The Religion and Philosophy of Tevaram (Thevaram)

by M. A. Dorai Rangaswamy | 1958 | 410,072 words

This page describes “(c) sculptures of shiva and dance” from the part dealing with Nampi Arurar (Sundarar) and Mythology, viz. Puranic stories and philosophy. The 7th-century Thevaram (or Tevaram) contains devotional poems sung in praise of Shiva. These hymns form an important part of the Tamil tradition of Shaivism

Chapter 4.3 - (c) Sculptures of Shiva and Dance

Coming to the sculptures of the Kailasanatha Temple, we have various representations of Shiva as the Dancer. In discussing the various heroic feats of Shiva in the light of Tevaram, we had the opportunity of emphasising one important fact that every one of the feats ended in a particular dance of Shiva. The sculptures representing the various stories are to that extent dramatic representations. The Hasta abhinaya—or the poses of the hands of the various actions and other postures of the body have to be interpreted according to Natya Sastra. This has been very well brought out by Dr. Minaksi, who writes: “A profound knowledge and critical appreciation of the Natya Sastra is clearly revealed by the Pallavas in their representation of the different poses of the divine dancer. The art of dancing was popularised and encouraged in the South by the Pallavas through the medium of these various representations which were a source of inspiration”.

The Pallavas believed in the divine nature of the Dances. Mahendravarma’s invocation to Shiva in his Mattavilasa is significant:

Bhasdvesavapnk-kriydguna-krtdnastritya bhedan gatam
Bhavavesa vasdda nekarasatam trailokyayatramayam
Nrttam nispratibaddha bodhamahimd yah preksakassa svayam
Sa vyaptavanibhajanam disatu vd divyah kapali yas ah

The dance of Kapali full of all sentiments is said to cover the three worlds. To the interest of Rajasimha and Mahendravarma II in this divine art, the Kailasanatha Temple stands as a living monument. Apart from the sculptures of dances, dance is even now a part of temple ritual, in combination with music. The dancing girls of high and noble ideals called ‘atikalmar’ were attached to the Temples of the Pallava and Cola age. In fact numerous inscriptions refer to this provision.

Rea’s Plate XXVill is a representation of Urdhva tandava. Shiva has only six arms, as required in the 8th form of dance enumerated above. He stands straight on His left leg. There is no apasmara there. The front left arm is held up straight with the hand bent at right angles to the right side, and its palm is turned downwards. The left leg and the left arm thus form as it were the central axis; the right leg is lifted up almost parallel to the raised left arm. The toe is pointing towards the crown of the Lord. He is having the jatamakuta; He is wearing ear-rings, necklace, three bangles and two armlets on each arm and an anklet on each leg. There is a yajnopavita, probably of a serpent going round the left shoulder and encircling the raised up leg. Another serpent hangs from the left shoulder down to the left ankle. There is a sash round His waist and the two ends of another cloth are found below His waist on the right and the left. There is a serpent with its outspread hood; probably it had fallen down. On the right hands He is holding the drum or utukkai, abhaya pose, and a dancla at the top of which is attached a banner. The left hands hold a torch (or bell) and the vismaya pose. The third left hand has already been described.

This is the Lalatatilaka Dance described by Bharata:

Vrscikam caranam krtva padasyangusthakena tu
Lalate tilakam kuryallalata-tilakam tu tai

One of the legs is lifted up and its foot is held in the form of a scorpion and its toe is so turned towards the forehead as though in the act of marking a tilaka. According to Abhinavagupta, the leg pose in which the leg is lifted up behind is called the Vrscika pose, because it then resembles the tail of a scorpion.

Rea’s plate LVIII is another representation of this dance which has been referred to and described by Gopinatha Rao and by Dr. Minaksi. The right leg is lifted up with the foot in the form of a Vrscika touching the jatamakuta. In this figure, the Lord has eight hands, as required in the seventh mode of dance enumerated above. As contrasted with the figure described above, there is a small bend of the body and the head, and this also has been referred to in our description of the seventh mode of the dance. The right hands hold an aksamala, a sword and two pataka poses. The left hands exhibit a valaya, fire, noose and vismaya pose. Nandikesvara is found immediately on the left side of Shiva dancing in the lalita mode. In the adjacent niches, there is Brahma on the right and Visnu with his wife on the left. Gopinatha Rao identifies the figure on the right as kinnara, half man and half bird, playing apparently on a stringed instrument. The former figure which we described above is an exemplification of nataraja or the dance of Shiva 461 the beauty of straight lines whereas this figure exemplifies the gracefulness of bends.

