Indian dance influence after Polonnaruwa period | Daily News


Indian dance influence after Polonnaruwa period

After the Pallava period in Tamil Nadu, the Cholas ruled the country. During the period of Chola regime and in succeeding periods in Tamil Nadu, dance and many other fine arts flourished along with Hinduism. Such evidence could still be traced from numerous existing exhibits. The living tradition of dance could be seen in the form of ancient sculptures and traditional architectural reliefs. The close links of dance and sculpture are well defined in the ancient texts including the Visnudharmottara Purana which narrates numerous sciences including cosmography, geology, astrology, astronomy, dance, musicology and arts. Besides, it includes the 18 Upapuranas stated in the Brihaddharma.

The execution of dance is done through body limbs. The Chola period sculptors brought out most of the nuances of dance in their creativity. The dance traces could still be seen in the Chola period sculptures which are the long-lasting living evidence for the researchers to understand how the earlier sculptors interpreted the beauty and rhythmic vibrancy of dance in their creations. The sculptures were used for decorative purposes to bring out the aesthetic essence and value of dance in the stone motifs.

Variety of sculptures

Dance influences could be found in various artefacts. Generally, for research analysis it is necessary to trace the coordination between the dance and sculptures. In Sri Lanka there is a variety of sculptures available. Most of the ancient dance sculptural reliefs and motifs are found at ancient archaeological sites in the form of decorative sculptures. The decorative elements can be seen on the pillars, rooftops and the walls of the ancient architectural structures. Dance nuances are not only reflected in the form of decorative sculptures of the Chola period in Sri Lanka but also could be seen in other succeeding periods.

All the ancillary limb movements including body positions, foot stances and positions, hand gestures and eye glances are invariably depicted in the sculptures. The influence of rhythmic vibrancy of dance is invariably depicted in all forms of ancient sculptures especially in the form of decorative sculptures and worshipping Hindu icons.

The decorative sculptures were created by sculptors with excellent imaginary creativity in combination with Silpa Sastra and Natya Sastra traditions. Meanwhile, the Hindu icons were created with certain well-defined principles of Hindu Agama Sastra, Silpa Sastra and Natya Sastra traditions. Changing the concept of the Hindu icons was not possible for the sculptors because the creations of Hindu icons strictly adhered to the well-defined principles of Hindu Agama Sastra traditions.

Yet the sculptors have added external flavours to their creations to adorn their creativities. Adding external decorations depend on their own imaginative idealistic creativity and other local factors which provide an opportunity for the researchers to identify the style and the period of the sculptures which they belong to. Following the Polonnaruwa era, numerous other periods existed in Sri Lanka.

Decorative architectural buildings

The Indian dance influence continuously impressed the sculptural concepts and decorative architectural sculptures of Sri Lanka which could be seen in different art forms including iconography and decorative architectural buildings. The dance impact on sculptures could be obviously seen in the post-Polonnaruwa period building decorations and sculptures especially in the periods of Dambadeniya, Kurunegala, Yapahuwa, Gampola, Raigama, Seethawaka, Kotte, Kandy and Colombo.

Among the above mentioned periods, Yapahuwa period is considered important for this study because numerous Indian dance-related sculptures are seen in that period. Yapahuwa is situated in the Kurunegala District. Further, it is located nearly three miles east of Maho. The earlier glory of this ancient citadel could be found at one of the caves and boulders. This is seen from a short record in Brahmi script.

It is stated that Brahmi language was in use from the period of 3rd century B.C to 3rd century A.D. Yapahuwa gained prominence after the first half of the 13th century AD, especially after the Kalinga Magha devastated the capital Polonnaruwa. Kalinga Magha’s period was from 1214 to 1235. Earlier Yapahuwa was known as Subha – Pabbata which means (auspicious mountain). According to history, during the reign of Vijayabahu 1V (1271-1273AC) the place was called Sundarapabbata. According to historical evidence, king Vijayabahu 1V commanded his younger brother Bhuvanekabahu to settle there with his strong army to prevent South Indian invasions.

Attractive porch

Despite his heavy guard, the attack came from another direction led by Chandrabhanu in cooperation with his Pandya and Chola allies. Yet numerous historical records reveal Yapahuwa had a long history. In the 16th century, the Portuguese have mentioned that Yapahuwa was the fortress of the Sinhalese. The first study of Yapahuwa was done by the civil servant John Bailey in 1850. In 1864 he published an article on Yapahuwa once a week.

On May 5, 1877, an architect from Anuradhapura mentioned Yapahuwa to Governor WH Gregory by indicating that more attention should be paid to it. After 15 years later, the Ceylon branch of the Royal Asiatic Society published two articles, one by FH Modder and the other by J Harward under the title ‘Note on the Fortifications of Yapahuwa.’

Yapahuwa is a stone structure. It has a staircase which is flanked and decorated by two furious stone-made lions with an attractive porch set against the famed Yapahuwa rock. Till today it is considered as one of the finest ancient archaeological constructions of Sri Lanka made during the post-Polonnaruwa period. The Archaeological Department commenced operations in 1911 and HC Bell took great interest and pains to protect the monument from destruction and collapse.

Today Yapahuwa provides ample evidence for carved ancient sculptures of Sri Lanka. Excellent carved sculptures are seen all over. Beautiful dance figures are well carved in Yapahuwa. The carved figures including dancing girls, lions, swans and large lions and elephants are seen at Yapahuwa. And also it provides an opportunity to compare these dance figures with the poses of Indian classical dances especially with the dancing figures of Chidambaram temple (Chola period dances of Chidambaram temple sculptures). It resembles the South Indian Chola sculptures (period sculptures are famous for stone sculptures and stone carving sculptures) and Chola architectural sculptures.

However, there is no doubt that it was further modified according to the Sinhalese architecture style and excellent unique Sinhalese craftsmanship. Beautifully carved dancing figures are seen at the staircase. Even Kirti Mukha head of a mythical creature and a pair of Gaja Sinha is seen there. The base of the porch area is decorated with beautiful female figures and male dancing figures.

Instrumental accompaniments

The dancing figures depict numerous dance poses. The carved figures not only depict the dance poses but also depict numerous instrumental accompaniments for dance. It implies that during the period dances took place with instrumental music. And also it provides an opportunity for us to assume that dancing carved figures reveal some dance procession scene. Actually, the staircase could be divided into three different sections. At the third level, beautiful slender female figures are seen.

No doubt the stairways which led to the porch are well preserved. At both sides, exquisite and excellent craftwork windows were seen. Such excellent windows are not seen elsewhere in the Lankan archaeological sites. The window in the west was removed a few years back and it was stated that it was brought down to the Colombo Museum. The other was a small fragment window which was taken to one of the Yapahuwa temples.

The size of the window was fitted into a thick outer frame. Within the moulded window, 45 cut circles were crafted. They were joined with one another. Within the circles, a variety of figure works was crafted with meticulous care.

Different dance figures of dancers were seen. Most of the dance figures are seen in typical Bharatha Natya Arimandi Isthana position. All the dance poses are seen with a proper and perfect geometrical format position. The centre of the window circle carries a lotus figure. At the sides of the centre lotus circle, four wheels are seen with eight strokes and some circles are decorated with dancing figures. Hence for the dance research, Yapahuwa provides a great deal of information for the researcher.

Following Yapahuwa numerous beautiful dance sculptures and beautiful dance depicted in the stone friezes with typical Karana dance impact could be seen in the sculptures of the Gampola, Kotte and Kanyan periods.

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