Thillanas and Karanas in Brihadeshwar temple

Thillanas and Karanas in Brihadeshwar temple

Question:- Brihadeshwar temple was a great centre for thillanas and karanas associated with dance. Elaborate.

Music and dance are seen to highly influence the emotion of the devotee pushing them towards the actions which serve their own good along with the community's. This is the core principle of the four purusharthas which forms the basis of Sanatana dharma, known as Hinduism.

Thillanas: A thillana is a rhythmic piece in Carnatic music that is generally performed at the end of a concert and widely used in dance performances. Composed by Melatur Verabadrayya, it is believed that the thillana was introduced in the 18th century. Harikatha made popular the thillanas owing to their ability to revive energy on stage.

The thillanas are credited with codifying Bharatnatyam and in this sense, Thanjavur comes first. One of the finest thillanas is based on Brihadeswara temple which was a centre for dance. This is amply evident from the inscription of Rajaraja about 400 dancers with details of their address and the procedure for replacing them which was according to merit and not political connections. Brihadeswara temple gained importance as a thillana because it was a time when music, dance and drama were a part of everyday life with a very close association between the three. A lot of wealth was bestowed by Rajaraja who was a great patron of music and dance.

Karanas: Karanas are the 108 key transitions in the classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam where these form the basic movements. The sculptures of the Karanas, though incomplete, are also important for understanding the positions of the karana and conform to the Natya Sastra. These are evidences to the high level of popularity and respect that dance and music had during the Chola period.

After Rajaraja there was a gradual decrease in the importance attached to music and dance. Rajendra Deva, the second son of Rajendra I in 1058, made arrangement for staging a play called ‘Rajarajeswara Nataka’ to commemorate the grand festival of the deity, Rajarajeswara. With the help of inscriptions, we even have the name of the lead actor and his troupe. It probably was a play enacting the events when the temple was built accompanied by the best of music, dance and drama of prevailing in the period.

The temple is still used to conduct music and dance performances, showing the role played by the temple in promoting and encouraging music and dance and the thillanas associated with it.
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