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Issue No. 4

இதழ் 4
[ நவம்பர் 15 - டிஸம்பர் 14, 2004 ]

இந்த இதழில்..
In this Issue..

தரவுகளைத் தொகுப்போம்
மத்தவிலாச அங்கதம் - 2
கதை 3 - கண்டன்
தட்டப்படாத கதவுகள் திறப்பதில்லை
கல்வெட்டாய்வு - 3
ஆத்மாவின் அடையாளங்கள்
கட்டடக்கலை ஆய்வு - 4
இராஜசிம்மன் இரதம்
Rare Karana Sculptures from Thirumalapadi
இராகமாலிகை - 3
சங்கச்சாரல் - 4
கோச்செங்கணான் யார் - 2
Issue No. 4 > English Section
Rare Karana Sculptures from Thirumalapadi
Dr.R.Kalaikkovan and Dr.M.Nalini

Bharata's Natyasastra is the most ancient among all the available treaties on dance. This text comprises many chapters, among which the Thandava Lakshanam alias Thandava Niruthya (Fourth chapter) gives a detailed account of the Karanas and the Angaharas, the basic units of a dance recital. This chapter probably derives its name based on the legend that Thandu, the disciple of Lord Siva taught the karanas and angaharas to Bharatha as ordered by his master (1).

Karanas are defined as the synchronized movements of hands and feet and they are hundred and eight in number. Sculptural panels depicting most of these karanas are seen in Raajarajeswaram at Thanjavur, Sarangapani temple at Kumbakonam, Nataraja temple at Chidambaram, Virudhagirisvara temple at Virudhachalam and Arunachaleswara temple at Thiruvannamalai and all these places are in Tamilnadu.

Urdhvajanu, one of the hundred and eight karanas literally means 'raised knee' (2). It is defined in the Thandava Lakshanam as follows: 'Lift up the bent leg and keep it on a level with the breast. The hands are free to be used as the dancer pleases' (3). Dr.Manmohan Ghosh further elaborates on it as follows: ‘A Kunchita foot to be thrown up and the knee to be held up (literally stretched) on a level with the chest and the two hands to be in harmony with the dance' (4). From the above descriptions, it is clear that no particular Hasta has been assigned for this karana.

The sculptures portraying Urdhvajanu karana seen at Chidambaram, Thanjavur and Kumbakonam have their right knee raised up to the waist. Even though the knee has not been raised up to the level of chest as per definition, they can still be called as urdhvajanu. Probably they represent an intermediate stage of this karana.

Sculptures depicting Siva in this karana are sparsely seen in Tamilnadu and they mostly belong either to Pallava or early Chola period. The earliest representations fall to the Rajasimha and post Rajasimha period (Pallava) and are found at the Kailasanatha Temples at Kanchipuram and Thiruppattur (5). The early Chola examples are seen at Kuranganatha Temple (Srinivasanallur), Vishamangalesvara Temple (Thudaiyur), Tenvayil Srikoil (Keezhaiyur), Chadaiyari Temple (Thiruchchinnampundi), Nageswara Temple (Kumbakonam), Siva Temple (Thirukkodikka) and Chandrasekara Temple (Thiruchendurai) and all of them belong to Thiruchirapalli and Thanjavur districts of Tamilnadu (6).

Sculptures representing Siva in Urdhvajanu becomes a rarity in the middle Chola temples (985 AD - 1050 AD). Extensive field studies have yielded excellent depictions at Vaidyanathasami temple of Thirumazhapadi, Thiruchirappalli district. As per the epigraphic records, this ancient Siva temple was made into a stone edifice during the middle Chola regime (7). But the architecture of the main Vimana has relevant features of the later renovations disturbing the middle Chola construction.

Sculptures depicting Siva in Urdhvajanu are seen on the western and northern walls of the outer prakara of Vaidyanathasami temple. The western wall depiction is from a makaratorana which probably decorated the middle Chola vimana and shifted to the present site during a later renovation. In this rare panel, Siva is presented with eight arms. The front ones are on abhaya and ardharechita. Among the back hands the right carries a damaru and the left is in vismaya. The other hands carry book, snake and fire in a pan. The remaining hand is in kartari hasta and carries nothing.

