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Théâtres indiens

Lyne Bansat-Boudon

Nṛttakaraṇa-s in ancient Java

Les Nṛttakaraṇa-s de l’ancienne Java

Alessandra Iyer


On peut avancer que les sculptures de scènes dansées sur la balustrade de candi Siva a Prambanan, à Java Central, sont des représentations de karaṇa-s du Nāṭyaśāstra, texte Sanskrit de l’lnde ancienne sur la danse, la musique et le jeu de l’acteur.

Les artistes représentés sont peut-être des images du dieu Siva, mais cette hypothèse doit être vérifiée.

La restauration de l’ordre des karana-s est fautive.

La série qui figure à Prambanan est plus ancienne que celle qui orne le temple de Bṛhadīśvara dans l’Inde du Sud. On peut suggérer que la représentation des karaṇa-s en série a été reprise en Inde après Prambanan. Quant a l’hypothèse d’un autre type de reprise artistique et culturelle, elle reste à vérifier.

Texte intégral


1There are many images on Javanese candi-s, especially from Central Java (but not exclusively from this area), which show dancers in action or people and divine beings in a dance related posture/attitude. It is not an iconographic feature to which much attention is usually paid. In the past it was usually deemed to be sufficient to say that these were images of dancers. Some people did wonder whether such images had a connection with performance practice. It was however a difficult question to answer because not much was known about performance practices of the time when the images (or reliefs) were fashioned.

2The study of dance iconography has reached maturity only in the past two decades. Dance iconography involves a study of images from an art historical point of view and also from the point of view of dance, looking at how movement can be reconstructed on the basis of sculptural/pictorial evidence (Seebass 1991). To do so a number of methodologies is employed and these are context sensitive, suitable to the material that in each instance is handled.

3In my work I have focussed on the dance images (free standing sculptures/ reliefs) from Java. Using a methodology that was developed through a process of trial and error, it has been possible to identify and reconstruct the movements seen in their static representations. In the context of this paper I would like to share the results of my research and I would also like to discuss some of the wider issues and concerns raised by this study.


  • 1 The word Śiva is usually rendered as Śiwa when transliterated from the Old Javanese language and Si (...)

4I shall first focus on previous research and on the methodology devised to study the images and related problems. As said earlier, the dance images seen in Java had already been noticed but had not been decoded. Apart from the great number of dance scenes appearing for example among the reliefs seen on candi Borobudur and the various dance related poses of celestial beings on a number of other candi-s, the most important images can be seen on the outer balustrade of candi Śiva,1 also known as Loro Jonggrang, in Prambanan, about 15 Kms. from Yogyakarta (see Fig. 1). These reliefs are 62 in number and appear together with another 70 reliefs showing three figures in a standing posture, placed in niches surmounted with small domes (see Fig. 2). The dancers are all male, the standing figures are mixed groups. Some of the dance reliefs show dancing drummers/musicians.

fig 1. Candi Śiva, Prambanan.

fig 1. Candi Śiva, Prambanan.

(Plates A. Iyer)

fig. 2. The dance reliefs and the trio figures in niches, candi Siva.

fig. 2. The dance reliefs and the trio figures in niches, candi Siva.

fig. 3. Karaṇa reliefs from the temple of Siva Naṭarāja at Chidambaram, South India (Eastern gopura).

fig. 3. Karaṇa reliefs from the temple of Siva Naṭarāja at Chidambaram, South India (Eastern gopura).

5The reports of the Oudheidkundige Dienst (Dutch Archaeological Service in Indonesia) identified the dancers in the reliefs as figures depicting combinations of the dance karaṇa-s (dance movement units) described in the fourth chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra, the well-known Sanskrit treatise from India on drama, dance and music (OD 1918-1948). In those days the karaṇa-s of the Nāṭyaśāstra were understood to be static poses. When the Dienst’s reports were written, the dance reliefs from the South Indian temple dedicated to Śiva Naṭarāja at Chidambaram (see Fig. 3) had been widely publicised in a number of writings, because of the decipherment of the accompanying inscriptions giving the name of each karaṇa. It is very likely that the identification made by the Dienst, not supported by any analysis, was on the basis of a presumed similarity with Chidambaram.

