Item Code: NAB041
by C.SivaramamurtiHardcover (Edition: 1994)
Size: 11.5" x 9.0"
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The composer of an inscription has said, and probably, in a normal sense, rightly, that dance in the darkness is an impossibility. Let kings compose hundreds of mellifluous poems, or chum up hosts of foes on the battlefield, or scatter their wealth on deserving donees, but with the passage of time all these their exploits would be like dancing in utter darkness if these were not recorded by poets in prasastis: kurvantu kirtanasatani rananganeshu mathnantu vairinikaram dhanam utsrijantu kalanatare tad akhilam prabalandhakaranrityopamam kavijanair anibaddhyamanam (Epigraph. Ind. 27, p. 281).
Dance in the darkness is no doubt unimaginable. But, Siva only chooses the evening for his dance, when it is dark, but the darkness is lit up by his own effulgence, the moon on his crest, the stars around, the flame in his hand, and the powerful rays shooting forth from the gems on the hoods of snakes he wears as his ornaments. This is abundantly illustrated in literature, as stated elsewhere, to show how Siva requires not a powerful light focussed on him, but the mild and soft tone of moonlight, chosen to reveal not too luridly, but softly and gracefully, the movement of his limbs.
Siva's dance cannot be comprehended by lesser masters. It is only the great ones like Brahma, Bharata, Hari, Narada or Skanda who can understand or appreciate his dance. An inscription on the cave temple at Saluvankuppam has a verse to elucidate not only the distinction of Siva's dance, but also to enumerate the great celestial exponents of natya and sangita and their ability, as the right audience, to appreciate Siva's dance: yadi na vidhata bharato yadi na harir narado na va skandha boddhum ka iva samarthas sangitam kalakalasya (Epigraph. Ind. 10, p. 12). The word used here sangita includes music, both vocal and instrumental, and dance. Poetry, music, literature and dance are time arts, while painting, sculpture and architecture are space arts (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition. Vol. X). The word Kalakala, emphasizing the concept of time and eternity of Siva, appropriately makes him the master of sangita, including music and dance. Ratnakara goes one step further, when he describes even elements like water, personified in the heavenly stream, Ganga, on his head, applauding, as he imagines, his excellence in dance. Siva's dance movements, wherein the excels, are loudly applauded it would seem by the deep rumbling sound of the waves of the heavenly stream entering the hollows of the garland of skulls on his head: kukshipravishtasuranir-jharinitarangajhankarataraninadair nrikapalapanktih nritsatisayasvamandam (Haravijaya 2.57).
It is not only these great gods and goddesses, the creators each in his or her own important way, that are the witnesses to applaud the dance of Siva, but they enthusiastically also join in creating the orchestra for him, by playing the musical instruments. At the very sign of his brow, Vishnu takes up the drum mardala, which, with is noble rumbling notes, like the cloud inspiring the blue-throated peacock to dance, starts the musical sound. With his louts hand, Brahma takes up a pair of cymbals, ostensibly to keep time to the dance of the victor of Kama, but really because they allow his mistaking them for the breasts of his consort, Sarasvati. Indra places the bamboo flute on his lip, the honey of which was lovingly tested by the celestial nymph, Rambha, and even by the excellence of his playing, which keeps the worlds spell-bound, Indra makes himself conspicuous in his high station. Sarasvati, the consort of Brahma, beautifully plays the lute with the rosary placed on her left ear, as if to suggest a faster pace in the musical play. Parvati smiles at the impatience of her beloved one (Siva) to dance, as he gets ready by tying up his locks with the long snake coil and his waist with the elephant hide. Sambhu, the kind-hearted, knowing that his dance festival was not to be comprehended by the mortal eye, graciously bestows divine sight for those who lack it. Then the whole concourse witnesses the dance of Siva, with the locks whirling around and lashing clusters of stars, as his feet with the serpent anklet, jingling at his tread, pushes down the earth: tatra sankarakatakshachoditas charumardalam avadayaddharih yah payoda iti pushkarasrito nilakanthanatanochitadhvanih kamajinnatanakaranena va bharatikuchayugabhramena va tatra talayugalim athadade panipankajayugena padmabhuh rambhaya hritarase radachchhade vamsanalam avasajya vasavah vadanad api vimohayan janan adade kila na vasavasthitam vadaya drutam itiva samsata sphatikakshavalayena dakshine asrita sravasi charuvallakivadanam vyatanute Priya vidheh ayatena phanina jatabharam madhyabhagam ibhacharmakakshyaya badhnatah priyatamasya nartitum vikshya sambhramam uma smitam vyadhat vikshanochitam apamsachakshusha nartanotsavam avekshitum nijam sambhuna sakaladehinam tada divyam akshi didise dayaluna sandadarsa sapadi bhramajjatataditoduputalam tada janah vyalanupuraranatpadarpananyanchitaksshiti natesanartanam (Patanjalicharita 4. 61-67).
