The Male Dancer, Harappa

Above: Photographs of Male Dancing Figure from Harappa, flanked by sketches by conjectural sketches by John Marshall and after him by Mark Kenoyer (right).

It is nice to step into the new year with the figure of a dancer, for dancing is something that the ancient Indus people took very seriously. There is the dancing girl, and there is this exquisite male that John Marshall introduces: "And now we come to two small statuettes which are more surprising even than the masterly engraving of the bull ... When I first saw them I found it difficult to believe that they were prehistoric; they seemed to so completely upset all established ideas about early art. Modelling such as this was unknown in the ancient world up to the Hellenistic age of Greece ... Now there was no stone obtainable at Harappa or anywhere near it. Whatever stone was needed there had to be brought great distances ... Then, as to technique. In both statuettes, it will be observed, there are socket holes in the neck and shoulders for the attachment of head and arms, which were made in separate pieces; in in both, moreover, the nipples of the breasts were made independently and fixed with cement. So far as I know, this technique is without parallel among sculptors of the historic period, whether of the Indo-Hellenistic or any other school. On the other hand it is also unexampled at Mohenjo-daro ... It is the figure of a dancer standing on his right leg, with the body from the waist upwards bent well round to the left, both arms thrown out in the same direction, and the left leg raised high in front ... Although its contours are soft and effeminate, the figure is that of a male, and it seems likely that it was ithyphallic, since the membrum virile was made in a separate piece. I infer, too, from the abnormal thickness of the neck, that the dancer was three-headed or at any rate three-faced, and I conjecture that he may represent the youthful Siva Nataraja." (Marshall, Mohenjo-daro, I., 45-46.)