Hand gestures of the Ten incarnations of lord Vishnu- Dashavatara hastas

September 23rd, 2008 by Anjali

The Avataras of lord Vishnu are Matsya (the Fish), Kurma-the Turtle, Varaha- the Boar, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashurama, Sri Ramachandra, Balarama, Sri krishna, and Kalki. Lets take a look at the slokas (sanskrit verses) and know how each of these gods are represented by a mudra.

1. Matsya Avatara

Vishnu took the form of a big fish. There is a story about this in Hindu scriptures. The Asuras or the demons snatched the Vedas, the holy books of the Hindus, and went deep inside the sea. At this point, Vishnu changed his form. He became a matsya, that is, a fish. He entered the sea and brought back the Vedas.

Matsyahasta darshayitva tatah skandasamau karau
Dhrutavu matsyavatarasya hasta etyabhidhiyate

It says that when hands are held in Matsya gesture, the Matsya avatara is depicted. Also after showing this particular incarnation, it is suggested that both hands in tripataka hasta at shoulder level be used as an inference to show lord Vishnu.

2. Kurma Avatara

Here Vishnu took the form of a Turtle (kurma) and then goes the story of the samudra manthan or the churning of the ocean.

Kurma hasta darsha eitva tatah skandasamau karau
Dhrutav kurmavatarasya etybhidhiyate

This Avatara is also shown by using the Kurma hand gesture and later holding the tripataka hasta with both hands at the shoulder level as inference to lord Vishnu.

3.Varaha Avatara

Lord Vishnu takes the form of a Boar(varaha). Here the Lord kills the demon Hiranyaksha and saves the vedas.

darshaeyitva varaham tu katiparshva samau karau
Dhrutau varahavatarasya devasya kara eshyate

The Varaha hasta is depicted with the use of varaha hand gesture at the stomach level and then placing the hands on the hips.

4. Narasimha Avatara

Here the lord takes the form of half man and half beast. He assumes the form of lion headed man and proves how the little boy Prahalad was a true devotee.

narasimha

vame simhamukham dhrutva dakshine tripatakika
narasimha avataraya hasta etyuchate budhaih

Narasimha avatara is depicted when Simhamukha hasta is held in the left hand and Tripataka hasta in the right hand.

5. Vamana Avatara

Here the lord incarnates himself as a dwarf priest to restore Indra’s authority over the heavens, which was taken away by force by the demon king Bali and liberates the Asura king Bali.

urdhvadho dhruta mushthibhya syanyabhyam yadi sthitaha
sa vamanavatarasya hasta etybhidiyate

Vamana avatara is shown by holding left hand in mushti hasta at the shoulder level (to show the umbrella that he carried) and right hand also in mushti at the level of the the thigh. The inner side to the palm is facing down.

6. Parashurama

Parashu means an axe, so the word literally means Rama with an axe. The purpose of the sixth incarnation of Vishnu is considered by religious scholars to be to relieve the earth’s burden by exterminating the sinful, destructive and irreligious monarchs that pillaged its resources, and neglected their duties as kings.

vamam katitate nyasya dakshinerdha patakika
dhrutau parashuramasya hasta Etyabhidhiyate.

The right hand is held in Ardhapataka. This hand is raised up to show the axe. The left hand is kept at the hips.

7. Ramachandra

Here the lord takes birth as a son of Dhasharataha and kaushalya in Ayodhya. And later leads the life with strict adherence of satya (truth) and Dharma despite hardship and personal travails.

kapityo dakshine haste vame tu shikharah karaha
urdhva dhruto ramachandrahasta etyuchate

Hold Shikhara hasta in the left hand raised to the head level to show his Bow. Right hand in kapitta hasta held at the thigh level.

8. Balramavatara

Balarama is known as the elder brother of krishna. He is known for his imence power and hence the name balrama where “bal” means power in sanskrit.

patako dakshine haste mrushirvamakare tatha
balaramavatarasya has etyuchate

Balarama Avatara is depicted with right hand in pataka hasta and the the left hand in Mushti hasta facing downwards.( To show his weapon mace or in sanskrit, the Gada)

9. Krishna

In sanskrit the word ‘Krishn’ means black or dark and and is used as a name to describe someone with dark skin. Krishna is often depicted as a baby, as a young boy playing a flute. Main purpose of this avatar was to provide the mankind with a manual of life – The Bhagavat Gita.

mrugashirshe tu hastabhyam nyonyabhimukhe krute
asyopakanthe krushnasya hasta etychate

Bring left hand near right cheek. Left hand in mrigashirsa hasta facing inwards and the right hand is also in mrigashirsha but facing outwards. This is to show the flute that he carries.

