The śivatāṇḍavastotra is a sublime lyric full of great devotion and composed in a vigorous style. The magic power of its resonant words is very gripping. We propose to analyse its iconographic motifs and to arrive at the date of its composition.

The first verse gives a word picture of the gāndhāramūrti of the Deity-

jaṭākaṭāha saṃbhramabhramanniliṃpanirjharī | vilolavīcivallarīvirājamāna mūrdhani |

It also praises the third eye in the forehead of the Bhagwan burning with the fierce of Fire. śiva is three-eyed (tryambakadeva) sūrya - caṃdra - agni being those three Eyes; they comprise in their symbolism the entire trika doctrine.

The verse makes reference to the new moon on the forehead of the Bhagwan, whence he is called candraśekhara. Who is this caṃdra on the head? agnirvai rudraḥ -this is the Vedic definition. rudra is fierce agni hungry to devour its food. This agni is fed by soma also called candra and amṛta. Again, candra represents the cosmic mind (candramā manaso jñātaḥ Rigveda) and the principle of mind is the supreme aspect of the Deity, shining on the top of his head.

Verse 2 refers to the umāmaheśvara form of śiva. The Daughter of the mountain (dharādharendranandinī) remains in eternal blissful enjoyment with her Bhagwan. It is the union of prakṛti with puruṣa, of soma with agni, as the liṅgapurāṇa 34.7 explains:

ahamagnirmahātejāḥ somaścaiṣā mahāmbikā | ahamagniśca somaśca prakṛtyā puruṣaḥ svayam. liṃgaṃ | 34 | 7 |

śiva is praised as cidaṃbara i.e. cidākāśa, the one source of cititatva, the principle of consciousness, also called prajñātmakaprāṇa, It was the highest doctrine of the Vedantic Saiva philosophy in which śiva and Self are one.

Verse 3 consists of two motifs, viz., the serpents coiled in the matted locks, and the elephants' skin worn like a canopy to mark the beginning of the tāṇḍava dance. The matted locks symbolise the pravargya part of the Divinity who is himself brahmaudana. The cosmos is the tangled mass of those locks.

The elephant is the principle of aham, or individuation, same as mahat manifesting at a point. The carma or kṛtti is the container, the finitising unit for ahaṃ, which begins the dance that creates the world and also withdraws it.

Verse 4 refers to the numerous Bhagwan headed by the sahasralocana indra paying homage at the feet of śiva who is mahādeva, the Supreme Divinity. In the veda indra and rudra are the same as sūrya who has a thousand rays.

Verse 5 paints a picture of the Fire from Siva's third eye consuming the Bhagwan of the five arrows. It is the kāmāntaka mūrti of śiva. The five objects of enjoyment of the senses are completely subdued by the tapaḥsamādhi of śiva.

Verse 6 repeats in still more artistic terms the kāmāntaka motif:

karālabhāla paṭṭikā dhagaddhagaddhagajjvalad dhanañjayādharīkṛtapracaṇḍapañcasāyake |

It is the third eye of wisdom which obtains perfect control over the senses and the mind lusting for sensuous pleasures.

Verse 7 recounts the dark colour of the throat, i.e. the nīlakaṇṭha form, and the gaṃgādhara, gajāntaka and the candraśekhara forms. The throat symbolizes the element of ākāśa with the quality of sound and ākāśa is in Vedic terminology equivalent of the paṃcabhūta or vāk - The poison in the throat stands for the tamasic nature of the Five Elements. The paṃcabhūtas are created by the tamoguṇa form of śakti. prāṇa by the rajoguṇa and manastatva by the satoguṇa and thus manaḥ-prāṇa-vāk are the manifestation of traiguṇya.

Verse 8 describes again the sombre effects of the deep and dark colour of the throat shining like a mass of blue lotuses. The second half of this verse is highly important as giving a string of śiva-līlā motifs:

smaracchidaṃ puracchidaṃ bhavacchidaṃ makhacchidaṃ gajacchidāndhakacchidaṃ tamantakacchidaṃ bhaje | 8

The words are of incomparable charm in Stotra literature, and in utmost concise form paint a picture of the major exploits of śivalīlā - They are repeated in an altered vocabulary in verse 9.

The smaracchida form is the smarāntaka or kāmāntaka mūrti of which the madanadahana theme is described at length by Kalidasa and in some of the Purarnas.

The puracchida or purāntaka form relates to the vanquishing of tripurāsura the Demon of the Three Cities' of gold, silver and copper. Who is this tripura? It is our own body or ourselves comprised of jāgrata-svapna-suṣupti which are the three states of the Self and the result of the three Gunas. Mind, (manaḥ) is the city of gold, prāṇa of silver and bhūtagrāma of copper or iron. śiva is the supreme controller of these three states and the demoniac nature of the lower self should be dedicated at his feet.

The bhavicchada or bhavāntaka form refers to the annihilation of saṃsāra, the cessation of bhavacakra or the revolving wheel of the world of māyā or kāla.