As Siva commences his dance in the evening. Ratnakara imagines, in the loftiest terms the sun and moons as the cymbals used by the goddess of prosperity herself for tala and laya, the most important in the nritta aspect of dance. At the commencement of dance by Siva at dusk, with the sun disc setting near the astagiri and the full moon emerging into light from his locks, it seems to make the celestial goddess of prosperity hold as it were these two as cymbals for the Lord's musical orchestra: astavalambiravibimbitayodayadsrichudonmishatsakalachandrataya cha sayam sandhyapranrittaharavadyagrihitakamsyataladvayeva samalakshyata nakalakshmih (Haravijya 19.5).
This exacting musical orchestra, the vina played by the Lady of music, Sarasvati herself, the flute by Indra who excels, Brahma keeping time and Vishnu himself sounding the drum, is because Siva himself is an adept in all the musical instruments. In the Sivasahasranama, there is an elaboration of his musical accomplishments. He is described as Sarvaturyaninadi, he is also Vainavi, Panavi, Vini, Tali and Nali: vainavi panavi kalah kalakanthah katamkatah .. vini cha panavi tali nail kalikatus tatha sarvaturyaninadi cha sarvavyuapyaparigrahah (Lingamahapurana 1, 65, 11) tumbuvino mahakopah vamsavadi hyaninditah (Linegamahapurana 1, 65, 21) naikatanaratas svarah (Lingamahapurana 1, 65, 40). The commentary here explains tumbu vina as the vina provided with two gourds and popularly known as Rudra vina. Siva delights in innumerable murchhanas or tanas, and he is of the very nature of the svaras, not only udatta, anudatta, svarita, but the sangita svaras, the seven famous notes. Siva is also called Rathagita: akshayo rathagitas cha (Lingamahapurana 1, 65, 44). Ratha is Rathantarasama, by the chant of which he is invoked. Siva's fondness for Sama is very well known.
From tradition, it is very clear that the dance of Siva is mainly associated with several rishis, like Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, Agastya, Durvasa, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanatkumara, and others. Ramabhadra Dikshita gives a graphic description of the rasied foot of Siva in his bhujangatrasita mode of dance at Chidambaram. Siva's performance of karanas, making up angaharas, which go along with his whirling movements in forming mandalas, scatters a spray of water from the heavenly stream on his head, bathing and purifying, as it were, the entire space around, packed with spectators. The rapid swirl of his arms raises blasts, resounding in the caverns of the mountains of the quarters, while the light form his raised lotus foot, creates a halo of light around him, fully observed only by the side-long glances of Devi, whose dark eyes are twins it would seem of the blue lotus. As Siva dances with the universe as his theme, he almost lets fall the curtain of illusion, mystifying like Sambara's when soon he reveals the truth to Patanjali, Vyaghrapada and the other rishis, 'This is the illusion of the world as you see it here, and you will now know the eternal truth of the Supreme Brahman, immanent, beginningless, eternal, sentient and blissful, unending and monistic: mandalabhramishu kirnajahnavisikarasnapitachakravalakam bahuvegapavanavapuritakrandadantaradigadrikandaram uddhritaikacharanambujaprabhasrij yamanapariveshavigraham utpalodarasahodarambikalochanantavalanaikagocharam sambariyavanikam athakshipan saprapanchamayanartanam sivah drag adarsayata gonikasutam vyaghrapadam itaran rishin api tena te svayam idam jagan mrisha janate sma paramarthatah punah brahma tat param Anadi sachchidanandalakshanam anantam advayam (Patanjalicharita 4. 70-73).
Like a musician, who, during his song, stops for a while, and draws attention to the tala or the rhythm beat, Siva the great dancer, pauses for a while, to sound the drum himself in between, to show the correct adjustment when necessary. Kshemendra describes the patting of the universal lotus by Siva by a play on the world Pushkara, to suggest his beat of the drum tala. The concept is so lofty it makes even mountain meru only a small part of the universal lotus. Sportively the hand of the Lord of Pramathas (Siva) pats the universal lotus, thus signifying the proper musical time beat, the lotus which has the golden Menu mountain as its seed vessel, the twinkling stars as the pollen filaments, the dark moving clouds, the resounding bees, and the vast horizon, the lotus leaves: suvamagirikarnake taralatarakakesare chalajjaladashatpade sphutadigantapatrastrite sa vahpramathanayakah pradisatu sriyarm yatkarah karoti jagadambuje chalitatalalilayitam (Brihatkathamanjari, p. 215, 1).
A sculpture from Rajasthan, actually showing Siva patting the drum as he dances, and a Dakshinamurti from Kalugumalai, playing the drum and acting as Mridanga Dakshinamurti, are excellent examples to illustrate this point.
Siva's fondness for dance, as for music, is clear in the epithets in the Sivasahasranama. He is called Nrityapriya, Nityanritya, Nartana and Sarvasadhaka: nrityapriyo nityanrityo nartanas sarvasadhakah (Lingamahapurana 1, 65, 74)
Siva's epithets based on his love of music and dance are repeated in other Puranas as well. A salutation to Siva is couched entirely in praise of his musical qualities. He is called Nrityasila, meaning that it is his wont to dance, as he is very fond of both orchestral music and dance - Vadyanrityapriya. He is also Gitasila. He always hums a tune and beautiful music at that, sugiti, sugitim gayan namostu nrityasilaya vadyanrityapriyaya cha manyave gitasilaya sugitim gayate namah (Vayupurana 24, 142-143).
