National Integration and Cultural Unity Expressed through Solo and Group Presentations

1.Śiva’s form as Naṭarāja

We know from the first chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra (verses 41-45) that according to tradition, Śiva’s cosmic dance inspired Bharata to add the kaiṣikī-vṛtti to classical dance and to include aṅgahāra.  (An aṅgahāra is series of karaṇa-s and cāri-s, and are like sentences in a prose text; cāri-s are movements of the body below the waist). Śiva is portrayed in his form as a cosmic dancer and as ‘Naṭarāja’ (‘the king of dancers’) in the Nāṭyaśāstra (ca. 5000 BCE) and works of classical Sanskrit literature such as the Mālavikāgnimitram of Kāḻidāsa (verse 1.5, ca. 300-600 ACE) and the Mudrārākṣasa of Viśākadatta (verse 1.2, ca. 800 ACE).  The sculpture of Mahānaṭa at Badami, Karnataka belongs to the 5th Century CE and depicts a dancing Śiva with eighteen arms, each in a different position. In the last decade, Dr. Karuna Vijayendra along with Sundari Santhanam, a student of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam, upon close study of the Mahānaṭa sculpture, for the first time identified nine karaṇa-s derived from different combinations of the arms (Santhanam, 2013:19-20). Thus, we see from both literary and sculptural evidences that the concept of Śiva’s cosmic dance is an ancient one and was prevalent all over India. Calambur Sivaramamurti in his seminal work ‘Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature’ gives evidence for the Vedic origin of the concept of Śiva as a cosmic dancer (Sivaramamurti, 1974).

The image of ‘Naṭarāja’ as seen in the popular tradition of ‘Ānanda Tāṇḍava’ and in Chidambaram is of later times. However, Padma Subrahmanyam showed that the ‘Naṭarāja-pose’ that is popularly seen is nothing but the twenty-fourth karaṇa, the bhujaṅgatrāsitam frozen during movement. This karaṇa is described by Bharata in the fourth chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra (verses 84-85). Such sculptures of the dancer performing bhujaṅgatrāsitam are not merely found in Chidambaram but also in Kumbakonam and Tanjavur, but with the karaṇa frozen at different instances, giving them different postures. A different instant of the karaṇa is captured in the panels of the Prambanan too. (Subrahmanyam Volume – 3, 2003: 26-27; Subrahmanyam, Balakrishnan – segment 5). It is interesting to note that ‘Ānanda Tāṇḍava’ form is referred to only as Bhujaṅgatrāsitam in Rauravāgama, Sakalādhikāra, Ajitāgama and Karaṇāgama (Subrahmanyam Volume-2, 2003:91-93). Thus, Padma Subrahmanyam showed that though popular image of ‘Naṭarāja’ was seen in south India, its posture has origins in the Nāṭyaśāstra and similar postures and their variants are seen throughout India and South East Asia.


2.National integration and cultural unity expressed through solo and group presentations

As mentioned in the earlier sections, Padma Subrahmanyam did not limit herself to the reconstruction of the karaṇa-s and being a dance grammarian, but creatively applied them in various solo and group productions. Through her productions she has constantly established that Indian culture is one in its spirit but manifests differently in different regions of the country. All her productions adhere to Bharata’s tradition in their form, i.e.,mārga¸ and have diverse content. She, thus, showed that the rich grammar provided by Bharata can help enhance any content – be it classical or folk. Thus, the difference between classical and folk is only nominal and they are the same in spirit and they cater to Rasa, i.e., the aesthetic experience that entertains.

Through her thematic solo production ‘Valluvarum Vedaneriyum’, she showed that everything that was thought to be exclusive to the teachings of Thiruvalluvar of Tamil Nadu was found in the Vedas and ‘Thiruvalluvar-veda’ was a derivative of the four Vedas in its essence. She extensively research on the Tamil epic poem Cilappatikāram (Silappadikaram) and showed that every aspect of art that is mentioned in the epic has its roots in the Nāṭyaśāstra. She also choreographed a few episodes of the Cilappatikāram centered on the protagonist Kannagi and showed that the epic that was thought exclusive to Tamil Nadu and its culture can easily be adapted to the mārga-nāṭya tradition of Bharata and can be made accessible to people worldwide.
Similarly, by drawing themes from the works of many Tamil poets, she choreographed ‘Paripadal Mudhal Bharati Varai’ (Subrahmanyam, 2008), where she showed that all those themes were inseparable aspects of the pan-Indian culture and not exclusive to Tamil Nadu. She also presented Kamban’s Rāmāyaṇa as a theatrical production and pointed out to the Tamil chauvinists that Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa had inspired the Tamil tradition too and Kamban’s was a beautiful adaptation of the same.