The makhacchida or makhāntaka form reminds of the episode of dakṣayajñavidhvaṃsa. The Puranas relate the story of dakṣaprajāpati having performed a yajña to which śiva was not invited and so his śakti satī. The yajña ended in disaster. What is the significance of this līlā? It is the same as the chinnaśīrṣa makha of the Brahmanas. yajña has two aspects, one the cosmic (adhidaivata) and the other in the individual (adhyātma). The latter must be linked to the former, the mortal derives its energy from the immortal source of the Divine eternal. If dakṣa breaks of from that source because of his ahaṃkāra, the individual yajña is doomed. dakṣa invites all his daughters, excepting satī or mahāśakti who alone can deliver the goods.

The gajacchida or gajāntaka or gajāsurasaṃhāramūrti has been mentioned above.

The aṃdhakacchida or aṃdhakāntaka mūrti refers to the defeat and death of aṃdhakāsura at the hands of śiva. The blind pranic energy as divorced from the mind symbolizes the andhaka demon who must submit to the authority of mahādeva.

The antakacchida or antakāntaka mūrti refers to the terrific form of śiva as conquering the Bhagwan of Death. śiva is mahākāla and kālāri; He has triumphed over yama or mṛtyu; and poison, the symbol of mṛtyu has been assimilated in his throat.

Verse 9 refers to śiva as the Bhagwan of rasapravāhamādhurī or ānandalaharī, Waves of Bliss, or sweet mead, or rasa (= soma, and amṛta) which is his true nature. It also repeats the iconographic forms of verse 8.

Verse 10 besides repeating the motif of the Fire from the third eye, adds the significant motif of the tāṃḍava dance performed with the rhythmic sounds of the ḍamarū-mṛdaṃga.

Versts 11 and 12 refer to the eternally poised nature of the Bhagwan, for whom rough stone and kingly bed, serpent and pearl garland, gem and clod of earth, friend and foe, grass and lotus, king and toiling peasant are all equal; they end with the supplication of the devotee to spend his last days on the gaṃgā in a quiet retreat and merged in the blissful nature of the Divine, while muttering His sweet name.

For a Stotra of only 12 verses, the above is a perfect record of motifs and a model of high literary art. It is overflowing with devout inspiration and the realisation of the ineffable bliss of the Divine in the heart of the Bhakta.

The Stotra does not form part of any Purana, so far as can be seen, but its date is indicated by the recounted motifs fairly closely.

The tāṇḍava dance began to be portrayed in Indian art about the Gupta period. But the tripurāntaka as well as the yamāntaka forms are depicted in Indian sculpture for the first time during the Rastrakuta period in the daśāvatāra Cave and the kailāsa Temple at Ellora, the first finished in the time of king Dantidurga (735-757) and the second in the reign of Krishnaraja I (757-772). It is a rare phenomenon that these two shrines, which were the most wonderful accomplishments of their age both in architecture and sculpture, also have been adorned with the other motifs like the andhakāsurasaṃhāramūrti, the dakṣayajñavidhvaṃsa mūrti, the gajāsurasaṃhāra mūrti, umāmaheśvara mūrti, ardhanārīśvara and the tāṇḍava mūrti.

The iconographic and literary motifs taken together can be attributed only to the Rastrakuta period in about the middle of the eighth century A.D. The kālāri or yamāntaka form of śiva is connected with the liberation of mārkaṇḍeya from the clutches of Death, and depicts mārkaṇḍeya praying to śiva for deliverance from yama who is repulsed by a kick of the Divine feet. It is only in the daśāvatāra Cave and the kailāsa Temple of Ellora that the theme has been discovered so far (Gopinath Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography Vol. II, pt. I, Plate 34). The tripurāntaka representation is similarly of very rare occurrence in early sculpture and has hitherto been discovered together only in the above two places, pointing to the period circa 735-770 A.D. (Gopinath Rao, op. cit., Plate 37). This gives a reasonable basis to assign the śivatāṇḍava stotra to about the middle of the eighth century and its composition may be the work of some brilliant poet of the Rastrakuta age in the Deccan.

The stotra was recited by rāvaṇa after his worship of Bhagwan śiva (pūjāvasānasamaye daśavaktragītaṃ). This worship-scene is also illustrated at Ellora in the kailāsa Temple in a grand sculpture known as 'rāvaṇa lifting kailāsa' (kailāsottolanamūrti) which was allied to the rāvaṇānugraha mūrti (Gopinath Rao, Hindu Iconography, Vol. II, pt. I, Plate 53). In this respect also the daśāvatāra Cave of Ellora is similar to the kailāsa temple (Rao, ib. Plate 54). It may, however, be noted that the Elephanta Cave-shrine also depicts the rāvaṇānugrahamūrti, but not the tripurasaṃhāra and yamāntaka or mārkaṇḍeyānugraha forms, which are peculiar only to the daśāvatāra Cave and the kailāsa Temple of Ellora, as stated above.