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Nataraja in South Indian Art (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: UAF635
Author: J. Soundararajan
Publisher: Sharada Publishing House, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8188934054
Pages: 260 (Throughout B/w and Color Illustrations)
Other Details 10.00 X 7.50 inch
Weight 800 gm
Book Description
The present monograph on 'Nataraja in South Indian Art' is the outcome of the doctoral research by J. Soundararajan in the Department of Sculpture and Art History of the Tamil University of Thanjavur. Nataraja is the coveted theme for researchers. in art history. Ever since A.K. Coomaraswamy wrote about the subject nearly a hundred years ago, several scholars, professional art historians, Bharataniavam. artistes, amateur writers and others have written on the theme. Their findings have been published in books (international, national, regional and sub-regional, and in various languages), articles in internationally / nationally reputed journals and newspapers. None of these books, papers and articles has anything to say a final word on the subject. J. Soundararajan has made a simple attempt in the direction with a new outlook.

The doyen among Indian Sanskritists and art historians, C. Sivaramamurti, has contributed a monumental work on the subject (Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature, New Delhi, 1974), which commands the status of a Bible for like- minded scholars in the field. Many of his ideas stand questioned now (scholars may look into a small ‘book by A. Meeneshwari and V. Latha, Ituva Varalaru [Is It History] in Tamil, Thanjavur 1997). However, the major shortcoming of the book is the total neglect of regional sources that may be found in other classical languages like Tamil. To cover the lacuna, I have published a number of articles in the East and West from Rome, Acta Orientalia from Copenhagen and JRAS: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (of Great Britain and Ireland), now published by the Cambridge University Press. Most other scholars, listed by J. Soundararajan in the introductory chapters of his work, down to David Smith (he has nothing to say about the Dance of Vi1? DU, a bold theme in connection with Citamparam, sees JRAS infra), do not consider Tamil as a viable source at all. C. Sivaramamurti has cited few hymns from the Teuaram. which is a chip from huge block? Scholars know it very well that it is in the Cola temples and their bronzes that Nataraja, the so-called anandaidnduuam, was a vibrant theme. The Tamil artistes much better do Bharatanatvam as a performing art in any part of the world today. In the art of Tamilnadu since the Pallava-Pandya to Vijayanagara-Nayaka, the dance theme, irrespective of the performer (Siva, Vi1? DU, Devi, Canapati or a deuadasi) is a dynamic theme. Is it not the bounden duty of an art historian to look into what the Tamil sources since the days of the Cilappatikaram (5th century AD) have to say on the subject? The hymns of Karaikkalammaiyar (elaborated by R.K.K. Rajarajan), Tevaram, Tiruoacakam, Tirukkovaiyar (see my articles in the Bibliography), Koyil Tiruppal1l1iyar Viruttam (elaborated by J. Soundararajan in the present book), Tirumantiram and a number of other works in Tamil throw a flash of new light and add to the illuminating personality of Nataraja who dances on the Himalayas, the mythical Darukavana or a crematorium. Tirumular's vision is that he dances at the acme of the pivot of the Milkyway.

The need to study the Tamil sources is not only indispensable but also compelling. To my knowledge, no body has done this job satisfactorily, save the pioneer A.K. Coomaraswamy, followed by Kamil V. Zvelebil. Even Tamil knowing scholars had a reluctance to look into Tamil sources as though it is an untouchable material. C. Sivaramamurti himself, K.V. Soundarajan, R. Nagaswamy and several others know Tamil but a novice, J. Soundararajan, has successfully responded a challenge unmanned/unrecorded by these doyens in the field. I am very happy at the bold adventure by J. Soundararajan in his not merely an investigation but experience of Nataraja. Now the day has come, that to look at Indian art one needs two classical eyes, Sanskrit and Tamil, an idea aired by me in 1997 at the Sudasien Institute of the Heidelberg University (subsequently published in JRAS infra). The proposition has gained momentum in the west (are we north or south? east or west?), The Canadian scholar, Ellen Goldberg has done her recent research on Ardhanarisvara with reference to the Teodrum hymns (The Lord who is Half Woman: Ardhanarisoara in Indian and Feminist Perspective, Albany 2002). I am emphatic at my point because without a grasp of the Tamil sources one cannot have a thorough understanding of the spirit of Indian art, north or south or both. I make a bold proposition: read the Nalayirativ viyapirapantilm of the Alvars, relook at the Rajasthani miniature paintings (Kangra, Basholi and so on) and compare the data forthcoming from the Bhagawata Purana and Gitagovinda. You will be sailing on a new boat. You will be able to see 'where the original ideas for these miniatures are. If anyone needs a first-hand voyage in to Tamil sources, he may refer to JRAS 3.9.2, 1999, pp.223-50.

