Nataraja: The Hindu Dance Lord
By Deepak Bhattacharya
In script K P relates Nataraja exclusively with Nd, in chitra bhasa P N presents Nataraja + Siva in aksic forms as the producer of nritya, nada & tala i.e. nritya + nada + tala = nadanta (ultimate sonance). Satyamurti mentions the term Ananda Tandava 46 (joyous abundance ). Nadanta (ultimate sonance ) + ananda (joy ) = tandava (abundance). Each a product of the other & each within the other i.e. a syndrome, which is why golakar nidarsana (circular indication). A typical product of kalingiya saili (marvelous methodology).
fig – 8
P N medallion presents 3 divine performers, rendering in tandem three different ancient classical arts. Similarly, three prime human components are associated with oddisi nritya recital in current times, viz- nritya (dance), sangeeta (vocal recital) & vadya (instrument) respectively. Mardala being the prime item of vadya. The oddisi dancer neither plays music nor sing all accompanists are seated beside, the dancer is central to the scheme & faces the audience as in fig 1. Tri-netra accompanist , vertically placed mono face vadya jodi on muchula, simultaneous play, player perched on manchia, vairava, et.al, are not noted in B N, E N, C N & BSP.
In Hindu scholastic system vadya as alike nritya (dance) & sangeeta (vocal music) is learnt & performed in tune with well defined grammar. Raman & Palit have scientifically proven that without a pair of face of a mridangam (percussion) the range of sounds as needed in classical grammar is not possible. They use the term mridangam to denote pakhawaz and not khol. They prove, that, by varying the striking force & position, distinct & neat sounds of ultra wide spectrum are produced in very rapid manner, without internal & external echo, wave cancellation or jumbling in a mridangam as happens in Occidental instruments. They opine [ i ] “ the mridangam produces excellent acoustics &rdquo.long anusilan (practice) for the maker & the player being must [ ii ] &ldquosum total of mridangam making & mridangam playing is a learned discipline ” 47.
My study of a oddisi mardala and a mridangam (khol ) indicates that the mridangam has very distinct contrast in diameters between it&rsquos either faces than the mardala. Semi parabole body with marginally off center apogee gives to the mardala two faces of slightly variable diameter. Sound waves produced from either face gets internally squeezed & do not effectively reach the opposite membrane from within so as to set off delayed action mechanism, direct transponder cum repeater action is grossly reduced by a inner membrane of lesser tension. Hollowing technique is such that it helps in multi splitting of waves . Use of very hard, yet porous wood type such as Rakta chandan (Petrocarpus santalinus), Sisu (Dalbergia sissoo) and Daru alias Neem (Azadirachta indica) also helps in internal absorption. External propagation & echo have (i) differing frequency & pitch (ii ) opposite directed path (iii) maintain different levels (iv) notes, follow. Between the mridangam & the mardala , the master player is able to produce ultra wide range of notes having lower pitch & high decibel with the mardala. Adhering to strict norms (of playing), decibel can be altered while retaining or altering the pitch. A fast mixture of similar (non identical) notes is possible involving generation from either face produce high decible notes with one and inject notes of lower decibel with the other re-do with altering pitch. All this happens without cancellation or jumbling. The mridangam in contrast can produce higher pitch & wider bass from designate faces, no mix is possible. In other words the mardala operates within a narrower band. This exclusively makes the mardala&rsquos tala (intoxicating cadence ) stereophonic. Narrow frequencycovering only the sonant span of the audible acoustic band& stereophonic generation effects the whole of the human cochlea (inner ear), the brain picks up with ease the gamut of notes as ‘ surround effect ’, which is why the hearer sway.
Between either, playing in drut tala (fast cadence), mardala involves more ‘ strike & retention ’ of the fore-palm than ‘ free strikes ’ in absolute numbers & percentage terms. fig 7 shows the divine player using both his fore-palms, bainya (left) is coiled indicating geba kama (vertical tap by finger tips), which is said to be an indication of a master player. Elaborate treatment of the leatherine face, tout stretching of membrane, side binding technique & above all placing the gab (hard black topping) comprised of atomized quartz & cinders having residual iron, mixed with starch from cooked double boiled rice as the binder. The mixture is rubbed into either face to form a hard plaque (gab \ kiran). Combination of compaction, uniform thickness of membrane & plaque, radial accuracy & differential area cover between the either face enables generation of a variety of resonance with definition helps in demarcation of pitch finer control with finger work eliminate unwanted resonance production of gorgeous yet excellent acoustics i.e. mardala is capable of producing notes which is not possible with a khol \ mridangam or any mono face membrano-organ. Masterful play results in katha (narration) accentuating notes which emphasize tip-toeing, strolling, rolling, running, thumping, swiveling, waving, indicating (avinaya / drama), etc. among others. Mardala is the prime instrument of accompaniment in many classical dances and a must in any oddisi recital to this day.