Hasta Mudras (Natyasastra)

According to Natyasastra, a dancer can express through Angikam (body), Vachikam (words), Aharyam(costume) and Sattvikam(emotions). Hasta Mudras fall under Anagika Abhinayam. Abhinayam means expression. Hand movements in dance are very important to communicate ideas, actions, etc while dancing. Hence these are called Abhinaya Hastas. These are classified into Asamyukta Hasta (Single Hand Gestures) and Samyukta Hasta (Double Hand Gestures). Each Hasta is used to depict more than one action. Samyukta means together. A-Samyukta means separate.

Before learning the hand gestures, here is the nomenclature of each finger as per Natyasastra.


AngushtaThumb
Tarjani
Forefinger
Madhyama
Middle finger
Anamika
Ring finger
Kanishta
Little finger

As per Natya Sastra, there are 24 Asamyukta Hastas. These hand gestures should be shown by keeping both hands separate. The following Shloka lists single-hand gestures.

PATAKAS TRIPATAKASCHA | TATHA VAI KARTARIMUKHAHA
ARDHACHANDRO ARALASCHA | SHUKHATUNDASTATHAIVA CHA
MUSHTISCHA SHIKHARAKYASCHA | KAPITHA KATAKAMUKAHA
SUCHASYA PADMAKOSHASCHA | TATHA VAI SARPASIRSHAKAHA
MRIGASIRSHA PARO GNEYO | HASTABHINAYA YOKTRIBIHI
LANGULO ALAPADMASCHA | CHATURO BHRAMARASTATHA
HAMSASYO HAMSAPAKSHASCHA | SAMDAMSO MUKULASTATHA
URNANABHA TAMRACHUDAHA | CHATURVIMSADIME KARAHA

As per Natya Sastra, there are 13 Samyukta Hastas. These hand gestures should be shown by keeping two hands together. The following Shloka lists the double-hand gestures.

ANJALISCHA KAPOTASCHA | KARKATAH SWASTIKASTATHA
KATAKAVARDHAMANASCHA | UTSANGO NISHEDHASTATHA
DOLA PUSHPAPUTASCHAIVA | TATHA MAKARA EVA CHA
GAJADANTO VAHITTASCHA | VARDHAMANASTATHIVA CHA
ETE TU SAMYUTA HASTA MAYA | PROKTASTRAYODASAHA

Each of the above Hasta Mudras have specific usage (requires a separate detail post) when portraying in a dance. However, Natya Sastra also mentions the third kind of Hasta Mudra called Nritta Hasta. These are purely decorative with no specific meaning.

CHATURASRO TATHO DRUTTOU | TATHEI TALYAMUKHOU SMRUTOU
SWASTIKO VIPRAKIRNAMCHA | ARALAKATAKAMUKHOU
AVIDDHAVAKROU SUCHASYOU
| RECHITA VARDHARECHITOU
UTTANAVANCHITOUCHEYVA | PALLAVOUCHA TATHA KAROU
NITAMBAVATI VIGNEYOU | KESHABADHU TATHAIVACHA
LATAKYAICHA TATHA PRAKTOU | KARIHASTU TATHAIVACHA
PAKSHAVANCHITAKOUCHEIVA | PAKSHOPRADYOTAKOU TATHA
GNEYAYU GARUDAPAKSHOUCHA | DANDAPAKSHOU TATHEIVACHA
URDHVAMANDALINOU CHEIVA | PARSHVAMANDALINOI TATHA
UROMANDALINOU CHEIVA | URAHPARSHVADHAMANDALE
MUSHTIKASWASTIKOCHAPI | NALINIPADMAKOSHAKO
ALLAPALLAVALBANEICHA | LALITO VALITO TATHA

Dancers also use few other Hasta Mudras too which are taken from Abhinayadarpanam written by Nandikeswara. (More on that later)

Happy Dancing.

-Signing off

P.S: This post will be updated with the pictures of each Hasta Mudra along with the Shloka rendition.

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