Bharatanatyam Mudras (Hand Gestures)

September 2nd, 2007 by Anjali

We explored Tatta Adavu over the last few posts and this basic Adavu only had leg tapping movements. From the next Adavu, there is use of hand gestures and I thought it is a good time to introduce you to the concept now.

As we understand Bharatanatyam better, we shall see that the whole body is used to express and reach out to the audience. The gestures using one or two hands are an important part of this expression.

Image Courtesy: cactusbones on Flickr

Gestures are not new to us since we use them in our day to day activities also! Just take some time and think of what gesture you would use for following situations:

  • To call a person
  • To point at an object
  • To show drinking
  • Denote a snake

Obviously, we have used some gesture or the other to express the above. So hand gestures are a basic mode of communication. Gesture is a symbolic action by which a thought, a feeling or intention is expressed.

Nritta hastas are a very integral part of any classical Indian dance. These hastas are more or less common for all the classical dances. In Bharatanatyam, hand gestures are used both in Nritta and Nritya.

In Bharatanatyam, hand gestures are divided into two categories:

  1. Asamyukta Hasta – That which is done with one hand or single hand gestures. They are 28 in number.

  2. Samyukta Hasta – That which is done using both hands or double hand gestures. They are 23 in number.

Each hand gestures has many applications or Viniyogas which are described in Sanskrit Slokas of the natayashastra. For eg. Tripataka used in the Nattu Adavu is used to represent a crown, tree, thunder, applying Tilak etc. The interpretation of the gesture is based on the context in which it is used.

Most of the hand gestures and Viniyogas in Bharatanatyam are described on this site. Please click through the links above. You can also look at the resources page and follow the links for hand gesture details on other sites.

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Leave A Comment

61 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mayuri Nov 2, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    Hi anjali,

    I went through the hand gestures in the resources link…and downloaded both pages….asamhastha was easy for me to recall and do and also understand the meaning of each mudra…but I got confused about samyutha. for eg katkavardhanam and shakatam….. chakra i know its both hands pataka and utasanga is both hands chaturau…but i am not sure about samputam, kurma and varaha…can u give a explanation on samyutha mudras…

  • 2 Anjali Nov 3, 2007 at 5:50 am

    Thanks Mayuri for visiting this site. Yes i will explain all the hastas very soon. So stay tuned. I shall mail you directly with the above explanation.

  • 3 krishnaa Dec 6, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Hi Anjali,
    Your website is really great! It’s a very very good source of information for all bharatnatyam dancers – especially starters.
    I am also a bharatanatyam student. My teacher is a graduate of dance from Kerala Kalamandalam (just for your info :) )
    I have learnt most of the hasta bhedas. I wish to get the sanskrit verses from natya shastra describing the dasavatara hastas, deva hastas and navasandhi hastas.
    it would be really great if you could help me by sending then to me or posting them up.

    Krishnaa

  • 4 Anjali Dec 10, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Hi krishnaa, thanks a lot for your kind words. Its nice to know that you are learning under such a qualified guru. My pranamams to your guru. I follow the Pandanallur style. I shall send you the description soon. Again Thanks a lot.

  • 5 krishnaa Dec 11, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you so much Anjali!
    I hope i am able to excel in bharatnatyam so that i become a befitting student of my guru. please wish me luck and pray for me… :)
    once again, thanks.

  • 6 krishnaa Dec 24, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Anjali,
    i am still waiting for your reply… :)

  • 7 SANDHYA Jan 3, 2008 at 10:09 am

    HELLO ANJALI,

    I HAVE FORGOTTEN SOME OF MY MUDRAS IN BHARATNATYAM CAN YOU PLEASE PUT IN THE WEBSITE THE SAMYUKTA AND ASAMYUKTA HASTAS WITH IMAGES

    IF YOU CAN HELP ME I WOULD BE GRATEFUL TO YOU

  • 8 sandhya Jan 8, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    ANJALI PLEASE I AM WAITING FOR THE FEEDBACK
    I AM NOT A TEACHER NOR A STUDENT BUT I HAVE LEARNT BHARATANATYAM
    I HAVE SEEN ONLY 28 SAMYUKTA HASTA AND U HAVE GIVEN 31 HOW ARE THE OTHER 3 SHOWN CAN U PLEASE PUT THE IMAGES OF THE HASTAS PLEASE
    IT IS A REQUEST PLEASE

    THANKYOU

  • 9 Anjali Jan 8, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Hi Sandhya, Thanks for visiting this site. Yes I will be putting all of them very soon. Meanwhile I have given some links on my Resources page for hand gestures . Do take a look at them. You will get images for all the Mudras.

  • 10 krishnaa Jan 27, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Hi Anjali,
    any info on the sanskrit verses that i wanted as yet, please let me know.

