(Last Updated on : 24/10/2013)
Nritta hastas or mudras explained in Natyashastra
included the divine actions of celestial dancers and their application to the feelings and aspirations of human beings. The Nritta Hastas are classified under two heads: (i) Asamyutta Hastas (single hands) and (ii) Samyutta Hastas (combined hands). Asamyutta Hastas include Pataka Hasta, Tripa-taka, Ardha-chandra, Kartarimukha, Arala, Suka-tunda, Musti, Sikhara, Kapittha, Kataka-mukha, Suchimukha, Padma Kosa, Sarpa-sirsa, Hamsa-paksha, Mriga-sirsa, Chatura, Langula, Ala-padma, Bhramara, Hamsasya, Samdamsa, Mukula, Urna-nabha, Tamara-ehuda, Simha-mukha, Chandra-kala, Trisula, Mayura, Bana, Ardha-Pataka, Shili-mukha and Ardha-suchi.
1. Pataka Hasta
originates from Lord Brahma
. It resembles victory and is formed by extending the palm with straight and close together, the thumb being also close to the hand. Upraised, with palm facing the spectators, the Pataka hand indicates divine assurance and grace. This gesture appears in the cosmic dance forms of Shiva
and is the gesture of other celestial beings. It indicates the beginning or end of discourse. It is used for saying "I am," to indicate "here," waves, flower casket (two hands joined), cloud, night, benediction, etc. Pataka hands are twisted upward for the world of the Gods, and downward for the lower worlds. Pataka hands crossed at the wrists indicate the sign swastika. Pataka hands joined palm to palm in devotional gesture are used in prayer or salutation to Gods and worthy men. This form is called Anjali.
If Pataka hands are shown with movement of arms in various directions showing grace and amorous expression, the feet moving rhythmically, the dance performed, thus, is called Prasara.
2. Tripataka Hasta
is the "three fingers" or triple flag pose. The third finger of Pataka hand is bent down at the middle joint in this hasta. It originates from Lord Shiva and indicates invocation, descent of the Gods or avatar. It is also used for holding weapons or symbols, i.e. the Tavka (axe), the Mriga (deer), the Vajra (thunderbolt); to apply sacred marks to the forehead, to wipe tears, to indicate going, the feet, tree, arrow shaft, etc.
3. Ardha-Chandra Hasta
is formed by stretching the thumb of the Pataka hand to form an angle with the hand. It indicates consecration or meditation
. The Ardha-Chandra hand spread out and slightly curves with the palm upward. It carries the sacred fire, a symbol of destruction. When Ardha-chandra hands are crossed, palms facing the body, thumbs interlocked, they indicate the bird Garuda
, the vahan of Lord Vishnu
Ardha-chandra hands indicate consecration, half-moon, face, forehead, broad thighs, battle axe, seizing (by the throat), rejection etc. When Ardha-chandra hands are placed at the waist, palms down, and the body above the waist is moved rhythmically with grace, the dancer performs the Lavani
4. Kartari-Mukha hasta
(scissor's mouth) has the first and second fingers of the Tripataka hand separated, the first finger extended slightly backward, with the thumb touching the bent third finger. It indicates separation, lightening, and death, going, steps of walking, hours of an animal, hypocrisy, rising and falling, etc.
5. Arala Hasta
has the first finger of the Pataka hand bent at the middle joint, and the thumb also bent. Other fingers are extended together and stretched. Arala is the hand of virtue, strength of character, and is used in going around a sacred fire or an image. It indicates blaming, taking away, wings of a bird etc.
6. Sukatunda Hasta
(parrot beak) has the third finger of the Arala hand bent at the middle joint. It indicates dismissal, mystic things, shooting an arrow.
7. Musti Hasta
(closed fist): For this mudra all of the fingers are closed into the palm, and the thumb is bent over them. Musti is used to show strength, steadiness, exercise, to give a blow, to hold a weapon, etc.
(peak or crest): The thumb in the Musti hand is extended vertically. It is used to hold the bow and other weapons and the bow of Kamadeva, God of Love. It is a symbol of Shiva-linga, and indicates fanning, pouring water, etc.
9. Kapittha hasta
(wood apple, a sacred fruit): The fore-finger of Sikhara is bent over the thumb, the other fingers being closed in the palm. It is a gesture of Lakshmi holding lotuses near the shoulders. It is used for holding a veil, the end of a robe, a flower garland, a sword or other weapon. It is also used for milking cows, offering incense, or showing a dance with blandishments.
(opening in a link): The third and fourth fingers of Kapittha hand are raised up, keeping the middle finger bent into the palm. It indicates a mirror, a woman, picking and collecting flowers, churning, flower-tipped arrows of Kamadeva, God of Love, playing the flute, holding a veena
, flower garland, or to indicate conversation.
