Stella Kramrisch placed this bronze on the cover of her seminal 1981 exhibition, Manifestations of Shiva, comprised of the best examples from private collections and public institutions of India and the West. Her catalogue entry describes the present bronze in most sensitive terms (p. 104): "Entranced by the inaudible music within his being and listening to the sound of the lute on which he plays and in which he hears himself, the Lord and Teacher of Music appears to soar, offering his hands, and their attributes to the gaze of the devotee. By imponderable nuances of modeling, the rendering of the boyish figure conveys a weightless serenity as if waves of bliss were the support of Vinadhara's limbs ... The subtle, pneumatic body, by the magic touch of the sculptor, is invested with the resilience of the living, breathing, human body." Pratapaditya Pal, in his entry for the 1997 exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, adds (p. 54): "This particular example not only delineates the iconography of the form with articulate details but is also one of the finest expressions of early Chola art."
According to Indian philosophy, the practice of music leads to liberation without strain (moksha) and is comparable to yogic practices as it involves the control of breath, mental absorption and the release from obsessions of the mind.
Most recently, Vidya Dehejia and R. Nagaswamy, in the exhibition catalogue The Sensuous and the Sacred, pp. 106-11, reattribute two further examples of this iconographic type, from the Cleveland Museum of Art and from the collection of Robert H. Ellsworth (cat. nos. 5 and 6), to Shiva Tripuravijaya (Lord of the Three Cities), where the gesture of the principal hands is interpreted as holding a bow and arrow. Shiva is thus celebrated as the 'Destroyer of the Three Cities' marking his destruction of the fortified cities of three demons with one single arrow. According to the legend Shiva had granted some powerful demons the rule over three cities, made of gold, silver and iron, and placed in the heavens, in the air and on earth, respectively. Over a period of a thousand years they created havoc and became so powerful, that the concerned gods appealed to Shiva. He reduced the cities to ashes with a single burning arrow shot from his bow using a snake as its bowstring; see V. Dehejia, The Sensuous and the Sacred. Chola Bronzes from South India, 2003, pp. 106-11. Another interpretation, according to R. Nagaswamy, is that the three cities represent the states of waking, dream and sleep, and the revelation of Shiva entails an immediate redemption cutting through these three puras at once, in R. Nagaswamy, 'Aspects of Art and Architecture of South India', forthcoming, in V. Dehejia, ibid., p. 111.