Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Indian Classical Dances

Hand Gestures in Dance

Home
Elements
Bhavas
Appearance
Hasta Mudra
Hand Gestures
The Navarasas
Styles
Gesture & Posture
Feet in Dance
Technique
Rasa
Movements
Qualities & Performances
Contact

hand-gesture01.jpg

hand-gesture02.jpg

The hands of an Indian dancer play an important part in his display. The dance of the hands tells a story word by word.

These gestures represent objects either abstract or concrete. There are symbols to denote Gods, Goddesses, emperors, animals, rivers etc. This gesture language is an almost perfect medium of emotional expression.

Usages and meanings of different hand gestures.

1. Hand Gesture - Pataka: Beginning of Natya,
2. Tripataka: (Denotes three parts of the flag)
3. Ardhapataka (Meaning half-flag)
4. Kartarimukha: (Meaning Arrow shaft face)
5. Mayura: (Meaning Peacock)
6. Ardhacltandra: (Half-Moon)
7. Arala: drinking
8. Shukatunda: (Parrots beak)
9. Mushthi: holding things
10. Shikhara: (Peak)
11. Kapiththa: (Elephant appie)
12. Katakamukha: (Opening in a link)
13. Shuchi: (Needle)
14. Chandrakala: (Digit of the moon)
15. Padmakosha: (Lotus buds)
16. Sarpashirsha: (Snakehead)
17. Mrigashirsha: (Deer-head)
18. Simha-Mukha: (Lion-face)
19. Kangula: (Til)
20. Chatura
21. Bhramara: (Bee)
22. Sola-Padma
23. Samdamsa: (Grasping)
24. Hamsasya: (Swan-beak)
25. Hamsapaksha: (Swan-wing)
26. Mukula: (Bud)
27. Tamrachuda: (Red crest i.e., cock)
28. Trisula: (Trident)
29. Vyaghra: (Tiger)
30. Ardhasuchi: (Half-needle)
31. Kataka: (calling and moving)
32. Palli
33. Urnanabha: (Spider)
34. Bana: (Arrow)

- Hands Relating Relationships

1. Dampati: (Husband and wife)
2. Matai: (Mother)
3. Pitri: (Father)
4. Swashru: (Mother-in-law)
5. Swasura: (Father-in-law)
6. Bhartur-Bhratri: (Brother-in-law)
7. Nananda: (Sister-in-law)
8. Jyeshtha-Kanishtha Bhratri: (Elder or younger brother)
9. Shrusha: (Daughter-in-Law)
10. Bhartri: (Husband)
11. Sapatni: (Co-wife)
12. Putra: (Son)

- Hand Gesture - Deva Hands (Deva Vibhavana)
Hands that indicate form which accord with the character and actions of Bramha and other Gods.

1. Bramha: Left hand chatura: right hand hamsasya.

2. Shambhu: Left hand mriga shirsha, right hand tripataka. Abhinaya Darpana states as Shiva.

3. Vishnu: Tripataka with both hands.

4. Saraswati: Left hand ardhachandra, right hand suchi or according to some kapiththa.

5. Parvati: Ardhachandra with hands, the left upward, the right downward, making abhaya and varada (fear not and charity).

6. Lakshmi: Two kapiththa hands held at the shoulders. Held at the shoulders is to be understood in the case of all deva hands unless otherwise indicated.

