Vedic Origin of Bharatanatyam and other classical Indian dance forms

The tradition of the devotional temple dance practised by the devadasi's finds its origins in the revered Hindu scriptures.

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Evolution of the temple dance practices of devadasis.

Vedic Origin 

In Natya-sastra it is stated that the art of dramatic performance incarnated in Treta-yuga. Treta-yuga is the second of four Great Ages and existed 2,5-1 million years ago. The revealed sciences of music, traditional Indian dance and drama have been carried down to modern mankind in an oral tradition from master to pupil.

In his service to lord Brahma, Bharata Muni systematized a variety of sciences and arts, such as literature, medicine, music, dance and drama to prevent any false transmission in the Age of Kali. Bharata Muni recorded the technique as well as the ceremonial rules and regulations for the performance of dance and drama in his Natya Sastra, 1,000-200 BC. The scripture is sometimes called the Fifth Veda, or Natya-veda.  Bharata Muni has given full information on rasa-tattva, the meaning and expression of different bhavas as well as 360 different types of transcendental nayakas and nayikis (heroes and heroines) in the spiritual world.

Late-Medieval Hinduism 1279-1565

The last period of Medieval Hinduism (1279-1565) was inaugurated by the invasion of Muslims towards the South of India. To cope with the threat of total subordination three allied states created a considerable defense against the invaders. This Imperium was called after its metropole, Vijayanagara, and lasted 1336- 1565. In the first half of this period the music was developed. In the second half Vaisnava kings came to rule the Southern states and Vaisnavism (worship of Visnu) was proclaimed to be the state religion.

Three intelligent kings

Three courts attained independence and inherited from their preceding rulers the duty to defend the Hindu culture. They were Madurai, Thanjour and Gingee. The kings decided to spend their resources meant for military defense to the renovation of temples, the cultivation of religious life and the development of fine arts, instead. The states became cultural centers attracting musicians, artistic leaders, and the intelligentia from all over India.

  The devadasis

The term devadasi implies the worship of lord Siva. In the Saiva tradition of South-India a variety of demigods are being worshiped, especially Surya (sun god), Ganesa (elephant god), Siva (destroyer of the universe), Sakti (female power) and Lord Visnu (the Maintainer of the universe). This practice is called pancopasana, worship of five gods. The gods are part of the Vedic pantheon which counts a total number of thirty three million demigods. Demigods are devotees of Lord Krsna who established them in their functions as caretakers of universal affairs and as intermediairs for the ignorant masses. 

ye ‘py anya-devata-bhakta
yajante sraddhayanvitah
te ‘pi mam eva kaunteya
yajanty avidhi-purvakam

“Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunti, but they do so in a wrong way.” (Bhagavad-gita 9.23)

“The present-day worshipers of Siva, Durga, Ganesa, and Surya are known respectively as Saivas, Saktas, Ganapatyas, and Sauras. They are all followers of jana-kanda [speculative philosophy in the pursuit of impersonal liberation]. They adopt the angas [limbs] of bhakti such as sravana [hearing] and kritana [chanting] only with the hope of attaining mukti, and ultimately the undifferentiated impersonal Brahman. Those who engage in sravana and kritana without any desire for bhukti [material sense enjoyment] or mukti [liberation] are engaged in the service of Lord Visnu, who is the fifth and Supreme Deity amongst those mentioned above.

S.C. Kersenboom conducted a research of the devadasis of lord Siva in particular. Her informant was one of the last devadasis and a follower of Siva-Sakti. The old lady provided her with information which is exclusive from the scientific point of view. The dasis themselves never recorded anything, not even at the time of the extinction of their tradition. Until 200 years ago, the term devadasi used to mean someone who possessed professional skills in 64 Vedic subjects (music, dance, etc.), was married to god and thus was required to lead a celibate life of a nun. Later, the term devadasi became a large umbrella term covering various hereditary castes.

The women who engaged in the cultivation of the dance art reached an artistic highlight during the period between 1267-1565. Some danced in front of the murtis (images of gods) in processions, and others performed abhinaya (mime) to the music. They were called visnu-dasis (servants of Visnu), raja-dasis (servants of the King) and katumurai (those who offered the water pot on the altar in the temple). The popular name of the temple dancer was devadasi, servant of god.