He is also called Nartanasila, habituated to dance. He is extremely fond of dance and music, both vocal and instrumental, as an offering of worship. His very limbs are composed of music, vocal and instrumental and dance, and he is the beloved of musicians and instrumentalists. He is Silpisa, the lord of musical artist, foremost among the silpis, and the very progenitor of all fine arts, sarvasilpapravartakah: namo nartanasilaya mukhavaditrakarine natyopaharalubdhaya gitavadyarataya cha (Vayupurana 30, 198-199); gitavaditranrityango gitavadanakapriyah (Vayupurana 30, 248).
As he is so fond of dance as offering in worship, it is described as very prominent in ritual. The rishis extol Siva, not only by the chant of the three Vedas - the Rig, Yajus and Sama - but also by dance and music offerings, by the utterance of Pranava, humkara and prostration: archanadibhih omkarahumnamaskarair archayanti sadasivam (Vayupurana 54, 6).
Music and dance (Gandharvaveda), being one of the eighteen vidyas, is given a high place, and Siva is its greatest exponent. The greatest masters of dance are, therefore, not only enumerated but described as always in attendance on the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Siva who are the three great exponents of dance. Naturally, dance is a great offering for Siva in worship, as he delights in it, and is music and dance personified. The great exponents are not only Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, but also Indra, Adityas, Rudras, Vasus and scores of other celestials, like Gandharvas, Hamsa, the highest of the Vidyadharas, Haha, Huhu, Brihaspati, Tumburu, Visvavasu and Apsarases, like Menaka, Sahajanya, Parnini, Punjikasthala, Ghritasthala, Ghritachi, Visvachi, Purvachi, Pramlocha, Anumlochanti, Urvasi (Vayupurana 69, 46-51).
It is this aptitude for dances that has given the dance aspect of Siva prominence in his name Nataraja or Nartesvara. He is known as Nartesvara in the north, and the term is actually used in the inscription on the pedestal of one of the most magnificent creations of the Nataraja image in Pala art, from Bharella, near Dacca. He is styled, however, Nrittesvara in Isanavarman's Sambor Prei Kuk inscription from Cambodia. Siva is known as Adavallan in Chola inscriptions, as he excels in dance, and a whole district is called, Nityavinoda, the eternal pleasure of dance of Siva. He dances eternally. That is why he Nityanritya and the embodiment of dance, which explains the name Nartana. He is the only one who can dance both tandava and lasya. Lasya, with the main emphasis on Kaisiki, is best only in feminine performance, but Siva excels even here. That is why he is Sarvasadhaka. He can, in his form shows the violent mode of dance, the other portrays the softer part of it. Siva, however, is handicapped by the fact that there is nothing in the world beyond him, as his immanence precludes his existence beyond it, and dance is a portrayal of the three worlds. But even in rendering himself, Siva excels. Siva's dance is only the dance rendering of himself, there being nothing in the three worlds, apart from him, which would answer trailokyanukriti. That is why Ratnakara sings the glory of Siva, 'O my Lord Sankara, you, who in your immanence, exist by encompassing the entire universe, mobile and immobile, only rendering yourself as you dance on all the nights, elaborate the modes of karanas and angaharas and their usage: karanangaharavidhibhis savistarais sakalasu sankara nisasu nrityata kriyate tvaya vikritir atmano vibho sacharacharam jagad avapya tasthushah (Haravijaya 6. 180).
Siva being hermaphrodite has the unique opportunity to combine rasas in a special bhavasabalata. He thus obviates the necessity to restrict himself to only sringara or raudra. As lasya has sringara as its main theme, and tandava, raudra, Siva combines both, and illustrates these two major rasas, a very difficult process indeed, as difficult or performance as of comprehension by an audience. As Patanjali tellingly puts it elsewhere that the pupil was Indra and the teacher Brihaspati, Siva himself is here the dancer, and the audience the rest of the great gods. A beautiful description of Siva's classical beauty as Ardhanarisvara, is given in the copper-plate of Dharmapala of Pragjyotisha, where the primal god, the Lord of half a youthful damsel, poses with ear lobes decorated with a blue lotus in one and the gems on the serpent hood on the other, and with the torso symmetrically divided by the high full feminine breast tinged with fragrant crimson, the masculine half ash-smeared, as if it were the commingling of the two flavours, sringara and raudra: vande tam ardhayuvatisvaram adidevam indivaroragaphanamanikarnapuram uttungapinakuchakunkumabhasmabhinnam srihagararaudrarasayor iva sargam ekam (Epigraph. Ind. 30, p. 205).
