The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words

This page describes Tandava Dance of Shankara which is chapter 254 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc.

Chapter 254 - Tāṇḍava Dance of Śaṅkara

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Śūdra said:

1-3. These words of yours appear to be mysterious to me, O sage of excellent Vratas. It is my great luck and it is due to my previous merits that you have come to my house. Ever-imbibing the nectar-like words of yours, by the narrative of Gaurī, rich with special good features, I do not become satiated. How did Maheśvara perform the dance surrounded by the Suras?

4. How did all this happen in Cāturmāsya? What is called the Vrata to be observed? How did she bless? What is the blessing?

5. How is the Lord who grants me the benediction worshipped in the world? O excellent Brāhmaṇa, even as I ask, describe this in great detail.

6. O sage of excellent Vratas, be pleasant-faced and comfortable and narrate.

On hearing it, Gālava became delighted and said again:

Gālava said:

7. O sinless one, I shall narrate unto you this meritorious story that yields the fruit of ten thousand Yajñas. Listen with attention.

8. At the advent of Cāturmāsya, Hara observed the holy vow of celibacy devoutly and gladly.

9. He remembered the Devas and the great sages. Thereupon, the Devas arrived there and stood on the Mandara mountain.

10. They bowed down to Maheśāna with palms joined in veneration. On seeing that all of them had arrived, Hara said to them:

11-12. He told them what had been told by Pārvatī in another context: “At the advent of Cāturmāsya when the dance is begun by me, all of you with Indra as your leader should assist me.”

They were delighted. After bowing down to the Trident-bearing Lord, they said, “So it shall be.”

13-14. They returned to their respective abodes by means of aerial chariots resembling the sun. Then on the fourteenth lunar day in the bright half of Āṣāḍha, Maheśvara began to dance for the satisfaction and pleasure of Bhavānī, on Mandara, the most excellent of the mountains. The great sages went there:

15-17. They were: Nārada, Devala, Vyāsa, Śuka, Dvaipāyana and others. Aṅgiras, Marīci, Kardama the partriarch, Kaśyapa, Gautama, Atri, Vasiṣṭha, Bhṛgu, Jamadagni, Uttāṅka, Bhārgava Rāma, Agastya, Pulomā, Pulastya, Pulaha, Pracetas, Kratu and other great sages.

18. There were Siddhas, Yakṣas, Piśācas, Cāraṇas, Ādityas along with Cāraṇas, Guhayakas, Sādhyas, Vasus and Aśvins.

19. All these as well as Indra and others with Brahmā and Viṣṇu as their leaders arrived there with an eager desire to witness the dance of Maheśa.

20. Then the Gaṇas, the chief of whom was Nandin, duly gave jewels, ornaments and garments to the sages and others in due order.

21. Then thousands of musical instruments were played. “Be victorious”, said everyone to the Lord who ordered the Vrata.

22-25. Bhavānī looked at Mahādeva with a delighted mind. The lady of splendid countenance shone in the midst of the four lady companions, Jayā, Vijayā, Jayantī and Maṅgalāruṇā. In her proximity the world shone with added lustre.

24. The splendour of her body is impossible to be described.

Īśa was also keenly observed by crores of the Gaṇas with multiple countenances.

25. He was surrounded by groups of Piśācas and goblins At the head Nandī with his face resembling that of a monkey shone holding the golden wand (staff).

26. There were present Vidyādharas and Gandharvas like Citrasena and others. Nāgas and eminent sages were also present. They appeared as though they were painted in a picture.

27. There came Rāgas (musical compositions), the chief of whom was Śrīrāga. They are the sons of the Lord of great vigour. There were the Amūrta (incorporeal) sons born of Lord Hara.

28. Each of them had six wives (viz. Rāginīs) and the father of all of them was Pitāmaha. Along with those wives those Rāgas assumed graceful forms.

29. On being remembered by Śaṃbhu they appeared instantly. I shall tell you their names. Listen, O affluent one.

30. Śrīrāga, the most charming one, is the first son of Īśvara. He occupied a seat in the middle of the eyebrows. He is the giver of the supreme Brahman (Parabrahman).

31. In the centre thereof is the excellent Gaṇa born of Māheśa.

The second (Rāga) originated from the waist region. It is Vasanta of great repute.

