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Temples of Tamilnadu
Beliefs and Legends >> Shiva

Tyagaraja - Ajapaa Natanam

Vishnu's worship of Somaskanda forms the core of the belief systems surrounding the Ajapaa Natanam.

It is believed that Vishnu fashioned an image of Somaskanda and wore the image on his chest and meditated upon it in silence.

The meditative silence of the un-uttered prayer (A - Japaa), accompanied by the graceful movement in both the vertical and the horizontal planes of the Somaskanda image, in synchronization with Vishnu's meditative breath is considered to be the root of the mystical Ajapaa Natanam.

The Ajapa dance of Tyagaraja signifies the control and manuovere of breathing. The Tevaram hymns of Tirunaavukkarasar refer to this association between the meditative breath of Vishnu and the dance of Somaskanda. Tirumoolar's Tirumantiram speaks of the significance of the unchanted Ajapa and its association with the dance of Shiva (Tirukkoothu).

The Somaskanda or Tyagaraja shrine at Tiruvarur is thus associated with the Ajapaa dance. This dance is enacted everytime the deity is taken out in procession (as in Maargazhi Tiruvadirai and Panguni Utthiram) - using a contraption held in place with the bark of the plantain tree.
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It is to be noted that each of the 7 Saptavitanka temples is associated with a certain type of dance that is enacted on festive occasions and that the Tyagaraja shrines in the non-Vitanka stalams such as Tiruvotriyur and Tiruvanmyur also feature a form of dance specific to the temple. (Shown above is an image of the enactment of the 18 Natanam at Tiruvanmyur).

It is also to be noted that the art of classical dance has a special place in the traditions of the Tiruvarur temple. A large number of dancers were associated (dedicated to the) with this temple during the reign of the Imperial Cholas as seen from temple inscriptions in the Chola region. Dance has been an integral part of the temple worship services although it does not enjoy the same status now as it did owing to societal changes. Instead, a distinct pause in the midst of the worship rituals signifies the original status of this performing art in this ancient monument.

Also see:

Tyagaraja at Tiruvarur
Saptavitanka Stalams
The Somaskanda Legend
Somaskanda Iconography