Siva is not only the Lord of tandava and lasya in both varieties of nritta and nritya, but he is also the Lord of natya. He is the actor on the world stage, the Mahasailusha, as he is known and called sometimes. He is styled Natakesvara in the Prasat Ta Keo inscription of Suryavarman from Cambodia. Even here one the stage, in following the dialogue and theme of a nataka, the actor has to follow the principles of nritya, and by the language of gesture convey the sense of the text of the drama as the actor. There are elaborate injunctions as to how a drisya kavya, like the nataka, has to be indicated by dance or nritya and abhinaya. The stage directions in Raghavabhatta's commentary, Arthadyotanika on Abhijnanasakuntalam, would make this very clear. Coomaraswamy has illustrated a few points in his introduction to the Mirror of Gesture, the nalina-padmakosa hands, palms downwards, for watering of a tree, moving the head quickly to and fro, vidhuta, lips quivering, hands in pataka unsteadily against the face to show fear of a bee, and so for the (Mirror of Gesture, pp. 4-5). It is this mystery of Siva's dance and association of Siva as tutelary deity of Natya that accounts for the mention of several presentations of innumerable danseuses to Siva temples in India and in other parts of South East Asia. The classical instance is the gift of four hundred dancing girls to the temple of the Lord of dance, Adavallan, in the shrine of Rajarajesvara at Tanjavur, with recorded elaborate provision for their maintenance provided by the emperor Rajaraja. The Badaun inscription of Lakhanapala mentions how, dance forming a vital and vivid part of temple worship ritual, the ascetic rajaguru Isanasiva caused adequate provision to be made for this perpetual daily worship. The world would be wonderstruck at the elaborate details of the great worship, causing almost a holy giddiness, with the utmost praise propitiating the Beloved of the Mountain-princes in daily ritual, the danseuses dancing, scattering flowers to the sound of music of the orchestra, heightened by the sweet sound of the lute, like the hum of the bees, drowned by the clang of the temple bells in action: turyanam sanninadair madhukaramadhurair vallakisphitagitair ghantasamghattaghoshaih kusumaparimalair nartanair nartakinam yasminnatyantabhaktya mahati girisutavallabham nityaritya bhrantih pavitriki syad atibahalamahapujaya vismitanam (Epigraph. Ind. 1, p. 66).
In a copper plate of Prabhutavarsha, the temple ritual, including elaborate offering of dance by danseuses, is mentioned. The poet of the inscription shows how the audience in the temple was so appreciative that it was captivated by the excellence of the performance. The temple of Kannesvara, where the young women of the city were enthralled by the dances of moon-faced girls, skilled in gestures, indicated by their sprout-like hands, conveying their sentiments and their emotions at the time of the dhupa, is a passage of importance, showing how in medieval India, the Lord of dance was propitiated by appropriate provision of danseuses in temples: dhumavelalilagatavilasinijananam karatalakisalayarasabhava-sadbhavaprakatanakusalasasivadananganarnartanahrita-paurayuvatijanachittantaram (Epigraph, Ind. 1, p. 305).
An early Eastern Ganga inscription of Aniyanka Bhima, from Bhubanesvar, incised in the Svapnesvara temple, gives a sparkling vision painted in words of the danseuses, presented to Tripurahara Siva Svapnesvara, whose moving side-long glances are spells to captivate the universe, whose footsteps in dance still the motion of all the denizens of the three worlds, whose germ-set bracelets shoot froth the illumination of a thousand lamps without effort, at the commencement of their dance: yasminnetranchalataralima visvavasyaikamantrah padanyasas tribhubanagatistambhanam samvidhatte nrityarambhe valayamanibhir nirmitaratnadipas tasmai dattas tripurajayine tena tasta mrigakshyah (Epigraph. Ind. 6, p. 202).
Siva being the main source of dance, interpretation of karanas and angaharas, created by Vishnu by his movements as he engaged Madhu and Kaitabha in battle, have been the main source of inspiration for the entire text on the dance forms by Bharata and others. The Natyasastra clearly says that Bharata prepared the text, based mainly on what he saw as the interpretation of rechakas, karanas and angaharas, as Siva danced and, by word of mouth, explained their nuances: rechakair angaharais cha nrityantam vikshya sankaram ityapi bruvata spashtam tad eva munina kritam (Natyasastra 4.257).
The dance of Siva, both as a sight for the eyes to experience and for the ears to hear, in regard to the rhythmic tap of the feet, in consonance with the orchestral sound, are picturesquely presented as it were, one by Dhanapala and the other by Trivikrama. Dhanapala imagines a battle array, with thousands of flags fluttering, swayed by blasts of wild wind, appearing like the tandava dance of Siva: sakhandaparasutandava iva prachandaniladhutadhvajasahasraih (Tilakamanjari 2, p. 203). Dhanapala is very fond of Kanchi and the south. He is surely recalling the innumerable flames, like flags on the mandala around Nataraja, a peculiar feature in the south in the representation of the dancing Siva. In the line previous to this, he refers to flame weapons exactly like these, like the flash of lighting fast approaching sakti weapons, all a flame. This effect of innumerable flames, as in a battlefield, suggests not only a normal pleasureable dance but something more, the dance of victory on the battlefield, where the greatest opponents, like the Tripuras, are overcome by the dark flames as weapons. The play of flames in Tripurasamhara is itself very picturesquely painted in a famous verse where bhayanaka, raudra and sringara are commingled. May the flames from the darts of Siva destroy all evil, flames, that like a faithless lover caught erring, are discarded by the youthful tear-stained lotus-eyed damsels from the seraglio of the Tripuras, thrown aside, caught on their hand, violently shaken as they pulled at the hem of the garments, flung aside as they caught their dresses, not even observed in their embarrassment, even when fallen at their feet, shaken off as they tried to embrace and envelop them: kshipto hastavalagnah prasabham abhihato pyadadanomsukantam grihnan keseshvapastas charananipatito nekshitas sambhramena alingan yovadhutas tripurayuvatibhis sasrunetrotpalabhih kamivardraparadhas sa dhaatu duritam sambhavo vas saragnih (Amar-ukam 2).
