It was a complete surprise for the conservators and curators of Amsterdam’s Rijks Museum as they witnessed that the Shiva Nataraj statue was in solid bronze and also the aureole and the demon under Shiva’s feet are also solid.This Dancing Shiva statue was X-rayed using high-energy digital radiation, along with the lorry transporting it, in the most powerful X-ray tunnel for containers of the Rotterdam customs authority, normally used to scan sea containers for suspicious contents. It is said to be the first research of its kind on a museological masterpiece.
At 153 cm x 114.5 cm, the Rijksmuseum’s Shiva is the largest known bronze statue from the Chola Dynasty (9th to 12th century) kept in a museological collection outside of India. Given its weight (300 kg), the statue has always been suspected of not being hollow, as has been common practice in Europe since the Greek Antiquity.
As part of an earlier investigation, an X-ray was taken of the statue in a Rijksmuseum gallery in 1999 while visitors were evacuated as a precaution against radiation. Unfortunately, the equipment used at the time (280 KeV) was not powerful enough to determine anything definitively. The Rotterdam X-ray tunnel of the Rotterdam customs authority offered a solution.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has applauded Rijksmuseum for its interest in Hindu artifacts. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA), urged the major museums of world to acquire more Hindu sculpture and art; dedicate permanent space to Hindu artifacts; and organize more exhibitions of Hindu art, sculptures, and architecture to make aware the present and future generations about their richness.
Rajan Zed argued that because of their richness and other factors, Hindu artifacts were becoming favorite of museums in America and the West. Many prestigious museums already owned Hindu sculptures and other artifacts and many were planning to acquire.
The Rijksmuseum renovation project has provided conservators and curators the opportunity to carry out in-depth research on special pieces from the Rijksmuseum collection, including this masterpiece from the Asian Art Collection. 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.
The sculpture can be seen as evidence that India has a glorious heritage of science and technology which is superior but unknown for the current World. Essentially Western world and Westernized Indians internalized colonial stereotypes that India was less rational and scientific than the West, India was world negating in its outlook, frozen in time and unable to advance without help from foreign invaders, India’s civilization was mainly imported via invaders, except for its problems such as caste that were its own ‘essences’ and Indian society was socially backward hence dependent upon Westernization to reform its current problems. Recent revelation indicates that Hindu civilization was a master of all skilled crafts and also the craft of life.
Anna ?l?czka, 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.’
The 12th-century Shiva Nataraja is on loan from the Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst (Association of Friends of Asian Art).
The appointment of the curator of South Asian Art, Anna ?l?czka, was sponsored by Staal aan Zee, Tata Steel B.V., a named fund of the Rijksmuseum.