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Nataraja: The Hindu Dance Lord
By Deepak Bhattacharya

Since Nataraja is held as the fountain head of shastriya nritya (classical dance) 15, nritya aspects therefore becomes central to this study, comparative art motifs are co-linear members associated & supplementary items are co-lateral referrals. The non Hindu dance panels of Bharut-Sanchi pillars (BSP) art of 2nd -1st BC in N India 13, 14 is also taken as a collateral item because of its nritya component and antiquity.

Figure 1
fig – 1

Many scholars have studied this monument, but non have exclusively focused on P N medallion pan India studies on Nataraja have missed it altogether.


The topic focuses on the peculiarities in the art of Kalingiya Nataraja. Discussions on individual components & items on a member to member juxtaposed basis provides positions for perspection. Interphasing articulated details (art & archaeology) with loric aspects (traditions), commonality, logical positions, variation from actuality, logic & scientific parameters is the methodology herein. The scope is limited to co-linear members (i.e. 4 iconic members as noted at 4 principal heritage sites – iconology schools ). Such select scope compacts histo-geographic span, makes the topic integrated, enables swivel perspection validated by methodology.

Kimbadanti [Tradition]

Parasuram alias Parasareswar is the rudra (terrific) aspect of Siva. The shrine is known by either names. The enshrined linga (gender \ pendent) is held as a swayambhu (self manifesting ). While astral connections & cosmic aspects have been imparted to Parasuram temple by modern researchers 16, cosmic connections have been related to the philosophy associated with Natraja murti in general & to C N in particular by ecclesiastical order 17.

T. Satyamurti 18 writes that Siva is said to have performed the blissful, glorious, victory, dance Nadanta (Nd) first at a place called Darukavana (Azadirachta indica (note - i), a bustling center of risis (hermitage ). Quoting Coomaraswami, Koily Purana -K P Tiruvachagam texts T.G. Rao calls it Taraka forest. Coomaraswami, Rao & Satyamurti narrate that Nd performance was witnessed by Vishnu disguised as Mohinee. Vishnu \ Adishesa in due course did much penance to propiate Siva to re-perform Nd. A pleased Siva is said to have agreed to a re-performance in the forest of Tillai (Excocecaria agallocha - Guan in Oriya the local lingua of Orissa). Adishesa is said to have taken rebirth as Patanjali. Meanwhile, the son of Madhyanadinasri (the lord of noon) who lived on the banks of Ganga had a son who was a ardent devotee of Siva. During pilgrimage the son found a swyambhu linga (self-manifesting Siva) under a banyan tree, near a pond. He started penance. His mode of penance was to pluck flowers in the wee hours before the bee's would collect nectar and offer the flowers to the swyambhu linga. His penance was also to behold the glorious dance of Siva. This singari \ mali (flower plucker) was so adapt in climbing trees and locate flowers in the dark that he was called Byaghrapada (tiger footed ). Patanjali and Byaghrapada had their separate ashrams (hermitages), both worshipped the swyambhu of Tillai forest ! Both awaited upon Siva to present himself in Nd mode. As promised, Siva appeared with his consort Siva kama sundari, re-performed AT for the awaiting devotee duo in the presence of other gods 19, 20. K P is said to be a sthala purana (site specific) and a aupa purana (sub-epic \ lesser-epic) ascribed to the great shrine at Chidambaram in T N yet no art has so far been related with K P.

In Karnataka there is a river called Taraka. Archaeaology at Bhubaneswar (erstwhile capital of Kalinga) has been indicated to have a Taraka (giant star) pattern of lay out 21 Taraka also means falling star. Karnataka vrs TN and Karnataka vrs Orissa have been at politico-ethnic-cultural rivalry at least since Pulakesin &ndashII&rsquos time (7th AD) Orissa vrs TN rivalry has been since Kesari-I \ Chola era (10th AD). Das sites Manu the Hindu law giver (2nd BC) to indicate Kalinga as the land of the lowly, further quotes Matsya purana to indicate Odradesa (Orissa) as the land of the mlechas 22.Kalinga has been indicated as the land of the mlechhas 23, mlechha means non Sanskrit dialect speaker \ low person 24. Siva before commencing re-performance of Nd at Chidambaramis said to have subjugated the muyalaka \ apasmara purusha (dwarf \ lowly person) of Taraka forest 25.

Hindu texts of all hues are equivocal that Siva himself was a lowly person. His proposal to marry Gauri the daughter of the sovereign of the Himalayan territories was objected to by all concerned excluding the divine girl. Objection was on cast, colour & creed grounds. Dakshya (father of Gauri) had set up for Gauri's marriage. Siva was not invited. On his uninvited arrival Siva was alluded to ‘ as the lowly ’ ! That led Siva to disrupt the Yajyan (holy fire) which Dakshya had set up for the ritual. In the Indian subcontinent fire has always been holy & specially held in extreme esteem primarily by the Vedic civilisation & in later times by the Zoroastrians (lineage). Again, when Gauri committed suicide by immolating herself Siva is said to have picked up her lifeless body & had performed RUDRA TANDAVA dance in mad rage & abundance [ Rudra tandava is loaded with violence while Ananda tandava reflects joy ]. Therefore, Nataraja's Tandava has a strong integer of inter civilisation & inter-cultural contest with Tandava prevailing always with the victor. It is also due to inter region or inter society rivalry, regional peculiarities as associated with nritya also gets reflected in cognate specimens.Nataraja murti has been used by each society as a vehicle. In this paper, contest between parties in respect to time & place is further exfoliated. Nata-Tandava (tandava the dance) has never been presented in such perspective prior to this paper.

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