10. Kalki

It is said in the scriptures that lord Vishnu will come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga. Some represent him as an amalgam of a horses head and a man’s body.

patako dakshine vame tripatakah karo dhrutaha
kalkya khasyavatarasya hasta etyuchate

Kalki Avatara is depicted with right hand in Pataka hasta and the left hand in tripataka hasta.

I shall try putting up the pictures for each of the Hastas soon.

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Leave A Comment

33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sheetal Sep 24, 2008 at 7:36 am

    It was a pleasure reading your blog. :) Love to read about my Indian roots and this blog is probably the best I’ve come across that deals with Indian dance. Do you offer lessons in Sydney by any chance? :)
    *crosses fingers*
    I shall come over ma’am.

  • 2 Anjali Sep 24, 2008 at 8:08 am

    Hi sheetal, thanks and I am glad you liked it. I donot have any class in sydney. But I can help you find one.

  • 3 nigamaa Sep 25, 2008 at 5:35 am

    Awesome job Anjali,
    tripataka hastya of Kalki explained as Indras vajraayudha! Long ago I had read some books on Kalki, western indology scholars explain god Vishnu (Kalki) as deified vedic human being Indra. So this hastya makes historical sense.

    There is also a utube choreography called Kalki Avatar lection, maybe you like?

    btw the oldest dance sculpture (Karana) unearthed sofar is 32 000 yrs old, I saw in Vienna history of nature museum. Same position as found in temple dancer of Indus Valley Civilization some 4000 years ago ?
    http://www.donsmaps.com/galgenbergvenus.html

  • 4 Anjali Sep 25, 2008 at 6:05 am

    Thanks Nigamaa, they sound interesting.

  • 5 R JAGANNATHAN Oct 6, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Balarama is not considered to be as one of the avataras in dasaavaaras since Balarama is the sesha devuru avatara kindly clarify

  • 6 Anjali Oct 6, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Somebody with a thorough knowledge of puranas can definitely help you. I have also seen dance pieces where Gautam buddha is included as the ninth avatar (eliminating balarama avatara). Also read about the 24 avataras of vishnu in the Bhagvatam. This is the description of the dasavataram as per Jayadeva’s dasavatara stotram that forms the first section of Gita Govind a master piece of this great poet.

  • 7 nigamaa Oct 31, 2008 at 1:15 am

    Anjali,
    I think the hasta of Buddha should be added if available despite Jayadevs dismissal? Scholars think that modern indian writing first appeared at time of king Ashoka. His mother is believed to have come from Greece. When Asoka made war to what is today Orissa, there were so many dead causalties he felt to abandon war forever by converting India to Buddhism. So Buddha was made an avatar. Since written indian language before Ashoka is difficult to find, this Balaram addition is probably a later addition removing Buddha. There will be a new book soon which may shed more light
    http://www.sussex-academic.co.uk/sa/titles/archaeology/Preston.htm

    regards

  • 8 Alisha Dec 30, 2008 at 5:51 am

    thank you for this i really did need this for my work

  • 9 piety Jan 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Hi Anjali,
    Is there a VCD or DVD out there containing the Dasha Avatar Dance ? I did not find any BharataNatyam Dance on youtube either. I was wondering whether you could post something

  • 10 Sharmilla Feb 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Namaste Anjali, i only joined viewing ur site yesterday and i must thank you, its very interesting and some comments are enlightening as well….so i’m learning about the science behind the dance. Great!!I have basic training in Bharatanatyam dance but i’m still training and ur lessons are helping me much at home.what i find difficult to obtain is the music for the dance… Do u know where i can have access to some songs and maybe their meanings in English? Thank you again and keep up the great work!!

  • 11 Anjali Feb 19, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Hello Piety,
    I have not found Dasavatara CD available online either. Please let me know if you find one. Thanks.

    Hello Sharmilla,

    Thank you for your kind words. Lyrics for some songs are available on Karnatic.com and carnatic.com. Some songs can also be downloaded from amazon and is very affordable. Are there any specific songs you are looking for?

  • 12 nigamaa Feb 21, 2009 at 5:38 am

    Hi,

    I found a free ebook for download on Dasavatara of Vishnu
    http://www.sundarasimham.org/ebooks/ebook15.htm
    it has no video attached, but mp3 files to listen, it worked on my PC.There are also single utubes of various scenes from Gita Govinda in the net

    regds

    PS: Alisha: Are you researching on Buddhism and Dance?

