A Shiva Nataraja idol in Tamil Nadu, India

Tandava (also spelled as Tāṇḍavam), also known as Tāṇḍava Natyam, is a divine dance performed by Hindu god Shiva.[1][2][3][4][5] Shiva is depicted as dancing the Tandava in his form of Nataraja.

The Natya Shastra, a Sanskrit treatise on the performing arts, describes various aspects of the Tandava.


Tandava, as performed in the sacred dance-drama of India, has vigorous, brisk movements. Performed with joy, the dance is called Ananda Tandava. Performed in a violent mood, the dance is called Raudra or Rudra Tandava. The types of Tandava found in the Hindu texts are: Ananda Tandava, Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samhara Tandava, Kali (Kalika) Tandava, Uma Tandava, Shiva Tandava, Krishna Tandava and Gauri Tandava.[6] Tandava mudras and postures occur within the person by itself without volition, if his Kundalini (shakti within) is invoked. Mudras and postures of sculptures in ancient Indian temples are a mere depiction of spirituality (invoked spirit, the kundalini), which actually is supposed to occur in the person as a fruit of his practices.

Shiva Tandava is described as a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. While the Rudra Tandava depicts his violent nature, first as the creator and later as the destroyer of the universe, even of death itself, the Ananda Tandava depicts him as joyful. In Shaiva Siddhanta tradition, Shiva as Nataraja (lit. "King of dance"[7]) is considered to be supreme lord of dance.[8]

Tandava takes its name from Tandu (taṇḍu), the attendant of Shiva, who instructed Bharata (author of the Natya Shastra) in the use of Angaharas and Karanas[4] modes of the Tandava at Shiva's order. Some scholars consider that Tandu himself must have been the author of an earlier work on the dramatic arts, which was incorporated into the Natya Shastra.[9] The Natya Shastra portrays Shiva narrating about the various aspects of the dance to the god Brahma.[4]

The 32 Angaharas and 108 Karanas are discussed by Bharata in the 4th chapter of the Natya Shastra, Tandava Lakshanam.[10] Karana is the combination of hand gestures with feet to form a dance posture. Angahara is composed of seven or more Karanas.[6]

"How many various dances of Shiva are known to His worshipers I cannot say. No doubt the root idea behind all of these dances is more or less one and the same, the manifestation of primal rhythmic energy. Whatever the origins of Shiva's dance, it became in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of." - Ananda Coomaraswamy[8]

The 108 Karanas of Tandava depicted in Nataraja sculptures.

The dance is described as a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy:[8]

The dance performed by Shiva's wife Parvati in response to Shiva's Tandava is known as Lasya, in which the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic. Some scholars consider Lasya to be the feminine version of Tandava. There are two types of Lasya, Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya.

The Hindu scriptures narrate various occasions when Shiva performed the Tandava. When Sati (first wife of Shiva, who was reborn as Parvati) gave up her life in Daksha's sacrifice, Shiva is said to have performed the Rudra Tandava to express his grief and anger. The Shivapradosha stotra says when Shiva performs the Sandhya Tandava, the other gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Indra play musical instruments and sing Shiva's praises.[6]

The Shiva Tandava Stotra is a stotra (Hindu hymn) that describes Shiva's power and beauty, believed to have been written by Ravana, a great devotee of Shiva.[11]

Association with other deities

Krishna dancing over the subdued Kāliya and his wives Naginis asking Krishna for his mercy. From a Bhagavata Purana manuscript, c. 1640.

Ganesha, the son of Shiva, is depicted as Ashtabhuja tandavsa nritya murtis (Eight armed form of Ganesha dancing the Tandava) in temple sculptures.[12]

The Bhagavata Purana talks of Krishna dancing his Tandava on the head of the serpent Kaliya.[13][14] King Chikka Devaraja (the fourteenth maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore) minted a series of gold coins called "Devaraja [with] the image of dancing Krishna" (tandava krishnamurti devaraja) to commemorate his coronation.[15] Purandara Dasa calls the dancing Krishna ("Nritya Krishna") as "Tandava Krishna".[16]

According to Jain traditions, Indra is said to have performed the Tandava in honour of Rishabha (Jain tirthankar) on the latter's birth.[17]

The similarly correlated Buddhist deity Acala is shown in some depictions to trample upon Vighnarāja, a demon of obstacles, in the manner of Tandava.

