Shiva Tandava Stotram

Outline, Phrases, Frequent Words & Chanting Tips

Sujatha R
10 min readMay 13, 2021

Shiva Tandava was composed by Ravana who was a great devotee of Shiva. He came to Kailasha all the way from the South. As he sang, he started ascending the hill upwards.

The periodic and exquisite rumble of sounds is quite a feat, making it a great tongue twister. This post provides a simple story-like outline and breaks down the lyrics into simple phrases. Hopefully, you can chant this stotram with some ease, if it has been on your wish list.

The lyrics follow a beautiful pattern of short and long syllables. la laa.. la laa.. la laa.. la laa.. Isn’t that wonderful?
jaṭā ṭavī galaj jalap
ravā hapā vitas thalē
ḍamaḍ ḍamaḍ ḍamaḍ ḍamann

End of the post, I will break the lyrics in this format and I hope chanting should be simplified with this aid.

There are about 16 verses. The first few verses describe the majesty of Shiva’s physical appearance. It then moves to describe the power of Shiva’s inner eye and the splendor of his Tandava dance. It lists the stories of Shiva and his dispassionate way of living. In the end, there is an intense feeling of Surrender to the Lord and the promise of what awaits. The meaning is intensely beautiful and the chant is a great way to connect with Bhakti.

In each of the verses, Ravana expresses that he is overjoyed and delighted as he observes and describes Shiva and wants the felicity and blessings. In order to make it an easy read, I will not be stressing about this in every verse.

śivaḥ śivam (wants auspiciousness)
ratiḥ pratikṣaṇaṃ mama (enjoying every moment)
manō vinōdam (mental pleasure)
śriyai chirāya (wants prosperity)
matir mama (in my mind)

In Saundarya Lahari, Shankaracharya first describes the feet of the Goddess, takes the blessings, and then goes on describing the diety from Head to Toe (kesh aadhi paada paryantham). In Gita Govinda, Jayadeva says that the holy land of Brindavan has been sanctified by the rivers of Yamuna and then starts describing the play of Krishna in that land.

In a similar manner, the starting verse has the flowing Ganga water sanctifying the land below Shiva’s feet.

1)From his ‘forest of matted hair’ jaṭā-ṭavī, Ganga is pouring down the waters galaj-jala-pravāh.. This water is ‘sanctifying’ the place where he is performing the tandava dance pāvita sthalē.

He is adorning a serpent garland bhujaṅga tuṅga mālikām and his drums is sending out sounds of damad damad damad damad. He is performing a passionate chanda tandava dance. May the auspiciousness extend into us.. tanōtu naḥ śivaḥ śivam

2)I take pleasure in meditating on these aspects ratiḥ pratikṣaṇaṃ mama..
a)his matted locks from his crown.. b)the fire of his third eye on his forehead and c) his new moon crown..

a)jata(locks), sambrahmat-bhrama vilola (swaying), murdhani (from crown)
b)dhagad dhagad dhagad jvala.. lalaata pāvakē (blazing fire on the forehead)
c)kiśōra chandra śēkharē
(crescent moon crown)

3)Shiva is the dance partner vilāsa bandhu of the daughter of mountains dharā dharēndra nandinī. The waves of joy are endless and my mind rejoices
sphurad diganta santati.. pramōda māna mānasē

With his compassionate glance kṛpā kaṭākṣa dhōraṇī, he removes even the difficult troubles.. niruddha durdharā. He wears a garment of open sky kvachid digambar.

4) May my mind behold this wonder (manō vinōdam adbhutaṃ) He upholds this universe (bhūtabhartari)

His skin garment that is soft ‘sphurat tvag uttarīya.. mēdurē’ soaking red hyde of that intoxicated elephant madāndha sindhura (story of Gajasura elephant demon where he makes a dying wish his skin with dripping blood provide an ever-fresh garment with reddish streaks)

The swaying snakes on his locks emit copperish streaks due to the light of gems mani prabha. This makes the space around him appear reddish kumkum like a celestial bride.
jaṭā bhujaṅga piṅgaḻa ..sphurat phaṇā maṇiprabhā
kadamba kuṅkuma drava ..pralipta dig-vadhū mukhē