7. Ganesha: Kapiththa with both hands placed on the thighs.

8. Kartikeya: Trishula left hand, shikhara right hand.

9. Sanmukha: Left hand trisula, right hand shikhara held upwards.

10. Manmatha: Left hand shikhara, right hand kataka.

11. Indra: Tripataka hands crossed.

12. Yama: Left hand pasha, right hand suchi.

13. Agni: Tripataka right hand, kangula left hand.

14. Varuna: Left hand pataka, right hand shikhara.

15. Nairita: Khatwa and shakata hand.

16. Vayu: Left hand ardhapataka, right hand arala.

17. Kuvera: Left hand padma, right hand Gada.

hand-gesture03.jpg

hand-gesture04.jpg

- Hands that Indicate Nine Planets

1. Suray: (Sun). Sola-padma and kapiththa hands held on the shoulders.
2. Chandra: (Moon). Left hand solapadma, right hand pataka.
3. Angarakha: (Mars). Left hand shuchi, right hand mushthi.
4. Budha: (Mercury). Left hand mushthi askew, right hand pataka.
5. Brihaspati: (Jupiter). Shikhara with both hands as if holding the sacred thread.
6. Sukra: (Venus). Mushthi with both hands, the left raised, the right downwards.
7. Shanaischara: (Saturn). Left hand sarpashirsha, right hand trishula.
8. Rahu: (Bodyless monster). Left hand sarpashirsha, right hand suchi.
9. Ketu: (Serpent monster). Left hand suchi, right hand ardhapataka.

- Hands of Ten Avatars of Vishnu

1. Hand GestureMatsya: The matsya hand is shown, when both hands as tripataka are levelled at the shoulders.

2. Kurma: The matsya hand is shown, when both hands as tripataka are levelled at the shoulders.

3. Narasimha: Left hand simhamukha, right hand tripataka.

4. Vamana: Mushthi with hands, one upward and the other downwards and towards the right side.

5. Parashurama: The left hand on the hip and the ardhapataka with the right.

6. Ramchandra: Right hand kapiththa, left hand shikhara, held respectively near and far.

7. Balarama: Left hand mushthi, right hand pataka.

8. Krishna: Mrigasirsha hands facing one another on the shoulders.

9. Kalki: Left hand tripataka, right hand pataka.

10. Varsha: Varsha hands on the level of the waist and keep them on the sides.

11. Rakasa: Both hands Shakata held on the face.

- Hands Denoting Four Castes

1. Brahmana: Sliikhara with both hands as if holding the sacred thread, the right hand moving to and fro.

2. Kshatriya: Shikhara with left hand moving to and fro, pataka with the right.

3. Vaishya: Left hand hamsasya, right hand kataka.

4. Shudra: Left hand shikhara, right hand suchi.

- Hand GestureHands Indicating Famous Emperors

1. Harisllchandra: Shukatunda.
2. Nala: Mayura.
3. Purukutsa: Alapadma.
4. Pururavas: Mus/zthi.
5. Sagara: Alapadma on the head.
6. Dilipa: Pataka.
7. Ambarisha: Kartari.
8. Shibi: Kapiththa hands waved forwards.
9. Karttavirya: Two patoka hands at the shoulders in deva-vibhavana.
10. Ravana: The same hands with widely separated fingers.
11. Dharmaraja: Hands waved near the arms.
12. Arjuna: Tripataka moved forward again and again.
13. Bhima: Mushthi hand moved forward.
14. Shaibya: Suchi hand with the finger twisted upward.
15. Nakula: Kataka,
16. Sahadeva: SlIikhara.
17. Nahusha: The hand moving
18. Yayati: Tamrachuda.
19. Bhagiratha:. Ardhachandra hand moved like tripataka and this is also used for an eclipse of the moon.
20. Mandhata and Martwan: (The lords of the earth) Mukula, suchi and mushthi hands and the ardhapataka twisted upwards touching the body, these four hands are used in order.
21. Raghu and Aja: Ardhapataka hands are used as aforesaid respectively right and left.
22. Dasharatha: Ardhapataka hands crossed.
23. Rama: Shikhara hands on the right shoulder.
24. Lakshmana: The same on the left shoulder.
25. Shatrughna: The same on the face.

If these are done with left hand on the left shoulder, it indicates those of the human race.

- Hands Indicating Seven Oceans

1. Lavana: Mukula hands moved upwards and downwards representing the up and down motions of the waves.
2. lkshu: Alapadma hands in the same way.
3. Sura: Shankirna and pataka hands in the same way.
4. Sarpi: Cllatura hands in the same way.
5. Dadhi: Tripataka hands in the same way.
6. Kshira: Sarpashirsha hands in the same way.
7. Suddhidaka: (Jala) Pataka hands in the same way.