6Be it as it may, after this identification by the Dienst it became commonplace to say that the dance reliefs at Prambanan had been fashioned after the dance poses of the Nāṭyaśāstra. This did not seem to be difficult to accept. Those were the days when scholarly attention was focussed on the process of Indianization and when Greater India was a current name for Southeast Asia. We find references to the Nāṭyaśāstra-inspired poses in the works by Bernet Kempers (1959), Claire Holt (1967) and others. However, in the seventies Clara Brakel-Papenhuyzen, who had studied Indian classical dance in India and Javanese court dance in Solo, wrote an article in which she rightly remarked that Javanese dance and Indian classical dance were quite different and that the dance reliefs of either Prambanan or Borobudur could not tell us much about performance, being static representations. Moreover, the living traditions of Javanese dance could not help in deciphering these reliefs (Brakel-Papenhuyzen 1976).

7Meanwhile in India the study of the Nāṭyaśāstra had taken new turns. A number of scholars and dancers began to focus on those chapters of this text which related to the dance technique it codifies. Because of the number of sculptural representations found on Indian temples relating to the dance karaṇa-s described in the Nāṭyaśāstra text, there were attempts aimed at reconstructing the technique. The notion of karaṇa as dance pose was no longer satisfactory. It became clear that karaṇa-s were specific movements, not poses, and that their representation in sculpture was a cadence of movement. Different models of karaṇa reconstruction were proposed, some based exclusively on textual interpretation, such as the one by Mandakranta Bose (1970), some based more specifically on the Nāṭyaśāstra text and the Chidambaram representations, such as the one proposed by Kapila Vatsyayan (1968).

8Around this time (mid-1960s) a young South Indian dancer, Padma Subrahmanyam, began her doctoral research on the karaṇa-s, studying karaṇa representations in Indian sculpture, especially the ones newly discovered by T. N. Ramachandran at the 11 th-century Coḻa Bṛhadīśvara temple in Tanjore. Under Ramachandran’s supervision, she also studied the Nātyaśāstra text and its variant manuscripts and the 11 th-century commentary by the Kashmiri Abhinava Gupta. She related theory to practice and was principally concerned with bringing back to life the obsolete technique of the dance karaṇa which was no longer practised in the living dance traditions of the subcontinent. Over the years she worked on a reconstruction of the karaṇa-s that included all the ones described in the Nāṭyaśāstra text as well as a number of variants, derived from alternative manuscript readings and from sculptural evidence alone. The reconstruction in its perfected and polished form was completed only by the end of the 1980s.

fig. 4. Relief n. 49, candi Śiva.

fig. 4. Relief n. 49, candi Śiva.

(Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)

fig. 5. Urdhvajānu karaṇa n. 25: compare Dēvī figure with relief n. 49. Reconstruction drawing.

fig. 5. Urdhvajānu karaṇa n. 25: compare Dēvī figure with relief n. 49. Reconstruction drawing.

fig. 6. Relief from Borobudur: duet dance, urudvṛtta karaṇa.

fig. 6. Relief from Borobudur: duet dance, urudvṛtta karaṇa.

(Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)

fig. 7. Urudvṛtta karaṇa n. 98. Reconstruction drawing.

fig. 7. Urudvṛtta karaṇa n. 98. Reconstruction drawing.

9In Java, Edi Sedyawati, who as a member of the Solo court aristocracy had trained in Javanese court dance, became interested in the dance reliefs of Prambanan and Borobudur. She wrote about them acknowledging a connection with the Nāṭyaśāstra but also emphasising the distinctly Javanese character of a number of such representations, the Borobudur ones in particular (Sedyawati 1982). She did not identify karaṇa-s but talked of specific hand gestures seen in the reliefs and also of leg movements (known as cārī-s) seen in the reliefs.

10I will not mention here all the other articles that from time to time have been written about dance and/or dramatic features of either the Borobudur or the Prambanan reliefs (including here the Prambanan Rāmāyaṇa reliefs). They are not too many but nevertheless they constitute a sizeable number. The problem is, however, that for the greater part they do not say anything too specific about the dance seen in the reliefs. Reconstructing and interpreting it was a task beyond the grasp of most scholars who engaged themselves in this pursuit, because when comparing this material with the Nāṭyaśāstra descriptions the kinetic content of the latter was clearly misunderstood or was insufficiently known and unsupported by knowledge of movement analysis techniques. Often when referring to the Nāṭyaśāstra for comparison, writers would rely on outdated secondary sources that did not reflect the advances in knowledge of more recent years. Even today reference is often made to living traditions of Indian classical dance expecting to obtain some understanding through a comparison with what is practised now and in so doing further compounding the issue.

