Nataraja (Sanskrit: नटराज, romanized: Naṭarāja) (Tamil: நடராஜர்) is a depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the divine cosmic dancer

His dance is called Tandava

The pose and artwork are described in many Hindu texts such as the Anshumadbhed agama and Uttarakamika agama, the dance murti featured in all major Hindu temples of Shaivism, and is a well known sculptural symbol in India and popularly used as a symbol of Indian culture, in particular as one of the finest illustrations of Hindu art

The sculpture is symbolic of Shiva as the lord of dance and dramatic arts, with its style and proportions made according to Hindu texts on arts

It typically shows Shiva dancing in one of the Natya Shastra poses, holding various symbols which vary with historic period and region, trampling upon a demon shown as a dwarf (Apasmara or Muyalaka) who symbolizes spiritual ignorance

The classical form of the depiction appears in stone reliefs, as at the Ellora Caves and the Badami Caves, by around the 6th century

Around the 10th century, it emerged in Tamil Nadu in its mature and best-known expression in Chola bronzes, of various heights typically less than four feet, some over

Nataraja reliefs are found in historic settings in many parts of South East Asia such as Ankor Wat and in Bali, Cambodia, and central Asia