Even the arrow of Siva is described as dancing, particularly that of Tripurantaka. It is very appropriate because the arrow of Siva is made up of both Agni and Vishnu. The flame of fire is a great dancer, indeed, and Vishnu created the lovely vrittis which constitute the element of charm in dance. Like Brahma and Siva, Vishnu is also a great acharya or preceptor of dance. The verse of Vaidya Gadadhara is a picturesque description of Tripurantaka's arrow as a dancer. The flame of arrow performs the tandava dance, removing the enveloping curtain of smoke for entering the stage, scatters a handful of flowers in the guise of sparks of fire all over, and lightly stepping on the wide expanse of the mansions of the three cities, created by Maya, completely envelopes the aspect of the emotion of terror, multiplying in all directions: vishvag vyadhuya dhumaprachayayavanikam sphayamanasphulingavyajad akirya pushpanjalim upari padam nyasyato mandiranam svachchandabhogasima mahati mayapure dattaraudrangaragavyaptaseshasya visvesvarasarasikhinas tandavam nah punatu (Saduktikarnamritam, p. 23, 78).
The sound of Siva's dance steps also again recalling the rhythm in martial music is conceived in equality picturesque fashion, where Trivikrama compares the tap sound of Siva's dance steps to that of the hoofs of the horse on the move, appearing to exercise themselves in the technique of Siva's dance steps themselves: chatulakhuracharipracharenadambaritatandavasya khandaparasoh padalilam iva' bhyasyata .jatyataraturagasainyena parivritah (Nalachampu 6. pp. 373-74).
A Kakatiya inscription gives exactly the same simulation of Siva's dance steps to similar tap of the hoofs of the equestrian regiment marching forth to battle.
In early Tamil literature, there is elaborate description of Siva's martial dance. Siva as Dakshinamurti, Gangadhara, Kalikatandava, Vinadhara, Tripurantaka, Gajantaka, Brahmasiraschhetta, is fused in the concept of the dancing Siva in the company of Devi, the witness o his dance, who keeps time and applauds, in the invocation to the early Tamil poem kalittokai. Here Siva, who taught the Vedas and Vedangas to the seers, scattered fire on the Tripuras, contested in dance with Kali, created music from his drum, is described as dancing, in his joy of victory, the Kotti, Pandaranga and Kapala dances, eight-armed, wearing the tiger skin and with the skull of Brahma in his hand, as Devi of lovely form, with attenuated waist, drooping shoulders and perfumed locks, attracting bees, watches the time beat: aru ari antanarkku aru marai pala pakarntu teru nir chataik karantu tirupuram timatuttu karamal kurittatan mel chellum katun kuli marap por mani mitarru en kaiyay kel in patuparai pala iyampa pal uruvam peyarttu ni kotikotti atunkai kotu uyar akal alkul koti purai nuchuppinai konta chir taruvalo mantu amar pala katantu matukaiyal niru anintu pantarankarm atumkai panai elil anai men tol vantu ararrum kuntalai valar tukkut taruvalo kolai uluvait tol achaii konraittar chuvar purala talai ankai kontu ni kapalam atumkal mulai aninta muruvalal munpanitaruvalo paniyum tukkum chirun enru ivai man ilai arival kappa anam il poru! emakku amarntanai ati (History of Tamil Literature p. 154).
In fact, Siva's dance in several instances is the dance of victory. There is a very early yupa inscription from Nandsa, near Udaipur, mentioning the dance of victory. The word used is Jayanartana. This auspicious name of king, very appropriately chosen, assures prowess to a prince as soon as he is born. Jayanartana can be the name of no other than Siva himself, who danced the Tripurasamhara and Gajasamhara dance: jayanartanaprabhavardhanapautrasya jayasomaputrasya sominetus srisomasya (Epigraph. Ind. 27, p. 263).
Jaya in describing dance closely correlates it with warfare and points out how mandalas, angaharas and music are essentials in both. A wise one should utilise in warfare, as well as in regular dance, the different mandalas in their varieties, as well as pleasing angaharas that captivate the mind, to the accompaniment of music: etani khandasahitanyapi mandalani lilangayashtimadhurani manoharani vadyanugani vivadhani budho niyuddhe yuddhetha naratanavidhau vidhivad vidadhyat (Nrittaratnavali 3. 197).
