Nataraja (Siva Devale No. 5), Polonnaruwa Museum

Nataraja (Siva Devale 5)

A bronze representing Nataraja in his cosmic dance is presently on display at Polonnaruwa Museum, Sri Lanka. It was discovered in the precinct of Siva Devale No. 5 in the Polonnaruwa Ancient City (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). This statue is considered the largest specimen of Siva bronzes found in the country (Krishnarajah, 1983).

The Bronze

The copper bronze is 139.5 cm in height and depicts the divine dancer Nataraja, a form of the Hindu god Siva (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). 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. The backhands hold a kettle drum (Mrdanga) and a flame, the symbols of creation and destruction while the front right hand is in Abhaya Mudra (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). A cobra with five heads is found entwined on the right hand (Krishnarajah, 1983). The garment consists only of a short loincloth, tied up with a series of bejewelled belts (Chutiwongs et al, 2013). The head is adorned with a high-piled Jatamakuta (Chutiwongs et al, 2013).

The god is encircled with a horse-shoe-shaped Prabhamandala (Tiruvasi) arising from the mouths of two small Makaras (dragons) on either side. The Tiruvasi is decorated with stars in the inner band and flames of fire on the outer band (Krishnarajah, 1983). The lotus pedestal on which Siva stands is rectangular in shape and on the front of it are five friezes of musicians [a woman beating a pair of cymbals (Karaikkal Ammaiyar ?), a conch player, a flute player, a cymbalist] with musical instruments (Krishnarajah, 1983). The faces of the musicians can be compared to the similar sculptures found at Polonnaruwa Vatadage (Krishnarajah, 1983).

Scholars have dated this statue to the 12th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al, 2013).


1) 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.58-59.
2) 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.33-34.

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This page was last updated on 13 December 2022

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