11When I began to study the dance images of Javanese candi-s, I came up against the same problems and a number of previous identifications of mine based on my earlier reading of the Nāṭyaśāstra in retrospect appear to be too tentative and broad. Why? Is it because the Nāṭyaśāstra really has no relevance to the Javanese context, as some sceptical scholars are inclined to believe? Or is it because the methodology adopted was not sufficiently refined? In hindsight, I am obviously inclined to favour the second view.

12If a comparison with the karaṇa-s of the Nāṭyaśāstra is to make any sense one needs to rely on an accurate reconstruction model of these karaṇa-s. The one proposed by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam has been successfully tested within the Indian context and seems to embody the most recent research in the field. The reconstruction is practically oriented and anatomically tested and this makes it invaluable. Therefore, after initial stumbling, I decided to work on the Prambanan reliefs using Subrahmanyam’s reconstruction model as a tool of understanding. The outcome was very significant.


13At last I was able to identify and reconstruct the dance movements seen at Prambanan. Out of the 62 reliefs, 50 were unambiguously identifiable as karaṇa-s, 12 were more difficult to identify because, since they represent drummers, one cannot rely on the hand movement for the identification of the karaṇa. The leg movement can however be identified as a sub-unit of a karaṇa, the cārī. I therefore emphasise that the unidentifiable reliefs are very likely to be karaṇa-s, though I have not been able to identify them. In the context of this paper I can only talk in detail about one relief from candi Śiva in order to illustrate more clearly the whole process of identification and reconstruction. For reasons of space I shall have to refer readers to another publication (Iyer 1997) in order to find out about the other 61 reliefs. I have selected urdhvajānu karaṇa n. 25, relief n. 49 (see Figs. 4 & 5).

14The relief is here shown together with the drawing of the equivalent karaṇa and the movement is broken down for the purpose of analysis. The drawing shows Subrahmanyam’s reconstruction and is part of a new set of karaṇa-s designed by her and recently affixed around the main body of a new temple in Western India. The drawing allows a quick identification. The two figures in the drawing, Devi and Śiva show the beginning portion and the subsequent phases of the course of movement of the karaṇa. The four arms and hands of Śiva are used to show animation. The reliefs from candi Śiva also show animation. The sculptors have used three figures to indicate the course of movement. Sometimes the figures in the reliefs are identically attired, which in my view points to their being the same character seen at different moments in time.

  • 2 I should further elucidate this technical terminology. A sūcī pāda is a foot position, in which the (...)

15In this relief, the first figure has been beautifully mended (joining on the right side). The right leg is in sūcī pada, about to be lifted. The right hand/arm is raised to the level of the shoulder in kuñcita about to be lifted above the head. The head is tilted to the right and the hip is also raised. The second figure is in urdhvajānu, like the Devi figure in the reconstruction drawing. Even the shifting of the torso on the left is similar. The left hand is in the process of being taken towards the chest. The third figure has only one leg visible, extended in front of the second figure. The rest of the body is missing. The adjacent slab on the left proper has only traces of face and hands, yet this is enough to surmise that the urdhvajānu movement is here performed sideways.2


  • 3 I should mention here that Hooykaas (Goudriaan & Hooykaas 1971, hymn 471) thought that Levy had mis (...)

16The dancers seen in the Prambanan reliefs, except perhaps those showing musicians, are in my view representations of the god Śiva himself and an inscription from the Ratu Boko plateau, relatively close to the site, seems to corroborate it (Casparis 1956: 247). Also a number of stuti-s and stava-s still in use in Bali, refer to the dancing Śiva (Goudriaan & Hooykaas 1971).3 But the most important point is that the dance of Siva is articulated through karaṇa-s. It is said in the Nāṭyaśāstra that karaṇa-s are Siva’s addition to drama (NŚ, 4, 11-13). Can it be a coincidence that karaṇa-s should appear on a Siva temple?

