World leaders attending the G20 Summit in Delhi were welcomed by an astonishing 27-foot-tall statue of Nataraja, depicting Lord Shiva in his divine cosmic dance. This remarkable sculpture, fashioned from ashtadhatu, an alloy of eight metals, boasted a staggering weight of 18 tonnes, necessitating the use of a transport trailer equipped with 36 tires for its journey. The gifted artisans hailing from Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu’s Thanjavur district devoted their skill and craftsmanship to create this masterpiece, seamlessly merging traditional and contemporary elements while seeking inspiration from ancient Nataraja representations.
This extraordinary Nataraja statue was meticulously brought to life by a team of artisans with deep roots in Swamimalai, a town renowned for its rich tradition of metalwork. The primary sculptors behind this magnum opus were the Sthapathy brothers: 61-year-old Srikanda Sthapathy, Radhakrishna Sthapathy, and Swaminatha Sthapathy. Their family lineage in sculpture spans an astounding 34 generations, tracing its origins back to the Chola era, particularly in the construction of the monumental Brihadeeshwara Temple.
The Sthapathy family received their artistic training through the age-old gurukul system, a heritage passed down through generations. Their selection for the Nataraja project came after meeting rigorous criteria outlined in a tender by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Ministry of Culture. This endeavor drew 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.
The crafting process employed for this statue adhered to the traditional ‘lost-wax’ casting method, a technique indigenous to the Chola era. The process commenced with the meticulous creation of a highly detailed wax model adorned with intricate ornaments. An exceptional alluvial soil paste, unique to Swamimalai, enveloped the entire mold, with Cauvery clay from a specific part of the river in Swamimalai playing a pivotal role in the process.
Originally intended to be crafted from panja loha, the statue eventually transitioned to ashtadhatu. A delegation provided feedback on the wax model during the creative process, resulting in minor adjustments to the statue’s limbs. The collaborative efforts of Srikanda and his two brothers in creating the base wax model marked the commencement of a seven-month-long project.
The creation of this remarkable Nataraja statue came at a total cost of Rs 10 crore, inclusive of GST.