  • 11 Anjali Jan 27, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Yes krishnaa I have the Dashavatara and Devata Hasta Shloka, but Navasandhi mudra I donot have. I can mail you (in english script) if you still need them.

  • 12 krishnaa Jan 28, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Anjali,
    thanks for your mail!
    Send to me the informaation that you have, please dont bother yourself too much. Ill be waiting for the next mail on dasavatara hastas. :)

  • 13 krishnaa Jan 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks so much for all that Anjali!!!!
    im sorry if a caused any trouble for you…. :)
    thank you once again!

  • 14 Manju Feb 26, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Dear Ms.Anjali,
    I am happy to visit this website.My four year old daughter is learning bhartanatyam,but since i do ot have the background i am not able make her practice Mudras or steps at ome could you help me with some images of same .
    Look forward to your guidance.
    Thanks & best regards
    Manju

  • 15 Anjali Feb 27, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Thanks Manju for visiting this blog. Sure do let me know what are you looking for.

  • 16 Reena Mar 5, 2008 at 5:32 am

    Dear Anjaligi, this site is very good ,My girl she is only 4yrs ,started with dance class ,I refer this site to prepare her for the class
    thank you

  • 17 krishnaa May 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Anjali!
    Its great to see your website progress. Keep it up! All the best for the future!
    I wanted to know, is there any website that shows the PICTURES of the hasta viniyogas? I have got all the slokas, i need some pictures for some clarifications. Please let me know of any website that has the pictures of hasta viniyogas.

  • 18 Anjali May 27, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Just check out this video. May be this CD might help. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIIJsVSKUKQ

  • 19 krishnaa May 29, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks Anjali,
    It helps alot!!!!

  • 20 vikram Jun 7, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    hi…

    i want the hand gestures for all the nine rasa…
    where can i find those????
    awaiting for ur reply……
    thank you…

  • 21 smita Jun 20, 2008 at 12:44 am

    it.s realy amazing style of learning dance .anjali ji iwant, pictures of hand gestures with there name

  • 22 Thejaswini Nov 5, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Please correct the words!!! The words are SAMYUTHA and ASAMYUTHA not “Samyuktha” and “asamyuktha”…..

  • 23 Anjali Nov 6, 2008 at 6:56 am

    hello Thejaswini, yes it is also pronounced like you have mentioned. In sanskrit the word “yukta” mean connected, joined, union or married.

  • 24 naveena Nov 22, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Hello anjali!! i am naveena from mauritius.. ur website is really great, u doing really a gr8 job to help beginners about this classical dance. since childhood, I liked bharata natyam dance performances on tv and i wanted to learn it, there were few gurus over here at that time and my dad had a prejudice about the dance,it was not too well known over here and the hindi films showed it differently. I am currently am undergraduate student, and i am doing a module part of my course, introduction to indian classical dances. This way, i came to know more about bharata natyam. i have an assignment to do on bharata natyam, ur website really helping me a lot. nowadays there are a lot of gurus in mauritius, they went to india for studies and came over here to teach.
    wish u best of luck. thanks a lot.:-)

  • 25 Anjali Nov 24, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks a lot Naveena. Nice to know about Mauritius and Bharatanatyam there. I wish you goodluck with your assignments.

  • 26 anu Feb 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm

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  • 27 Parina May 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I think it is great that you are giving information like this it is helping me alot in doing a project so i just wanted to say thank you very very much!

  • 28 Jai May 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Hi Anjali,

    Do you have the Nritta Hastas Sloka? I believe it starts with “CHATURASRO THATA UDVIRTHATHOU THATA”

    Thanks
    Jai

  • 29 priya Jun 5, 2009 at 2:48 am

    hi anjali
    its really good to see your site i leart bharatanatyam for few years in gujrat had to leave coz of exams and all now seriously wish to join again coz lost touch in it do you take classes also it would be nice if you can give me information about your dance classes

  • 30 Anjali Jun 7, 2009 at 3:11 am

    hey priyadarshini, I have mailed you with the details
    thanks
    Anjali

  • 31 simmeetah@simi Dec 10, 2009 at 12:23 am

    hi vanakkam to all….

  • 32 Dilini Kariyawasam Dec 26, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Dearest Anjali,

    I went through your site.It is so great.Thanks a lot for making those things through the website.
    Im a Sri Lankan girl studing Bharatanatyam.Dear Anjali I need to know about the styles of Bharatanatyam & the dance history of pandya, pallava & chola periods.if you don’t mide please be kind enough to send me those facts.It will be a grate help for my studies.
    Anjali I wish you all the best & thanks again

    vt love
    Dilini

  • 33 harani Dec 30, 2009 at 12:45 am

    madam…data in dis website s very helpful…thnq so much for it….i would lyk to learn basics of bharatanatyam on ma own viewing some videos….if u could plz help me out with some data regarding it…it would surely help me a lot….hope u would send me details of sme postures in bharatanatyam as soon as posible……………….thnkin u-harani

  • 34 Gethsiya Mar 17, 2010 at 2:38 am

    very useful website for everyone!

