably the tail of a large cobra that raises its head towards Nataraja's lifted foot under the cloth.

The earrings are not clearly visible under the oil.

The jata are somewhat falling sideways with ends upturned. There seem to be 7 jata on the left and 8 on the right side of the head. Some more tresses seem to be falling down the shoulders. A moon sickle is visible above the jata on then left. What is probably the figure of goddess Ganga is only partially clear due to the oil. Nataraja's head is crowned with a fan-shaped headdress in which a diminutive skull is positioned in the centre. The top of this fan-shaped headdress touches and slightly covers the prabha. The presence of a datura flower cannot be verified.

The upper right hand holds the tail of a cobra which in turn is wrapped around the damaru or hourglass shaped drum. The flame of the upper left side rests on a small vessel. Under the lower left hand something is visible which can't be identified and which could be another cobra.