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.
Nataraja 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 dance of Shiva in Tillai, the traditional name for Chidambaram , forms the motif for all the depictions of Shiva as Nataraja.
This form is present in most Shiva temples, and is the prime deity in the Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram. The two most common forms of Shiva's dance are the Lasya the gentle form of dance , associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava the vigorous form of dance , associated with the destruction of weary worldviews—weary perspectives and lifestyles. According to Alice Boner, the historic Nataraja artworks found in different parts of India are set in geometric patterns and along symmetric lines, particularly the satkona mandala hexagram that in the Indian tradition means the interdependence and fusion of masculine and feminine principles.
As the Lord of Dance, Nataraja, Shiva performs the Ananda Tandava dance of bliss , the dance in which the universe is created, maintained, and dissolved. The symbolism in the art has been variously interpreted by scholars since the Chola empire era:   . The above interpretations of symbolism are largely based on historic Indian texts published in and after 12th-century, such as Unmai Vilakkam , Mummani Kovai , Tirukuttu Darshana and Tiruvatavurar Puranam.
An essential significance of Shiva's dance at Tillai, the traditional name of Chidambaram , can be explained as: . Nataraja, states James Lochtefeld, symbolizes "the connection between religion and the arts", and it represents Shiva as the lord of dance, encompassing all "creation, destruction and all things in between". Nataraja is a significant visual interpretation of Brahman and a dance posture of Shiva. The details in the Nataraja artwork has attracted commentaries and secondary literature such as poems detailing its theological significance.
One of the earliest known Nataraja artworks has been found in the archaeological site at Asanapat village in Odisha , which includes an inscription, and is dated to about the 6th century CE. Literary evidences shows that the bronze representation of Shiva's ananda- tandava appeared first in the Pallava period between 7th century and mid-9th centuries CE.
Stone reliefs depicting the classical form of Nataraja are found in numerous cave temples of India, such as the Ellora Caves Maharashtra , the Elephanta Caves , and the Badami Caves Karnataka , by around the 6th-century.
The oldest free-standing stone sculptures of Nataraja were built by Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi. The dancing Shiva became a part of Chola era processions and religious festivals, a practice that continued thereafter. The depiction was informed of cosmic or metaphysical connotations is also argued on the basis of the testimony of the hymns of Tamil saints. The largest Nataraja statue is in Neyveli , in Tamil Nadu.
The statue, symbolizing Shiva's cosmic dance of creation and destruction, was given to CERN by the Indian government to celebrate the research center's long association with India. Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists created visual images of dancing Shivas in a beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists have used the most advanced technology to portray the patterns of the cosmic dance.
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