As we have mentioned in previous publications, the mudras, also known as “hastas”, are hand gestures used in some of the classical dances of India. These movements apart from showing the technique of the dancer, are used to express emotions or tell stories.
Learning about them is important to be able to understand and interpret Bollywood dance.
There are two types of mudras: the Asamyukta hastas are those that are done with one hand, and the Samyukta hastas that are done with the combination of both hands.
In this blog we will be explaining the meaning of 6 mudras from the “Asamyukta hastas”.
The word pataka means “flag” or “emblem”. This mudra is performed by joining and stretching all the fingers, creating a flat surface and without any gap between the fingers.
It has a large number of meanings in dance, for example it can be used to represent: clouds, forest, refuse objects, chest, night, river, Divinity Realm, horse, cut, wind, show that someone is leaving, dexterity, bless, lightning moonlight, intense heat, push and open doors, stream of water, enter a path, equanimity, anointing oneself, swear an oath, silence, palm leaf, an ideal king, show a place, sea, series of feats, show a direction, step forward, pick up a sword, month, year, rainy day, sweep with a broom.
It literally means “three parts of the flag”. This mudra is performed by joining and stretching all fingers except the ring finger, which is flexed only in the second phalanx.
It is used to represent a crown, a tree, an arrow, thunder, a weapon of the Gods, Ketaki flower, a lamp, flames of fire, a dove.
This mudra means “half flag” and is done the same way as the previous one but in addition we will also need to flex the little finger.
It is used in dance to represent leaves, a boat, a river bank, to indicate both, a knife, a banner, a tower, the horn of an animal.
It is known as the “arrowhead” and is done by joining the ring and little fingers with the thumb, in a rounded way and also ensuring that we separate and stretch the index and middle fingers.
In dance it is used to represent scissors, separation of a man and a woman, opposition, looting, showing two different things, the cornea of the eye, death, lighting, sleeping, falling and crying, a vine.
Its meaning is to “open a bracelet”. One of the positions is to place the index, middle and thumb fingers together and the ring and little fingers apart, at different angles, all stretched out.
In Indian classical dance, it represents picking or cutting flowers, holding a necklace or garland, pulling a bowstring, speaking and looking, showing that an ointment of sandalwood or musk is being prepared, an offering of betel leaves etc.
Our last mudra means “open lotus flower”. And it is formed by stretching all the fingers, with the palm open and by placing each finger at a different angle, in the form of a fan.
In the classical dances of India and in Bollywood dance, it is used to represent an open lotus flower, to show fruits such as the apple, circular movement, the sun, a knot in the hair, to show beauty, a town, a mountain and high altitudes.