About the Cover

Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance, c. 1000s
Cleveland Museum of Art

South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola period (900-1200s)


Overall: 113 x 102 x 30 cm (44 1/2 x 40 3/16 x 11 13/16 in.)
Base: 35 x 24 cm (13 3/4 x 9 7/16 in.)
Weight: 116.573 kg (257 lbs.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1930.331


The Nataraja sculpture is said to embody the Indian concept of cyclical time. The sculpture depicts the Hindu God, Shiva, whose cosmic dance symbolizes the creation and destruction of the universe. It was created in southern India during the Chola period (880-1279 CE).

While dancing within a circle of flames, Shiva holds in his back left hand the fire that will destroy the universe and simultaneously raises a drum in his back right hand, which refers to the relentless beat of time moving forward. With his front right hand, he signals not to be afraid; though with each step of his dance, he lands on a dwarfish figure that personifies ignorance from which he indicates liberation by pointing his front left hand to a raised left foot. The gestures are said to represent Shiva’s five activities: creation, protection, destruction, embodiment, and release.

Shiva’s dance became a metaphor for the cosmic dance of subatomic particles following the publication of an article titled, “The Dance of Shiva: The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern Physics,” by physicist Fritjof Capra in which he described this parallel and which lead to his best-selling book titled, “The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism.” In 2004, a statue replica of this sculpture was given to CERN, the European Center for Research in Particle Physics in Geneva, by the Indian government, acknowledging the significance of the metaphor that CERN’s physicists regularly observe.


Nataraja, Shiva as the Lord of Dance, c. 1000s. The Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1930.331

Shiva as Lord of Dance (Ntaraja). The Met. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/39328#:~:text=As%20a%20symbol%2C%20Shiva%20Nataraja,never%2Dending%20cycle%20of%20time

Das S. Nataraj Symbolism of the Dancing Shiva. Learn Religions. Updated September 7, 2018. https://www.learnreligions.com/nataraj-the-dancing-shiva-1770458#:~:text=The%20Significance%20of%20Shiva%27s%20Dance,rhythm%20of%20birth%20and%20death

Fritjof Capra talks about his journey towards balancing science and spirituality. The Hindu. Published November 18, 2017. Updated November 20, 2017. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/fritjof-capra-talks-about-his-journey-towards-balancing-science-and-spirituality/article20550307.ece

Shiva’s Cosmic Dance at CERN. FritjofCapra.net. Published June 20, 2004. https://www.fritjofcapra.net/shivas-cosmic-dance-at-cern/

Nataraja. Britannica. Updated February 9, 2024. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Nataraja

DOI: https://doi.org/10.20411/pai.v9i1

Published: 2024-03-15

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