World’s tallest Nataraja graces new Bharat Mandapam exhibition center

 Nataraja kept inspiring us to complete 30 months’ work in just six months.” That’s how Govind Mohan of the Indian government’s Ministry of Culture described their commissioning of a 27-foot-tall sculpture of God Siva as Lord of Dance to be installed in time for the G-20 Summit of global economic leaders held September 9–10, 2023. Weighing about 18 tons, it reposes in front of the new, iconic, elliptical Bharat Mandapam exhibition and convention center where the leaders gathered. They marveled at this artistic depiction of India’s “essence of unity, strength and grace.” 

Brothers Radhakrishnan, Srikantan and Swaminathan carve wax models and fine-tune cast metal murtis at their famous shop in Swamimalai. India Today

The single-cast, solid statue, costing about us$1.2 million according to The Hindu, is made of an amalgam of eight metals: copper, brass, lead, gold, silver, mercury, iron and tin. Summit organizers wanted to fashion Nataraja in the traditional way, so the art world pointed them to Radhakrishnan, Srikantan and Swaminathan, the three sons of the late master craftsman S. Devasenapathy Sthapati of Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu. Their company, Jayam Industries, uses the Chola lost-wax method. 1) They first create a wax model of the statue. 2) Wax rods, known as sprues, are attached to the model, which will serve as pouring channels for the molten metal. 3) Uniquely soft alluvial clay soil from the nearby Cauveri River is built up around the wax model in at least three layers. 4) The clay-coated model is then placed in a kiln. As the temperature increases, the wax melts and drains away, leaving a hollow clay mold (hence the name “lost wax.”). 5) Molten metal is poured into the clay mold through the channels formed by the removed sprues. 6) After cooling, the clay is chipped away, and the statue is  fine-tuned to perfection. 

“The G20 Nataraja will last centuries. In fact, it can easily last 1,000 years,” Srikantan told the Times of India. “The sculptors in our family are known for the purity of the materials they use. We have never used second-grade stuff like gunmetal. We follow all the exact measurements and patterns as mentioned in the Shilpa Shastras. And we make idols for Hindu temples around the world.”  

Sthapati refines details of Nataraja’s face in wax. jayam industries (also source of images below)
Cauveri River clay soil wrapped with securing metal angle iron encases the wax model
molten metal is poured from a huge cauldron through a chute into the mold, which is buried in sand
Nataraja leaves the shop to travel 1,550 miles to Delhi over two days
closeup of eight-metal Nataraja in His elegant resting place
logo for Sri Jayam Industries