As a very young child the dasi was given in charity to the temple by her family. She learned the art of dancing from a brahmin. She was instructed in the altar services and was taught the process of spiritual life. It was the duty of the devadasi to protect the king against malevolent influences from the external world by her ritual expertise. Apart from dancing and the rendering of various altar services she had also been taught mystic healing and the performance of various domestic rituals meant for householders.

On the occasion of her arankerram (initiation of a temple dancer) she was made to merge with the sakti (female energy) of lord Siva. In that way she became a wedded co-wife of the lord of dance. As Siva is an eternal entity, the devadasi could never become widowed. The greatest fear of the Indian woman is to become a widow, because this class is considered most impure by society. Vedic civilization is conducted according to sastric concepts of purity in body, mind and spirit. As a married wife of an eternal husband the devadasi attained the transcendental status of nityasumangali which meant she was an ‘eternally’ (nitya) ‘beautiful woman’ (su) ‘auspicious and pure’ (mangal). These Sanskrit terms have been borrowed from Vedic scriptures and are certainly not Tamil.

The devadasi was made to keep a direct connection to the transcendental abodes of the demigods. It was her duty to maintain or restore the emotional balance of the deity. It usually meant that she had to cope with their horrifying moods of anger in order to pacify them and to prevent the god or goddess from terrorizing the villagers by sending all kinds of calamities. The devadasi as a ritual expert of domestic rituals was the person who could help householders fulfill their material desires through the agency of her yogic powers and mysticism. In fact, the devadasi acted as an intermediary between the householders and the demigods for which she was paid abundantly. As the householders’ religiousness dwindled, so the demand for such services decreased.

Vaisnava Kings

The second half of the Vijayanagara Imperium (1400-1565) was ruled by Vaisnava Kings who followed Vedic civilization. Vedic society is a synonyme of varnasrama-dharma. The revealed knowledge of the system is meant to conduct peaceful society divided in four professional classes based on natural conduct (guna-tattva) and individual qualification (adhikara) aimed at spititual advancement and liberation in the end. It may be said that by the establishment of the Vijayanagara Imperium Vedic civilization experienced a revival in its earlier territories of South-India.

Varnasrama-dharma

One limb of the system refers to the four different classes of professional life called varnas. The second limb points to the four successive stages of individual life called asramas. The asramas are student life up to 25; married life up to 50; retired life up to 75; renounced life until death – and then go back to Godhead.

The Vedas prescribe different privileges as well as duties for every stage of life and for each professional class in society. Every community will automatically manifest a differentiation into four types of social activities. Differentiation can even be observed in certain species of the animal kingdom. Therefore, such differentiation is natural and must be created by something higher than nature itself. Vedic civilization distinguishes the four classes of activites as follows (1) brahminical or clergy class (2) ruling, protecting, administrating class (3) trading, banking, agriculturing, cow-protecting class (4) labor class (shudra). Originally, the varnas were not hereditary, but later a child came to inherit the varna of his parents, which lead to the degradation of Hinduism whose very scriptures insist that in Kali Yuga there is only one class: shudras, the fact is came to be ignored by the 3 upper castes..

The Vedas accordingly prescribe that no profession (including the temple dancers), religious function, ignorant condition, poverty or animal is to be generated by seminal birth, neither for the purpose of economic exploitation or sense gratification. It is an explicit injunction made by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, that professional life should be based on actual conduct, natural inclination and personal qualification irrespective of any inherited designations, such as class, race or gender. Every class has to execute its prescribed duties and is granted privileges according to individual qualification (adhikara). If conducted in that way Visnu Himself will arrange for anyones’s maintenance in an inconceibably mystical way.

The Indian caste system

In defence of the rule of Muslim invaders the brahminical knowledge and the high-standard Indian women had to be protected. Much before the Muslim invasions, the open society transformed itself into a closed system based on seminal inheritance of caste and profession. The cultural inheritance was kept in the custody of the peaceful cow-protecting class of brahmins and mixed marriages were no longer permitted. The remedy worked out for a limited period only. Hindu society itself started to reproduce offspring possessing social esteem, religious functions, political power, wealth, ignorance and poverty right at birth and irrespective of actual conduct and individual qualifications. In other words, the static system of heredity created a population possessing ascribed designations instead of achieved qualifications. It caused loss of qualitative potential at the basis of society and an increasing incompetence of brahmins at the top. It created poverty of those who were kept arrested on the bottom of society and the unqualified brahmins were incompetent to teach the masses the transcendental imports of the Sanskrit scriptures. It created groups of out-castes who were easily converted by the Muslims. The Muslims took care of their emloyment and became a separate Muslim class in the traditional Hindu society. The Islam has ever had a great appeal to the rejected and the paupers of society. Islam can be compared to a socio-economical security system which will sooner or later operate in any traditional society. The Indian government attempted to formally abolish in one stroke the entire caste system as soon as independence was recovered and India became a secular democracy, in 1947.