17If this is Siva whom we see in the reliefs, why does he has only two arms and no attributes? Where is his third eye? Siva does not always have four arms nor does he always hold attributes. He often has no attributes in Khmer and Cham art and also in India. He has two arms (as Siva Mahāyogi) in Prambanan itself (Jordaan & Sedyawati 1991: 18). The third eye, another characteristic of the iconography of this deity, is not always present in all images representing him. Various examples from India without a clearly discernible third eye can be seen in the plates in Sivaramamurti (1974) and Gaston (1982). Sometimes the third-eye mark may be painted and recently it was suggested that Javanese reliefs may have had colours applied on them (Fontein 1990: 30). The faces in most of the dance figures of the Prambanan reliefs are in a sorry state and a third-eye mark, if there was a painted one on them, could not survive the weathering of the stones.

fig. 8. Trah Kieu, Cham art pedestal with apsarā in vṛścika karaṇa.

fig. 8. Trah Kieu, Cham art pedestal with apsarā in vṛścika karaṇa.

18The iconography of a specific deity depends very much on the function of the image. Karaṇa images were not meant for ritual worship. In India the karaṇa sculptures that appear on the Śāraṅgapāni temple in Kumbakonam show a two-armed Siva, with no clear third-eye mark, identified as Siva through inscriptions (Subrahmanyam 1978; Vatsyayan 1983: 4-10). A point that must be highlighted is that if these figures in the Prambanan reliefs are accepted to be representations of Siva they would be the only extant images of a dancing Siva from the whole of Indonesia.

  • 4 It can be seen in the old photos of the Dienst collection and in those by Cephas taken in the secon (...)

19When we come to the sequential order of the reliefs on candi Siva, we immediately come up against a number of problems. It is at this juncture that one realises how through a study of dance iconography a totally fresh perspective can be obtained on archaeological issues. The sequence at Prambanan is not the original one. The temple was restored from scratch and the stones were scattered all over the courts. Old photographs show that the reliefs were not in place when restoration began.4 The people in charge of the Dienst in the early days were not very meticulous. It is on record that in the enthusiasm to clean up and reassemble the temple, the stones were actually removed and spread around the banks of the river Opak without being numbered. Reconstructing candi Śiva was the equivalent of putting together a huge jigsaw with missing pieces (see Fig. 4). The sequence of the reliefs has been changed several times during the various restorations. Because of all this re-shuffling, well meaning of course, but not supported by adequate knowledge, one can only take the reports of the Dienst with a pinch of salt.

  • 5 A great number of slabs with similar trio figures can be seen gathered in groups at the Southern en (...)

20When we come to consider the placing of the reliefs as opposed to their sequential order, I am not fully convinced that the reliefs showing standing figures should have been placed in niches with domes. I am not fully convinced that they all belong to candi Śiva in the first place. Far too many of them have not yet found a home.5 I hold that the outer balustrade of the original temple was somewhat different from what we see now. I am not belittling what has been accomplished nor am I suggesting that the work should be re-done. We will never know what the original sequence was like, so we might as well keep things as they are. But one must be aware that mistakes were made in the past and that some of these mistakes could only come to light when the dance reliefs were focussed upon.


  • 6 The cārī urudv ṛtta, whose name refers to a turn of the thigh, involves bringing the knees together (...)

21So far I have talked of Prambanan because this is a key site in connection with the analysis of Javanese dance karaṇa-s. But Prambanan is not an isolated case. At the 8th-century Buddhist candi Borobudur one sees a number of dance scenes occurring as part of the narrative or as isolated panels whose connection with the others is not quite clear. One of the Borobudur reliefs shows for example two female dancers performing a duet based on the karaṇa urudvṇtta n. 98 (see Figs. 6 & 7). Here the two girls are seen in a frontal view of the action. The karaṇa involves a change of front and makes use of the cārī urudv ṛtta, which is based on the position of the knees known as saṇhatam and the one known as vivṛttam. The drawing shows the preceding and the subsequent phases of the movement.6

  • 7 Nancy H. Dowling takes the posture of the Sihghasari Durgā as the erotic stance of “the beguiling t (...)

