World leaders attending the G20 Summit were welcomed by a stunning 27-foot-tall statue of Nataraja, portraying Lord Shiva in his cosmic dance. This impressive sculpture, crafted from ashtadhatu, an eight-metal alloy, boasts an astonishing weight of 18 tonnes, necessitating a transportation trailer equipped with 36 tires for its journey to Delhi. Skilled artisans from Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district meticulously crafted this masterpiece, skillfully blending traditional and contemporary elements while drawing inspiration from ancient Nataraja idols.
Master Sculptors from Swamimalai:
- The Nataraja statue was meticulously crafted by a team of artisans hailing from Swamimalai, a town renowned for its traditional metalwork.
- The primary sculptors behind this masterpiece are 61-year-old Srikanda Sthapathy, along with his brothers Radhakrishna Sthapathy and Swaminatha Sthapathy.
- The Sthapathy family’s lineage in sculpture spans an impressive 34 generations, with their craft rooted in the Chola era, notably the construction of the Big (Brihadeeshwara) Temple.
Gurukul Training and Heritage:
- The Sthapathy family received their training in the ancient gurukul system, which has been passed down through generations.
- They were entrusted with the Nataraja project after meeting stringent criteria outlined in a tender by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Ministry of Culture.
- This project draws inspiration from three revered Nataraja idols: Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram, Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konerirajapuram, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brihadeeshwara Temple in Thanjavur.
Traditional ‘Lost-Wax’ Casting Method:
- The crafting process employed for this statue was the traditional ‘lost-wax’ casting method, a technique indigenous to the Chola era.
- The process began with the creation of a highly detailed wax model adorned with intricate ornaments.
- A unique alluvial soil paste, found exclusively in Swamimalai, was used to cover the entire mold. Notably, the Cauvery clay from a specific part of the river in Swamimalai played a vital role in this method.
Transition to Ashtadhatu:
- Initially intended to be made from panja loha, the statue eventually transitioned to being crafted from ashtadhatu.
- A delegation provided feedback on the wax model during the creative process, leading to minor adjustments in the statue’s limbs.
- The collaborative efforts of Srikanda and his two brothers in creating the base wax model resulted in a seven-month-long project.
- The creation of this remarkable Nataraja statue came at a cost of Rs 10 crore, inclusive of GST.