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Indian Classical Dances
Gestures And Postures in Dance
Hasta Mudra
Hand Gestures
The Navarasas
Gesture & Posture
Feet in Dance
Qualities & Performances



The essential features in a dance are gestures and postures.

According to Natya Shastra Mandalas are twenty in number and are divided into two classes:
- Earthly (Bhauma) and
- Heavenly (Akashika)
but Abhinaya Darpana gives only 10 of them and does not classify them at all. The two works have no common names in their Mandalas.

The next important factor is how the parts of the body are taken into action to produce harmony in dance rhythm. This can be estimated by looking at the bends (Bhangas) of the body. The ideal postures of the body in movement are based upon these Bhangas or bend which represent the change of the body from the central straight line or balance of the figure. Bhanga is the basis of Bhangi (gait). Bhangas are not mentioned in either of the two authorities and encyclopaedias of dancing viz, Abhinaya Darpana and Natya Shastra. The conception of bends is of later origin and the word is first found in Manasara.

Bhangas are of 4 kinds:

1. Abhanga (slight flexion)
2. Samabhanga (equipose)
3. Atibhanga (excessive flexion)
4. Tribhanga (three flexions)

Abhanga1. Abhanga (slight flexion)
The Abhanga pose is shown in standing gracefully with weight of the body placed on one leg. It indicates meditation, repose and serenity.

2. Samabhanga (equipose)
Samabhanga is the gracious pose of seated or standing figures in equipose.

3. Atibhanga (excessive flexion)
Atibhanga is concerned with the dramatic dance forms called Tandava i.e., the Nataraja poses of the dancing Shiva, the delighted dance of Krishna and others.

4. Tribhanga (three flexions)
Tribhanga posture is the thrice-bent figure in which the head is inclined to one side, the upper body is bent in the opposite direction and part of the body below the waist takes again the reverse direction. The Tribhanga actions are dramatic energetic muscle actions.

Movements and Gestures
Movements are either Charis or Sthanakas, dynamic or static.

- Charis
The harmonised coordination of the foot, calf, thigh and waist is known as Charis. All actions with one leg are called Charis. There is no dance without Chari actions.

According "to Natya Shastra Charis are thirty-two in number and are divided into two classes:
- Earthly (Bhauma) and
- Heavenly (Akashika)
But Abhinaya Darpana has only 8 Charis and they constitute only one class by themselves. The two works have no names in common in their Charis.

According to Natya Shastra, body movements are divided chiefly in the following groups,

1. Karanas
2. Angaharas
3. Rechakas
4. Pindibandhas

1. KaranasKaranas
The Karanas are single postures, the special features of them being that the left hand is generally put on the breast while the right hand follows the movements of the feet. There are one hundred and eight varieties of Karanas. Karanas are mixture of dance movements.

2. Angaharas
Angaharas arise out of a combination of two, three or four of such Karanas or single unit matrika.

Movements are divided again into Matrika, Kalapaka, Bhandaka and Sanghataka.

A single unit (Matrika) of action consists of two Karnas.

Three Karanas make a Kalapaka and four a Bhandaka.

A combination of five Karanas is called a Sanghataka.

Gestures for Worship :
A few hand gestures which are neither mentioned in Notya Shastra nor in Abhinaya Darpana are given below, which may be useful for the modern dancers in giving expositions of dancing themes of worshipping some deity, viz., Arati and Ganga Puja etc.

1. Ankush:
The middle finger erect and the first finger bent of a mushthi of right hand. It is used to denote, to purify water.

2. Dhenu:
In an anjali hand the fingers of the right hand are inserted into the intervening spaces between the fingers of the left hand and then the first finger of the right hand is touched with middle of the left, the first finger of the left with the middle of the right, the small finger of the right with the third of the left and the small finger of the left with the third of the right.

3. Avagunthana (To veil or to hide).

4. Galin.

5. Avahani (to invoke).

6. Sthapani (to welcome).

7. Sannidhapani (to place the deity close by).

8. Samrodhini (to check or obstruct).

9. Sanmukhikarani (to bring the deity before the eyes.

10. Leliha (to bring life into the idol).