22Other images can be seen in form of bronzes (Nganjuk) or freestanding sculptures (Siṅghasari Durgā). The Nganjuk Vajranṛtta (Vajranṛtya) (cfr. Fontein 1990: 229) is clearly executing a daṇḍapāda cārī, the Siṅghasari Durgā can be seen in a clear niveśa. This karaṇa is used in connection with riding and in this instance the choice is very apt.7 Not all dancers seen in sculpture show a karaṇa-based dance. Other dances were also practised. In one of the Borobudur reliefs a kind of dance is seen that could be the ancestor of the current female forms practised in the Central Javanese region, especially the court dances. The movements portrayed in the relief seem to be restrained, just as in the living traditions.


23It is time to consider issues of more general concern. What can the Prambanan series tell us about dance performance in ancient Java? Is the Nāṭyaśāstra relevant to the Javanese context? I have written about such issues elsewhere (Iyer 1986) and therefore I apologise if the following sounds like a rehearsal of familiar arguments. It is however important to mention such points again in the context of this paper. It is self-evident, by the very nature of karaṇa, that unless the dance technique seen in the reliefs had been in practice they could not have been sculpted so accurately. Perhaps the craftsmen themselves need not have known about the karaṇa-s from a technical point of view but whoever designed the reliefs must have been acquainted with the movements. Dance forms not based on karaṇa-s were also practised. The sculptures of “Indian” dance movements show the dance that would have been practised by the Javanese élite, in the view of Edi Sedyawati (Sedyawati 1990: 108).

  • 8 We owe this definition of mārga/ī to Ananda Coomaraswamy (Coomaraswamy 1946: 32).

24I need at this point to backtrack a little. I have mentioned the Nāṭyaśāstra several times, but we need to have further details concerning this work to be able to tackle the issue of its presence in ancient Java. The first example of Nāṭyaśāstra text was re-discovered in North India in the late 18th century, though work on it truly took off only in the 19th century. In this work dramatic performance is seen as an act of religious worship, the equivalent of a sacrifice. The text dwells upon the divine origin of drama. In its fourth chapter it describes karaṇa-s which are the elements of the cosmic dance of Śiva. Siva teaches Taṇḍu the karaṇa so that it may be used for the purpose of bestowing the same fruit as that of yajña, “sacrifice”; this gives a metaphysical dimension to each karaṇa (cfr. Bansat-Boudon 1992). We do not know for sure when the Nāṭyaśāstra was compiled, nor is the existence of a written text so important in terms of transmission and teaching of its content. The tradition of the Nāṭyaśāstra is known as mārgī in post-Nāṭyaśāstra times – literally, “of the high way”.8

25The Nāṭyaśāstra did not create the tradition anew. The tradition grew over the centuries before it was finally systematised. In all likelihood it embraced material contributed from different areas. The Nāṭyaśāstra takes stock of what is already happening and formulates a performance code and a system for the analysis and classification of dance movements, which are seen to be an integral part of dramatic performance. But mārgī also varied greatly in terms of vṛtti and prav ṛtti, two words that could be rendered as “modes” and “regional styles”, showing a dynamic relationship with deśi, literally “local or regional”. The latter were the forms and styles which were not codified in the Nāṭyaśāstra but had their own independent status and/or codifications, as Bose points out (Bose 1970: 147-164). This way every region and area lent a different flavour to mārgī dance and the Nāṭyaśāstra itself records these regional preferences. The keywords to understand this complex situation are “multiplicity” and “coexistence”.

26The geographical content of the Nāṭyaśāstra is in itself most intriguing. The text claims the status of a fifth Veda, i.e. Nāṭyaveda as well as of śāstra and specifies the application of its rules in the Saptadvīpa, “seven continents” of the earth. The geographic divisions of the Nāṭyaśāstra are in terms of directions of the compass. Trade routes crisscrossed the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia and had been active long before the beginning of the Christian era. An awareness of contemporary geographical knowledge would, quite likely, be displayed in works such as the śāstra. One wonders whether the Saptadvīpa is the subcontinent alone or a wider geographical area.

27The karaṇa technique of dance was the foundation of the mārgī tradition but the choreographic use of karaṇa-s and the actual number of karaṇa-s favoured in every region was markedly different. But what exactly are these movements one calls karaṇa-s? They are movements based on imitating animals or natural phenomena. There are 108 specific nṛtta karaṇa-s which constitute the dance of Śiva but there are also other karaṇa-s that can be put together using cārī combinations and these are of an unspecified number.