32. Pañcama (name of a Rāga) is the third one, the ornament of the universe. It originated from Viśuddhi Cakra (situated in the inner throat). It is marked by the principle Mahat.

33. The Anāhata Cakra originated from the heart of Maheśvara. The Rāga Bhairava which itself is Bhairava (terrible) originated from the region of nostril.

34. This Cakra is named Maṇipūraka[1] and it is indeed the bestower of salvation. The fifty Varṇas (letters) named Aṅka originated from Maheśvara.

S5. The twelve Rāśis (signs of the zodiac) and the constellations originated from Svādhiṣṭhāna (Cakra) along with the seeds of the universe.

36. The organ of generation of Īśa gets enlarged in a moment. Then Retas (semen virile) issues forth and the universe is created from the Retas.

37. From the Ādhāra Cakra the great sixth (Rāga) named Naṭa Nārāyaṇa originated. It is the favourite son of Maheśa. It is Nīla (blue in colour) and it has the exploit of Viṣṇu.

38. These personified Rāgas assisted by their wives (Rāgiṇīs) originated thus. Their wives originated from the region of the head of the Pināka-bearing Lord.

39-46. They are altogether thirty-six in number. Listen to them.[2]

The following (Rāgiṇīs) are the wives of Śrī Rāga: (1) Gaurī, (2) Kolāhalī, (3) Dhīrā, (4) Drāviḍī, (5) Mālakauśikī (mod. Mālakaṃsa?), and the (6) Devagāndhārī.

The following are the wives of Vasanta: (1) Āndolā, (2) Kauśikī, (3) Caramamañjarī, (4) Gaṇḍagirī, (5) Devaśākhā, and (6) Rāmagirī (the note in the original text is confusing). The following are the six wives of Pañcama: (1) Triguṇā), (2) Staṃbhatīrthā (current in the region about modern Cambay, (3) Ahirī, (4) Kuṅkumā, (5) Vairatī, and (6) Sāmaverī.

The six wives closely following Bhairava are: (1) Bhairavī, (2) Gurjarī, (3) Bhāṣā, (4) Velāgulī, (5) Karṇāṭakī, and (6) Raktahaṃsā. (No. 2 and 5 were local to those regions).

The six wives following Megharāga are: (1) Baṅgālī, (2) Madhurā, (3) Kāmodā, (4) Akṣinārikā, (5) Devagirī, and (6) Devālī.

The following are associated with Naṭanārāyaṇa: (1) Troṭakī, (2) Moḍakī, (3) Narā, (4) Duṃbī, (5) Malhārī, and (6) Sindhumalhārī.

These bowed down to Giriśa and Maheśvarī and stationed themselves along with their husbands and also their forms and vehicles.

Brahmā propitiated Śaṅkara by means of Mṛdaṅga.

47. Keśava displayed the Tālakriyā (procedure for beating time) to Maheśa. Brahmā made a melodious note by means of the four-syllabled musical instrument.

48. Vāyus (Winds) played on the instruments melodiously and majestically.

Mahendra played the Suṣira instrument Vaṃśa (flute) and created very melodious note.

49. Vahni made the sound from the winnowing basket and Aśvins played on the Paṇava drum. Soma and Sūrya (went) round and played on their instruments by way of support to the other players.

50-51. Hundreds and thousands of the Gaṇas made sounds from bells. The eminent sages as well as the goddesses in the company of Pārvatī seated themselves on auspicious golden thrones and watched.

Vasus along with the great Uragas played on the Śṛṅgas (horns).

52. Sādhyas sounded Bherī drums and the other excellent Suras played on other instruments such as Jharjharī, Gomukha etc. Thus Sādhyas took active part in the great festival.

53. Gandharvas of melodious voice produced sweet notes from the strings of lutes. Siddhas around sounded golden horns.

54. Then the Lord assumed the body (dress, guise) of a great dancer. The crowns on the five heads were rendered splendid by serpents.

55. He let loose his entire tresses of matted hairs. The entire body was smeared with ashes. He wore necklaces and armlets on all his ten arms.

56. The Lord’s physical form had the lustre of crores of Suns and it pervaded all the three worlds. With this form the Lord danced splendidly on that great mountain.

57. The instruments beginning with Vīṇā (lute) are grouped as Tata (stringed ones). Kāṃsyatāla (Cymbals) etc. are Ghana (solid). Vaṃśa (flute) etc. are (Suṣira) and Vāditra is the name for Tomara etc.