- Hands of famous Rivers
Hands moving upwards and downwards indicate the motion of the waves. For any river the pataka hand is used.

1. Ganga: Tamrachuda.
2. Yamuna: Rekha.
3. Krishnaveri: Simhamuklla.
4. Kaveri: Chatura.
5. Saraswati: Pataka, Chatura and Bana.
6. Narmada: Ardhapataka.
7. Tungabhadra: Hamsasya.
8. Khetravati: Suchi.
9. Chandrabhaga: (Chenab). The hand moving.
10. Sarayu: Padma.
11. Bhimrathi: Arala.
12. Suvarnamukhi: Ardhachatura.
13. Papanasini: Shukatunda.
14. The Seven Upper Worlds (bhu, bhuva, swarga, jana, tapa, satya and maha). The pataka hand twisted upward is applicable.
15. The Seven Lower Worlds: (Atal, vitala, sutala, talatala, mahatala, rasatala and patala). The pataka hand twisted down-wards is applicable.

- Hands Indicating Trees

1. Asvaththa: (Pipal). Alapadma hands waving the fingers.
2. Kadali: Mukula hands interlocked, extended and the finger waved.
3. Narangi: (Orange). Padmakosha.
4. Lakucha: Bhramara.
5. Panasa: (Bread fruit). Chatura.
6. Vilwa: (Wood-apple).
7. Punnaga: Pataka and chatura.
8. Mandara: Khandwa chatllo.
9. Vakula: Samdamsa.
10. Vata: (Banyan). Pataka.
11. Arjuna: Simhamukha.
12. Patali: Shukatunda.
13. Hintala: Kartarimukha.
14. Puga: (Areca nut). Padmakosha hands crossed.
15. Champaka: Langula hands downwards.
16. Khadira: Tamrachuda, face downwards.
17. Kami: Kartarimukha interlocked.
18. Ashoka: Pataka hands crossed i.e., touching at the wrists and freely moving to and fro.
19. Sindhum: Mayura hands interlocked.
20. Amalaka: The samyama nayaka hand, i.e. the forefinger and the second finger together in the middle of the palm, the rest extended.
21. Kuruvaka: Kartari and tripataka hands crossed.
22. Kapiththa: (Elephant apple). Alapadma hands crossed.
23. Ketaki: (Screw pine). Pataka and chatura hands crossed at the wrists.
24. Simsapa: Ardhachandra hands crossed.
25. Nimbasala: Shukatunda hands crossed.
26. Parijata: The trijnana hand, i.e.pataka with both hands twisted upwards.
27. Tintrini: Langula hand.
28. Jambu. Ardhapataka hand.
29. Palasa: Ardhachandra hand.
30. Ralasa: (Mango). The tripataka hand.

- Hand GestureHands that Indicate Animals

1. Simha: (Lion). The simhamukha hand i.e., right hand simhamukha and left hand pataka applied to the back of the right, the fingers being freely moved.

2. Vyaghra: (Tiger). The ardhanchandra hand held face downwards.

3. Varaha: (Boar). The sankarna makara hand, i.e., in the aforesaid matsya hand the right hand is held downwards and shaken, the five fingers being severally held apart, indicating bristles.

4. Kapi: (Monkey). The adho-mushthi-mukula hand is used, i.e., the thumb and second finger of the mushthi hand are joined.

5. Bhalluka: (Bear). Left hand padmakosha face downwards, right hand pataka placed on the back of the left.

6. Marlar: (Cat). The ardha-mukula hand, i.e., the thumb and third finger of the mushthi hand are joined.

7. Yak: The hands touching at the wrists, left hand mushthi, right hand mudrika, making the mushthi mudra hand.

8. Iguana: Tala pataka hand, i.e., the thumb and the little finger of the pataka hand are slightly raised.

9. Porcupine Deer: The Chandra mriga hand, i.e., the forefinger of the mriga hand is raised.

10. Mriga: (Antelope). The mrigashirsha hand.

11. Krishna Sara: (Black Antelope). The mushthi mriga hand, i.e., the thumb and little finger of the mushthi hand are extended.

