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Asamyukta Hasta Mudras (Single-Handed Gestures) - The Alphabets of Indian Classical Dancing

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

A Bharatanatyam dancer is a story teller. She/he evokes the narrative using her/his eyes, body and gestures, creating entire set of dramatic episodes from these actions. The knowledge and practice of these single and double handed gestures (Asamyukta and Samyukta Hasta Mudras), therefore, is a prominent part of a dancer's vocabulary.

The Natya Shastra (also referred as the bible of Indian Classical Dancing and theater, we will see more about it in my coming blogs) has broadly classified 28 single handed mudras or the Asamyukta Hasta Mudras. I have listed the 28 Single Handed Mudras below along with their meanings and uses. The Asamyukta Hasta Shloka taken from the Natya Shastra sums up all these Mudras in a gist.


“Pathakas Tripathako Ardhapathakas Kartharimukhaha

Mayoorakhyo Ardhachandrascha Araala Shukathundakaha

Mushtischa Shikharakhyascha Kapitha Katakhamukhaha

Suchi Chandrakhala Padmakosha Sarparhirasthathaa

Mrigashirsha Simhamukhaha Kaangoolascha Alapadmakaha

Chaturo Bhramaraschaiva Hamsasyo Hamsapakshakaha

Samdamsho Mukulaschaiva Thaamrachoodas Trisoolakaha

Ithyaasamyukta Hastanam Ashtavimshati reerita"


Pathaka (Flag)

Uses: Beginning of the dance, Rain clouds, Forest, to deny, object, avoid, Bossom,Night, River, Heaven, Horse, Cutting, Wind, Sleeping, walking, Show power, Bless, Moon light, Strong sunlight, Opening & closing door, Mentioning of the seven cases, Waves, Entering a street , Equality , Massaging or applying sandal paste, Oneself ,Take an oath, Slience, Secret act ,Palm leaf, write letter, Shield, touching things, Blessing , Powerful king ,To say ‘this’ or ‘that’ , Ocean , To be good , Address someone, To move forward , Sword, Form, To wear, Month, Year , Rainy day,To sweep

Tripathaka (Three parts of a flag)

Uses: A crown, a tree, shooting arrow, thunder, Lord Indra’s Weapon (Vajraayudha), to Apply Tilak, Ketaki flower, a Lamp, flames of Fire, a pigeon, drawing patterns on face or chest, circling

Ardhapathaka (Half Flag)

Uses: Leaves, a board or a writing pad, bank of a river, To Indicate “Both”, a saw, a knife , a banner, a tower, an Animal Horn, Gopuram of a Temple

Kartharimukha (sciccors)

Uses: Separation of man and women, Opposition or overturning, Stealing or rolling, Corner of the eye, Death, disagreement, Lightning, Married couple fights and separate / In separation from the loved one, To fall down, A creeper, sleeping, Falling and weeping

Mayura (Peacock)

Uses: Mayura means Peacock. It depicts a peacock’s neck, A creeper vine climbing, Bird of Omen, Vomiting, Separating the hair locks, Moving the hair/Decorating the forehead, Eye, applying Kajal, Applying Tilak on the forehead, Dispersing water of the river, Sprinkling water over the head; holy bathing, Something Famous, Discussing the Shastras