  • 13 sacalante Feb 28, 2009 at 4:22 am

    For the moment i prefer to use the name of one of my elders spiritual guides, but all we are Indians, I had to born in Mexico City and some of the best gurus had to came, to the other part of our hart, and i have not to the tell you, your art preserve all the knowledge of our Gods and given us with those movements the fisical health and the opportunity to communicate with them. I am not in Calcutta’s dharma ashram, because some adept tell, you don’t need to learn Sanskrit almost thirty years after, i don’t know, Why i lesson him. But Lord Ganesh always give us the path to learn and serve to the humanity,
    I’m attorney at criminal and civil law in Mexico City, and I offer to you everything you need when you come to this country, we have all the arts, like yours in this City for free, and I’m very happy write to you, and someday talk both of us, face to face, In this moment the only gift i can give it’s my pray to my Lord Rama, to keep you dancing and teaching to all they need you. Kind Regards.

  • 14 Anjali Mar 1, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Sacalante, thank you for your good wishes. God bless you too.

  • 15 joshuahyoung Mar 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you!

  • 16 Pooja Badiyani Sep 21, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Hi Anjali……..
    i am a interior architecture student doing research on bharatnatyam, i was wondering if you could help me with a few question.
    1) could u email me images of hand gestures and explanation of them in english
    2) wht is there red colour applied to yourfinger tips and a circle in the middle of the hand

    anything else that will be interesting.

    thank you. please try to email me as soon as possible. thanks once again

  • 17 priya Nov 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    add more pics.if you add more pics it will be a good website and i liked it very much!!!!!!!

  • 18 saritha Mar 8, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Anjali, thanks for doing this. I was the one that wrote you a note to do something like this a few months ago. Fabulous. Looking forward to more…

    Saritha

  • 19 Avanthika Sep 20, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Hi Anjali,
    Great Work! its worth reading your blog/site, thanks for spending your precious time for uploading this much details, eagerly waiting the updates.

  • 20 subrahmanya Mar 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Please madam, do you have any audio related to these shlokas. so that it is very easy to by-heart very easily just by listening to the audio.

    Please do me a favor madam

    with regards

    subrahmanya

  • 21 Vishwa Protim Banerjee Jul 6, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Maam in hastas for Ramaavtara, the kapitta mudra shown looks different from that shown in asamyukta hastas. Kindly clarify.

  • 22 Anjali Jul 6, 2011 at 8:01 am

    @Vishwa, yes that gesture is another form of katakamukha, which also similar to kapitta. Both works.

  • 23 Aditi Nov 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Awesome! Really helped me prepare for my dance test tomorrow!!! I will tell my dance teacher about you!!!

  • 24 Aditi Nov 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    luv luv luv it!!

  • 25 praveen kumar p k Mar 21, 2012 at 11:19 am

    mam,
    i have a humble doubt
    i have learned one varnam of lord siva and in that varnam i was taught to hold the right hand in tripataka and left in simhamugha to show lord shiva…
    but here you are holding the same for narasimha….
    whichone is right or why the same is used for both…please give a reply….
    hopefully
    praveen

  • 26 praveen kumar p k Mar 21, 2012 at 11:21 am

    mam,
    i have learned to hold right hand in oornanabham and left in simhamugham to show narasimhavatara…is this right too.?

  • 27 Siya Shravanthi Apr 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    I was very much keen to learn Naatyam from my childhood. May be i can tell that i was mad about it. But unfortunately, I found no proper source… :( Missed it, the only thing that i feel like i’ve missed in my life… :(
    Bt I still love and keep loving :)

  • 28 Siya Shravanthi Apr 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    How can i learn Naatyam now? Pls let me know mam…I’ll be thankful to u…
    Waiting for ur reply…
    Regards,
    Shravanthi

  • 29 Prakash S Nov 12, 2012 at 10:54 am

    1 Matsya==>Fish
    2 Koorma==>tortoise
    3 Varaha==>pig or boar
    4 Narasimha==>lion man
    5 Vamana==> Brahmin boy
    6 Lord rama==>King/Kshatriya
    7 Lord parashurama==>bhramin teacher
    8 Lord krishna==>the divine statesman,Gita speaker who taught the people how to live the best among 10
    9 Lord Kalki==>the mighty worrior
    and the 10th and final one which is yet to appear is
    10 Lord Janardhana

  • 30 Chandricka K Pasupati Jul 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Thank you. I am going to use the gestures in my scripture class to give an interactive lesson on the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

    Danya vadaha.

    Doing the mudras have left me with a great feeling of tranquility and peace. Bagawans blessings to you you and your family and all the work that you are doing.

  • 31 janakiraman jayaraman Jun 9, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Very useful information for the people who try to understand th Bharatha Natiya Mudras. Thanks

  • 32 arya.s Nov 5, 2015 at 1:04 am

    please put poses for the first three avataras. Any thanku you.

  • 33 Sabrina Apr 5, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Brilliant, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!