The right leg bent at the knee is raised with the foot in kuncita, whereas the left leg bent at knee is planted firm on the ground in parsva. He is adorned with a jatamakuta and the head is tilted towards the left. The yagnopavita is in upavita fashion and a band like udarabandha demarcates the thorax from the abdomen. A kaupeena like garment is secured in the hip by the katibandha. Another waistcloth folded fanwise is wound loosely around the hip with a broad loop in front of the thighs and secured on the left side by a knot with tassel ends.

The lower portion of the torana has three ganas, two on the left and one on the right of the dancing Lord. The left extreme is seated with crossed legs holding a pot drum in between. Even though his face is tilted up and turned to his master, his hands are engaged in percussion with a keen interest of not missing the beats. He wears a jatamakuta, patrakundala in the ears and with a thin hara around the neck. The other one on the right of the percussionist is beating the cymbals. The third one who appears to be seated on the right of Siva is much defaced.

Among the two female figures seen on either side of the dancing Siva, the right one - probably Kali, has four hands. Her front hands hold a trisula pointed towards Siva. The indistinctly carved backhands are empty. Her bent left leg is pressing on the head of the gana who is seen just below. The right leg could be traced up to the knee. The left female figure, probably Uma, is leaning on her back with her left leg planted firmly on the ground and the right leg is flexed at the knee, with the foot resting on the backdrop. Supporting her chin with the left hand, she has turned her face towards her Lord who is performing a lovable karana mode of dance. Since her features are indistinct, further details are not made out.

Siva in Urdhvajanu with instrumentalists is a usual presentation met with in the Pallava and early Chola sculptures. But the presence of Kali with trisula and Uma watching the karana are two peculiar additions, which make this panel special. Since there is no known agamic or puranic theme to support Kali's presence with trisula while Siva is dancing, the authors are not in a position to explain the sequence at present.

The second example of Siva performing Urdhvajanu is from the western prakara wall of the same temple. Here Siva is presented with a neatly arranged jata makutas, bahuvalayas, kankanas and anklets. His elongated right ear has no kundala whereas the left has a patrakundala. He wears a kanthika, yajnopaveeta and in upavita fashion and an udhara bandha. A short attire is seen at the hip with an additional vastra forming a loop in between the thighs, with the knot and the tassels on his left.

Among the four hands, the right front is in abhaya whereas the left front holds a snake by its tail in ardharechita. The right backhand is with damaru and the left is in vismaya. The right leg slightly flexed at knees is planted firm on the ground in parsva whereas the well-flexed left leg with the foot in kuncita is raised slightly above the hip. Beneath the raised left leg is seen an instrumentalist seated with crossed leg with a pot drum in between and beating it to the rhythm of the dance.

Two important features stamp this model very peculiar and special. Generally in almost all of the available specimens of this karana noted so far in Tamilnadu, the right leg is raised to represent the Urdhvajanu mode (8). But here, instead of the right leg, the left one is raised. Usually in most of the sculptures depicting Urdhvajanu, the raised knee is either in level with the hip or a little lower than that. But in this particular sculpture, the raised knee is slightly on the higher level, keeping harmony with the twist and tilt exhibited by the dancer. The dynamism expressed by the left twist of the chest is well balanced by the right tilt of the head, giving grace and charm to the performance. The chubby face with the slightly pouted lips reflects the ecstasy enjoyed by the dancer.

Soustava, and important fundamental feature (9) expected out of any dancer during a recital is not very frequently appreciated in the dance sculptures. This sense of symmetry is well brought out in this sculpture. All aspects of soustava are taken care of by the Chola sculptors to give the icon a very special look and place in Indian art history.

'Dandapaksha', another karana described by Bharatha is closely related to Urdhvajanu and the position of leg is identical in both. Manmohan Ghosh and Adya Rangacharya define this karana as one in which the hand in lata gesture is to be placed on the raised knee (10). This specification of the hand gesture differentiates it from Urdhvajanu. Lata is one of the dance hands described by Bharatha wherein the two hands are to be stretched obliquely sideways (11).

The sculptures portraying dandapaksha karana seen at Thanjavur, Chidambaram and Kumbakonam have their right knee raised up to the level of the chest. At Thanjavur, the right front hand is in lata hasta and touches the raised right knee. The left front hand is in abhaya. Both the hands of the sculpture at Chidambaram are in recita. The right hand of the sculpture at Kumbakonam is in lata hasta resting on the raised knee while the left hand is in mushti placed near the chest.