58-59. Thereafter, the four types of musical instruments sounded tumultuously. The form (splendour) of everything shone well such as the Tālas, Paṭahas etc. Hastakas (clapping of the hands), the Mānas (measurements and Tānas (a way of producing the different notes). The sound was full-throated, melodious, unfettered (uninhibited) and loud.

60. Viśvāvasu, Nārada and Tuṃburu, the leading Gandharvas, were the vocalists. The celestial damsels too had sweet voice.

61. The musical composition was divine and pure as well as well-conceived. It had the full complement of the three Grāmas (varieties of groups of Rāgas) and the seven notes.

62. The mountain upon which the soles of the feet of Hara struck produced loud sound and caused round whirling of the earth along with the cities and forests.

63-64. Lord Sadāśiva displayed eighty Hastakas (manual gestures). Sūtas, Māgadhas and Bandins (bards) were born from the sweat on the forehead of the Lord. Gandharvas, the universal musicians, were born of the heart of Maheśa. They had manifest forms and they had close association with the excellent stage of the Lord of Devas.

65. They caused wonder through their power, in the minds of the sages, the members of the audience. With their good powers Kinnaras showered flowers.

66. Thus the dance festivity continued for four months. Autumn passed off. The sky shone without impurities (clouds).

67. The lotuses that covered the lakes stood for the face of Śarad. The fruit-bearing trees and the medicinal herbs rendered the lustre of its face slightly pallid.

68. On the fourteenth day in the bright half of the month of Ūrja (Kārttika) the Daughter of the Mountain was in a gay mood. After the conclusion of the Vratas, the Lord too shone then.

69-70. With eyes beaming and the voice distinctly audible, she spoke to Śaṃbhu then: “When your Liṅga (penis) falls as a result of the curse of the Brāhmaṇas, it shall be sanctified by the waters of Narmadā and will become worthy of being adored by the whole universe.” After saying thus the delighted goddess eulogized Hara:

Eulogy by Pārvatī:

71. Obeisance to you, the Lord of Devas, Mahādeva with a coronet. Obeisance to the creator of the universe, to Lord Śaṅkara who caused its birth, to Śiva (the auspicious one).

72. Obeisance to the Lord with matted hairs, the Lord that dispels obstacles to victory. Obeisance to thee having Brahmā in the womb. Obeisance to you, Hiraṇyaretas (gold-semened), to the blue-throated one.

73. Obeisance to the Lord favouring Brāhmaṇas, the Lord smeared with white holy ashes, to the five-faced one. Obeisance, obeisance to the formless one.

74. Obeisance to you, the bright one with a thousand eyes. Obeisance to the Lord wearing elephant hide. Obeisance to the Lord who granted salvation to Demon Andhaka. Obeisance to the Lord of Paśus (individual souls).

75. Obeisance, obeisance to Hara, the great Vipra (learned Brāhmaṇa) having the fire as your mouth. Obeisance to Bhava, to Śaṅkara, to Maheśa, to Īśvara.

76. Obeisance to you, the Lord in the form of incorporeal Brahman, to the creator of corporeal ones. Obeisance to Śiva, to Ugra, to Hara, to Bhava.

77. Obeisance to Kṛṣṇa, to Śarva, to the destroyer of Tripuras. Obeisance to Aghora; obeisance to you, the Puruṣa.

78. Obeisance to you, Sadyojāta, to Vāmadeva, to Īśāna, Obeisance to you, Pañcāsya (the five-faced one)[3], to Kapālin (the skull-holding one).

79. Obeisance to the odd (three)-eyed one, to Bhava, to the Lord who caused the fall of the eyes of Bhaga and that of the teeth of Pūṣan, to the Lord who caused the destruction of the great Yajña (of Dakṣa).

80. Obeisance to Mṛgavyādha (the hunter of the deer) (the form assumed by Dakṣa-Yajña), to the virtuous one, to the Time Wheel, the discus-bearing one, to the Lord worthy of being adored by great men; obeisance to the Lord of the Gaṇas.

81. Obeisance to the Lord holding Gaṅgā, to the Lord Mṛḍin (the bestower of welfare), to the Lord granting happiness to the world; obeisance to you in the form of Brahman.