(needle face) is the pointing finger, having the first finger extended, and the thumb joined to the middle finger. It indicates circle, the world, going, flame of a lamp, tusks with an elephant, threatening, pointing, sprout etc. Following the motion of Suchi hand with the eyes partly closed is called Suchana, a characteristic playful action of the dance.
(lotus-bud): The fingers are brought close together but without touching to form the lotus bud. This hand is used to worship Siva with lotus flowers, for sacrificial offering, to indicate desire, contempt, dismissal, breast, a fruit taking food, etc.
(snake's head) is formed when the Pataka hand is curved to form a cobra hood. It is used for water offering, sprinkling water, arati or light waving, giving and receiving (with one or both hands), Naga or snake, etc.
(swan-wing): The little finger of Sarpa-sirsa hand is raised up. It is used for embrace, accepting, rejecting, taking, covering, small child, hearing, the number six, dancing, etc.
is the deer's head. The little finger and thumb of Sarpa-sirsa are lifted up and separated from the other fingers. It is used for deer, throwing dice, calling the beloved, forehead, cow, flute of Krishna (played with two hands), etc,
(clever): Place the thumb of Mriga-sirsa hand at the base of the third finger. It is used to show cleverness of eye, pleasure, cheating, advice, lotus petal, palm leaf for writing on, lila or grace in dancing, to indicate 'a little' etc.
(a tail): Join the tips of the first and second fingers to the thumb. The third and fourth fingers are separated and raised. It indicates small things, foot of a cat, a jewel, a woman speaking in anger, etc.
(full-blown lotus): All the fingers are curved and separated with a slight twisting movement, the little finger leading. The Ala-padma hand is also called Utpallapad-maka and Sola-padma. It indicates a lotus flower, the sun, beauty, desire, breasts, ball, joy, mountain and a pot. It is a fundamental Nritta in classical Indian dance. The lotus may be shown by two Ala-padma hands joined at the wrists with the fingers spread to form the petals.
(bee): The thumb and middle fingers are joined together, and the first finger is bent with their space, the other fingers are raised and separated. It indicates a bee, vow of silence, assurance, holy bath, plucking long-stemmed 'flowers, crane, flying creatures.
(swan-face): The first and second fingers are stretched forward, with the thumb joined underneath. The other fingers are separated and raised up. It indicates instruction in ritual, purity, meditation, painting a picture, affection, compassion, rubbing, holding a garland, emphasis etc. It is a fundamental Nritta hasta in classical dance.
(pincers): The tip of the first finger is joined to the thumb. The other fingers are raised and separated. It indicates speaking, emphasis, tying the marriage thread, holding things, instruction, writing, wearing ornaments, ritual dance, etc.
(closed flower-bud): All the fingers are curved and brought close together with the thumb, but not touching. It indicates a water-lily, five flower-tipped arrows-of the God of Love, counting five, contempt, dismissal, monkey, holding things, etc.
(spider): The fingers are curved and separated. It is used to indicate a demon, claws, grasping, tearing, fear, scratching the head, etc.
(red-crest) is the cock. The first finger of the Mukula hand is separated and curved. It indicates a bird, hook, noose, or enmity (interlocked first fingers).
(lion face): The tips of the middle and third fingers are joined to the thumb, and the other fingers are extended. It denotes lion face, a hare, a pearl, fragrance, a drop of water, mokska
or salvation, lotus garland etc.
26. Chandra-kala hasta
is the digit of the moon. The thumb of the hand is stretched so that the first finger and the thumb form the crescent moon. It is used to show moon-crested Shiva, tusks of an elephant or boar.
(trident): The thumb and little finger are joined, and other three fingers stretched and separated. It indicates the trident of Kartikeya
, the God of War, trinity, three, etc.
(peacock): The little finger of Kartari-mukha land is raised, and the thumb is joined to the third finger. It indicates peacock beak, ritual, such as holding sacred ashes, contemplation, throwing flowers on sacred linga, mangalsutra, marriage thread, touching auspicious things, discussing Sashtras, a gracious hand in dancing, etc.
(arrow): Raise up the little finger of Musti hand keeping the other fingers closed in the palm. It indicates arrow, the number six, applying black ointment to the eyes, etc.
(half-flag): The little finger of Tripataka is bent together with the third finger. It indicates 'two things,' husband and wife, Ketaki flower, mango sprout, peak of a mountain, Gopura (tower), river bank, sword used in dancing, etc
(crab face, a female frog): The thumb is extended, the tip of the first finger touches the middle, the other fingers are bent to look like a staircase. (This hand is a more gracious form of Sikhara in the dance for grace). It is used for drinking water, pouring, to indicate a sage, steps to water tank, lips, etc. (In Kathakali
it is known as 'Vardha-manaka')
(half-needle): The first finger of suchi hand is bent at the 'root,' and is touched at the middle joint by the thumb and the curved first finger while the other fingers remain curved. It is used to indicate thinness of body or wasting, enmity, abuse, sprout, etc.