We think of Nataraja – the King of Dance – mostly in bronze alloy form. In several Siva temples, the central shrine has a stone lingam as moolavar, while the ustavar, usually Nataraja or Somaaskanda, is made of bronze. We rarely see the other forms of Siva in the koshta – the insets or enclave in the walls of the main sanctum, or sometimes the next outer wall.
In early Chola temples – those built between 875 AD and 985 AD, between the reigns of Aditya Chola and Uttama Chola, both inclusive – we can see Siva as Lingodhbhava in the rear koshta. Recently I travelled to Chidambaram and Kumbakonam, and visited early Chola temples at Tukkacci, KoneriRajaPuram, and Aaduthurai. I saw Natarajas, not of bronze, but of stone, in the koshtas of these temples.
In Tukkaaci, especially, the idol looks it is made of bronze with a sheen of patina, not stone! I tapped it with fingernails and it even sounded metallic. Here I share some photos of these beauties.
The photos are here in the Tamil version of this blog.