Jaya, the Commander of the armed forces of the Kakatiyas, who was himself an adept in fine arts, particularly, music and dance, besides being a poet, fancies Siva the Lord of dance, as they very embodiment of nritya. He, therefore, by a play on words, brings together the names of all the karanas, at the same time describing a situation of Siva in dance, with his foot resounding with the anklet slipped on it by Parvati, bending forward to embrace him, with his hand holding the leaping deer, entwined by the quivering snake, joyously raising his knee in sport, to gently move aside the Nandi bull, come very close to him. Siva, the lord of the daughter of the mountain, looks the very embodiment of dance karanas, like valitoru, vartita, akshipta, nupura, kranta, harinapluta, bhujanganchita, parsvakranta, apaviddha, vrishabhakrida, urdhvajanu and the rest: aslishyadvalitoruvarttitasivak-shiptasphurannupurakrantamghrim harinaplutasrayakaram chanchadbhujanganchitam parsvakrantapadapaviddhavrishabhakridordhvajanutsukamvyachashte karanaugham adritanayakantopamam jayanah (Nrittaratnavali 4.1).
In describing a situation like the dire need of the Devas to master a precious text of dancing by a specialist like Nandikesvara in order to overcome a great dancer representing the Daityas, the appellation given even to him is Natasekhara. Indra request Nandikesvara to acquaint him with Bharatarnava so that he could triumph over Natasekhara. Natasekhara means 'the crest jewel among dancers'. It is not very different from the appellation Nataraja. In the Sivapurana, Bana, the great devotes of Siva, is described as dancing his best to please Siva who is never so overjoyed as when he listens to Sama music and witnesses the best of dance. The story of Ravana, chanting the Sama hymns in musical notes to please Siva and get released from under the Kailasa mountain where he got trapped by his own overweaning pride, when he tried to shake the mighty mountain, is only too well known.
Music and dance can never be separated. In fact, sangita includes music, both vocal and instrumental, and dance. There is very early mention of all these as silpa (Kausitaki Brahmana 29.5). That is why Siva is sometimes represented as the Lord of music with the lute and sometimes as a dancer carrying the lute. He also occasionally plays the drum independently, as the musical Dakshinamurti, or sounds the drum dancing as Nataraja. When Kalidasa says sangitaya prahatamurajah- sangita means not only instrumental and vocal music, atodya and gita, but also nritya or dance. By dance has to be understood not only pure nritta, composed of tala and laya, but also nritya which expounds the text of the song through abhinaya. This brings into the scene literature. The sculpturesque position in dance and the beautiful situations in the stances of angaharas and karanas, where the body beautiful looks much more so by the flexions, completely draws in the art of chitra, sculpture and painting, which give a permanent vision of fleeting, charming situations in dance. That is why Siva, as Vinadhara Dakshinamurti and as Nataraja, along with Vyakhyana Dakshinamurti, go together. Even in dance, it is not any theme that is favoured so much as a worthy theme, like the Tripurasamhara, which is the greatest heroic episode appealing at once to literature, art, music and dance: tripuravijayo giyate kinnaribhih (Meghaduta 1.58). Tradition also has it that the first performance to popularise natya among the gods was Tripuravijaya, witnessed and appreciated by Siva himself. A very important early terracotta of the Sunga period, representing Siva as Vina Dakshinamurti, emphasises the sangita aspect of Siva and in mute eloquence describes him as the teacher of music, vocal and instrumental, and dance. Centuries later, was created the more developed, charming, rate iconographic figure of Siva, as Saptasvaramaya. Siva from Parel is a form multiplied into seven to represent the personified musical notes, nishada, rishabha, gandhara, shadja, madhyama and dhaivata. The Ganas themselves are shown at the feet, on either side, playing the four varieties of musical instruments that compose the atodya, the stringed, tata, including the harp, lute and other vina-like instruments, the anaddha like mridanga, muraja, pushkara and other varieties of drum, belonging to the percussion class, the sushira variety of wind instruments, like the flute and others, and the ghana, or clanging metallic cymbals and others of that type, both large and small. There can be no mistaking the intent of the Vakataka sculptor who has portrayed the musical Siva at Parel. It is one of the gems of Vakataka art. The theme of Bhutaganas playing musical instruments as orchestral accompaniment to Siva's dance is a great favourite in literature as in art and in the Tevaram hymns of the early Tamil saints there are pictures conjured up, as by Tirujnanasambanda, who has Siva or Alankador, with the crescent moon, the mighty stream of Ganga in his locks, dancing, as many Vedic chants are accompanied by the play of drum, flute and harp by the Bhutaganas: paraiyunchirukkulalum yalumputam payirrave maraiyum palapati mayanattiraiya maintanar piraiyumperumpunalcher chataiyinarum (Tevarattirupatikam 45.6).
As the drum precedes the other musical instruments, both for music and for dance, the sounding of it by Nandi at the commencement of Siva's dance becomes a favourite theme in literary descriptions. Mayura has an interesting allusion to it. He compares it to the pranava or omkara at the commencement of Vedic chant. The sound of the Nandi drum by Nandi at the start of the evening dance of the foe of Madana (Siva), is like the first blast of winds in the season of laden clouds, like smoke before fire, like the first created (water) in the universe, like the sacred Om for the mass of Vedic literature, the son of Vinata, i.e. Aruna at the front of the vehicle of Surya: paurastyas toyadartoh Pavana iva pavan pavakasyeva dhumo visvasyevadisargo pranava ive param pavano vedaraseh sandhyanrityotsavechchhor iva madanaripor nandinandininadas saurasyagre sukham vo vitaratu vinatanandanas syandanasya (Mayurasataka, 55).
