• `

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

Ardhachandra (Half Moon)

Uses: Moon, 8-day of the weaning moon, Seizing one by the throat, A spear, Offering to God, Plate, Origin or Birth, Waist, Thinking / Worrying, Contemplation, Meditation, Prayers, Touching the limbs, Greeting common people , bangle,wrist, mirror, astonishment, effort,intemperance,entirety, beating time, tying up the hair, supporting the cheek in grief, elephant ear, expelling evil, wiping sweat form the brow, adolescence, ability, consecration, eye brow, cloth, bow, preeminence, tightening the griddle, making a vessel, the body, movement of the feet, carrying a child, the back, white color, Vaisya caste

Arala (Bent)

Uses: To drink poison / Nectar / etc..., violent wind

Shukutundaka (Parrot's Beak)

Uses: Shooting an arrow, A Spear, Remembering the past / nostalgia, Mystic feelings, Angry Mood

Mushthi (Fist)

Uses: Steadiness, Grasping one’s hair, Courage, Holding things, Fighting mood of wrestlers, grasping, waist, fruit, agreement, saying “Very well”, sacrificial offering, greeting common people, carrying away, string hold, holding a book, running, lightness, wrestling, holding a shield, grasping a spear

Shikhara (Peak)

Uses: Manmatha or Kama, the God of love, An Armour, A Bow, A Pillar, Certainty, Offering to ancestors, Upper lips, To pour liquid, A tooth, Questioning, Saying No, Recollection, Pulling a griddle, An act of embracing, Sounding of Bells, Drinking, Shiva Lingam or Phallic symbol, Saying “I don’t know”, Recollection Abhinayaanthikam – Intimate suggestion, To lighten the waist band

Kapitta (Elephant Apple)

Uses: Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati, going around, Milking Cows, Holding Cymbals(Tala), Holding Flowers, Grasping the end of the robes, Offering Insense or lamp, applying Kajal, Holding the saree Pallu, Draping a cloth on the face

Katakamukha (Opening in a bracelet)

Uses: Wearing a necklace of pearls or flowers, drawing the arrow at the centre of the bow, Plucking or picking flowers, Holding a necklace or a garland, Pulling the bow string, to speak, glancing, preparing a paste of sandal or musk, offering Beetle leaves,

Suchi (Needle)

Uses: A Neddle, Number one, The Supreme soul, One hundred, The Sun, A City, The world, Saying “like that” or “that which”, Lonliness, Threatening, Growing slim, A rod, Body, Astonishment, showing the hair, An Umbrella, Capability, Hair, Beating Drums, A potter’s wheel, Circumference of a wheel, evening, Asking when, why, who, how, Beating an instrument called Bheri, Wheel of a chariot, Group of People

Chandrakala (Crescent)

Uses: Moon, Face, Objects of the similar shape, Extent between the thumb and the Index finger, The crescent on Lord Shiva’s Head, The Ganga river, A club (weapon)


Uses: to represent various fruits, Round breast of a women, Circular movement, Ball, Bowl, Flower garland, Mango, Showering flowers, Cluster of flowers, Hibiscus flower, Preparing big bowl of food for elephant or bell shape, Ant hill, Lotus, Egg

Sarpashirisha (Snake's Hood)

Uses: A Snakes Hood, Sandal Paste, Middle tone, Sprinkling, Nourishing, Giving water to Gods and sages, Moving to and fro, Movement of protrusion of Elephants head,Show the Arms of wrestlers


Uses: A Deer’s head, Lord Krishna (when held with both hands), Womens cheek, A Wheel, Way of doing things, Fears, Quarrel, Costume or dress, Tripundraka made on the forehead (Tilak on lord Shiva’s forehead),A lute, Massage on the feet, Female reproductive organ, Holding Umbrella, Stepping and calling the beloved


Uses: A fire Sacrifice (Homa or Havan), To show Coral, Pearl, Fragrance, Curls, hearing, Point, Salvation, Heart, Lion’s face, A Rabbit, Elephant, Movement of darbha grass , Examining the medicinal preparations(This grass is used by the pujari to make rings and worn during the time of pooja to sprinkle holy water. It is regarded as sacred and is a must for all Hindu rituals. It is also called as Kusha or Munja.Garland made of lotusFace of a LionPreparation of Medicine by physicians)

Kangula / Langula

Uses: To show Lemon, Breasts of a teenager, Flower called Kalhara, A bird called Chakora, Beetle nut, Jingles, Tablets, A bird called Chataka,

Alapadma (Full blown Lotus)

Uses: A fully bloomed Lotus, To show fruits such as Apple, Circular movement, Bosom,Yearning to the beloved, A full Moon, Hair knot, Show Beauty, Separation from dear one, A Mirror, A Village, Great anger, Cakravaka Bird, High Altitudes, Murmuring sound, Praise

Chatura ( Square)

Uses: Fragrance from kastoori, Show small quantity, Gold and other metals, Wetness, Sadness, Taste, Eye, Differentiate color, Promise, Romance, Slow movement, Breaking, Seated, Molten butter, Oil

Bhrahmhara ( Bee)

Uses: A Bee, A Parrot, A Wing, A Heron, A Cuckoo, Some other birds, meditation

Hamsasya ( Swan's Head)

Uses: An auspicious occasion or festival, Tying the sacred thread of marriage, Advice, Decision, Excitement, Pearls & other precious stones, Drawing, Fly, Drop of water, Wick of the lamp, Polishing, Searching, Jasmine & other flowers, Drawing a line, Holding garland, To say ‘i am Brahma’, Saying ‘No’, Looking at the polished article, Impeding the current of water.

Hamsapaksha (Swan's wings)

Uses: Swans wing, Number six, Construction of a bridge, impressions of nails, covering, way of doing things.

Samdamsa (Pincers)

Uses: To show Generosity, A belly, Offerings made to deities, Wound, Worms, To show number five, To show great anxiety, Worship

Mukula (Flower Bud)

Uses: To show the flower Lily, Eating, Cupid, angel, Smearing sacred marks on the body, Belly button, Banana Flower.

Tamarachooda ( Rooster)

Uses: To show Rooster, A birds head, A Heron, Crane, A Crow, A Camel, A Calf, A pen that is used to engrave

Trishula ( Trident)

Uses: A holy trinity (Brahma, Vishnu , Mahesh), Or an Idea of Three, Bilva leaves ( A holy leaf used to worship lord Shiva)