82. Obeisance to the Lord that transcends all Guṇas, to the Lord possessing Guṇas, the subtle one, to the biggest one; obeisance to one of huge form, to the Lord who caused the birth of the holy ashes.

83-85a. Obeisance always to you, the preceptor of Yoga having the form of detachment, O Lord that brought about the destruction of Smara. It behoves you to condone and forgive the unpleasant words uttered by me, O Viśveśa, I propitiate you with the head (bent down). Undoubtedly blessings have been granted to thee after condonation (of the curse). O sinless one, anger should not be entertained by you, as a result of my crime.

85b-87. On being propitiated thus along with the Devas, Śaṃbhu became pleased in his mind. Full of the greatest delight, thanks to the conclusion of the holy Vratas, he said to Umā: “O Pārvatī, if any one reads this eulogy of mine, composed by you, he will never be separated from the near and dear ones.

He will be endowed with wealth for three births. He will be free from all ailments. After enjoying pleasures of diverse kinds here, he will go to my city in the end.”

88. After saying thus to her, Maheśa granted her a part of his body, the left side pertaining to Viṣṇu, which Pārvatī accepted.[4]

89. The Śarva part had the skull in the hand; that of the neck had the poison therein. There was a half of the garland of headless trunks and it was white and fair all round.

90. It was that part which created crores of Brahmāṇḍas and the head was adorned with matted hairs. It shone with lustre of jewels in the form of crescent moon.

91. On one side it had gold ornaments and on the other serpents served the purpose of bracelet. On one side there was the elephant’s hide and on the other there was the silk robe.

92. On one side it had the Matsyavāhana (the vehicle fish supposed to be Pārvatī’s emblem). On the other side it was marked with the bull emblem. One side was served by the Pārṣadas and the other side attended upon by the female companions.

93. On seeing such a form with the eyes emitting lustre, the groups of Devas beginning with Brahmā eulogized with great devotion.

Prayer of Śiva-Pārvatī i.e. Ardha-nārīśvara form:

94. You alone are the Lord of all embodied beings, the omnipresent one. You are the protector like a father. You are the mother. You are what is named Jīva (the individual soul).

95. You are the witness. You are the seed of the universe. You are the one who keeps the whole cosmic egg under your control. Crores of Brahmāṇḍas originate from you and get dissolved in you.

96-97. All of us, the Suras beginning with Brahmā, carry out your behest. Like waves in ocean, like bubbles in water, I originate at times from your eye, at times from your forehead and at times along with goddess Śivā and then create the universe.

98. You are one with endless potency; you are infinite; you are limitless and your refulgence is unbounded. Infinite that you are, you adopt miraculous form for annihilating all.

99. O Bhavānī, you always (dispel) fear; you sanctify what is unholy. You are the bestower of all auspicious things. You are the fruit of all the austerities.

100. He who is Śiva is Viṣṇu himself. He who is Viṣṇu is Sadāśiva. This awareness of non-difference has dawned on us, though it is very little. It is with your favour that we have realized this.

101. Whatever is seen or heard and whatever exists in the world or outside; you have pervaded all those three and have stationed yourself.

102. O goddess of Suras worthy of being adored by the universe, O Aṃbikā worthy of the veneration of the universe, O goddess of Devas, be pleased. O Lord of Devas, we bow down to you.

103-104. After saying this all the delighted Devas went away to where they had come from.

Gālava said:

Those men on the earth who mentally remember that unparalleled divine form of Śiva-Pārvatī; half Devī half Śiva, the sole raft for crossing the ocean of worldly existence, are persons whose sins are taken away. Free from all attachments, they attain the form of the Absolute (Brahman).

Footnotes and references:


According to Patañjali, this Cakra is in the navel region Svādhiṣṭhāna Cakra is two finger breadth above Mūlādhāra Cakra and Mūlādhāra or Ādhara Cakra is (internally) two finger breadth in the middle part between penis and anus.


This seems to be the information available to the Purāṇa author. The Rāgīṇīs [Rāgiṇīs?] were named after geographical region or the Tribals who developed them e.g. Drāviḍī, Ābhirī (special to Ābhīra Tribe).


These are the names of the five faces of Śiva.


Verses 89-92 describe the Ardha-nārīśvara form of Śiva. Greeks refer to such icons. Such icons are found at Badami, Kanchi etc. in the South (Śaiva Darśana, pp. 230-231).

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