Gaudiya Vaisnavism

Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the last hidden Incarnation of Lord Krsna, appeared in West-Bengal, 1486. He journeyed the South of India, approximately 1510, and propagated pure love of God by the process of suddha-bhakti, unalloyed devotion. In many temples the murtis (deities) of lord Siva were replaced by Krsna’s Thakurjis. Court life became most glorious by the worship of Sri Rama and Krsna. The sciences of music and dance experienced two golden ages in their pursuit of devotion. By the causeless mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu the heroic character of the rigid Saiva traditions was transformed into the loving mellow of pure devotion to Sri Radha-Krsna full of conjugal sweetness and beauty. Lord Caitanya, who is Krsna Himself, descended in the mood and golden complexion of Srimati Radhika (Krsna’s cit-sakti) to experience Her unparallelled love (mahabhava) for Him. There is no reason for the Dravidian saktas (worshippers of female power) to accuse the Vedic brahmins of exclusive worship of purusa (male power) which would cause the repression of women. On the contrary, the Gaudiya Vedantins (followers of Caitanya) are superior saktas by the worship of Radha, the possessor of the highest transcendental cit-sakti (spiritual potency) and hladini-sakti, Krsna’s pleasure potency.

“Advaita: ‘Yes, the Vaisnavas are true saktas. We are under the control of Sri Radhika, who is the embodiment of cit-sakti [spiritual potency]. It is only under Her shelter that we render service to Krsna, so who is more of a sakta than the Vaisnavas? We do not see any difference between the Vaisnavas and the real saktas. Those who are only attached to maya-sakti, without taking shelter of cit-sakti, may be called sakta, but they are not Vaisnavas; they are only materialists. In the Narada-pancaratra, Sri Durga Devi explains:

tava vaksasi radhaham sase vrndavane vane

‘In the forest known as Vrndavana, I am Your internal sakti, Sri Radhika, who adorns Your chest in the rasa dance.’
The rasa dance refers to the 8 essential rasas described in Natya Shastra. The devadasis used to convey these rasas in their dance.

“From this statement of Durga Devi, it is clear that there is only one sakti, not two. That sakti is Radhika when She manifests as the internal potency, and she is Durga when she is manifested as the external potency.” (Jaiva-dharma, p. 226)

Remaining attached to their local traditions great parts of the Indian population ignored Caitanya’s revolution, until recently. 

anarpita-carim cirat karunyavatimah kalau
samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasam sva-bhakti-sriyam
harih purata-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandipitah
sada hrdaya-kandare sphuratu vah saci-nandanah 

“May the Supreme Lord who is known as the son of Srimati Saci-devi be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has appeared in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation has ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant mellow of devotional service, the mellow of conjugal love.” (Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 1.4) 

Sri Caitanya’s bhakti cult

Lord Caitanya was inspired by Sri Ramananda Raya when they met in South-India. He discussed with him braja-bhava, the love of the Brajavasis, the locals of Braja. He manifested the highest spiritual emotions, gopi-prema (love of the gopis) and mahabhava (divine madness). It was Lord Caitanya who bestowed mankind with raganuga-bhakti (spontaneous love) and the process to attain ujjvala-madhurya-rasa, unwedded jugal love for Krsna through the medium of His Supreme transcendental lover, Vrsabhanu Nandini Srimati Radharani.

Sri Ramananda Raya educated two visnudasis in the symptoms of the bhavas (moods) expressed in abhinaya (expression of consciousness). In the stage of pure bhakti which is performed without selfish motives the devotee will dance exclusively to please Radha-Krsna. Nrtya, the expression of meaning in padams, is a form of bhakti in which all the senses are engaged in the service of the Lord. Krsna-padams support two goals: they represent krsna-lila for His pleasure and enlighten the spectator of His glories. Ramananda Raya taught the two visnudasis to dance in the service of Lord Jagannatha (Krsna’s ancient Deity). Sri Ramananda Raya is Sri Visakha Devi in the spiritual world. Another intimate associate was Sri Svarupa Damodara who is Sri Lalita Devi. Both are Radha’s nearest girl friends (sakhis) in the eternal, unmanifest pastimes (aprakata-lila) in Goloka Vrndavana, the highest planet in the spiritual world. So, if any classical dancer who is anxious to hear bhagavata-tattva (the highest truths of Krsna) from the intimate sakhis (friends) of Srimati Radhika, she should closely study the works of the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana published by Gaudiya Vedanta Publications.