Siva being the most auspicious, the orchestra itself, composed of vina, venu and mridanga, in turn serve the purpose of the great dance master, and are thus auspicious. Ratnakara records the ancient belief that the musical orchestra is a remover of visha or poison. Siva as the greatest of physicians, bhishaktama among the bhishajas, the greatest among the physicians, as the Veda would have it, is the great God who swallowed the deadliest poison, kalakuta. Naturally, Siva's orchestra of vina, venu and mridanga, can be held to be consecrated by mantra and remove all visha or poison. The general belief that consecrated musical instruments remove poison is thus voiced by Ratnakara: prastauti mantrakritasamskritirupavenuvinaravopi vishamasya vishasya nasam (Haravijaya 16, 9). The learned commentator gives the authority for this belief: mantrena kritasamskaram rupam yasya vinades tadiyo ravo visham nasayati; yad uktam-'vinavenumridangadarpanataleshvaropitah kichako dashtanam vishapankalepam achirad dhyatas samutpumsayer' iti.
Kalidasa conceives of a magnificent natural orchestra for Siva, with nor artificial instrument, but natural elements themselves combining to produce the effect of the four instruments composing atodya. Filled with wind, the bamboos sound sweet with the effect of venu (flute), the resounding thunder of the cloud gives the effect of the noble note of the muraja drum, as vocal music is supplied by the sweet-throated Kinnaris, singing in passionate earnestness the great theme of Siva's triumph over the Tripuras. Kalidasa feels that this would complete the musical background for Pasupati's dance: sabdayante madhuram anilaih kichakash puryamanas samraktabhis tripuravijayo giyate kinnaribhih nirhradas te muraja iva chet kandareshu dhvanis syat sangitartho nanu pasupates tatra bhavi samagrah (Meghaduta 1.56).
So stupendous is the concept of the Lord of dance, Nataraja, so completely enveloping the universe, in which and as which he dances, an impossible situation indeed, where he is both the container and the contained, that his adoration through dance and music, which is itself part of temple ritual, is likened to lighting up the sun with a flame. Sudraka laughs at this idea of adoring Siva, the Lord of dance, by dance and music, as this is not different from the worship of the sun by waving the lamp before him, or the ocean by offering a handful of water, or Vasanta, the god of spring, by a scatter of blooming flowers, which is all the same as the adoration of the Lord of letters by utterances: suryam yajanti dipais samudram adbhir vasantam api pushpaih archamo bhagavantam vayam api vagisvaram vagbhih (Padmaprabhritaka 11).
What is meant here is music, and sangita necessarily brings in dance also, which is an offering to Siva Dakshinamurti, who is also a dancer carrying the vina, symbolising music and dance. This idea closely follows the hymn from the Upanishad, na tatra suryo bhati na chandratarakam nema vidyuto bhanti kutoyam agnih tam eva bhantam anubhati sarvam tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhati. The ideas of Siva about dance are manifest or unmanifest as there is no knowledge of dance or music or any other art of science apart from him. That is why, while appreciating the performance of Samudramathana and Tripuradaha by the celestials, Siva tells Bharata that he had also been often contemplating as he danced in the evenings, on the beauty of natya as he now witnessed it. He himself however had preference for nritta in the charming Kaisiki mode. With an admixture of the perfection of nritta with its angaharas and karanas, as taught to him by Tandu at the instance of Siva, Bharata improved his natya.
From the Jacket: Nataraja as a theme represents life force itself. The ancients visualised Nataraja as a manifestation of the cosmic energy symbolising the three aspects of creation, preservation and destruction. The dance of Nataraja has always been synonymously viewed with truth and beauty, force and rhythm, movement and change, realisation and dissolution. Nataraja has been visualised in variety of forms by seers, poets and artists- chiselled, painted, described and sung about in many parts of India and countries in the neighbourhood since long. This itself is a testimony to the twin aspects of time and timelessness of Nataraja,both as a personality and as a theme. This book highlights Nataraja as the presiding deity of fine arts whether it be music, dance, painting, sculpture or epigraphy. The Vedic roots of the cosmic dancer and the blend of tradition and modernity is woven as a thread throughout the book describing vividly the exploits of the great dancer on world stage. It also contains interesting information on famous spots of the Nataraja theme and the concept of Nataraja beyond Indian frontiers.
About the Author:
Dr. Sivaramamurti has been one of the most acclaimed art historians of this country. He had devoted an entire life time to iconography, especially to the Nataraja theme. This book is an outcome of his research as part of the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship awarded to him 1968. Some of the other books of the author include South Indian Paintings, Some Aspects of Indian Culture, Indian Sculpture and Sanskrit Literature and Art.
