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The Dancing Shiva: South Indian Processional Bronze, Museum Artwork, and Universal Icon

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image of Journal of Religion in Europe

Today, in addition to the Om sign or the image of Ganesha, the image of the dancing Shiva is one of the best known Hindu symbols in the world: the 'Nataraja' is not only omnipresent in museums; his image adorns holy cards, posters, holiday brochures, as well as countless websites and diverse esoteric and academic book covers. This article examines how this image could attain such great popularity. It focuses on processes of cultural appropriation and reinterpretation. Originally a southern Indian processional bronze, the dancing Shiva became transformed into a museum artwork and a universal icon. This paper traces the different actors, networks and interactions behind this career from southern Indian temples to the stages of the Western world.


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