Srila Rupa Gosvami eleaborated the science of prema which had earlier been systematized by Bharata Muni in Natya-sastra. By the mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Srila Rupa Gosvami described the process of love of God in great detail to begin with sukrti and progressing the successive stages of sadhu-sanga, sraddha, anartha-nivrtti, nistha, ruci, asakti, rati, prema, sneha, mana, pranaya, raga, anuraga, bhava, mahabhava, ruddha, adhiruddha, mohana, modana and madana (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu). In other words, the teachings of Sriman Mahaprabhu are unparallelled and sublime.

Late-Medieval Hinduism (1279-1565) is the period in which the carnatik music system was developed and in which Telugu became the national language of South-India. Many beautiful lyrics and dance pieces have been composed in Telugu. Especially the Pandanallur style of Bharatanatyam maintains a repertoire of varnams and padams composed in Telugu.

The Muslims caused Vaisnavism to shrink and retract into the North; the Dravidians also lost their influence in favor of the Moghuls. Still, the highest artistic development flourished between 1565-1856 which period commenced nearly thirty years after the disappearance of Sri Caitanya. The flood of pure bhakti had been very powerful and started to produce fruits. Indeed, bhakti will distract anyone’s mind from all kinds of non-sense and useless endeavor.

Celibate girls

It is a fact, that the Indian woman has no independence in society. From birth to death she is protected by the men of her family. In the first stage of her life she is cared for by her parents, in the second by her husband and in the third by her eldest son, or the family of her daughter. The Indian woman is considered to have taken birth as a lower species of mankind. Therefore, in a man’s world of devatas (demigods), brahmins (priests), and brahmacaris (monks) women were not allowed to enter – not to speak of doing any service, for the menial work and cooking services are also performed by the monks.

The dancer who did render services in the temple should possess excellent character and composure in order to be accepted as a brahmacarini (girl’s celibate student life). To provide the temple dance with spiritual qualities it was made into a brahminical discipline and the student had to remain a celibate at least during her studies. In that way, the dance could be called dasi-attam, or elevated service, and the dancer herself shared in the status of the dance. The devadasi became an elevated maidservant of the deity in the temple and the object of high esteem in society.

When the dance made profound artistic progress a great deal of court dancers became gradually disconnected from the guidance and protection of the temple authorities. According to Kersenboom, who confused devadasis with rajadasis, “The devadasi was just an ornament to the court of the king […] The devadasis were economically, artistically and religiously exchangeable by the temple communities and the kings”. Apart from the maintenance offered by the temple community the devadasis also created private income by independently rendering services, such as domestic rituals and healng practices, to the villagers.

The Thanjour Quartette

At the court of Tanjavu (Thanjour), between 1800 and 1850, the four brothers Pillai were engaged by the King as masters of art, especially music and dance. They worried about the decay of the devadasis whose dance style inclined to deteriorate to the level of sense enjoyment and indecency. Together the four brothers decided to fully employ their artistic expertise and reduced the dance to the Vedic essence prescribed by Natya-sastra..

Secondly, they modified the repertoire and compiled a full program of eight different types of dance. And finally, they modified the choreography into the range of vision of the spectators sitting in a hall facing a square stage. These are the great contributions of the Tamils to the temple dance. They were really renovatiing because in the temples the devadasis were used to dance on a very small spot in the backstage of the altar. The technical pieces were outside on the balconies, on terraces and inside of the big hall exposed to the pilgrims who visited the temples on the occasion of religious festivals. The dramatic pieces, however, were performed outside their vision in the precincts of the temple. The intimate pieces were meant exclusively for the pleasure of the deity.

Catir keccari

The brothers Pillai felt that the high-standard or devotional qualities of dasi-attam had been lost already and attempted to rescue the remainder of the discipline by infusing it with new idiom to be appreciated by the middle classes. The brothers succeeded in the rehabilitation of the catir (dance) from its blame even prior to the political abolition of the profession of devadasi in 1947. They re-established the catir as a decent middle-class discipline. The dance became an art for art. The new repertoire consisted of eight different types of dance and was called catir keccari (dance mix). Today it is called margam, or sequence of dance pieces.

