Definition - What does Tandava mean?

Tandava is a Sanskrit word that means “frantic dance” or simply “dancing.” In Hinduism, it refers to a vigorous dance that the god, Shiva, in his role as destroyer, performed in cremation grounds and cemeteries. In the tandava, Shiva appears in a 10-armed form with his consort, Devi.

Some Hindu texts refer to Shiva's dances collectively as tandava and call this dance the rudra (terrible) tandava, performed when Shiva is angry. These same texts refer to the nadanta, Shiva's joyful dance, as ananda (blissful) tandava. Ananda tandava shows Shiva in his form as the cosmic dancer, Nataraja, and as creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe.

Yogapedia explains Tandava

The number of dances that comprise Shiva's tandava varies by source. Most seem to agree on seven dances, each classified as either rudra or ananda:

  • Ananda tandava – a dance performed with joy
  • Tripura tandava – a dance of anger and courage performed after Shiva killed the demon, Tripurasur
  • Sandhya tandava – a pleasant evening dance
  • Samara tandava – depicts the destruction of the universe
  • Kaali tandava – performed in Shiva's fierce form to destroy evil
  • Uma tandava – a dance expressing physical attraction and love
  • Gauri tandava – a romantic dance performed by Shiva and Gauri, the goddess of purity
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