Bharatanatyam Mudras for Beginners – Explained with Images

Bharatanatyam Mudras and Dance

Bharatanatyam Mudras are the core part of learning this dance form. It is one of the oldest classical dance forms in India constitutes a rich cultural representation and the depiction of mythological beliefs of our country. This dance form of South India has now got its acclamations across the globe for its elegance and finesse. This dance form represents various other dance forms among which the “Tandava Dance” form is the main representing the dance form of Shiva in the moment of tremendous rage. Through this dance form, the dancer expresses the mythological anecdotes of India.

This dance constitutes mainly of the components which together forms a complete dance form which are the hand movements or the mudras, the leg movements, the posture, and also the expression of the dancer.

Amongst these, Bharatnatyam Mudras form a very significant part of this dance form. For that matter any dance form is incomplete without learning the mudras and so is the case in Bharatanatyam. This needs the dance teacher to give special attention to the hand movements and the mudras of the student. Adopting these mudras and learning them will take quite a time and needs to be learnt with enough attention and perfection.

WHAT IS MUDRA?

A mudra means a hand gesture which is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. From religion, mudras started to get adopted in yoga and other dance forms in the Indian culture to represent a beautiful hand movement which adds to the beauty of dance and add to its gorgeousness.

BHARATANATYAM MUDRAS

This specific dance form divides its mudras into basically two broad types one is known as the “Asamyukta Hastas” which represents mudras which are done with only one hand and the “Samyukta Hastas” which denotes the mudras done with both the hands.

There are approximately thirty-two “Asamyukta Mudras” and “Samyukta Mudras” are twenty-three in number. It helps in depicting various events and expressions in any dance form and also in Bharatanatyam.

Without the hand gestures, the learning of this dance form is of no use as every component is essential to make it a complete whole. Hence the trainer should teach the one hand mudras first and then go on to teach students the double hand movements in Bharatanatyam. Proper guidance and practice are required to learn Bharatnatyam Mudras. Learning Mudras also require the time and dedication of both the teacher and the learner.

ASAMYUKTA BHARATANATYAM MUDRAS

Among the 32 Asamyukta Mudras the important ones are:

PATAKA or the Flag

In this form of Bharatnatyam Mudra, all the finds are kept straight together beckoning someone to pause. The only variation in this mudra is that the thumb should be slightly bent and represents clouds, forests and so on. Adavu is started by this mudra.

Woman hand showing Pataka hasta (meaning flag) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Woman hand showing Pataka hasta (meaning flag) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

TRIPATAKA or The Three Colours

This is formed when one folds the ring finger and keeps the other fingers straight in the Bharatanatyam dance form. This denotes trees, arrows, thunder and so on in Bharatanatyam.

Woman hand showing Tripataka hasta (meaning three-cornered flag) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Woman hand showing Tripataka hasta (meaning three-cornered flag) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

ARDHA PATAKA or Half Flag

This depicts half of a flag in the dance form. One should bend the thumb, little finger and also the ring finger in order to get this mudra. This represents leaves, the number two in a dance move.

Woman hand showing Ardhapataka hasta (meaning half flag) of indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

KARTARI MUKHA or The Scissors

The mudra represents a scissor. It is done by joining the thumb with the little finger and the ring finger and keeping the other two fingers in a straight manner. This is used to make the audience understand the difference in opinion, rage, looting or estrangement.

Woman hand showing Kartarimukha hasta (meaning scissors) of indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Woman hand showing Kartarimukha hasta (meaning scissors) of indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

MAYURAKHYO or the Peacock

This mudra represents a peacock and is made by joining the ring finger and the thumb together and leaving the other three fingers erect. This is used to depict the birds, creepers and Krishna’s feather which is placed on the Crown.

Female hand showing Mayura hasta (meaning peacock) of indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

ARDHACHANDRA or the Half Moon

This mudra is done by keeping all the fingers uptight along with the thumb and is very likely to be confused with the Mudra Pataka, the only difference being that in Arthachandra all the fingers including the thumb is kept straight. It is used to represent the throat and so on.

Indian Woman hand showing Ardhapataka hasta (meaning half flag) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

AARALA or Bent

From Ardhachandra you need to just bend your index finger as well as the thumb to get the Aarala. This mudra is used to represent being alcoholic, harsh storm and so on.  

Woman hand showing Arala hasta (meaning bent) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam

Female hand showing Chandrakala hasta (meaning “Digit of the Moon”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Woman hand showing Kangula hasta (meaning “Tail”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Indian Woman hand showing Kapittha hasta (hand gesture, also called mudra) (meaning “Goddess Lakshmi”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam. Also used in Indian dances Odissi and Kuchipudi. kapittha Goddess Lakshmi
Female hand showing Katakamukha hasta (meaning “Opening in a Bracelet”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Indian Woman hand showing Mrigasirsha hasta (meaning “Deer head”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Female hand showing Padmakosha hasta (meaning “Lotus bud”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Hand showing Schukatunda hasta (meaning “Parrot’s head”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam
Female hand showing Tamrachuda hasta (hand gesture, also called mudra) (meaning “rooster”) of indian classic dance Bharata Natyam. Also used in other indian classical dances Kuchipudi and Odissi.
Indian Woman hand showing Thishul hasta (hand gesture, also called mudra) (meaning “trident”) of Indian classic dance Bharata Natyam. Also used in other indian classical dances Kuchipudi and Odissi.

SAMYUTA BHARATANATYAM MUDRAS

The Samyukta Mudras represent the mudras which are formed with the combination of both the hands and are needed in a combined form to represent something which cannot be done otherwise. These mudras are also essentially important to learn as it represents important actions in this dance form.

There are various Samyukta mudras which are the Anjali, Kapota, Karkata, the Swastika, Dola, Pushpaputa, Utsang, the Shivalinga, the Kataka Vardhana, Kartari Swastika, Shakata, Sankha, Chakra, Pasha, Kilaka, and so on.

CONCLUDING NOTE

Mudras are an integral part of the Indian legacy and constitute the focal point of dance, drama and so on. These are the representation of pragmatic knowledge and is an inseparable part of the dance. It should be taught with a great amount of attention since there are a huge number of Mudras in the dance form of Bharatanatyam.

These mudras have been handed down from generations and have transcended through the history of dance. It represents the art of representing any occurrence through dance using the various hand gestures and forms a connection of one’s mind and body during a dance. It adds to the aesthetic appeal and the liveliness of the dance of Bharatanatyam.

The mudras in dance have been adopted from Yoga and have been used in the religions of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism to a great deal. The Hastas or the Mudras are believed to represent the “Pancha Mahabhutas” or the five elements the air, water, fire, earth, and Space.

The mudras are also considered to have long term benefits on the health of the dancers in terms of better functioning of the organs of the body.

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