The brothers attained name and fame as the ‘Thanjour Quartette’ all over the world. They compiled the repertoire of the classical Indian dance recitals which are performed today. The different types of dance in a catir keccari recital progress in complexity, virtuosity and devotion, step by step and one after another. The recital presents prayers of glorification (stutis); flower offerings (puspanjalis); technical dances (nrtta); epic narrations (natya) and emotional lyrics (nrtya); love dances and lullabies (padams); a last technical master piece (nrtta); a final devotional verse (sloka), and the traditional conclusion (mangalam).

In her flowery language Srimati T. Balasarasvati d.d. (attached to the page ‘Function’ in this site) describes the dance pieces in a setting of different locations in the temple. Smt. Balasarasvati was one of the greatest dancers of India and assisted the Thanjour Quartette in the foundation of the House Of Fine Arts, ‘The Kalaksetra Academy’ in Madras, 1922. She was a dancer of Bharathanatyam and an advocate of bhakti. Balasarasvati devidasi was high class. On the occasion of the foundation of the Kalaksetra Academy the catir was renamed Bharatnatyam. In order to make it socially acceptable to the puritan Brahmin class, Rukmini Devi Arundale removed all elements of Sringara from Catir. A couple of decades later, Rajif Ghandi renamed the Academy ‘Bharata Kalaksetra’ to stress its high-standard teaching of the fine arts.

The genius of the Thanjour Quartette has greatly contributed to the worldwide export of the Indian dance in terms of artists and teachers. The repertoire of the modern student who performs her arankerram (initiation and examen) is still comprised of the eight different types of margam or catir keccari. Arankerram (arangetram) is the dancer’s first performance on stage in front of a distinguished audience consisting of local authorities, professionals, family and friends. See also Pandanallur-vani, an essay on Thanjour temple dance attached to the page ‘Indiradasi’.  

European Colonization 1856-1947

Total disruption of society

When British colonization approached its final stage the devadasi tradition started to dwindle and deceased completely. The first cause for the decay was the deprivation of the Kings’ power and income. They could no longer share their wealth with the brahmins and the artists. This caused the brahmins to decrease their opulent worship including the music ensembles and the troups of dancers. This caused the devadasis to leave the protection of the institution and depart from the temples and courts to serve unqualified audiences. They subjugated themselves to the taste of the common man in order to maintain their lives. The dasis fell prey to degraded princes and unwanted company. They became known as ‘nautch girls’ and were purchased like prostitutes. No self-respecting family was anxious any longer to give a daughter in charity to the temple in order to have her educated in dasi-attam. S.C. Kersenboom concludes her book, Nityasumangali,

“The aristocratic values of the art, the devotion and the age-old tradition were lost. Merchandizing, raids after patronage by individuals and agressive publicity became prominent, instead.”  

The Anti-Nautch Act, 1947

By the persisting pressure of the British lobby against the devasasis the Indian Government eventually launched the Anti-Nautch Act, 1947. The Act not only terminated the entire caste of devadasis, but also the last brahminical profession discharged by the Indian woman. Their profession was expelled from society. The Indian woman was deprived of an institution which provided her with a unique doorway to social esteem, economical prosperity, sexual independence, and certain ritual autonomy. Qualified dancers lost their right of existence, November 11th 1947, the year in which the Indian population recovered national independence and became a democracy. After the abolition of their caste and profession the devadasis were disdained and forgotten and many of them died as paupers.

The esteemed class of devadasis once operating at the top of society had been the last maidservants of the Lord, of the gods, the priests and kings. The devadasis were expelled from their homes and temples. Young monks took over their services, as well as their parts in dance dramas on stage. The final abolition of the devadasi tradition in South-India deprived the Indian pilgrim of a wonderful presentation of glimpses of the spiritual world performed by dancing mystics in the service of Vedic demigods, Tamil brahmins and Hindu society.

The turning of an Age

Sri Caitanya once again offered the opportunity to serve the Lord personally. Today, fifty years after the abolition of the caste system in India, men and women worldwide are being initiated in the bona fide class of Vaisnava brahmins, India not excluded. Men and women equally serve as priests and priestesses. They equally discharge all kinds of altar services and ceremonies, like sravanam kirtanam visno (singing and lecturing in open gatherings) smaranam pada sevanam arcanam (the care for Deities) vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma nivedanam (serving His lotus feet; making friendship with Him and fully surrendering to Him).

