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Sunday, 2 February 2014





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Dance depicted in Lanka's ancient stone slabs

At the Sri Lankan archaeological sites some of the beautiful

slabs have been excavated. On these stone slabs dance figures have been excellently carved. The dance poses beautifully resemble the typical Thandava Karana poses of Bharatha Natyam.

According to Hindu mythology, dance was created by Lord Siva. Yet each Thandava Karana of the Lord is associated with certain dance poses which have certain philosophical meanings behind them. Many of the Thandava Karana poses resemble the excellent gymnastic and acrobatic body positions.

All the carved sculptures might have been done by ancient sculptors of Sri Lanka. The carved sculptures reveal the typical Indian influence. Especially the decorations of the carved sculptures reveal the Indian cultural, traditional and customary impact on the local sculptors.

Archaeological sites

The sculptural dance figures display both male and female dance poses. They are quite different from the individually crafted sculptures.

Different types of moonstones can be seen at local archaeological sites and national museums. The moonstones depict certain philosophical themes and beautiful decorations.

Some of the beautifully carved sculptural figures could be found on ruined pillars. Some Hindu temples also have carved decorations on the rooftop.

Carving on the stone slabs is a very difficult task. Only a well-experienced sculptor can do such carvings.

While carving the sculptor should take meticulous care to avoid the cracks on the slabs.

Temple pillars

All the Karana poses of dance are well preserved in stone carvings and temple pillars of South India. At the Chidambaram temple of Tamil Nadu all the 108 Thandava Karanas of Lord Siva are depicted.

According to Bharatha Natyam history, a mystic figure named Bharatha Muni who wrote the Natya sastra.

It consists of 36-chapters dealing with important aspects and technique of dance and drama. The fourth chapter is allocated for Thandava Lakshana. According to Bharatha Muni, 'Karana' means a body position which coordinates with one hand and one leg position called Chari. Each Thandava Karana of Lord Siva has its own deep meaning. In dance, 108 Thandava Karanas are fundamental dance poses to depict Lord Siva.

Bharatha Muni

A combination of Karanas is called Angaharas. According to Bharatha Muni, there are 32 Angaharas.

In Karana, the body position is in a fixed stance, but in Angaharas, the body position is continuously changing.

Two Karanas together are called Matrika, three are called kalabhaka, four are called Mandaka and five are called Sanghataka and six, seven, eight,or nine Karanas together are called Angaharas.

Another important position in Karanas is Recakas meaning raised or moving or whirling movements of the body.

They are associated with the neck, hand, waist and body.

In some Karanas the hands are crossed and in others the legs are crossed.

Lord Siva

The Chidamparam temple has four Gopuras or four temple towers. The Gopuras face four different directions. Each Gopura was built during different periods.

The Karanas were arranged one below the other. Each Karana figure is depicted with musicians, mainly female dancers, singers drummers and females striking the cymbals.

In temple pillars the Karanas are depicted but they do not seem to follow any sequence.

The builders appear to have paid special attention to arrange the Karanas according to Bharaha Muni's Natya Sastra. Under each Karana, Sanskrit verses of Natya Sastra have been embossed.


In the Bragatheeswarar temple of Thanjavur, one could see 81 Thandava Karanas.

They depict Lord Siva in different postures. The sculptural Karanas have four arms and two hands with weapons. Even the size of the figure is bigger than that of the Chidamparam temple.

The Chidamparam Temple is the only place where the 108 Thandava Karanas with appropriate slokams from Natya Sastra are depicted seen.

Even now, we can see the Karanas in various temples such as Kumbakonam, Kanchipuram, Maduri, Perur and Virdachalam.


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