28If one is to go by the sculptural evidence it appears that karaṇa-s were known in the whole of South and Southeast Asia. We find karaṇa sculptures on Khmer and Cham temples, at Angkor and at Trah Kieu (see Fig. 8), to name a few famous sites, and the manner of depiction shows unmistakable knowledge of how the karaṇa-s should be executed. In other words, imitation or copying from iconographic prototypes is to be ruled out. Traces of karaṇa technique and its sub-units can still be seen in the living performing arts of Asia, although nowhere do their practitioners call the movements karaṇa-s. Present-day traditions of dance from the Indian subcontinent are removed from the karaṇa technique, which makes little use of foot stamping – unlike such living traditions.

  • 9 For example, Savarese in his study of Oriental theatre, quotes sources relating to the Tang dynasty (...)

29There are hundreds of scholarly works on the Nāṭyaśāstra and its origin. It is regrettable however that the Nāṭyaśāstra section on karaṇa and its sub-units have not received much attention (with a few notable exceptions), compared to other portions of the text. There is still great controversy over the date of the work. Sculptural evidence from the subcontinent seems to point to a Gupta dating although the question is far from being settled. Another point at least as important as the question of dating the Nāṭyaśāstra text is that karaṇa-s consist of such a variety and range of movement patterns that one cannot but wonder whether some of these movement patterns could have originated in areas outside India, entering the subcontinent prior to their codification in the Nāṭyaśāstra only to be relayed outside India at a later stage. After all, inter-borrowing of movement patterns is a very common practice that occurs and recurs in the history of dance all over the world.9

Fig 9. Vṛścika karaṇa n. 47. Reconstruction drawing.

Fig 9. Vṛścika karaṇa n. 47. Reconstruction drawing.

(Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)


  • 10 Isolated karaṇa-s or dance scenes in which dancers can be seen performing a karaṇa are fairly wides (...)

30The Prambanan karaṇa series is about 100 to 200 years older than the first known karaṇa-s series in India, which can be seen at the Cola Bṛhadīśvara temple in Tanjore. There does not seem to have been prototypes or samples for the karaṇa-s of Prambanan – the images seem to have been an entirely local concept and endeavour. Subrahmanyam in her paper presented at the Seminar on the Bṛhadīśvara in 1993 suggested that the idea of representing karaṇa-s in a serial order in Cola times was “recycled” into India after Prambanan was carved (Subrahmanyam 1993). This does not mean that the concept of karaṇa was not known in India before Prambanan nor that the Nāṭyaśāstra is of Javanese origin.10 What is suggested is that the idea of putting karaṇa-s in a sculpted series may have originated in Java. This would be an instance of what one could call “recycling”. Were there other instances of “recycling”? It would appear that there were. The cult of the Buddhist goddess Tara was re-introduced in the subcontinent, in particular in the Tibetan region, from Indonesia (Schoterman 1986).

31The assimilation of Indian cultural elements and Indian ideology, particularly in relation to ideas of kingship, in the court environs of ancient Java, is not an object of dispute. There is also some agreement that Indian (classical Hindu) dance was performed in ancient Java. Research on South-East Asia since the 1950s has highlighted the indigenous element, unlike earlier scholarship which searched exclusively for the Indian and/or Chinese influence and saw the indigenous cultures as mere passive receivers. However, the category of foreign (in this instance Indian) and indigenous seem to be viewed as fixed entities, when in reality they are flexible and dynamic.

32The entire question of Indian influence, whether it is the now outmoded concept of “Indianization” or the more modern one of “localisation” of such an influence, needs rethinking. The travelling of people – and of ideas – must have been a two-way traffic. Present political boundaries cannot be projected on to past history. The cultural recycling and relaying that took place among the Hinduised South-East Asian regions – here Hinduised refers to both Hinduism and Buddhism – may well have involved India. Here I would like to refer to Edi Sedyawati, who in her work on Gaṇeśa statuary of the Kadiri and Siṅghasari periods in Java, emphasises the existence of a multicentred international culture (Sedyawati 1994: 257). Thus cultural recycling within Asia needs, as a phenomenon, to be investigated in greater depth. The results of such investigations may well change radically our present perceptions of history.