CHAPTER 1 NATARAJA-THE LORD OF DANCE CHAPTER 2 NATYA A Peasant Ocular Sacrifice Its Scope Purpose of Natya Its Varieties: Tandava and Lasya Marga and Desi Varieties The Occasion of Dance Dance as Vyanjana or Suggestion Superior to Abhidha Utterance Formless Siva Assumes From to Enjoy Dance Other Important Deities also Delight in Dance Appreciation of Dance Knowledge of Dance a Blessing The Quality of a Dancer Essentials of Dance Sculptor's Interpretation of Dance Antiquity of Natya CHAPTER 3 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SIVA'S DANCE Dance of Bliss Dance of Omnipotence Dance of Immanence Dance of Time and Eternity Dance of Omniscience Dance Symbol of Creation and Sustenance Maya Ashtamurti The Import of the Decoration of Siva's Jatas (Aharya) Creation and Destruction only Transformation and Rejuvenation Symbol of Life Siva Auspicious Destroys Fear from the Three Miseries Architecture of the Universe Significance of Siva on the Bull as on Apasmara Dvandvasama Isvara's Preeminence Siva the Universal Soul Dancing in the Heart-Lotus Nataraja and Ranganatha as Dynamic and Static Aspects of Identical Concept CHAPTER 4 KARANAS PRESENTED IN SIVA'S TANDAVA CHAPTER 5 KARANAS PRESENTED BY VISHNU AS KRISHNA CHAPTER 6 GANESHA, DIKPALAS AND MATRIKAS DANCE IN ACCOMPANIMENT CHAPTER 7 THE VEDIC ROOTS OF THE CONCEPT OF THE DANCER Siva as Dancer in the Mahabharata Siva Propounds Grammar Siva, Master of Music Sabhapati Vyaghrapada and Patanjali Dance and Music in the Veda Indra and Other Vedic Deities as Dancer Siva's Dance against this Background Remover of Maya Sahasraksha Pasupati Maddens Rishipantnis Khatvangi Gajantaka Dance with Matrikas CHAPTER 8 NATARAJA PICTURED IN LITERATURE Literature Description of Siva's Form Play of Clours Blend of Iconographic Forms The Third Eye Ardhanarisvara Aspect Aharya Tandava: Mountains Tossed Against Elephant Hide Handicaps in Dance Movements Raudra Rasa of Tandava and Bhavabhinaya Nilakantha and Nilakantha Forest of Arms in Motion Ganga's Movement Stars Scattered Ashes Scattered The Moon Slips Effect of swift Movement of Hands and Feet Skulls Vivified Chant Laudatory Hymns Rechaka of Neck Siva's Dance of Deluge also for Creation Weird Effect of the Dance Ganga as Curtain Background Velocity of Dance Movement A Pause Dance Again Abhinaya Music and Dance Siva Natyacharya Siva Withesses Dance as a Rasika CHAPTER 9 NATARAJA IN HYMNAL LITERATURE Onomatopoeic Poetic Fancy Siva Connoisseur, Dancer, Dance Master Difficult Dance Multi-armed Immaculate Purana Philosophic Import Composite Iconographic Import Vedic Hemistichs to Elucidate Sabhapati Ardhanarisvara Stores on Nataraja at Chidambaram Devi Witness of Siva's Dance CHAPTER 10 NATARAJA IN EPIGRAPHICAL LITERATURE Dedication of and to Nataraja in Inscription Synonyms of Nataraja Siva Dance concept Popular All Over Nilakantha Violent Tandava Tandava and Lasya in One: Ardhanarisvara Siva Dance Gathers Momentum Varied Fancy on Ganga Split Skulls Revived Kailasa is no Dance Hall Siva Dance and Expounds Grammar Ashes to Purify Panchakritya Thunderous Foot Pats Beautifying Nataraja Onomatopoeic Abhinaya of Devi Padmanabha Fond of Dance Contradictory Qualities CHAPTER 11 VARIETIES OF NATARAJA AS DESCRIBED IN SILPA TEXTS Sakaladhikara Sritattvanidhi Silparatna Amsumadbhedagama Silpa Prakasa Devatamurtiprakarana Vishnudharmottara Matsyapurana Kurmapurana Chaturvargachintamani Stotra CHAPTER 12 AESTHETIC QUALITY OF THE CONCEPT CHAPTER 13 NATARAJA FORM IN SCULPTURE AND PAINTING Early Siva Forms Gupta Vakataka Early Bhanja Vishnukundin Early Pallava Early Western Chalukya Easter Chalukya Pallava Early Pandya Early Chera Nolamba Rashtrakuta Chola Late Chalukya Hoysala Kakatiya Reddi Vijayanagara Nayak Medieval Kerala Eastern Ganga Pala and Sena Kamarupa Karkota and Utpala Gurjara Pratihara Chaulukya Paramara Chandella Haihaya Gahadavala Late Medieval Paintings from the Hills CHAPTER 14 THE NATARAJA CONCEPT BEYOND INDIAN FRONTIERS Introduction Indonesia Bali Cambodia Champa Thailand Central Asia Nepal Ceylon CHAPTER 15 SPOTS SPECIALLY ASSOCIATED WITH NATARAJA AND THEIR IMPORTANCE Adrisabha Adichitsabha Ratnasabha Rajatasabha Ramrasabha Chitrasabha Kanakasabha APPENDIX A APPENDIX B BIBLIOGRAPHY INDEX