Rea’s plate XCVII, fig. 2 is from the Matangesvara temple. It combines the characteristic feature of both the figures we have described. The Lord stands straight on His left leg and lifts up the left arm as in the previous figure. The body is straight but the head alone exhibits a slight bend towards the right. The right leg is lifted up but not at parallels to the lifted arm. The foot is in the vrscika pose. Therefore, this figure with the central axis formed by the left leg and the left arm exhibits a kind of rotatory action of the other parts of the body. On the left there is a figure dancing in the lalita mode. On the right there is a figure playing on the drum. There is a figure sitting between the Lord and the figure on the left.

Rea’s plate CIX, fig. 1 is from Tripurantakesvara temple. It is a beautiful figure of symmetrical angles. There is no apasmara visible. The Lord stands on the left-leg, but it is bent at its knee and this leg forms another angle with the trunk. The left leg goes up with the arm bent. He has jatamakuta and the head is bent to the right, forming another curve. The right leg is almost parallel to the bent head. On the left there tare three arms thrown out holding things which are not clear; the fourth is bent at its elbow at right angles to its hand in the suci pose. There is on the right a corresponding arm bent at the elbow; there are three other right arms thrown out holding the hatchet, trident and serpent. The upraised right arm answers to the upraised leg on the other side. At the top on each side there are two persons in the air, worshipping the dance. On each side of the leg, there is one person. On the left is the Mother; on the right is one playing on the drum. The serpents swing from the waist downwards in this dance of ecstasy. To harmonize with ecstatic dance of the hands and the leg in the top portion, there is the group of people playing on musical instruments in the lower portion.

Rea’s plate CXVIII, fig, 3 is from the Airavatesvara Temple. This is like the first figure elsewhere described but the straight lines are softened into smooth curves following the shape of the muscles. The Lord has ten arms. On the right hands are exhibited the flag, the utukkai, a danda and, abaya and pataka poses. The left hands exhibit a flame, a serpent, an upward bend of one hand and a downward bend of another hand. There seems to be some symmetry between the right and left arms; the backmost arms form a right angle bend at the elbow; the next adjacent arms form acute angles. The hands next in order are thrown out whilst those next look downwards. Of the fore-most arms, the left arm is held straight up, straight except for the inward curve near the elbow and the bend inwards of the hand at the top. The right hand is in the abhaya pose. The banner answers to the bend of the left hand. The raised up right leg is parallel to the raised up arm but for the bend of the foot with its toe approaching the crown in vrscika pose. The crown is a little bent towards the raised up leg. There is something static about this dance as though the whole universe rests equipoised on Him. At the top corners two persons in the air worship symmetrically. On the left stands the Mother. On the right are three bhutas whose curved parts harmonize in a comic way with the rocks of the mountains and their drums.

Rea’s plate CXXIII, fig. 3 from the Kailasanatha temple is probably the original for Plate CIX, fig. 1 etc. Shiva has ten arms. The right arms, those making obtuse angles, exhibit a sword, a drum and a serpent in their hands; the other two hands are held in cinmudra and abhaya poses. The left hands show a downward move exhibiting the flame of the fire, the hatchet both being turned downwards. The front left arm is held up with the hand bent to the right above the crown. As for the other two hands, their poses are not clear. Shiva stands on His left leg which is bent a little to the front and left. The right leg is lifted up but not parallel to the lifted up arm; its foot is in vrscika pose. The head is bent towards it. Every thing suggests a dynamic motion and equipoise. On the left stands the Mother with beautiful bends. On the right probably sits Nandi playing on a drum. Calm is the peaceful base and all above is in full motion and joy.

Both Dr. Minaksi and Mr. Gopinatha Rao refer to the sculptures representing the Lalita mode of dance. Bharata describes it thus:

Karihasto bhaved vamo daksinascapavartitah
Bahusah kuttitah padd jneyam tallalitam budhaih

Kari hasta pose is the usual gajahasta found in the usual Nataraja figure. This is also called ancita and Abhinavagupta calls this ‘Alapallaua’. The Cittannavasal cave inscriptions exhibit one of the women dancers in this pose and it is this pose that had become popular in Java during the Pullava period.

In the gajahasta pose, one hand is stretched across the chest towards the shoulder, whilst the other arm is bent thrice, i.e., the upper arm lifted up as high as the shoulder horizontally and the fore arm held at right angles to it vertically and the pulm of the hand bent at right angles to the fore-arm and facing upwards. Apavartita pose is represented by the uplifted arm. The leg pose required is ‘Kuttitam’ where one leg rests firmly on the ground whilst the other resting upon the toe, strikes the ground with the heel.

