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Bronze and Sculpture

The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes. Among the existing specimens in the various museums of the world and in the temples of South India may be seen many fine figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, Siva saints and many more. Though conforming generally to the iconographic conventions established by long tradition, the sculptor worked in great freedom in the eleventh and the twelfth centuries and the sculptures and bronzes show classic grace, grandeur and perfect taste. The best example of this can be seen in the form of Nataraja the Divine Dancer.

Chola Bronzes

The earliest bronze statues in India were cast in the Indus Valley about 2300 BC, reaching an artistic peak during south India's Chola Dynasty (c. 9th to 13th centuries AD). The patronage of dynamic Chola rulers during this period sparked an unprecedented growth in philosophy, poetry, dance, temple architecture, fine art and religious devotion. At some point, worship deep within massive stone temples by elite Brahmin priests underwent a transformation. A priestly text of the time specifies that God shall take on both an immobile form (mulamurti) - usually a fixed icon of stone in the central sanctum - and a processional form (utsavamurti) cast in bronze. From this point onward God could be brought forth out of the temple and made accessible to all, regardless of caste. Western eyes see Chola bronze statues very differently from that of a Hindu of the Chola Period. A non-Hindu sees a work of art combining supple grace with an exotic spiritual presence; however the Hindu devotee of the Chola Period would have seen the living embodiment of the deity itself.

As a matter of fact, the unadorned figures we know today were never seen outside a temple's inner sanctum except by attending priests. It was only after ritual purification, then adornment with silks, jewels and flowers, that the bronze figure underwent transformation from lifeless bronze into a living breathing divinity.

Imagine for a moment attending a religious procession of the Chola Period. Out of respect to the god you would bathe and don your best clothing and jewellery. The streets and houses along the route would have been swept clean, lit by torches and decorated with banners and tree branches. As the procession left the temple, you would begin to hear the deep beating of the drums and a cacophony of conch shell horns. A caparisoned and decorated elephant carrying a banner comes into view. Men and women from the temple would pass by chanting hymns and dancing. Then, crushed by all around you in the mounting excitement, you'd see palanquins bearing your God, nearly hidden beneath silk and flowers and gold. So when you look upon a Chola bronze statue, think of it in its context. The figure's aesthetic qualities are obvious to anyone, but a truer appreciation comes only with a fuller understanding of why and how these extraordinary works of art were created

The chola bronze sculptures are renowned for their form and contents while discussing about bronze sculptures and it is very much necessary to figure out that South India especially in kumbakonam has always been of immense significance as far as bronze sculptures are concerned. The chola bronze sculptures are quite simple to look at and the intricate details are generally found on sculptures, and inspite of being devoid of ornamentation the chola bronze sculptures are elegant, expressive and exquisitely beautiful.

Nataraja Dancing Statue is the best example to reflect the art skill set of Chola Empire in the Golden age.To spread religious thoughts and register histories for future generation, there are many techniques used such as Stone Carving, Bronze Sculpture, Wood Carving, Glass Casting, Assembling, and Sculpting.

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