5) His feet are purified by the ‘pollen’ of flowers. He is worshipped by the 1000 eye Indra and others forming an unending line of heads.
dhūḻi (pollen)
sahasra lōchana
(1000 eye Indra, was cursed by Gautama muni for his act)
lēkha śēkhara (line of heads)

The king of Snakes ties Shiva’s jata locks. bhujaṅga rāja mālayā.. nibaddha jāṭa jūṭaka. The moon is a friend of the mythical chakora bird, and adorns Shiva’s crown Shekara.. chakōra bandhu śēkharaḥ (T

6)With the luster of fire of his lalaatam forehead, he consumed the 5 arrows of manmada and conquered him.

lalāṭa .. jvalad dhanañjaya (fire).. sphuliṅg abhā (lustre)
nipīta (he consumed) pañcha-sāyakaṃ(5 arrows) nāyakam (of manmada)

He has a fine crescent stroke.. on his crown
sudhā mayūkha lēkhayā.. virāja-māna śēkharaṃ

My naman to the holder of skull heads the great mahākapāli

7)The focus here moves to the 2 aspects of Shiva’s third eye ‘trilochana’.

I meditate on that eye of ‘perception’ of the great artist Shiva who has created this world by sporting with his consort on the canvas of her bosom.
prakalpanaika śilpini (Shiva is a great artist)
dharā dharēndra nandinī
(Parvathi, daughter of mountains)
kuchāgra chitra patraka
(her bosom as canvas)

The eye of ‘dispassion’ which had burnt Manmada with its blazing flames. (Manmada has 5 arrows, comparing to 5 senses that pulls us to the outer world of passion)

dhagad dhagad dhagaj jvala (blazing flames)
dhanañjayā
(fire) prachaṇḍa pañcha sāyakē (5 arrows being burnt in the intense fire)

8. The physical appearance of Shiva is summarised here again.

He who holds the torrential Ganga on his head, clad by elephant skin, snake tied on his neck, the connoisseur of arts kala, and the uplifter of the world
nilimpa nirjharī dhara (flowing ganga)
kṛtti sindhuraḥ
(wears reddish elephant hyde)
kaḻā nidhāna bandhuraḥ
(upholder of arts)

His neck is darker than the darkest nights and the dark rain-bearing cloud.
kuhū niśī
navīna mēgha maṇḍalī

9) There are many interesting stories depicting how Shiva has destroyed the dark forces around. At the outset, they are wonderful to hear. At the same time, they point to evil qualities within us which need to be conquered and mastered. A wonderful listing in the next 2 verses.

The mighty battle of 3 cities ‘Tripura’. The 3 asura brothers each ruling the celestial cities made up of gold silver and copper and they were arrogantly invincible . Shiva mounts his mighty chariot of Earth wheeled by the Sun and Moon and destroys the 3 cities with a single arrow.

On another account, Shiva destroys Manmada to ashes when disturbed in meditation. Manmada torments the 5 senses and causes attraction and desire.

In yet another story, when Gajasura was causing havoc at Kashi, Shiva attacks him with his trishula and goes back into his dhyaanam. In the last moments before dying, Gajasura sings the Saama Gaana and Shiva is impressed. As a blessing, Gajasura wishes that his elephant hyde be used as a garb by Shiva.

When Shiva’s devotee Markandeya was plagued by Yama, Shiva does not spare death too.

On another account, Daksha who was Shiva’s father-in-law was conducting a Yagna. He insults Shiva and Shiva destroys the Yagna.

daksha yagya, markandeya

Tam bhaje.. I pray the lord who has cleaved and destroyed (chChidaṃ) the dark forces manmada, tripura, bhava ego, daksha yagya, gajasura, ignorance and death himself.

smara chChidaṃ (manmada desire)
pura chChidaṃ (tripura)
bhava chChidaṃ (ego)
makha chChidaṃ (yagya)
gaja
chChid (elephant asura)
āndhaka chChidaṃ (Andhakasura)
tam antakachChidaṃ bhajē (Yama)