Since Urdhvajanu and Dandapaksha karanas have similar leg positions, such of those hands without lata hasta are grouped under Urdhvajanu and those with lata hands are identified as dandapaksha karana. Apart from the above said temple, sculptures depicting dandapaksha are very rarely met with as isolated icons. An early Chola example was identified by the authors at the Alanduraiyar temple at Pasupathikoyil - a small village situated to the east of Thanjavur in Tamilnadu. Vaidyanathasami temple at Thirumazhapadi has an excellent representation of dandapaksha, which may be dated to the middle Chola period.

This rare sculpture of Siva in dandapaksha is lying abandoned in the northern part of the cloister of this temple. Thick coating of soot and oil render it a pathetic picture. None of the authors who had written about this temple have cared to identify this rare sculpture.

The right leg, which is buried under the cemented platform, seems to be parsva. The left is flexed at the knee and the janu is raised up to the chest with the foot in kuncita. The right front hand is in abhaya while the left front hand in lata rests on the raised left knee. The right backhand carried the flame and the left backhand the damaru. In spite of the damages done by oil and soot the sculpture retains its elegance and most of its features are identifiable.

Siva in this depiction wears a jatakakuta, yajnopavita in upavita fashion and an udarabandha. Bangles and anklets adorn the hand and feet. The attire is in the usual form with the kaupeena like dress fixed to the hip by the katibandha and the loose cloth tied at the sides in such a way to form a loop in between the thighs. The swing of the chest in balancing the posture formed due to the raised knee is very well portrayed and this with the smiling face in profile adds grace to the performance. It is a pity that this rare and excellent depiction of dandapaksha karana is left uncared in the darkness of the cloister for time to decay it.

Though karanas have become extinct today, they formed the fundamental units of dance in the earlier centuries. Realizing their importance and significance, the sculptors and the kings of the bygone era had taken utmost care in recording them for posterity. Most of them go with the rule. A few of them like the karana sculptures at Thirumazhapadi, deviate from the regular icons and evidently reflect the innovative minds of the Chola artisans, It is strange but true that all the three karana sculptures brought to light from the corridors of Vaidyanathasami temple at Thirumazhapadi deviate from their counterparts in certain important aspects which not only make them unique but also give credit to their creators, the middle Chola sculptors.


(1) The Natyasastra, Vol 1, (Ed.) Manmohan Ghosh - Manisha Grantalaya pvt.Ltd, Calcutta, 1967, Chapter IV:17-19 and 263-264
(2) Thandava Lakshanam, (Ed.) Venkata Narayanaswami Naidu, Srinivasulu Naidu, Venkata Rangayya Pantulu - Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 1980, p. 28
(3) Ibid., p.28
(4) The Natyasastra, Chapter IV: 86 and p.52
(5) Identified during field studies at the respective temples. Thiruppattur is a small village situated to the west of Chiruganur, which lay on the Tiruchirapalli Chennai highway, 35 km. From Tiruchirapalli. Kailasanathar temple at Thiruppattur, a fine Pallava santhara vimana was studied in detail and a monograph was brought out by the scholars of Dr.M.Rajamanickanar Centre for Historical Research
(6) Most of these sculptures were discovered during the field studies and identified as Urdhvajanu by authors.
(7) SSI 5:651 and 652
(8) The sculpture depicting Siva in Urdhvajanu discovered by the authors at the Siva temple at Thirukkodikka, has its left leg raised. But here the raised knee is kept in a lower level than the hip
(9) Padma Subrahmanyam, Bharathakkalai Kotpadu, Vanathi Pathippagam, Chennai, 1985, p.4
(10) The Natyasastra, Chapter IV:95, Natyasastra, Translated by Adya Rangacharya, IBH Prakashana, Bangalore, 1986, p.20
(11) The Natyasastra, Chapter IX:10 -17

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இப்படைப்பு குறித்த தங்கள் கருத்துக்கள் வரவேற்கப்படுகின்றன. கீழுள்ள படிவத்தில் தமிழிலோ ஆங்கிலத்திலோ பின்னூட்டமிடலாம். தமிழில் பின்னூட்டமிட ஏதேனும் ஒரு தமிழ்ச் செயலி பின்னணி செயல்பாட்டில் இருக்க வேண்டும்.
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