Object: Figurine

E/1954/9/36
Hindu: Figurine of Dancing Shiva
India
20th century
Materials:  paper-maché, plaster

This object is a dancing figure of Shiva, the “Lord of the Dance” in Hindu religion.  This figure is a rare example of the figure with the right leg raised as opposed to the left leg in more common Dancing Shiva figures.  The headdress is gold with red trim.  The entire paper-maché figure is covered with gold paint.  The figure is mounted on a black plaster base.  The figure has four arms which represent the four cardinal directions. Each hand makes a specific “mudra” (gesture).

Hinduism is an ancient religion with no known founder or known date of origin. The term “Hinduism” simply derives from the word “India” and refers to a wide variety of religious traditions and philosophies that have developed in India over thousands of years.  The name for Shiva, or Siva (as is commonly seen), is of Sanskrit origin and can be translated “Auspicious One.”  Shiva is a god of contradictions as he is known also as the destroyer and the restorer, as well as the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.  Shiva is part of the Hindu trinity along with Vishnu and Brahma.

Shiva’s dance is referred to as the  “Anandatandava,’” meaning the “Dance of Bliss.”  It symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, in addition to the daily rhythm of birth and death.  The Anandatandava said to take place in the “hall of consciousness” within the heart of man. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy — creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion. A video of the dance can be seen here.

[Debra Taylor]

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