The Hindu Sculptures - Part II
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An image of Nataraj Hindu and Jain temples in Khajuraho, central India, were built in the same style between the mid-900's and the late-1000's. They rise from high bases to a series of high peaks. From a distance they resemble a mountain range. The walls and towers are covered with hundreds of sculpted figures of gods, goddesses, people, and beasts.

The Cholas, who reigned in Tamil Nadu from the 900's to the 1200's, built huge, finely finished temples. They were also famed for magnificent bronze sculptures cast using the lost-wax process, a method used in southern India since the 500's. They created groups of figures, depicting the gods, especially Shiva or Vishnu, with their families and companions.

A frequent theme was Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, portrayed as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. Typically, Shiva's four arms symbolize his power over north, south, east, and west. Like the image of the sleeping Vishnu at Deogarh, the subject of this work is not only Shiva but also time. Between the destruction and creation of the universe, nothing exists. The first sound in this nothingness is the beat of Shiva's hourglass-shaped drum. Then Shiva begins to dance. The energy of his dance creates the universe. He dances on a dwarf symbolizing ignorance. The power of his dance brings knowledge in its place. At the end of time, Shiva's dance becomes all-consuming and, by the flame he holds in his upper left hand and those that surround him, all existence is destroyed. Then there is nothing, until Shiva again begins to beat his drum.

Islamic influence. In 1191, the first of many dynasties ruled by Muslim sultans captured Delhi and, from there, governed northern India. Islam, the Muslim religion, prohibits making images of human or divine figures or of animals. Muslim patrons hired Indian sculptors to decorate mosques and other Muslim buildings with relief motifs (repeated designs) of geometric patterns, flowers, leaves, and ornate inscriptions.

During the period of Muslim rule, Hindu and Jain sculptors continued to decorate their own temples with figurative sculpture. The white marble Jain temples at Mount Abu were built during the 1100's and 1200's. Magnificent Hindu temples were built in Vijayanagar in the 1500's.

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