In the Lalatatilaka dance described above, Nandikesvara is found by the Lord’s left. Here, the right arm of Nandi is in the gajahasta posfe and the right leg in the kuttitam pose. The right leg is resting on the toe whilst the left leg is fixed on the ground.

In Plate XXXIII, fig. 4, there is a figure with spread out matted hair in Lalita mode of dance. The vamahasta or left hand is in the Gojahasta pose and the Daksina or right hand is held up in the apavartita pose. The left leg is in the Kuttitam pose. This figure has only four arms. It looks as though the same figure assumed greater proportions to dance perhaps on the muyalaka sent by the Rsis; probably we see ten arms and the fire on the left alone is clear. One leg rests on the same platform on which the other figure stands. The other leg is stamping on the muyalaka. There is the same gajahasta pose and the apavartita pose.

Rea’s plate XCVII, fig. 1 from Muktesvara temple gives what seems at first sight a representation of the Lalita dance with a left hand in Gajahasta pose and another left hand in the prasarita pose. The legs are in the kuttita pose. As the pose of the right hands are not clear—the right front one may be in catura pose—one may doubt whether this is not a catura dance.

But a deeper study reveals this to be an ancita dance:

Vyavrtta parivrttastu sa eva tu karo yada
Ancito nasikagre tu tad ancitam uddhrtam”,

“The same hand, i.e., karihasta hand of the 22nd karana is put in this 23rd karana, in vyavrtta and parivrtta and finally arched over the nose”.

Parivrtta is bringing the hands to the sides in front. In vyavrtta the hands are lifted up side-ways. As in the 22nd karana, we have here svastika of the legs, i.e., crossing of the legs.

Another mode of dance is Talasamsphotita dance. Bharata describes it there thus:

Drutam utksipya caranam purastad atha patayet
Talasamsphotitau hastau talasamsphotite matau

“The dancer lifts one of his feet fairly high and suddenly and vehemently stamps the ground in front of him clapping his hands at the same time.”

The commentators insist on the pataka hasta pose. Rea’s plate XXXIX, fig. 5 and Mr. Gopinatha Rao, Plate No. LXVIH, and Dr. Minaksi give us a representation of this dance as found in the Kailasanatha temple. Shiva is lifting up His right leg above the left knee as high as completely to double it expressing His attempt to thump the ground forcibly and suddenly. The left leg in slight bend rests firmly on the ground. His right upper hand is holding a coiled serpent which forms a Curve near His hand to form into another curve round His crown to curve once again for running parallel thereafter to the left back hand to be caught by another left hand. In the second right hand Dr. Minaksi sees jnanamudra. The other two right hands are in the pataka and abhaya poses. The left hand is holding Ganga with a five headed cobra and the hand is in curved anjali pose. She is descending in parallel to the cobra’s curve. Another left hand is holding the cobra. There is another left hand in vismaya pose. The remaining hand is in Gajahasta pose. The mother is on the left. There are two gdnas one in the urdhva tandava posture. Some interpret this as canda tandava or kotukotti.

Rea’s plate LVil is the Gajari murti. On the topmost niche is Shiva with straight hands killing and flaying the elephant and dancing this Talasamsphdtita. His left leg is raised up to thump on the head of the elephant. Usually Gajari is in this form.

Rea’s plate LIX is a Gangadhara-murti holding up one of his jatas for receiving the Ganga. He raises up the left leg to thump on the dwarf with His foot in kuttita pose. Usually Gangadhara is in this form but the raised leg is on a pedestal.

The kuncita mode of dance has been already described with reference to our description of the Tripurari. Rea’s plate XXXIV, fig. 1 is a Dakdari or a Kapali and He is destroying everything by thumping on the ground. Here He is standing on the right leg and thumping with the left. Plate XXXVIH, fig. 2 is probably Kalari in Talasamsphdtita form thumping on Kola.

Our identification of this kuncita dance with Tripurari is still further justified by the Tripurari form given in fig. 6 in Rea’s plate XXXIII, where Shiva kneels down on His right knee while the left leg is bent up. This is the posture for bending the bow. This answers to the kuncita mode where the right leg and the right arm dre bent whilst the left leg and left arm are raised aloft. A variety of this is seen on the left side of the fig. 1, in Plate CXI.

