Nataraja: The Hindu Dance Lord
By Deepak Bhattacharya
Classical performing arts being scholastic in content & exercise, differing practice, levels of evolution become apparent on a histo-regional matrix. Apart regional contest there could have been differing governing philosophies. Bharata&rsquos Natya-Sastra (principles of drama) 48 is a treaties on theatrics and indicates Vedic super deity Brahma and Indra as its enunciator & inaugurator respectively, there is no Nataraja neither is dance. Therefore, natya-sastra is Vedic way of thought & life. The stone art of co-linear members presents the avaidik (non vedik ) school of nrityarchana (worship via dance) and also a successful attempt in projecting the alternative philosophy. Vedik Hindu&rsquos were not the sole. Avaidik Hindu society existed, possibly co-existed, so did a separate thought-culture & way of life 49. Nrityarchana emerges as a non-vedic component, Nataraja as it&rsquos highest refined model.
If one has to consider the Nataraja art on stone alongwith co-linear & co-lateral aspects, cognate archaeological members and art there on, then (1) act as material evidence (2) valid tool for good guidance which when applied (i) throw light on such popular socio-historical aspects, (ii) bare the evolutionary track of related thought, (iii ) migration and inter-relation, (iv) regional affinity or peculiarities. When such material is juxtaposed with kimbadanti (tradition \ mythic lore) a possibility arises of Ekamra being the ancient Darukavana alias the place of Taraka wherein dealt the followers of mimansa 50. In PN chaiti vitika rudrakshya mandita golakara nidarsana on deula&rsquos mukhasala underscores the inter relationship between dharma & nritya (religion & dance) resulting in nrityarchana. This study however is limited to few archaeological members while art of Nataraja proliferates in India. Application of such tool in a interdisciplinary route on the matrix of pan India panorama becomes more relevant, as because among the hue & mosaic of Hindu iconography many aspects stand in silence.
Prime frontal placement of P N underscores the fact that the then society as associated with this deula took pride in Nataraja performing publicly. The series of fine tuned nidarsanas marks out P N among co-linear members. Following conclussion emerge (i ) by 7th AD regional competition in the domain of performing arts was already in vogue [ ii ] incorporation of exclusive oddisi nritya bhangi could well have been a conscious decision (iii) existence of more than one school in pan India scenario (iv ) all schools used Nataraja variants as vehicle i.e. nritya, Nataraja & nrityarchana is more antique than 6th -7th AD. All co-linear members of the cognate group presents nritya-vadya-sangeeta (v ) P N presents to the beholder few nritya mudras, bhangis, vastra & abhusana which are exclusive to oddisi classical dance (vi ) Urdha linga may have something to do with the term Kalinga or linga worshiping sub-sect (vii ) Percussion pair may be proto mardala (viii ) P N embodies tandava while the tri-netra drum player and vairava alike vocal renderer are art signatures of nadanta & proto vairava raga or kalingada raga respectively (ix ) presents loka-katha (folk-lore) via chitra bhasa (x ) emphasizes inter-relation between sculptured members, between performing art & the patron society (xi ) centrality aspect & possessive feeling for the items contained therein (xii ) is a typical specimen of kalingiya saili (clever technique) typifies articulate brevity is a un-paralleled masterpiece. The monument is conserved by A S I and is considered as the best preserved member among the earliest cognate group of Hindu load structured monuments in India.
Dance poses were identified & terminologies validated by the doyen of Oddisi dance Padmabibhusan Padmabhusan, Padmashree the Late Kelu Charan Mahapatra. Director of ‘ Srjan ’ Oddisi nritya-basa (dance abode) and Mr. Ratikanta Mahapatra. Structure of various percussions & making of mardala & pakhawaz was studied in the workshop of Mr. Swapan Kumar Lal. Mardala & pakhawaz was played by Mr. Lal, Mr. G. Ramprasad, Mr. Sarat Das (Mahari gharana) & others for acoustic assessment. Lt. Col D. Bhattacharya of AMC facilitated visits to south Indian heritage sites. Pandit J V S Rao (Hindusthani vocal -Kala Vikas Kendra ) Mr. Pradeep Das (lecturer Orissa Sangeet Mahavidyalaya) Dr. P C Naik Ph.D (physicist) Prof. B P Chowdhury D.Sc (Botanist) of Utkal University participated in private discussions. Dr. S. Maiti Ph.D & Mr. P K Mahapatra of ASI facilitated repeat close observation of sculptures. Librarian of Orissa state Museum provided valuable references. Mr. T B Sahoo helped with computer works. Mrs Mamata Bhattacharya funded the study programme between 1996-2003. Assistance from these many people is acknowledged with deep gratitude.