Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aaicchiar kuravai is Tamil version of Bhasa’s Balacharitha.


The deep rooted Hindu Dharma was followed unitarily in North and South India for all times in the past. This can be ascertained as we go into olden Tamil texts. At the moment I am working on worship of Vishnu in Sangam texts and will be bringing out a separate blog on it. Before I could do that I feel so excited to share information on the oldest dance form known to exist in Sanskrit literature to be having a parallel in Tamil lands too.


Bhasa is the most celebrated playwright of Sanskrit whose period is noted before the start of the Christendom – as he was quoted by Kalidasa who lived around 2000 years ago. One of the celebrated dance- drama of Bhasa is the "Bala charitha" of the story of Krishna's younger days narrated in Harivamsam. It is about the dance of Krishna and Baladeva with the girls of Gokulam. This dance had a female character accompanied by Krishna on both sides or with Krishna and Baladeva on two sides! The philosophical import of this is that He (Krishna) is on all sides and comes in any number of forms as wished by the devotee. Another way of explanation is that wherever the devotee looks at, there Krishna will be seen. The distinction between Krishna and Baladeva is some rimes blurred in Tamil texts - as we see in some verses of Pari paadal, where it is said that Krishna Himself is Baladeva ( as avathara of Vishnu)



This dance form is such that the Gopika is accompanied by Krishna and Baladeva on her sides. Who is this Gopika is a matter of debate. Is she Radha or some girl of Gokulam?



In the 58th chapter in Brihat samhita on the description of the images of Deities for installation, Varahamihira tells about how to carve the image of Baladeva. After describing his image (with plough in one hand, eyes dim with pride, a pendant and body, white like conch shell, moon and stem of lotus), he says that Baladeva and Krishna must be installed with a image of a beautiful woman in between (he does not say the name of this woman) with her left hand in her middle and with a white lotus in her right hand.



This combination forms the core players in Bala charitha. This is also the core theme in Aaichiar kuravai described in Silappadhikaram.

In ஆய்ச்சியர் குரவை in மதுரைக் காண்டம், Mathari tells her daughter Iyai not worry about the bad omens. When a similar occurrence happened, Krishna danced with Pinnai. Let us also dance the 'Bala charitha' drama.




"மகளை நோக்கி மனமயங்காதே மண்ணின்
மாதர்க்கணியாகிய கண்ணகியுந்தான்காண
ஆயர்பாடியில் எருமன்றத்து மாயவனுடன் தம்முன் ஆடிய
வாலசரிதை நாடகங்களில் வேல் நெடுங்கண்
பிஞ்ஞையோ டாடிய குரவை யாடுதும் யாமென்றாள்.."



This dance drama is popularly known as Kuravai in Tamil, about which we have good exposure from Mullai-k-kali of Kalithogai.

This is a group dance. The Balacharitha mentioned as above in Silappadhikaram has 7 actors – all girls with some of them adorning male role as Krishna and Baladeva.


A similar dance form called Koodiyaattam exists in kerala too. Browse this link for details.


This is also based on Balacharitha of Krishna and acted by either all males or all females.

It is also like 'Kuravai' – a combined dancing – and so it is Kooodi – aattam!

This dance form traces its origin to Bhasa's Bala charitha.



The Aaichiar Kuravai also is an enactment of Balacharitha.

It also deserves the antiquity attributed to Bhasa's Balacharitha.



More than that, my mind is fast sifting the information I have been writing time and again on the migration of people of Dwaraka to the South (Tamil lands) after the deluge (with the onset o Kaliyuga and departure of Krishna).

The Aayars of Madurai in Silappadhikaram – who were they? Were they the descendants of immigrants from Dwaraka?

The Aayars of Kalithogai seemed different. They identified themselves as olden clan who shifted to mainland along with the Pandyan king when the sea engulfed the land of Thennavan (Kuamri).

Were the people of kalith thogai different from the aayars of Silappadhikaram in their origin?





For information on Bhasa:-





Anonymous said...

Wref to your comments: "Varahamihira tells about how to carve the image .... he says that Baladeva and Krishna must be installed with a image of a beautiful woman in between ...".

Is the 'beautiful woman' their sister Subhadra? Can we draw a parallel with the presiding dieties of Puri Jagannath?


jayasree said...

Quite interesting.
Can you provide more info on deities of Puri Jagannath? Is the description of the woman, (the position of hands) by Varahamihira similar to that in Puri?

Varahamihira gives a details about all deities if they are to be installed in temples. The height, the samudrika lashana etc. Even the thickness of the eye brows, the distance between them etc. That shows the Baladeva and Krishna with a woman in between must have been popular deities installed in temples in those days.

jayasree said...

If the woman in between is proved to be the sister, then it is a path breaking finding. In many places in Silappadhikaram, the dance of krishna with 'pinnai' (means one who came later)is mentioned. But Thiruppavai identifies Nappinnai (nam pinnai - the one who is younger to us)as the consort of Krishna! So there is always a debate on whether this woman is a consort of Krishna or Nappinnai or Radha.

However in an olden text by a commentator on Thirukkural, there is a mention of Krishna having married 'Upakesi' of Madurai of the South (Then- madurai) making it sound that Krishna married a girl from Pandyan kingdom in the now -submerged parts of Kumari whose capital city was 'Then madurai'. My posts on whether this girl could have been Nappinnai can be read in Jan - Feb 2008 archives.

Anonymous said...

If Varahamihira's lakshana are used, then the presiding dieties of Puri Jagannath temple are not as per his criteria. The murtis do not have hands & legs.

But you have to excuse me for sounding a bit puritan. In sanskrit - a younger sister is also called as 'anuja' - 'later born'. So can 'pinnai' in tamil be its equivalent? In that case, why should a consort or a woman being discussed in the context of sringara rasa be called a 'pinnai'?

I possess only rudimentary knowledge on ancient sanskrit and tamil woks and so I am not trying to counter your analyses listed in the article. So please do not mind my comments if you feel they are a distraction for you.

God bless your efforts in analysing the ancient works and correlating the common points and restablishing their relevance in todays religious practices.

jayasree said...

Puri images are not carved ones - so we can not expect them to fulfill the criteria of Varahamihira. We must know where else the 3 siblings are worshiped. The worship of the 3 together, must have been there or else Varahamihira could not have given the details.

yes, Pinnai means later born. But Nappiannai is specifically mentioned as daughter in law of Nanda gopan ( nanadagopan marulagalE nappinnai) by AndaL.

You said >>
why should a consort or a woman being discussed in the context of sringara rasa be called a 'pinnai'?<<

This is from which source, can I know?

Can you provide the Bala charitha of Bhasa?

I will also go through Tamil texts particularly Kali-th-thogai where Baladeva is mentioned.

Interestingly, a verse in Paripaadal on Vishnu (Thirumaal)in Thirumaalirumcholai (in Madurai), popularly known as Azhagar malai, tells about Baladeva to be there in that temple. If Baladeva had been installed , then this girl also must have been there. But today there is no image of Baladeva there, nor this girl!

A clue to identifying the siblings - Baladeva will be white in colour and krishna in blue - neela maNi. The colour of the girl is not mentioned by Varahamihira.