Friday, April 16, 2021

Ananda Tandava Of Nataraja-1

Dr. K S Kannan,
SRSJM Chair Professor,
IIT-Madras, Chennai.
Respond to (

Ānandatāṇḍava of Naṭarāja-1


Almost no performance of Indian dance, but even more particularly of Bharatanāṭyam, can be expected to commence without a homage to that "King of Dancers", as Naṭarāja is called. There are other divinities too who are associated with dance in our pantheon. Thus Lord Kr̥ṣṇa is famous for his "Navanīta-nāṭya" in his younger days, apart from the even more famous and celebrated dance on the hood of the serpent Kāliya. Lakṣmī is also referred to as "māyā-naṭī" in the work on dance entitled Nartana-nirṇaya. Of course, Lord Śiva's "Sandhya-tāṇḍava"-dance is referred to in the Meghadūta of Kālidāsa in his famed description of the Mahākāla Temple at Ujjayinī.

The Dance of Śiva-Naṭarāja holds, especially in recent centuries, an enduring fascination in the minds not only of lovers of art but also those who are oriented towards religion and philosophy – and, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) (and subsequently followed up and elaborated by Fritjof Capra (1939-)), even science. Though the theme of the Dance of Śiva is millennia old, it continues to interest people of various times and climes. In this article, we present a unique and extraordinary – yet utterly faithful - interpretation of Naṭarāja as given by Sriranga Mahaguru (1913–1969, "Śrīraṅga Mahāguru", to transliterate properly, though the popular spelling will be adopted henceforth), a saintly/scholarly householder Guru of Southern India, who hardly had any formal education.

A yogin unparalleled that he was, Sriranga Mahaguru offers a thoroughly original, essentially yogic, interpretation of the Chola image of Tiruvālaṅgāḍu, now in the Madras Museum. (The Chola Empire, it may be recalled, was of a very famous Tamil dynasty that ruled in southern India from the 9th century till the 13th century. The Chola period is remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes, producing many notable examples of the Naṭarāja).