Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Further light

The Government Museum in Chennai has a very eclectic collection of artefacts. From the crocodile that was found in the Cooum to a schoolboy's toy bus claiming to be a model of the MTC buses, the collection has something in it for everyone.

The pride of the museum, however, has to be its bronze gallery. Even if it is only they who say it, no one would dare to counter their claim that the museum has the largest collection of such antique metal under one roof. The gallery is home to over 1,500 pieces, the huge majority of them representing Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Roughly a hundred of the pieces are Jain and Buddhist; the remainder are a bewildering mix of periods, schools and sources. Having been the Presidency Museum, it was the place where any kind of uncommon object was sent out to from anywhere in the Presidency. 

The pièce de résistance of the bronze gallery is this figure of Siva performing his cosmic dance. All the other pieces in the gallery are enclosed in glass cases. The beautiful Ardhanarisvara image, set on a revolving base, grabs your attention as soon as you enter. There are several others that hold you spellbound. But taking a picture is a challenge, thanks to be intervening layers of glass and the reflections therefrom. The idol of Siva, set on a raised stage at the far end of the gallery, has its special background. With no glass covering it, visitors can marvel at this wonderful figure from the 12th century CE; and no, it is not called the Nataraja, or "King of the Dance". Given the intense feelings it brings out in anyone who passes by, it seems more meaningful to call him what is a greater title - Natesha, the "God of the Dance"!

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