Teaching Ideas

Early Learning

For Ages 3-5

Art Discussion

  • Have the children look closely at the sculpture for thirty seconds without talking. When time is up, ask each child to share something interesting they noticed.
  • There are two figures in this sculpture—can you find them? Who do you think they are? What do you think is happening?
  • Have the children imitate Shiva’s pose with their bodies and freeze. How does this pose feel? Powerful? Weak? Joyful? Scared?
  • Shiva is one of the three great gods in the Hindu religion. Shiva is the God of Life, Death, and Rebirth. (The other two gods are Vishnu the Preserver and Brahma the Creator). Shiva can show his power through dance—he controls the rhythm of life, and if he stops dancing, life stops. However, if he begins dancing, life begins again. In this sculpture, we see Shiva portrayed as the Lord of the Dance.
  • Now imagine what happens next—if Shiva could come to life, how would his body move? Play a sample of Indian music or clap a beat with your hands and have the children dance along, imagining how Shiva would move.
  • Now focus on the second figure. What is Shiva doing to this second figure? Why do you think he is doing that?
  • In this piece Shiva is standing on the dwarf of spiritual ignorance, as if he (Shiva) is stamping out ignorance to make the world a better place. If you could stomp out (or get rid of something) to make the world better, what would you stomp on? Pretend as a group to stamp out some of the things the children mention.

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • This sculpture represents the Hindu god Shiva as the Lord of the Dance. Consider the significance of Shiva’s dance. What differences can you think of between gods dancing and humans dancing?
  • How is dance significant in your culture? Where have you seen or experienced dance?
  • Choreography is the composition or arrangement of a dance. How can you tell a story through dance or choreography?
  • Shiva is the god of destruction and creation. What might be the purpose of these dual powers?
  • How are gods and goddesses or other divine beings represented in other works of art you have seen? (Hint: Search the DMA's online collection for the word "deity" to see more examples.)
  • We know that this sculpture would have been one of many pieces used to decorate a Hindu temple. How are the sacred or gathering spaces of other religions decorated? What is the potential purpose of these decorations?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • The tenth-century visionary, Sandarar, said about Shiva:
    He dances, a whirl
    Of motion,
    The great lord
    Bearing fire, crowned
    With the crescent and with Ganga
    As his golden anklets chime
    And his serpents dance, too.
    What do you read in this hymn that you see in Shiva Nataraja? Afterwards, create your own poem about another Hindu work of art in the DMA collection.
  • In a short essay, compare and contrast Shiva Nataraja with another image of Shiva in a different form (i.e. Lover/husband of Parvati, ascetic yogi, etc.) Be sure to discuss the symbolism and significance of both images.
  • This sculpture, like many Hindu bronzes, would have appeared in processions during festivals honoring the gods. Research the festival of Shiva as well as another tradition that uses art during public ceremony. Create a visual presentation explaining the ceremony and significance of the objects included.
  • Shiva Nataraja represents creation, maintenance, and destruction. What modern symbols could be combined to illustrate your view or another culture’s view about how the universe was created, how it is maintained, and how it may end. Continue this exploration through collaboration with your class by drawing or painting a wall mural depicting the symbols. Discuss and compare the creation myths of cultures studied.