The present work, Nataraja in South Indian Art, is the outcome of the work which began in 1995. My guide Professor Raju Kalidos (Dean, Faculty of Arts) was the main source of inspiration that showed to me the way for a new interpretation of Nataraja. He took me to the field and gave all his published and unpublished papers for consultation. I also accompanied my Guide and participated in several conferences in South India. These activities were useful to collect data from the southern states.

Earlier I did my M.Phil. on a subject dealing with modern Indian history in the Bharathidasan University. I switched over to art history under the inspiration of my Guide. A course of study in Archaeology with the State Department of Archaeology, Chennai, was very helpful in visualizing an archaeological subject for my doctoral study. It in a way shaped my future career also as I got selected for the post of Assistant Archaeologist in the Archaeological Survey of India. My teacher earlier at the University and College levels, especially Dr. L.K. Sivanesan of the Periyar E.Y.R. College, Tiruchirappalli, were of encouragement in the present venture. My colleagues at the Department of Sculpture (especially Dr. R. K. K. Rajarajan who got the prestigious Humboldt post-doctoral fellowship and Dr. P. Chandramohan) including A. Anbalakan were of great help to me in several respects. Dr. Rajarajan permitted me to consult his doctoral thesis and papers still awaiting publication. He also helped me very much to photograph data from published books (e.g. the drawings, appearing in the annexure) and the temples which he surveyed for his study of the Nayaka art.

Mr. R.K. Parthiban of the Regional Engineering College, Tiruchirappalli, did much of photographic work in the Keladi-Ikkeri Nayaka sphere of art. I am deeply obliged to all of them for their kind help during the past two years. During the past several years, scholars from various Universities visited our Department in connection with seminars, board meetings and endowments lectures. Noted among them is Prof. S. Manickam of the Madurai Kamaraj University, Prof. A. Suryakumari of the Mother Teresa Womens University Kodaikanal, Prof. S. Rajesekhara of the Karnataka University, Dharwad and others. Contacts with these eminent scholars, discussion with them regarding my subject for research and their kind help when I visited their places for field work are highly esteemed. I am thankful to these of my gurus in the successful completion of the work.

The Vice Chancellors (the present: Prof. K.V. Mahadevan), Registrars (present: Dr. K. Iayaraman) and other officers of the University had rendered unforgettable helps for securing temporary appointments under projects as assistant and the official conduct of the thesis. I am indebted to them. Our Director of Library, Dr. Padmanabhan and other officers helped me to make use of the University collections. Mr. N. Sethuraman of Kumbhakonam gave me an interview and helped to locate the Pandyan inscription talking of Nataraja. Dr. A. Veluswamy Suthanthiran (now Head of the Department) was also of some help. I am thankful to one and all.

The member of our Syndicate, Prof. A. Subramanian, and others were of great help for contact .with institutions and individuals in distant places. My fellow research scholars in other departments assisted me at the time of checking final proofs of the thesis and pasting the figures in plates. Above all, I am indebted to my father 1. [ayara] and mother J. Jeyamani who gave me my "life and education". My sister Gunasundary Ramaswamy and brothers J. Devanesan, P. Samuvel and uncles, M. Appavu, M. Krishnaswamy, R. Ramaswamy, are thanked for the help in time of financial stress and strain.

Officers of the Archaeological Survey of India in the various southern states were kind enough to allow me photograph the monuments. I am deeply obliged to all those whom I could have missed my memory.

After taking my Ph.D. I joined the Archaeological Survey of India as Assistant Archaeologist and was posted to Aihole, an abode of early Calukyan art and architecture, cherished by art historians. My service with the ASI was highly rewarding for the task I am dedicated, i.e. research in art history.

For all the encouragements that I receive from this reputed institution, I am highly obliged to the Director General of the ASI, the Director of the Institute of Archaeology of the ASI, Superintending Archaeologist of the Dharwad Circle (Sri S.V. Venkabeshaiah), Deputy Superintending Archaeologist (Dr. Varaparasadh Rao), Dr. Dayalan S.A. of ASI (Agra) and all my colleagues at Aihole and Badami, especially Sri Subas Bomble.

Nataraja is a theme which has gone deep into the art, literature and culture of India. Ever since H. Krishna Sastri and T.A. Gopinatha Rao wrote about the tii1Jqavamurtis in their pioneering works on iconography, the subject has received the attention of art historians, professional dancers and free lance writers. The important work by C. Sivaramamurti! is an example of the unfathomable dimensions of the theme in art historical research? K.V. Zvelebil, K.V. Soundararajan, Kapila Vatsyayan, A M-Gaston, A K. Coomaraswamy, Padma Subramanian, Douglas Barrett, P.R. Srinivasan, David Smith and a host of other scholars have written about the many-sided personality of the Cosmic Dancer. In recent times the researches of P. Pal, Raju Kalidos, Alessandra Iyer, and RK.K. Rajarajan, et alain have added a new dimension to the problem of Nataraja. Most scholars of the elder generation had their emphasis on Sanskrit sources to discover the cultural significance of the Nataraja theme. Beginning with AK. Coomaraswamy there was an awareness to trace the Tamil sources of thought but there was no systematic effort. A.K. Coomaraswamy and Kamil V. Zvelebil have cited hymns of the Tamil bhakti tradition but a unified effort was made only by the Tamil University team. The Tamil bhakti hymns (e.g. Teuaram, Tiruvacakam, Tirumantiram and other works of the Pannirutirumuran add to the value of studies relating to Nataraja. An important contribution is that Nataraja need not necessarily be a Saiva subject but Vaisnava as well. So, if there is Siva- Nataraja, then there is Visnu-Nataraja. Devi is Natesvari. Canapati, Brahma, Sarasvati, Sridevi and Murukan present their dance recitals and whoever is an adept in dance may be Nataraja. That is to say Nataraja is an epithet of the common genre. P. Pal in a recent study touches this point but his generalizations are hazy. The same is the case with Sucharita Khanna.

The common epithets, used by art historians to denote the dancing form of Siva are Nataraja and Natesa.' The silpasastras use the common denominator, tandaoamurti.' The epithet, Nataraja, fails to appear in the canonical texts. The astoitara and sahasranamavalis of Siva also fail to talk of Nataraja. So before the 13th century A.D. the name, Nataraja (search. II), fails to appear.

Few of the Cola inscriptions refer to Atavallan, earlier noted in the Teoaram. R. Nagaswamy treats Atavalla J. As an equal Nataraja but it is not so (search. Il). Dance is deep-rooted in Tamil tradition. The earliest stratum of Tamil Literature of the Cankam age (down to A.D. 250) has ample data to bear on the dance theme and the dancers, both male and female. By and large the common word to mean dance was kuttu.4 It denoted both the dance and drama, perhaps both clubbed.' Two types of kiwis are found, called tacit and markkam; may be local and imported. Interestingly two types called Tamil and Ariyam are noted." This might suggest that there was a local folk art and one which came with the migrating Aryans. The dancers were known as kuttaniyar, 7 a term of the common denominator, may refer to both men and women. Atarkuttiyara or kuttiyamatantaia) were the dancing women, may be courtesans. To denote the professional male .dancer. the word kuttaccakkaiya1J.10 was used.

These terminologies give clue to the fact that dance was known as kiutu and tital. Another important dance mode was kuraoai." Much celebrated in the post- Cankam Tamil epic, Cilappatikaram, it appears in the earlier Cankarn classics also. It is a kind of dance, presented by a group of performers, involving seven or nine who danced with clasped hands. When the hunters danced this mode, it was called kunmkkumuai,'? The dance of cowherds was known as Aycayarkurnvai.14 The Tamil-Visnu, called Tirumal and Tirumakal (Skt. Sridevi) are supposed to have presented this recital Thus the dance of cowherds which is later celebrated in the Sanskrit puranas and the Gttagovinda of Jayadeva (12th century A.D.) find their origin in the Tamil tradition around the 5th century and earlier. The Carurpatikarant has an exclusive book under the head, Aycayarkuravai, which the aycayar (Skt. gopis) at suburban Maturai perform to solicit the blessings of Kodaly. (Skt. Krsna, Prakrit Kanha).

Another important dimension of the dance theme in the Tamil epic is that several of the gods are said to have performed dances, characteristic of them. These may be summed up as follows:

Kotukotti: by Imayavan (Siva) who performed the recital at the panatiarankam (burial ground), supposed to be urdhauarandauani," Pantarankam : by Parati (Siva) who enacted the dance at the time of Tripuradahana, to be witnessed by Brahma, the charioteer." Alliyam : a group dance (d. kuraoai, supra) performed by Kodaly. at the time of the rendition of Karnsa, King of Mathura.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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