The brightness and aura in Shiva’s neck (perhaps indicating to the poison episode) is compared to a fully bloomed blue lotus and the vast darkness of the world.

praphulla nīla paṅkaja
prapañcha kālima prabhā
(darkness in the space)

10) Shiva puts an end antakam to the negative aspects (mentioned in the previous verse)
smarāntakaṃ purāntakaṃ bhavāntakaṃ makhāntakaṃ
gaj
āntakāndhakāntakaṃ tamantakāntakaṃ bhajē

He is compared to a bumble bee enjoying music and flower-like fragrance and nectar of the Goddess.

agarva sarva maṅgaḻā (she is auspiciousness)
kaḻā kadamba mañjarī (abode of arts)
rasa pravāha mādhurī (he is enjoying rasa)
vijṛmbhaṇā madhuvratam (like a bee)

11) The focus now moves to Shiva’s Prachanda Tandava dance..

His ferocious dance was in the tune of drum sounds
dhimid dhimid dhimi dhvanan
mṛda
ṅga tuṅga maṅgaḻa (auspicious sounds)
dhvani krama pravartita..
(series of sounds)
prach
aṇḍa tāṇḍavaḥ śivaḥ

He has fire on his forehead, the fire caused by the breath of the snakes swirling in the glorious sky due to the intense dance.

aśvasat krama sphurat (series of blasting exhalations)
adabhra vibhrama bhramad bhujaṅgam (swirling snakes)

12) After describing the physical appearance, the legends of Shiva, and a vivid description of the Tandava dance, the lyrics go towards surrender and Advaitha Gita like philosophy of seeing everything with the same vision.. No discrimination be it pleasant or not pleasant, good or bad..

When shall I get to worship sadaShiva? kadā sadāśivaṃ bhajē
Who holds an equal vision samaṃ pravartayan manaḥ

No matter common folks or kings prajā .. mahī mahēndrayōḥ
No matter blade of grass or a lotus petal tṛuṇa.. aravinda chakṣuṣōḥ
Hard stone or a fany bed dṛṣad ..vichitratalpayōr
Garland of snake or Garland of pearls .. bhujaṅga.. mauktikas.. rajōr-
Gems or lump of Clay.. gariṣṭha ratna lōṣṭhayōḥ
Best of friends or bitter enemies or sidemates .. suhṛd vipakṣa pakṣa-yōḥ

13) In this verse, there is a deep sense of surrender and intense desire for the meeting

By chanting Shiva mantra, I shall be forever happy.. śivēti mantram uchcharan.. sadā sukhī bhavām-yaham

When near the flowing ganga, I can live in a cottage
kadā nilimpa nirjharī .. nikuñja kōṭarē vasan

My bad thoughts washed away.. when my hands always folded in prayers above my head
vimukta durmatiḥ.. sadā śiraḥ stham..añjaliṃ vahan

With unfaltering eyes.. I focus in fore head area
vimukta lōla lōchanō.. lalāṭa phālalagnakaḥ

14) Phala Shruthi.. Concluding verses and benefit of this chant

He who regularly chants the best of the stotrams
imaṃ hi nityam ēvam..uktam uttam-ōttamaṃ stavaṃ

he who reads, memorises or chants shall be purified.
paṭhan smaran bruvan narō.. viśuddhim ēti santatam

Oh Hare Guru.. There is no other destination other than you..
harē gurau.. subhaktim ..nānyathā gatiṃ

The delusions of the body are removed.. by the mere thought of Shankara.
vimōhanaṃ hi dēhināṃ.. suśaṅkarasya chintanam

15) He who recites this song composed by the 10 faced Ravana daśa-vaktra-gītaṃ .. In the evening twilight hours pradosha, he who is steadfast in chanting this song after the Shambu pooja

He will be blessed with chariots yolked with King of Elephants and Horses (indication of prosperity) ratha-gajēndra-turaṅga-yuktāṃ. And Goddess Lakshmi will appear and Shambhu will bless a boon. lakṣmīṃ sadaiva sumukhiṃ.. pradadāti śambhuḥ

Frequent Words

A few sounds and words which occur many times.. Hope you are able to connect to this.

