Nataraja (Siva Devale No. 1), Colombo Museum

A bronze representing Nataraja in his cosmic dance is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at Colombo National Museum.
Nataraja Siva Devale 1 Colombo Museum

A bronze representing Nataraja in his cosmic dance is presently on display in the Gallery of Polonnaruwa Period at Colombo National Museum, Sri Lanka. It was discovered in the precinct of Siva Devale No. 1 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983).

The Bronze

The copper bronze is 90.4 cm in height and depicts the divine dancer Nataraja, a form of the Hindu god Siva (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). The four-armed god dances balancing his body weight on the right leg, trampling down the dwarfish demon Muyalaka, the symbol of ignorance while the left leg is kept raised and bent Kunchitapada (Krishnarajah, 1983). The backhands hold a drum (or kettle?) and a flame, the symbols of creation and destruction while the front hands are in Varada and Gajahasta Mudras. The long hair spreading in either direction indicates the fall and spread of strands during god's dance. Rows of flowers, a skull, and a crescent are found inserted among the strands. The miniature figure of the divine river Ganga indicates it falling onto the god's head thus reducing her rapid descent from the Himalayas (Arunachalam, 2004). Also, a few cobras coil themselves in between the hairlocks as well as on the wrist. The earrings consist of a Makara pendant and a pearl-studded disk and the body is richly adorned with ornaments. The god is encircled with a complete Prabhamandala (Tiruvasi) arising from the mouths of two Makaras (dragons) established on the lotus pedestal (Coomaraswamy, 1914).

The composition and stylistic features of the bronze indicate its roots linking to the Pandya style of Southeast India (Chutiwongs et al, 2013; Krishnarajah, 1983). Scholars have dated this statue to the 13th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013).


1) Arunachalam, P., 2004. Polonnaruwa bronzes and Siva worship and symbolism. Asian Educational Services. pp.24-28.
2) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2013. Sri Lanka Murthi: Siva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Siva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.60-61.
3) Coomaraswamy, A., 1914. Bronzes from Ceylon, chiefly in the Colombo Museum. Series A. No. 1. Memoirs of the Colombo Museum/Ed. J. PearsonColombo: Horace Hart, Colombo. p.13.
4) Krishnarajah, S., 1983. Saiva Bronzes in Sri Lanka. Dissertation submitted in the partial fulfilment of M.A. degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, India. pp.26-28.

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This page was last updated on 26 November 2023

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