The Nataraja of Netherlands

Apparently, the largest bronze Nataraja from the Chola dynasty does not live in India, but in Netherlands. Recently they x-rayed the statue and found something interesting

Research recently revealed that the Rijksmuseum’s monumental bronze statue of Shiva was cast in solid bronze. The thousand year-old temple statue was X-rayed, along with the lorry transporting it, in the most powerful X-ray tunnel for containers of the Rotterdam customs authority. It is the first research of its kind on a museological masterpiece.
The statue was created ca. 1100 in South India. Each temple had its own set of bronze statues which were carried through the city during major temple festivals. This gives the statues their name: utsavamurti, which is Sanskrit for ‘festival images’. Chola bronzes were considered masterpieces of Indian bronze casting.
Anna Ślączka, curator of South Asian Art, comments, ‘We had expected that the statue itself would prove to be solid, but it was a complete surprise to discover that the aureole and the demon under Shiva’s feet are also solid.’ [Dancing Shiva X-rayed (via Michel Danino]

To see the full image, click on the downward pointing white arrow on the Nataraja on the sidebar.

The Lost-Wax Method

During the third millennium BCE that trade relations between India and Mesopotamia prospered: Burial sites in Mesopotamia had shell-made lamps and cups produced from a conch shell found only in India; Early Dynastic Mesopotamians were consumers of the Harappan carnelian bead. Also the Gujaratis were exporting hardwood and there are even unverified reports of spices from the Malabar coast reaching Mesopotamia. But now there is a debate over if a colony of Indians lived in Mesopotamia —  in a Meluhhan village — at that time[Trading Hubs of the Old World – Part 2]

During this period, texts from Uruk in Mesopotamia mention copper, mainly copper from Dilmun (Bahrain), which originally came from Magan (Oman). In return the Mesopotamians exported barley[1]. The Harappans too used copper extensively. While one copper source was Oman, the other was the Jodhpura-Ganeshwar culture of Rajasthan[2].
Skipping a few millennia, a 10th century BCE copper production center was discovered in the Negev desert and was claimed to be King Solomon’s mines, though there is debate over if there was a King Solomon. One of the artifact from that era is the twin-headed ibex and swords, found in Israel’s Cave of the Treasure.
Ancient artisans — in Mesopotamia, Greece, China — used a technique called the Lost-Wax method to produce works of art, but that technique is not used much any more. One place where this technique still survives is in Tanjavur district – the realm of the Chola empire. It was here, as Vilayannur Ramachandran explains, that Hindu artistes exaggerated feminine beauty to jolt the aesthetic sense of the viewers.
When a picture of the twin-headed ibex and swords was given to the sthapathi in Swamimalai he was able to create the same using a process which has been around for millennia.


  1. Nicole Boivin and Dorian Fuller, “Shell Middens, Ships and Seeds: Exploring Coastal Subsistence, Maritime Trade and the Dispersal of Domesticates in and Around the Ancient Arabian Peninsula,” Journal of World Prehistory 22, no. 2 (June 1, 2009): 180, 113.
  2. Jane R. McIntosh, The Ancient Indus Valley: New Perspectives, 1st ed. (ABC-CLIO, 2007).