12. Ashwatar: (Mule). Nagabandha hands directed upward indicating cow-ear.

13. Mushika: (Mouse). The khanda-mukula hand, i.e., the forefinger of mukula hand is fully extended.

14. Girika: (Mole). The khadga-mukula hand, i.e., the forefinger of the mukula hand is bent and moved to and fro (tiryak-parsarita).

15. Shashak: (Hare). The ta/a-pataka hand is moved horizontally (tiryak).

16. Brischik: (Scorpion). The karkata hand is directed downwards.

17. Sarmeya: (Dog). The madhya pataka hand, i.e., the little finger of the pataka hand is bent.

18. Ushtro: (Camel). The kadanjali hand, i.e., the thumbs of the anjali hand are bent and moved up and down.

19. Chaga: (Goat). Shikhara hands in contact face to face.


20. Gardhaba: (Ass). The shinonjali hand, i.e., the forefingers of the kadanjali hand all bent in contacts.

21. Nrishabha: (Bull). The tal simha (i.e., simha mukha with the back of the hand in the horizontal plane) hand i.e., the second and third fingers are bent to touch the palm, and the thumb placed over them and the two other fingers extended.

22. Gabhi: (Cow). The sankirna mudra hand, i.e., the middle finger is bent and all the others extended, also indicating yantra-bheda.

hand-gesture05.jpg

hand-gesture06.jpg

- Hands that Indicate Flying Creatures

1. Dove: The kapota hand fluttered (punkhita).
2. Pigeon: The same hand moved horizontally (tiryak).
3. Hawk: Shukatunda.
4. Owl: Gajadanta hands face to face in contact.
5. Ganda-Bherunda: Ardhachandra hands face downward, touching at the wrists and all the fingers separated.
6. Cataka: The langula hand fluttered.
7. Cock: The bhramara hand.
8. Kokila: The arala hand fluttered.
9. Crow: The samdamsa-mukula hand i.e., the forefinger of the bhramara hand is placed on the thumb and fluttered.
10. Osprey. The suchi hand relaxed (apavidhdha).
11. Parrot: Shukatunda hand fluttered.
12. Crane: (Sarasa). Paradise mukula hand, i.e., the muku la hand with the little finger slightly bent.
13. Crane: (Baka). The mingled hamsa hand, i.e., the forefinger and the thumb joined, the second and third fingers extended and the little finger made to touch the palm, this is also used in mantra-bheda.
14. Curlew: Linala Padma hand is used, i.e., the little finger of the alapadma hand is bent to touch the palm.
15. Firefly: The hamsa-mukha hand, i.e., the thumb is joined to the topmost joint of the middle finger and the hand relaxed.
16. Bee: (Bhramara). Bhramara hand fluttered.
17. Swan: (Hamsa). Hamsa hand.
18. Chakravaka: Alapadma hand fluttered.
19. Paddy bird: (Koyastika). The aralq-pataka hand, i.e., arala with the right hand, pataka with the left one and the hands touching.
20. Vyali: The vyali hand.

Nritta Hastas
Nritta HastaThe movements of Nritta Hastas are of five kinds, viz. upwards, downwards, on the right, on the left and to the front. The moving of hands should be in the manner of that of the feet. The left one (foot or hand) should be on the left and the right one on the right.
- Swastika
- Dola
- Anjali
- Kathakavardhana
- Shakata
- Pasha
- Kilaka
- Kapiththa
- Shikhara
- Kurma
- Ramsasya
- Alapadma
- Pataka

The Nritya Hastas have a wide scope and all the hand gestures together with others invented by the dancer himself are used. But as Nritta is a baser quality of dance in which there is much of footwork and less of gestures only the above mentioned thirteen are used.