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Title: Tribhanga  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Krishna, Odissi, Buddha images in Thailand, S Curve (art), Indian sculpture
Collection: Dance in India, Indian Sculpture, Krishna, Odissi
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Krishna upholding the Govardhan mountain in the Tribhunga stance

Tribhaṅga or Tribunga is a (tri-bent pose) standing body position or stance used in the traditional Indian sculpture, art and Indian classical dance forms like the Odissi.[1] As compared with the contrapposto pose Tribhanga, literally meaning three parts break, consists of three bends in the body; at the neck, waist and knee, hence the body is oppositely curved at waist and neck which gives it a gentle "S" shape [2] and is considered the most graceful and sensual of the Odissi positions.[3] It has been closely associated with the Hindu deity Krishna who is often portrayed in this posture.[4]

The Indian classical dance of Odissi is characterized by various Bhangas or stance, which involves stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures, they are four in number, namely Bhanga, Abanga, Atibhanga and Tribhanga being the most common of all.[5] The Sanskrit term Tribhanga means Three Bhanga and according to K. M. Varma the term Tribhanga is not the name of a particular standing position but is used in the Silpasastra literature to describe the group of the “Three Bhangas”, namely Abhanga, Samabhanga, and Atibhanga.[6]

In sculpture

White avalokiteshvara from Nepal, 14th century in Tribhanga
Details of Salabhanjika. Belur, in tribhanga position, 12th century.

Like many other poses used in traditional Indian dance, including Odissi, Bharata Natyam and Kathak, Tribhangi or Tribhanga can be found in Indian sculpture as well. Traditionally the Yakshi is shown with her hand touching a tree branch, and a sinuous pose, tribhanga pose, as is Salabhanjika, whose examples dating to the 12th century can be found in the Hoysala temples of Belur, in south-central Karnataka and the Khajuraho temples built around 9th century CE, where Vishnu is depicted at various places in this position which commonly reserved for Krishna, playing the flute.[5][7] The Agamic texts suggest that Shiva sculptures are to be made in tribhanga posture facing the east as seen in temple dating 8th-12th centuries.[8]

The central deity at the Simhachalam temple near Visakhapatnam, the lion-man incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu is in the tribhanga posture. In the back it carries an inscription dating it 1098, the period of the Chola King Kuloththunga. The Tirumala Rama Idol at the famous Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, Andhra Pradesh is also in the same posture.[9] This style has also travels with Indian influence as in China where some sculptures at the Maijishan Grottoes built in the Later Qin era (384-417 CE). Some Buddha images in Thailand are also in the tribhanga (leaning) position and so are some of Boddhisattva in the ancient Yakushi-ji Buddhist temples in Nara, Japan, built in 680 CE, the Hakuhō period.


  1. ^ Varma, K. M. (1983). Myth of the so-called "tribhaṅga" as a "pose", or, The nature and number of bhaṅgas. Proddu. p. 15. 
  2. ^ "Glossary of Indian Art". 
  3. ^ Harding, Paul; Patrick Horton; Janine Eberle; Amy Karafin; Simon Richmond (2005). South India. Lonely Planet. p. 65.  
  4. ^ Dasa, Hayagriva (1985). The Hare Krishna explosion: the birth of Krishna consciousness in America, 1966-1969. Palace Press. p. 162. 
  5. ^ a b Sehgal, Sunil (1999). Encyclopaedia of Hinduism: (H - Q). Sarup & Sons. p. 868.  
  6. ^ Cf. Varma, K. M. Myth of the So-called ‘Tribhanga’ as a ‘Pose’. (Santiniketan, 1983).
  7. ^ Deva, Krishna (1990). Temples of Khajuraho, (Volume 1) Issue 5 of Architectural survey of temples. Archaeological Survey of India. p. 205. 
  8. ^ Kalia, Asha (1992). Art of Osian temples: socio-economic and religious life in India, 8th-12th centuries A.D. Abhinav Publications. p. 95.  
  9. ^ Dr N Ramesan (1981). The Tirumala Temple.  

External links

  • Odissi Directory
  • Odissi Performing Dancers in USA
  • Bharat Bhavan, a Kerala-based Department of Culture information website.
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