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Notes de fin

1 The word Śiva is usually rendered as Śiwa when transliterated from the Old Javanese language and Siva when transliterated from the Sanskrit. For the sake of clarity I am here using the Sanskrit spelling with a (v) throughout and regardless of whether it is the Javanese, Cambodian or Indian Siva.

2 I should further elucidate this technical terminology. A sūcī pāda is a foot position, in which the foot is pointed with needle-like toes. A kuñcita arm is a bent arm with the elbow pointing forward and downwards. An urdhvajānu knee is a raised knee, with the shank folded in as close as possible to the thigh.

3 I should mention here that Hooykaas (Goudriaan & Hooykaas 1971, hymn 471) thought that Levy had mistakenly taken the word nṛtta which appears in this hymn, to mean tāndava. However, Levy’s interpretation was acceptable because nṛtta is synonymous with tāṇḍava.

4 It can be seen in the old photos of the Dienst collection and in those by Cephas taken in the second half of the 1880s.

5 A great number of slabs with similar trio figures can be seen gathered in groups at the Southern entrance of the complex. They have not found a home yet, which inevitably begs a number of questions relating to the present placing of the other slabs around the outer balustrade of candi Śiva.

6 The cārī urudv ṛtta, whose name refers to a turn of the thigh, involves bringing the knees together, one behind the other, separating the legs by opening them very wide then taking again the joined knees position but this time reversing it.

7 Nancy H. Dowling takes the posture of the Sihghasari Durgā as the erotic stance of “the beguiling temptress... [who] enchants and seduces the male” (Dowling 1994: 72). She then goes on to compare this stance with that of the East Javanese ngremo dancer at tayuban parties.

8 We owe this definition of mārga/ī to Ananda Coomaraswamy (Coomaraswamy 1946: 32).

9 For example, Savarese in his study of Oriental theatre, quotes sources relating to the Tang dynasty in China, when it would seem that a great number of artists from Central Asia went along the Silk route. Some were slaves, others (like the Tashkent dancers) simply travelled in search of riches. Many Tang poets celebrated the beauty of the green-eyed Western dancers who sang and danced in way side inns and several Chinese dances of the Tang period show a remarkable Central Asian origin, in the name of the dances and in the type of costume dancers were supposed to wear. Likewise, in more modern times, it is worth remembering that Fokine’s ballet Cygne exhibits dance movements borrowed from Siamese dancing, which he saw at the Imperial court of the Tsar where a troupe of Siamese dancers had been sent by the king of Siam (Savarese 1992: 33, 397).

10 Isolated karaṇa-s or dance scenes in which dancers can be seen performing a karaṇa are fairly widespread on Indian temples, in all areas of India. Most interestingly it has recently come to my notice that a group of karaṇa-s can be seen on the upapīṭha at Bahur, near Pondicherry, on a temple built in 965 A. D. by the rulers of Mankhed (Dhaky 1983: 219, plate 265). This would strengthen the argument of a “recycling” into India after Prambanan.

Table des illustrations

Titre fig 1. Candi Śiva, Prambanan.
Crédits (Plates A. Iyer)
Fichier image/jpeg, 37k
Titre fig. 2. The dance reliefs and the trio figures in niches, candi Siva.
Fichier image/jpeg, 74k
Titre fig. 3. Karaṇa reliefs from the temple of Siva Naṭarāja at Chidambaram, South India (Eastern gopura).
Fichier image/jpeg, 61k
Titre fig. 4. Relief n. 49, candi Śiva.
Crédits (Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)
Fichier image/jpeg, 86k
Titre fig. 5. Urdhvajānu karaṇa n. 25: compare Dēvī figure with relief n. 49. Reconstruction drawing.
Fichier image/jpeg, 30k
Titre fig. 6. Relief from Borobudur: duet dance, urudvṛtta karaṇa.
Crédits (Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre fig. 7. Urudvṛtta karaṇa n. 98. Reconstruction drawing.
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre fig. 8. Trah Kieu, Cham art pedestal with apsarā in vṛścika karaṇa.
Fichier image/jpeg, 93k
Titre Fig 9. Vṛścika karaṇa n. 47. Reconstruction drawing.
Crédits (Courtesy of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam)
Fichier image/jpeg, 29k

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