The emotions are conveyed to the Divine through Mudras! A Bharatanatyam Mudra is a sign language used by the performer to communicate with the audience or Rasikas.
“Yatho hasta thatho drishti, yatho drishti thatho manah
yatho manah thatho drishti, yatho drishti thatho rasa”
Natya Sastra, an ancient Sanskrit treatise on the performing arts, contains the powerful quote. Literally, it means,
Hands follow eyes, eyes follow minds;
The mind follows the expression, and the expression evokes mood/Navarasa.
Every classical Indian dance is inspired by the above quote. The Hastha mudras or hand mudras of Bharatanatyam are essential aspects of the art form. They are intense enough to convey deeper meanings and powerful enough to evoke a variety of emotions in the audience. There are also mudras that have very limited meaning. In mastering these mudras, one should understand their aesthetic aspect, which is to communicate, not to perform them with rigid correctness! In this blog we will cover thirteen simple hand mudras.
Here are the following thirteen Bharatanatyam mudras:
- Pataka Mudra
- Tripataka Mudra
- Mayura Mudra
- Ardha Chandra Mudra
- Alpadma Mudra
- Trishula Mudra
- Arala Mudra
- Anjali Mudra
- Kapota mudra
- Karkata Mudra
- Swastika Mudra
- Pushpaputa Mudra
- Utsanga Mudra
The hand gestures of Bharatanatyam are roughly divided into asamyukta or one-handed gestures and samyukta or double-handed gestures. There are twenty-eight asamyukta hasthas and twenty-four samyukta hasthas mentioned in scriptures like Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpana.
At the end of this blog, you will learn more about the stunning mudras (Asamyukta and Samyukta) of Bharatanatyam that can breathe life into any Bharatanatyam performance:
Asamyukta Hasthas or the one-handed gestures
Some of the most popular asamyukta or one-handed mudras for beginners are:
Literally means ‘flag.” Pataka is the most basic hand gesture and the first taught to absolute beginners. The hand is upright (with a slight curve), the fingers are straight, and the thumb is slightly bent. There are no gaps between the fingers. The simple gesture represents the action of blessing to represent the sky, air or water, and also to indicate to stop.
In this mudra, the hand is held upright, but the third finger is bent. Using three fingers, the Tripataka mudra is a variation of the Pataka mudra. As well as depicting the application of Tilak, it also shows the king or crown.
Mayura literally means peacock. The mudra depicts a peacock when the ring finger touches the thumb. The index, middle, and little fingers remain extended. In addition to depicting peacocks, this gesture is also used to depict a bird’s neck, Krishna’s feathers, and even creepers. Intricate footwork usually goes along with this mudra!
Ardha Chandra literally means half moon. The main difference between Ardha Chandra and Pataka mudra is that the thumb in Ardha Chandra is held straight in line with the fingers. The gesture is complete when the hand is at a horizontal angle. The mudra can represent not only the crescent moon, but also a spear, a throat, etc.
The lotus mudra represents the glory of a lotus in bloom. The thumb and fingers are stretched and curved to form the petals of the lotus. The mudra represents the productive energies that flow in the spiritual and physical realms. It represents creation, romance and wisdom.
‘tri’ means ‘three’ and ‘shula’ means ‘spear’. Trishula is the most common ‘Astra’ or ‘weapon’ of the deities as mentioned in the Indian scriptures. The mudra is performed when the little finger meets the thumb and the remaining three fingers are held upright. The Trishula mudra is a representation of power, showing the triumph of good over evil. It also represents Lord Shiva, the bearer of the Astra.
In the Pataka mudra, the index finger and thumb are bent. A violent wind is also depicted by the Arala mudra, which depicts drinking an elixir or poison.
The Samyukta Mudras or Double-Hand Gestures
Beginner Samyuktas or single-hand mudras include:
The Anjali Mudra is achieved by joining both palms together. This gesture is often used to greet and welcome people in Indian culture.
You will be performing the Kapota mudra when you slightly bulge your Anjali mudra at the knuckles. The center is cupped here! Salutations are shown with this mudra, which is a mark of obedience and acceptance. During a conversation with a Guru or teacher, the mudra is held.
To hold a Karkata Mudra, you must interlace the fingers of both hands. It represents blowing the shankh or conch. It can also be used to represent bending a branch, stretching and twisting the limbs, and the arrival of people.
This mudra is another important two-handed Bharatanatyam mudra commonly used in this particular dance style. It represents denial, imprisonment, a blocked passage or road and also a crocodile.
To form a Pushpaputa Mudra, you need to join your hands by bringing the little fingers together. The palms of the hands are slightly hollow. The mudra shows an open mind and soul. It also represents the action of making an offering, usually to the Almighty. Indicates waving lights to the gods. The mudra also indicates giving a floral greeting during a puja, especially during the recitation of mantras.
This is another graceful mudra in which the right palm touches the left shoulder and the left palm is placed on the right shoulder. You must hold Mrigashirsha Mudra on each of your hands to achieve the highest perfection. The mudra reflects shyness and modesty or an embrace. It also shows ornaments and bracelets.
Bharatanatyam, like any other classical Indian art form, has developed as an oral tradition. This means that different schools and styles of dance may use different hand gestures and different names for the same hand gestures. The main purpose of performing a mudra is to communicate, and the manner of this communication is a beautiful blend of technique and esthetics.
Whether you are a beginner who wants to start your Bharatanatyam journey from scratch or you are in the middle of your learning journey, on grannymaster you can find a mentor who can tailor your online Bharatanatyam lessons to your learning needs.