The concession to accept female neophytes in an age-old male tradition is highly remarkable. The sastric injunction prescribes strict separation of the sexes in social and religious life and excludes women from public positions in society – not to speak of religious functions. These policies had to be transgressed, since the ladies in the West showed interest in Vedic knowledge and in the worship of the Lord. They assembled at the lotusfeet of the spiritual masters and were accepted. They naturally balance the neophyte communities of male devotees in order to perform household life in a regulated way. Such concession not only serves practical ends – it also modifies sastric statements which designate the woman as an inferior creature spending her life in total subordination to the man under all circumstances. Obviously, it appeared that the injunction could no longer be hold.

Another devotee who transcended a temple policy was Mira Bai. She was a contemporary of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates, the Six Gosvamis of Vrndavana. She had realized her spiritual form (siddha-svarupa) as a maidservant and lover of Krsna. She once desired to see the Deity of Lord Krsna in Vrndavana and requested Sri Jiva Gosvami to go inside to see Thakurji. In first instance, he did not allow her to enter. She then whispered, “After lifelong worship of Krsna, do you still identify with a man?” Srila Jiva Gosvami reflected her rhetoric and admitted her entrance.

We are all woman

I once heard Sri BV Narayana say in one of his lectures, “We are all woman. Krsna is only one male. Man is false ego.” The siddhanta (concluded truth) behind this statement is as follows. Krsna is male as well as female since He is one without a second, technically called non-dual or absolute. In His nara-lila or human-like pastimes, however, in order to conduct sweet loving exchanges with His bhaktas (lovers) He manifests in a dual form: Krsna (purusa, the enjoyer) and Radha (His sakti, or power to be enjoyed). Up to this platform we speak of visnu-tattva, or God who is pure spirit.

The individual jivas (8,400,000 different species of living entities) consist of His marginal energy. They are combined spiritual energy (soul) and material energy (gross and subtle bodies). In this way the living entity has been given a free will to choose either for liberation in the spiritual realm, or for bondage in the conditioned state.

Since the living entities are not on the platform of visnu-tattva, they are eternally subordinate to Him. As soon as they have taken birth they are part of nature. Nature is in the category of His female energy, prakrtti. In relation to the Supreme, the one and only male, the living entity is female energy, irrespective of a temporary embodiment as a man or a woman. One may also realize a siddha-svarupa in the form of a male. Such devotee is attracted by Krsna’s transcendental friendship (sakhya-rasa) as a gopa (a cowherd friend), or as His father in the mood of parental love (vatsalya-rasa). In Krsna’s personal abode one can have four different relationships with Him, that of servant; parent; friend; lover. The mood of a pure lover of Krsna encompasses the highest mellow and includes the moods of the previous relationships and services (rasa).

Sadasiva’s siddha-deha

The devadasis were perfectly situated in their consitutional position of a transcsendental maidservant. Those who were bhaktas of lord Siva are most fortunate. In the following verses it becomes evident that the perfected spiritual body (siddha-deha) of Siva is that of a manjari (young girl) in Goloka Vrndavana, the eternal transcendental abode of Krsna.

“In relation to the siddha-deha it has been said in the Sanat-Kumara Samhita, that Sadasiva is giving instruction to Naradaji on the subject of siddha-deha suitable for rendering service to the Divine Couple.

atmanam cintayet tatra tasam madhye manoramam
rupayauvanasampannam kisorim premodakrtim
radhikanuncari nityam tat sevana parayanam
krsnad apy adhikam prema radhikayam prakurvatim

‘O Narada! Meditate in this way upon your own svarupa among Sri Krsna’s beloved associates who take pride in being His paramours in the aprakrta [the eternal unmanifest] Vrndavana Dhama. I am an extremely lovely and supremely blissful kisori (adolescent girl), endowed with youthful beauty. I am an eternal maidservant of Srimati Radhika. Having arranged for Sri Krsna’s dearmost mistress Srimati Radhika to meet with Him, I will always make Them both happy. Therefore, I am the maidservant of Radhika, the most beloved of Krsna. Remaining always and forever engaged in the service of the Divine couple, may I maintain more love for Srimati than for Krsna.'” [Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Gosvami’s biography, p. 476]