Karaṇas are the dance sequences explained in the fourth chapter of Nāṭya śāstra of Bharata. The chapter is known as Tāṇḍava lakṣaṇam and explains one hundred and eight karaṇas to be used for Nṛtta and Vākyārtha abhinaya. The definition of a karaṇa is Hastapādasamāyogaḥ Nṛttasya karaṇam bhavet – the combined actions of hands and legs is called as karaṇa. The karaṇa sculptures are in plenty in Tamilnadu state some are in series and some are loose sculptures. The earliest whole series of Karaṇa can be traced from the Big temple at Tañjāvūr. Now we can see some of the loose sculpture from the Ekāmranātha temple at Kāñcīpuram.
A panel fixed at the wall of the holy tank Kampā has a wonderful depiction of a karaṇa. The panel is made up of sandstone and has three persons and a śivaliṅga. The central dancing figure is a girl wear Karaṇḍa makuṭa and lifted her leg to the top of her head. The right hand is raised and has Patāka hasta. She has Patrakuṇḍala on her ears and graiveyaka adorns her neck. Her hands are adorned with Kaṅkaṇas. Her left hand is in sūcī hasta. She has Mekhalā on her waist ūru daghna dress should be there since her knee is seen. The other person seated nearby is a male and has Karaṇḍa makuṭa and patrakuṇḍalas and graiveyaka. He is in a position of playing some Tāla instrument. Another person in between the two has the same decorations and witnessing the event. At the right edge there is a śivaliṅga with a serpent seat.
The lady figure (May be Pārvatī) is in Daṇḍapāda karaṇa. The definition of the karaṇa is
नूपुरं चरणं कृत्वा दण्डपादं प्रसारयेत्।
क्षिप्राविद्धकरं चैव दण्डपादं तदुच्यते।।
There are two cārīs prescribed in this Karaṇa which is the eighty second in the order. Nūpurapādikā and Daṇḍapādā. Though the Daṇḍapāda cārī is the main for this karaṇa, it should be preceded by the Nūpurapādikā. The foot should be taken into the back with Añcita and then to front in agratala and it should be placed on the floor. Since the sound “Jhaṇa Jhaṇa” is made from the anklet (nūpura), this cāri is named as Nūpurapādikā. After this the leg should be raised straightly which is called as Daṇḍapāda. Since the leg looks like a staff (Daṇda) it is termed as Daṇḍapāda. No specific hands are specified.
In this panel we can see the raised leg along with Patākā in one hand and sūcī on the other. This is a typical example of Daṇḍapāda karaṇa.
Want to quote a Śloka that was quoted in Doṣa Prakaraṇa of Kāvya Prakāśa.
भर्तुर्नृत्तानुकारे जयति निजतनुस्वच्छलावण्यवापी-
सम्भूताम्भोजशोभां विदधदभिनवो दण्डपादो भवान्याः।।
bharturnṛttānukāre jayati nijatanusvacchalāvaṇyavāpī-
sambhūtāmbhojaśobhāṁ vidadhadabhinavo daṇḍapādo bhavānyāḥ||
Glorious is the Daṇḍapāda struck up by Bhavānī, when imitating her husband’s Dance, the leg which bears the splendor of the lotus grown in the tank of the exquisite charm of her body, having the thighs for its stalk, the lustrous nails for its filaments, the bright red paints (cempañcu kuḹambu in Tamil, Alta) on the feet for its petals and jingling anklets for the bees hovering round it.
Let us bow before the Daṇḍapāda of Bhavāni to bless us all.
This well known karaṇa is the base of the Ānanda tāṇḍava of Naṭarāja, the cosmic dancer. This is 24th one in the list. The definition is given as
कुञ्चितं पादमुत्क्षिप्य त्रयश्रमूरुं विवर्तयेत्।
कटिजानुविवर्ताच्च भुजङ्गत्रासितं भवेत्।।
The literal meaning of the word “Bhujaṅgatrāsita” is that scared of a snake. The Karaṇa with raised leg befits the meaning of the term. The definition says that “The Kuñcita leg should be raised and thigh to be turned to the side in three-fourth profile”.
Here in the panel at Ekāmreśvara temple, a male dancer lifted his left leg to the cross of the right and the hands are in ḍolā. This represents the Bhujaṅgatrāsita karaṇa in movement.