Dr. Minaksi has noted the absence of the popular nadanta mode of dance though the gajahasta pose is found in abundance. Rea’s Plate CXI, fig. 1 shows a representation of the Bhujangatrasita natana—the usual nadanta natana. The gajahasta pose is found in the right hand with the left hand in a prasarita pose. The right leg is lifted up in the Bhujanga trasita style. In plate CXII, the Lord is with four hands. He probably stands on the right leg slightly bent, with the left leg raised up. In the Kailasanatha temple that which comes nearer to this dance is fig. 4 of plate XXXIII.

Other karanas could be recognized. Rea’s plate LIII represents the Tripurari seated in the chariot with a smile in the sucividdha mode—the 78th karana:

Padasucya yada pado dvitiyastu pravidhyate
Kativaksah sthitau hastau sucividdham tad ucyate

‘The right foot rests on the heel and the left pierces into the right in sucipada, i.e. touching the other foot. The hands should be on the waist and the chest. The legs in the sculpture are as required. The right hand is on the chest in vismaya pose and the left hand is bent and near, the waist in jnanamudra pose.

Many figures stand on one leg lifting up the other leg. This is the urdhvajanu karana, the 25th karana described in verse 86. Utksipya: Here the bent leg is lifted up and kept on a level with the breast whilst the hands are free to be used as the dancer pleases.

The Bhikshatana forms, found in the Kailasanatha temple are in the janita karana. In this mode of dance, one hand rests on the chest and the other is hung down. The foot is in ‘talagra , i.e., on the tip of the sole. One of the feet of Bhikshatana is on the tip of the sole.

Rea’s plate CV, representing the dance of Gajari seems to give us the Recita Nikufta dance. The right hand is to be in recita (i.e. lifting up the hand, throwing it about, moving it round and round and drawing it back); the right leg is to be nikutta and the left in dola (arms let down loose and free). In the sculpture, there is one left arm in dola pose; many arms in recita pose. The left leg is in nikutta pose.

Rea’s plate LIV probably represents the Parsvakranta mode, where the pace of Parsvakranta, i.e., leg is lifted so that the knee comes to the level of the breast and it is dropped on the ground and in that pose thrown in front. The hands should accord with the leg action. This pose is used in terrific situations such as those associated with Bhima. Here in the sculpture we find a vigorous fight.

Coming to the times of Rajaraja, who, we will suggest presently, adopted the name of Atavallan for his Nataraja from the poems of Arurar. The image of Atavallan was set up by his queen Soramahadevi The epigraphist’s note is as follows: “It is a standing figure of the god with Muyalakan under his feet. (Muyalakan or Musalagan—known in Sanskrit as Apasmara—is the name of a black dwarf who issued out of the sacrificial fire of the rsis of the Ddrukavana. The sacrifices were offered in order to discomfit Shiva; and Shiva came there to teach them a lesson. A fierce tiger and a monstrous serpent issued out of the fire one after the other and were quickly overcome by the God., Muyalakan appeared next. His form was hideous and malignant and with eyes of fire he brandished a club. Shiva pressed the tip of his foot and broke Muyalakan’s back so that he writhed on the ground. With this last foe prostrate, Shiva resumed the dance of which all the gods were witnesses. This is why Muyalakaja is represented as lying under the feet of Shiva. He is also found under the feet of Candesvaraprasadadeva, Daksinamurti and Tanjai-Alakar. Muyalakan is also described as a kind of disease from which a woman of Pachilachiramam was suffering. She was cured by the saint Tirujnanasambandar according to the Periyapuranam.) The image had four arms, nine braids of hair (jata), the goddess Gangabhattaraki on the braided hair, and seven flower garlands. The goddess Umaparamesvari who formed a part of the group was standing on a separate pedestal. This description corresponds to the representation of one of the many forms of Nataraja. Another queen of Rajarajadeva named Pancavan-Mahadevi set up an image of Shiva in the dancing posture and called it Tanjai-Alakar. The image was apparently standing with Musalakan under the foot on which the god stood; the other foot was apparently lifted upwards in dancing though this fact is not specifically stated. An image of Umaparamesvari and one of Ganapati were included in the group. The image of Patanjali and that of Vyagrapada both of which usually accompany the dancing image of Shiva (called Nataraja) are not mentioned here. The sages Patanjali and Vyaghrapada are believed to have been present at the dance of the god Shiva. It is however worthy of note that the same Cola queen set up a separate image of Patanjalideva. It was a solid image and measured ‘three-quarters and one eighth (of a mulam) in height from the tail to the hoods (phana). It had five hoods, one face in the midst of these hoods, one crown (makuta), two divine arms, above the navel a human body, and below the navel three coils’.

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