Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form from India known for its grace and beauty. Dancers use a combination of gestures, footwork, and facial expressions to tell stories, with an integral part being the use of mudras. Bharatanatyam mudras are hand gestures that add grace and beauty to the dance and have various meanings, such as representing objects, animals, or verbs. They are considered the “alphabets” of Indian classical dance and are used in all forms, though their meanings may differ. Mudras in Bharatanatyam are considered essential to the dance. In this blog, we will focus on: Asamyukta Hasta Mudras (single-hand gestures) and Samyukta Hasta Mudras (combined hand gestures). The exact number of mudras used in Bharatanatyam can vary depending on the specific style or school of the dance, but it generally includes around 108 or more mudras. These hand gestures are used to convey different emotions, actions, and ideas in the dance. They are also used to tell a story, or depict a god or goddess, and to create visual imagery. Read more about the benefits of joining Bharatanatyam dance classes.
- Abhinaya (expressive) – These include all expressive gestures such as those used to convey anger or sadness; they can be performed at various speeds depending on how quickly you want to convey this emotion/mood through your dance movements.
- Varnams – These are defined by their specific hand positions and fingers bent in different ways (e.g., palm facing up). They each have their own names according to what emotion they express; some examples include “Bhujapada” (“Folding Hands”), “Masiri” (“Shaking Hands”), etc.
Aasamyukta Hasta Mudras (Single Hand Gestures)
Aasamyukta Hasta Mudras, also known as single hand gestures, are a type of hand gestures used in Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form from South India. These gestures are performed using only one hand, while the other hand is usually held in a specific position, known as Abhaya or Pataka Hasta. Aasamyukta Hasta Mudras convey a wide range of emotions, actions, and ideas, such as love, anger, fear, and peace. Some examples of Aasamyukta Hasta Mudras include:
- Kataka Hasta: The Katakaamukha mudra represents an opening in a bracelet and is depicted with the fingers held in a specific position. This mudra is made by folding the fingers of the hand, except for the index and little finger, which are stretched out. It is used to represent the act of holding or grasping.
- Alapadma Hasta: This Bharatanatyam mudra is made by folding the fingers of the hand, except for the thumb, index, and little finger, which are stretched out. It is used to represent the lotus flower. The Alapadma mudra represents a fully bloomed lotus and is depicted with the fingers held in a questioning position, where the little finger points upwards and the other fingers follow.
- Tarjani Hasta: This mudra is made by extending the index finger, and folding the other fingers of the hand. It is used to represent the act of pointing, or to indicate a particular direction.
- Sarpasira Hasta: This Bharatanatyam mudra is made by extending the little finger, and folding the other fingers of the hand. It is used to represent the snake, or to indicate a sense of fear or anger.
- Simha Hasta : This mudra comes to life by extending the thumb, index and little finger, and folding the middle and ring fingers of the hand. It is used to represent the lion, or to indicate a sense of strength or power.
Samyukta Hasta Mudras (Combined Hand Gestures)
Samyukta hasta mudras, also known as combined hand gestures, are a type of mudra used in yoga and Indian classical dance. They involve the use of two or more fingers or hands to create specific positions and shapes. These mudras are used to express emotions, convey certain meanings, and create specific energy patterns in the body. They are often used in conjunction with breathing techniques and meditation to enhance the overall practice. Some examples of Samyukta hasta mudras include:
- Anjali Mudra, also known as the salutation mudra in Bharatanatyam, is created by bringing both palms together in the Pataka position. It is often used as a greeting in Indian culture.
- Kapota Hasta, also known as the pigeon gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by slightly bulging the knuckles of the palms. They touch only at the tips and base, with the center cupped.
- Svastika Mudra, also known as the crossed gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by crossing the palms in the Pataka position at the wrists.
- Dolahastha Mudra, also known as the hanging hands gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by placing the Pataka hasta to the sides of the thigh. The elbows are held with the elbow bone facing down and the inner side of the elbows facing up, with the inner side of the palms in Pataka hasta facing the thigh.
- Pushpaputa Mudra, also known as the handful of flowers gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by joining both palms together at the little finger and slightly hollowing the center of the palms with the inner palm facing up.
- Utsanga Mudra, also known as the embrace gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by touching the right and left palms to the left and right shoulder respectively.
- Shivalinga Mudra, also known as the Lord Shiva gesture in Bharatanatyam, is created by molding the fingers of the left hand like a bowl and placing the fist of the right hand over it at the abdomen level, with the thumb in an upward position.
Gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Bharatanatyam
We hope that you’re feeling more confident in your Bharatanatyam mudras. The key is to practice each aspect of the movements at a time, and then build up to performing them in public. Mudras in Bharatanatyam are a powerful form of expression that can convey emotions and ideas beyond words. This guide is intended for new learners who wish to understand the basic mudras in Bharatanatyam. If you find them interesting, consider taking Bharatanatyam classes from professional dancers.
Learn to express yourself with grace and poise
Are you looking for bharatanatyam classes at a center or online classes are a convenient option to enhance your dancing skills, technique and style? Are you looking to immerse yourself in the beauty and grace of Indian classical dance? Look no further than our Bharatanatyam classes at SaPa. Our experienced instructors will guide you through the traditional movements and hand gestures of this ancient dance form, known for its fluidity and expressiveness. Not only will you improve your physical strength and coordination, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indian culture and heritage. Our classes are open to dancers of all levels, from beginners to experienced performers. Join us at SaPa and discover the joy and benefits of Bharatanatyam.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are mudras in Bharatanatyam and what is their significance?
Mudras are hand gestures used in the Indian classical dance form of Bharatanatyam. They are used to express emotions, convey a story or meaning, and add an extra layer of meaning to the dance performance. Each mudra has a specific meaning, and the dancer uses them to communicate with the audience. Mudras are considered to be an essential aspect of Bharatanatyam, as they play a key role in conveying the meaning and emotion behind the dance.
Can beginners learn mudras in Bharatanatyam?
Yes, beginners can learn mudras in Bharatanatyam. Mudras are an important aspect of the dance form and are typically taught along with the basic steps and movements. However, it’s important to note that mastery of mudras takes time and practice, as it requires not only knowledge of the hand gestures but also an understanding of the emotions and meaning behind them. Additionally, the proficiency of students can vary and it might take some students longer to master certain mudras.
How important are mudras in the overall performance of Bharatanatyam?
Mudras play an important role in the overall performance of Bharatanatyam. They are an integral aspect of the dance form and are used to convey emotions, express a story or meaning, and add an extra layer of meaning to the dance performance.
How do I find Bharatanatyam classes near me?
There are several ways to find Bharatanatyam classes near you:
Search online: You can search for Bharatanatyam classes on Google or other search engines by typing in keywords such as Bharatanatyam classes near me.
Social Media: Many dance schools, academies, or teachers have social media profiles where they post updates, schedule of the classes and contact information. You can follow them to stay updated.
Ask for Recommendations: You can ask friends, family, or colleagues if they know of any Bharatanatyam classes in your area. They may be able to recommend a good teacher or dance school.
Online classes: Many dance schools have started offering online classes, you can check for such options as well.
It’s a good idea to visit SaPa and contact a centre closest to your location to find out more about the class schedule, pricing and other details.