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Lalata Tilaka - A Karana In Indian Dance

Lalata Tilaka, literally means the forehead mark, is one of the 108 karanas. A karana is defined as ‘simultaneous movements of hands and feet while dancing.’ Karana can also be defined as a basic dance sequence comprising a combination of the movements of the hands and feet which may be supplemented with movements of parts as well. Two karanas constitute one matrika. Two or more such matrikas constitute or make up one angahara. There are well known angaharas constituting six, seven, eight or nine karanas. The karanas are expected to be employed in the course of dance and involve fighting, strolling and in all general movements.

Lalata tilaka is the 50th karana described in Natyashastra. To make vrischika of the right leg and form the tilaka on the forehead with the big toe, the movement is described as follows:

Vriscikam caranam kritva padesyangustha kena tu
Lalate tilakam kuryallalata tilakam tu tat (Natyashastra IV verse III)

Most of the Natyashastra inspired texts, like Vishnudharmottara Purana, Sangita Damodara, Sangita Ratnakara, and Nartana Nirnaya give a similar description of this karana. A few other treatises like Sangita Upanishad – Saroddara describe the karana differently. Sangita Upanint – Saroddhara states that in the lalata tilaka karana, the hands move up and down and the left foot touches the forehead.

References to lalata tilaka are found in Sanskrit literature and the verse (hymn) in Bilvamangala’s Krishnakarnamritam beginning with ‘kastri tilakam….’ is well known.