A great majority of Padma Subrahmanyam’s solo and theatrical productions are multi-lingual. These challenge the Tamil’s monolithic linguistic chauvinism. For instance, for the depiction of the same story line, she stitched together the compositions of Muttuswami Dikshitar and Rabindranath Tagore, the former an eighteenth century music composer of Tamil Nadu and the latter, a late nineteenth century poet of Bengal. In yet another production, she has shown that the madhura-bhakti as expressed by Lalleśvarī, a Kashmiri mystic poet of the fourteenth century, Meera Bai, a sixteenth century mystic saint of Rajasthan, Āṇḍāḻ, the seventh century Srivaishnavite saint and Akka-mahādevī, a saint poetess belonging to Karnataka’s Veerashaiva tradition is all the same. Through her production based on the compositions of Avvaiyar, she showed that the composer’s dhārmic tenets are derived from Manu’s sāmānya-dharma. Her production ‘Gurave-namaḥ’, an offering to the Paramācārya of Kanchi came as an answer to people who looked at maṭha-s with contempt. She upheld the spiritual tradition of the maṭha-s and stressed on their importance in socio-cultural integrity.

From her production Jaya Jaya Śaṅkara (Subrahmanyam, 2008), one can infer without any misgivings that the ṣaṇmata (the six ritualistic schools, including the one devoted to Kumāra, i.e., Subrahmaṇya popularly called Muruga in the Tamil tradition) is the basis for all ritualistic worship throughout India. By adapting Viralimalai Kurvanji, a concept that is thought to be exclusive to Tamil Nadu’s folk culture, to Bharata’s medium of nāṭya, she showed that all regional traditions find their root in Bharata and are inseparable parts of the pan-Indian culture. The story of Mīnākṣī-kalyāṇām (Subrahmanyam, 2008) choreographed as a group production, similarly shows its pan-Indian nature.

Padma Subrahmanyam’s solo adaptation of the Bhagavadgītā (Subrahmanyam, 2008) that uses Sanskrit verses from the original text, is interspersed with several aspects of folk rituals and traditions. It not only shows that all these folk traditions are equally valid methods in the spiritual pursuit, but is also a creative commentary on Sureśvarācārya’s view:  

yayā yayā bhavet puṃsāṃ vyutpattiḥ pratyagātmani
 sā saiva prakriyā sādhvī viparītā tato'nyathā

(Bṛhadāraṇyaka-bhāṣya-vārtika 1.4.402)

i.e., all paths that lead one to the realization of ātman, that is Ānanda (eternal Bliss) in its essence, are valid.

This spiritual integrity and vedāntic undercurrent common to all Indian arts, rituals, traditions and customs are emphasized throughout the production on Bhagavadgītā. Her multi-lingual solo choreographies - Rāmāya tubhyam namaḥ (Subrahmanyam, 2008) and Kṛṣṇāya tubhyam namaḥ (Subrahmanyam, 2008) show the cultural oneness of the country. We get to know from these choreographies that though the stories of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa have different creative interpolations in different regions of India, they are same in spirit.

Padma Subrahmanyam has also choreographed compositions of Subrahmanya Bharati, a nationalist. In the piece Velli Panimalayin (Subrahmanyam, 2014), she depicts the ideal of national integrity and cultural exchange between different regions of India. A boat ride on the river Sindhu on a full moon light with women from Kerala, gifting betel leaves grown in Tamil Nadu to the people of Punjab and receiving wheat in return, exchange of Karnataka’s gold for the stories of valour from Maharastra, etc  are ideals for national harmony. She even did a multilingual production called ‘Vande Mātaram’ to highlight this concept. The universality of Bharata’s tradition is further proved by her adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s music to depict the episode of Jaṭāyu-mokṣa through classical Bharata-nṛtyam.

To be continued .....



  • Subrahmanyam, Padma and Balakrishnan, V. Bharatiya Natyashastra – 14 segment serial, Doordashan
  • George, TJS (2004) MS-A Life in Music¸ HarperCollins Publishers, India
  • Hindusim Today. ‘Symposium Om Muruga!’ News, May 1999
  • Malhotra, Rajiv and Neelakandan, Aravindan (2011). Breaking India – Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. Amaryllis. Delhi
  • Nagar, RS (Ed.) (2012) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni. Parimal Publications, Delhi
  • Raghavan V (2004). Splendours of Indian Dance.  Dr. V Raghavan Centre For Performing Arts, Chennai
  • Subrahmanyam, Padma (2003). Karaṇas – Common Dance Codes of India and Indonesia. Nrithyodaya, Chennai
  • Subrahmanyam, Padma (2008). Nritya Saptaham. Nrityodaya, Swathi Soft Solutions and Kalakendra, Chennai [A set of seven DVDs]
  • Subrahmanyam, Padma (2014) Vellai Pani Malai  , (accessed 28 August 2017)
  • Subrahmanyam, Padma, (accessed 28 August 2017)
  • Iyer, Alessandra.(1996) “Prambanan revisited: a fresh perspective on the dance sculptures of Candi Śiwa”, Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient Année. 1996 Volume 83 Numéro 1 pp. 157-184
  • Iyer, Alessandra (2000). “Śiva's Dance: Iconography and Dance Practice in South and Southeast Asia”, Music in Art. Vol. 25, No. 1/2, pp. 25-32
  • Santhanam, Sundari (2013). Neo deśi karaṇas – a sequential link. Bharata Nrityasala, Bangalore
  • Sivaramamurti, C(1974). Nataraja in Art, Thought and Literature, National Museum: distributors, Publications Division [Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India],






Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh


Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.

Prekshaa Publications

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...