The art in Chola Dynasty reached at its height in the 11th Century. This is known as mature Chola art in India. The Chola period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique. It is known in artistic terms as "Cire Perdue". The Sanskrit Shilpa texts call it the Madhu Uchchishtta Vidhana.
Use of Bee wax in Chola art
The beeswax and kungilium, a type of camphor mixed with a little oil and kneaded well. The figure is sculpted from this mixture fashioning all the minute details. This is the wax original model in Chola art. The entire figure of wax technique is then coated with clay made from termite hills until the mould is of a necessary thickness. Then the whole thing is dried and fired in an oven with cow-dung cakes. The wax model melts and flows out, while some of it vaporises.
Use of Pancha Loham in Wax Technique
The metal alloy of bronze is melted and poured into the empty clay-mould. This particular bronze alloy is known as Pancha Loham. When the metal has filled all fissures and has settled and hardened and cooled, the mould is broken off. The bronze figure thus obtained is then cleaned, finer details are added, and blemishes are removed, smoothened, and polished well. Hence each bronze icon is exclusive and the mould cannot be used to create copies.
Elegant Design of Bronze art in Chola Times
The forms of Chola bronze are very synthetic. They are devoid of intricate ornaments and designs in comparison with the subsequent bronze of the Vijayanagar Empire and Nayakas period. There is gentle grace, a restrained and quiet elegance, an ethereal, out-worldly beauty and above all else - a life that pulsates and thereby enlivens the bronze sculpture in later Chola period. By means of the facial expressions, the gestures or mudras of the bronze sculptures, the overall body posture and other accompanying bronzes that one can imagine the surroundings and the religious context of the figure of the god or goddess; what instrument or weapon he or she is holding; what he or she is leaning on; and what he or she is doing or about to do.
Rishabaandhika or Vrishabavahana Murthy Pose
The Rishabaandhika or the Vrishabavahana murthy pose is one of the most well known bronze sculptures in Chola times. Lord Shiva or Mahadeva is standing with one leg youthfully crossed across the other and his arm elegantly flexed and raised as if resting or leaning on something. In this elegant posture, it can be surmised that the youthful and athletic Shiva is leaning on his bull-vahana, Nandi on whose shoulders He is resting His arm.
Nataraja or Adavallar Bronze Icon
The most famous of all the bronze icons of Chola art is Nataraja or Adavallar. The symbolism presents Shiva as the Lord of the Cosmic Dance of creation and destruction. He is active, yet aloof, like the gods on the Parthenon Frieze. Lord Shiva is surrounded with a circle of flames representing the universe, whose fire is held in Shiva's left rear palm. His left front arm crosses his chest, the hand pointing in "elephant trunk" position to his upraised left foot, which signifies liberation. His right foot tramples the dwarf Apasmara, who represents ignorance. Lord Shiva's right front hand is raised in the "fear-not" gesture of benediction (abhaya mudra), while his right rear hand holds a drum with which he beats the measure of the dance. The snake, an emblem of Shiva, curls around his arm. His hair holds the crescent moon - another emblem - and a small image of River Ganga, the river-goddess whose precipitous fall from heaven to earth is broken by Shiva's matted locks. Lord Shiva as Nataraja or Adavallar is also escorted by his consort Shivakami.