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Hand Gesures

Hand Gestures
(Nritta hastas or Hasta Bhedas)

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. 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 32 in number.

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

Each hand gestures have 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.

Samayukta Hastas or Double Hand Gestures in Bharatanatyam

Samyukta Hastas are also called as double hand gestures or combined hand gestures. Unlike Asamyukta hastas, these gestures require use of both the palms to convey the message or a particular meaning. For example the Anjali Mudra is a simple gesture where both the palms are joined to mean a Namskara or to imply salutations. I have also put some images of double hand gestures. Each gesture has its own uses which are termed as Viniyoga. Mentioned below are some names and image formats of these Hasta mudras:


1. Anjali
2. Kapotam
3. Karkatam
4. Swastikam
5. Dola
6. Pushpaputam
7. Utsangam
8. Shivalingam
9. Kataka-vardhanam
10. Kartari-swastikam
11. Shakatam
12. Shankha
13. Chakram
14. Pasha
15. Kilaka
16. Samputa
17. Matsya
18. Kurma
19. Varaha
20. Garuda
21. Nagabhandham
22. Katava
23. Bherunda
Anjali Kapotam Karkatam Swastikam
Pushpaputam Utsangam Chakram Samputam
Kilakau Matsya Garuda Pasha
Nagabandham Katava Kurma Varaha


Asamyukta Hasta or Single Hand Gesture

Asamyukta hastas are done using single hand. The Natyshastra mentions about 28 Mudras i.e. up to Trishula Mudra. There are four new mudra added to this list i.e. Kataka, Vyagraha, Ardhasuchi and Palli. These Hand Gestures are a Part of Angika Abhinaya. I shall be explaining each of these Mudras with reference to the shlokas of Abhinayadarpanam. Following are the list of all the Single hand Gestures:

  1. Pataka
  2. Tripataka
  3. Ardhapataka
  4. Kartarimukha
  5. Mayura
  6. Ardhachandra
  7. Arala
  8. Shukatunda
  9. Mushthi
  10. Shikhara
  11. Kapitta
  12. Katakamukha
  13. Suchi
  14. Chandrakala
  15. Padmakosha
  16. Sarpashirsha
  17. Mrigashirsha
  18. Simhamukha
  19. Kangula
  20. Alapadma
  21. Chatura
  22. Bhramara
  23. Hamsasye
  24. Hansapakshika
  25. Sandamsha
  26. Mukula
  27. Tamrachuda
  28. Trishula
  29. Ardhasuchi
  30. Vyagraha
  31. Palli
  32. Kataka