Picture shows famous dancer Jyotsna Jaganathan
Silappathikaram is considered the best among the five Tamil epics. Kovalan
and Kannaki were the hero and heroine and Madhavi was Kovalan's mistress.
She was a famous dancer. She was the daughter of Chitrapathy. Madhavi
learnt dance from the age of five and mastered the art of classical
Bharatanatyam at the age of twelve. When she performed at the annual Indra
festival in the ancient Chola port city Kaveri Pumpattinam, the king gave
her the royal medal and 1008 gold coins. Kovalan, who was a great lover of
fine arts fell for her.
The Tamil epic Silappathikaram is an encyclopaedia of Tamil culture. It
gives graphic description of all Tamil arts such as Bharatanatyam and Tamil
Music. The commentators added wealth of information in their commentaries.
The epic describes the Tamil country of second century C.E.
It is very interesting to know that all these dances are about Hindu
Madhavi performed eleven different types of dances according to the epic.
*1.Alliam*: This is a dance about Lord Krishna's victory over the mad
*2.Kodukotti* : This is the dance Lord Shiva performed after burning the
triple cities of Asuras/demons
*3.Kudai*: This is about Lord Skanda's victory over the demons
*4.Kudam*: Kannan performed this after winning the release of his grandson
Anirudh from the prison of Banasura.
*5.Pandarangam*: Brahma was entertained by Siva with this dance after
Shiva's win over the Triple Cities of demons.
*6.Mal:* This describes the wrestling contest between Bana and Lord Krishna
*7.Thudi:* This is Skanda's dance after defeating the demon Suran
*8.Kadayam:* This is the dance performed by Indrani at the north gate of
palace of Banasura.
*9.Pedu:* Manmathan's dance dressed as a eunuch to secure the release of
his son Anirudh.
*10.Marakkal:* When demons sent poisonous creatures like snakes and
scorpions against Goddess Durga she danced with stints (Stick dance). This
is known as Marakkal literally "wooden legs".
*11.Pavai: * Goddess Lakshmi's dance against the warring demons.
First six of the eleven dances are done in standing position and the other
five are performed in lying position. There is an interesting thread that
runs through all these mythological episodes. This is about a fight between
the good and bad and the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Ilango, author of Silappathikaram, did not stop with Matavi's debut
performance. In three other places in the epic he narrated the hunters
dance during worship of Durga, cowherds dance praising Lord Krishna and
Ancient Tamils were so familiar with all the Hindu mythological stories.
They liked to watch such stories. This is confirmed by a lot of references
to Hindu Gods and Goddesses in Sangam Tamil literature. Tamils are not only
ardent Hindu devotees, but also lovers of all fine arts. Chidambaram temple
stands as a monumental proof for this with all the 108 dance gestures
(abhinaya) sculpted in stones.
Like Bharata, the author of Sanskrit treatise on Bharata Natyam,
Silappadhikaram also gives a description of dance stage and location for
The Tamil atheist's propaganda is exploded by all the descriptions found in
ancient Tamil literature. The dancing figure found at Mohanjadaro points to
the antiquity of the classical Bharatanatyam. The metal statue of a woman
shows her one arm on her hips and another arm with lot of bangles. Her legs
are slightly bent. This tradition is continued by the Tamil dancers even