  • 35 Krisha Apr 4, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Hi!!!!!!! I’m really enjoying this website.thnx alot!!! Anjali hope we can be friends

  • 36 sydney Jun 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    thank for helping me

  • 37 sugamya Jul 10, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    it is a very gud thing u have done so that we can practice bharathanatyam online

  • 38 Sunanda Jul 27, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Hi

    Wanted reference books for knowing history & related theory of Bharathanatyam

  • 39 SHAILY Aug 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    hi
    i really love bhatnatyam……….

  • 40 cdf Aug 31, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Dearest Anjali,

    I went through your site.It is so great.Thanks a lot for making those things through the website.
    Im a Sri Lankan girl studing Bharatanatyam.Dear Anjali I need to know about the styles of Bharatanatyam & the dance history of pandya, pallava & chola periods.if you don’t mide please be kind enough to send me those facts.It will be a grate help for my studies.
    Anjali I wish you all the best & thanks again

    vt love
    Dilini

  • 41 Aastha Dec 18, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Hi anjali…u r doing a great job…..I have got ma exam and this really helped me a lot…u r doing very good job..I guess its the best site for bharatnatyam….thanks a a lot

  • 42 Shlok May 20, 2011 at 5:25 am

    Hey nice preparations n nice photograph. I dont kno anything abt bharatnatym. I wnt to learn bharatnatyam. Cn i? M already 19.

  • 43 giri May 20, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    hi this very useful can any body suggest web site in tamil expalation. as im doing research on this

  • 44 ramya Aug 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Really details u have given for the hand gestures r very nice …. more over u conveyed it clearly and in easy manner …. i cant able to recall each slog a of ASAMYUKTA HASTA ……. can u pls make it little clear with pictures of those hand gestures

  • 45 Archana Suresh Dec 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    veryyyyy…….. interestinggggg….. gooooooddddd……. jobbbb…..

  • 46 Archana Suresh Dec 3, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    anjaliii…please write for viniyog of asanyukta hasta mudraaa!!!!!!

  • 47 ruchira sirohi Dec 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    thanks for this wonderful resource. I am prepping for a test next week where i need to perform the first 7 single and double hand mudras

  • 48 Saloni Jain Dec 26, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Anjali,
    Thanks a lot for your website because if your website was not there than i would not be able to give my bharatnatyam exam. Your website helped me a lot in learning and revicing the gestures.
    And my request to you is that please do put the videos of neck and head movements.
    You’re website helped me a lot .

  • 49 allisya Mar 5, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    fantastic!!!!

  • 50 allisya Mar 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    your website is fantastic. thanks to your website i can now pass all my exams thanks a lot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 51 brundha Mar 15, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Mudras are difficult to learn but,easy to do

  • 52 Adrishta May 5, 2012 at 1:08 am

    its nice site to search for Bharatnatyam steps and all……….

  • 53 fia Sep 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccccceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • 54 Soniya Srijith Sep 28, 2012 at 8:53 am

    thanks alot for thhis site.really it helped me alot to know more about mudras and its meaning.
    If you dont mind can u please help me to know the order of the steps in bharathanatyam.

  • 55 Vijayalakshmi Dec 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Namaskar,
    can u please help me to get the knowledge of other mudras other than asamyutha and samyutha hastas.
    And also get me a chance to participate in various programs and competitions. Intimate me through mail.

  • 56 Mrunmayi Dec 8, 2012 at 9:38 am

    Well…I like the audio but was totally blank as i didnt knew their meanings so please…….

  • 57 anniesebi Feb 21, 2013 at 3:07 am

    thankyou so much for putting these online.i was a bharathnatyam dancer when yo ong, but had forgotten most of mudras . I now want to teach dance to some of the invalid children , who r not able to stand so i thought i would teach them hand gestures , so it helps them as an exercise for their fingers and also they enjoy it and love to do it.I would be happy if i can make them do a dance with their hands , can u please help me .

  • 58 Anjali Feb 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    @anniesebi, sure let me know what you would like to know. I will be happy to extent a helping for such a noble cause.

  • 59 Logeswari Oct 17, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Really nice !!!! :) :) this is the first time im seeing ur site. hope il get addicted to ur site :)

  • 60 DR BUVANESWARI Jan 18, 2014 at 2:34 am

    hi anjali mam, first of all thanks a lot. urs z help me to to correct my daughter”s movements.urs way to explain is very very nice without any doubt.im waitng for ur hand and feet gestures video.keep it up.thanku

  • 61 Amita Maru Feb 28, 2014 at 5:41 am

    I just wanted to thank you as your website is my go to place for Bharatnatyam.