Indian classical dance

In Kathak dance three types of Tandavas are generally used, they are, Krishna Tandava, Shiva Tandava and Ravana Tandava, but sometimes a fourth variety - Kalika Tandava, is also often used.[18][19] Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi have variants of Krishna dancing his Tandava on Kaliya.[20]

The Manipuri dance is categorized as either "Tandava" (vigorous, usually go with Shiva, Shakti or Krishna as warrior-savior themed plays) or lasya (delicate,[21] usually go with love stories of Radha and Krishna).[22][23] In the Krishna Tandava in Raslila performance of Manipuri dance is graceful yet with swift movement and acrobatic gestures.[24]


The 108 karanas of Tandava have inspired Shiva sculptures of the 1st-millennium BCE, particularly the Tandava style which fuses many of these into a composite image found at the Nataraja temple of Chidambaram.[25][26]

Shiva as Nataraja or Krishna dancing the Tandava is a recurring theme in the Chola period bronzes. Various Shiva temples in South India depict the dancing Nataraja.[27]


  1. ^ "MW Cologne Scan". www.sanskrit-lexicon.uni-koeln.de. Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  2. ^ James Lochtefeld (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 978-0823931798, pages 687
  3. ^ "Tandava | Indian dance". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-06-06.
  4. ^ a b c Natya-shastra IV.263-264
  5. ^ Dalal 2014, p. 407.
  6. ^ a b c Manohar Laxman Varadpande 1987, p. 154.
  7. ^ Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger (23 February 2015). Everyday Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 74. ISBN 978-1118528181.
  8. ^ a b c Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, "The Dance of Shiva", in The Dance of Shiva: Fourteen Indian Essays, rev. ed. (New York: Noonday Press), (1957) ISBN 81-215-0153-9. Cited, "Nataraja", Manas, UCLA
  9. ^ Quarterly Journal of the Andhra Historical Research Society, part III, pp. 25-26, as cited in Manohar Laxman Varadpande 1987, p. 154
  10. ^ Ragini Devi, Dance Dialects of India, pp. 29-30. Motilal Banarsidass (1990) ISBN 81-208-0674-3
  11. ^ Vanamali (4 October 2013). Shiva : stories and teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana. ISBN 978-1-62055-248-3. OCLC 827262640.
  12. ^ Manohar Laxman Varadpande 1987, p. 5.
  13. ^ Manohar Laxman Varadpande 1987, p. 98.
  14. ^ Shovana Narayan (1 January 2004). Indian Theatre And Dance Traditions. Harman Publishing House. p. 14. ISBN 978-8186622612.
  15. ^ Caleb Simmons (2 December 2019). Devotional Sovereignty: Kingship and Religion in India. Oxford University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0190088910.
  16. ^ Tumuluri Seetharama Lakshmi (1994). A study of the compositions of Purandaradāsa and Tyāgarāja. Veda Sruti Publications. p. 116.
  17. ^ Manohar Laxman Varadpande 1987, p. 146.
  18. ^ Classical and Folk Dances of India. Marg Publications. 1963. p. 43. There are three types of Tandavas generally used in Kathak, namely, Krishna Tandava, Shiva Tandava and Ravana Tandava, but sometimes a fourth variety - Kalika Tandava, is also recognised .
  19. ^ Marie Joy Curtiss (1970). Kathak, Classical Dance of India. University of the State of New York. p. 12.
  20. ^ Lavanya Vemsani (13 June 2016). Krishna in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names: An Encyclopedia of the Hindu Lord of Many Names. ABC-CLIO. p. 220. ISBN 9781610692113. Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi developed a style of dance known as Tandava, a set of vigorous dance moves mainly performed with brisk movements of the feet, which was once said to have been performed by the child Krishna while he defeated the sepant Kaliya in Kalind lake in Brindavan.
  21. ^ Vimalakānta Rôya Caudhurī (2000). The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 80. ISBN 978-81-208-1708-1.
  22. ^ Reginald Massey 2004, pp. 193–194.
  23. ^ Saryu Doshi 1989, pp. xvi–xviii, 44–45.
  24. ^ Angana Jhaveri (1986). The Raslila Performance Tradition of Manipur in Northeast India. Michigan State University. Department of Theater. p. 105. Krishna tandava as used in the raslila has very spritely and joyful dance movements. It involves small quick movements, light springy jumps, fast footwork, spinning at a dizzy speed and some acrobatic movements. But the overall effect of the form is that of grace and delicacy suitable to the romantic and youthful character of Krishna.
  25. ^ Dalal 2014, p. 278.
  26. ^ Brenda Pugh McCutchen (2006). Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Human Kinetics. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-7360-5188-0.
  27. ^ Sehdev Kumar (2001). A Thousand Petalled Lotus: Jain Temples of Rajasthan : Architecture & Iconography. Abhinav Publications. p. 184. ISBN 978-8170173489.