Hasta Bheda : Speaking Through Mudras

A Mudra is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist iconography, performing arts, and spiritual practice, including yoga, dance, drama and tantra.

There are a total of 28 mudras in the Abhinaya Darpan or the The Mirror of Gesture. It mentions that the dancer should sing the song by the throat, express the meaning of the song through hand gestures, show the state of feelings by eyes and keep track of the time with feet. From the Natya Shastra, the ancient Hindu treatise on the performing arts written by sage Bharata, this quotation is often taught to Indian classical dancers:

Translation

Where the hands are, the eyes follow

Where the eyes are, the mind follows

Where the mind goes, there is expression

Where this is expression, mood is evoked


Understanding the dance mudras and executing them correctly is a part of building yourself as a powerful performer. Each finger in our hand plays an important role in reciting the story of dance. So let us first begin with naming our fingers.

  • ANGUSTHA: Thumb
  • TARJANI: Fore Finger
  • MADHYUMA: Middle Finger
  • ANAMIKA: Ring Finger
  • KANISHTHA: Little Finger


Mudras in Odissi Dance are divides in four parts as follow:

Asamyukta Hasta Mudra – Single hand Mudras – 28 Prakar (types)

Samyukta Hasta Mudra– Joint hand Mudras – 23 Prakar (types)

Nrutya Hasta Mudra –  17 Prakar “Pure Dance” Mudras (Select few out of the above categories).

Parampara Hasta Mudra – 10 Prakar- Traditional Mudras commonly used for easy understanding

Asamyukta Hasta

Single hand Mudras – 28 Prakar

These hand gestures are shown on single hand or on both hands separately

  1. Pataka- Flag
  2. Tripataka – Three parts of a flag
  3. Ardhapataka – Half flag
  4. Kartarimukha – Scissors face
  5. Mayura – Peacock
  6. Ardhachandra – Half moon
  7. Arala – Crooked
  8. Sukhatunda – Parrot’s Beak
  9. Mushti – Fist
  10. Shikhara – Spire
  11. Kapittha – Wood apple
  12. Kataka Mukha (1,2 & 3)– Type of bird
  13. Suchi – Needle
  14. Chandrakala – Dark moon
  15. Padmakosha – Half open lotus flower
  16. Sarpashirsha – Serpent head
  17. Mrigashirsha – Dear head
  18. Simhamukha – Lion Face
  19. Kangula – Bulb
  20. Alapadma – Fully open lotus flower
  21. Chatura – Smart /Square
  22. Bramhara – Bee
  23. Hamsasaya – Wild Goose or Swan
  24. Hamsapakshya – Wild Goose or Swan’s wing
  25. Samdamsa – Firefly
  26. Mukula – flower bud
  27. Tamrachuda – Rooster
  28. Trishula – Trident (Emblem of Shiva)
Asamyukta Hasta
(Click on the picture to zoom)
Asamyukta Hasta Demonstation by Odissi Dancer Ashwini Raghupathy

Samyukta Hasta Mudras

Conjunctive Hand Gestures – 23 Prakar

These hand gestures are shown with both the hands joined together

  1. Anjali – Salutation
  2. Kapota – Dove
  3. Karkata – Crab
  4. Swastika – Cross
  5. Dola – Swing
  6. Pushpaputa – Flower casket
  7. Utsanga – Embrace
  8. Shivalinga – Masculine principal
  9. Katakavardhana – Link of increase
  10. Kartariswastika – Crossed arrows
  11. Shakata – Cart
  12. Shankha – Conch shell
  13. Chakra – Wheel
  14. Samputa – Casket
  15. Pasha – Noose
  16. Kilaka – Bond
  17. Matsya – Fish
  18. Kurma – Turtle
  19. Varaha – Wild boar
  20. Garuda – Eagle
  21. Nagabandha – Serpent tie
  22. Khatva – Cot
  23. Bherunda – Two-headed bird / pair of birds
Samyukta Hasta
(Click on the picture to zoom)
Samyukta Hasta demonstrated by Odissi dancer Ashwiwni Raghupathy

Nrutya Hasta Mudra

These are hand gestures or pure dance mudras that are frequently used during performances. They are a collection of some Asumyukta and Sumyukta Hasta Mudras.

  1. Pataka
  2. Ardhapatak
  3. Mayura
  4. Hansasya
  5. Chatura
  6. Ardhachandra
  7. Alapadma
  8. Katakamukha
  9. Suchi
  10. Sikhara
  11. Kapitha
  12. Sukachanchu
  13. Anjali
  14. Swastika
  15. Karkata
  16. Dolahasta
  17. Puspaputa

Parampara Hasta Mudra

Parampara Hasta Mudras are traditional Mudras commonly used during dance for easy understanding

  1. Bastra – Cloth
  2. Tambula – Betel (Paan)
  3. Puspa – Flower
  4. Bana – Bow
  5. Sukachanchu-
  6. Padma – Lotus
  7. Gabakshya – Window
  8. Mayura – Peacock
  9. Ubhaya Kartati – love and affection
  10. Pradeepa – Oil Lamp

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