Dance of Sounds
ḍamaḍ ḍamaḍ, dhagad dhagad, dhimid dhimidd
ḍḍ, dd (20)
aṇḍa (9)
jj, ll (3)
Wordsśiva 4
jaṭā 5 (hair locks)
lalāṭa 3 (forehead)
śēkhara 3 (crown)
bhujaṅga 5 (serpent)
sphurat 5 (to burst out, explode)
lambya 3 (to cling, snakes cling on his neck)
On the torrential Ganga
bhrama 5 (oscillate)
nilimpa nirjharī 4 (torrential)
dhanañjaya (fire) , pañcha-sāyakaṃ (5 arrows of Manmada)dharā-dharēndra-nandinī 2 (Parvathy, daughter of mountains)
bandhu 6 (friend)
chChidaṃ 7 (destroy), āntakaṃ 7 (end)
niruddha durdhara 2 (stops obstacles)
(ē)ndra 5 (lord)

Syllable wise Break Down

The metre followed in this verse is pancha chamara.. a very melodic and rhythmic pattern la laa.. la laa.. la laa..

A syllable pair breakdown for the first few verses. Once you get the rhythm, it is easier to sing from the original unaltered lyrics.

jaṭā ṭavī galaj jalap ravā hapā vitas thalē
galē valamb yalam bitāṃ bhujaṅ gatuṅ gamā likām ।
ḍamaḍ ḍamaḍ ḍamaḍ ḍaman ninā davaḍ ḍamar vayaṃ
chakā rachaṇ ḍatāṇ ḍavaṃ tanō tunaḥ śivaḥ śivam ॥ 1 ॥

jaṭā kaṭā hasam bhramabh raman nilim panir jharī-
-vilō lavī chival larī virā jamā namūr dhani ।
dhagad dhagad dhagaj jvalal lalā ṭapaṭ ṭapā vakē
kiśō rachan draśē kharē ratiḥ pratik ṣaṇaṃ mama ॥ 2 ॥

dharā dharēnd ranan dinī vilā saban dhuban dhura
sphurad digan tasan tatip ramō damā namā nasē ।
kṛpā kaṭāk ṣadhō raṇī nirud dhadur dharā padi
kvachid digam barē manō vinō damē tuvas tuni ॥ 3 ॥

jaṭā bhujaṅ gapiṅ gaḻas phurat phaṇā maṇi prabhā
kadam bakuṅ kumad ravap ralip tadig vadhū mukhē ।
madān dhasin dhuras phurat tvagut tarī yamē durē
manō vinō damad bhutaṃ bibhar tubhū tabhar tari ॥ 4 ॥

sahas ralō chana prabhṛt yaśē ṣalē khaśē khara
prasū nadhū ḻidhō raṇī vidhū sarāṅ ghripī ṭhabhūḥ ।
bhujaṅ garā jamā layā nibad dhajā ṭajū ṭaka
śriyai chirā yajā yatāṃ chakō raban dhuśē kharaḥ ॥ 5 ॥

Hope you have Shiva Tandava meaning flowing in the Ganges of your mind.. May you revel in the music and the lyrics.

If you liked this post, you may like reading my post on English only outline of Shivananda Lahari. Composed by Shankaracharya, it is unique and a beautiful one-on-one talk with Shiva. A kind of maanasa pooja.

“I know why you practice walk in the rugged hills. One day you need to walk in the forest of my mind..”

“I know you like hunting. But my mind is no less. It is full of wild animals like wild thoughts.”

“People hunt in the woods for flowers. I offer you the flower of my devotion..”

https://myriadpatterns.medium.com/shivananda-lahari-waves-of-transcedental-bliss-ba8dc315646f

Additional Links

  1. Lyrics: https://vignanam.org/english/shiva-tandava-stotram.html
  2. Meaning: https://greenmesg.org/stotras/shiva/shiva_tandava_stotram.php
  3. Sanskrit Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gq081Ud-WgU
  4. Chant: Shankar Mahadevan in Pantuvarali ragam
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKbu7qsvgcw
  5. Modern Rendition
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLv1Be0tCEE

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns