Contact Us
Mental Health
Financial advice
Youth Matters
Techno Corner

Jyothi Venkatachalam

During my last 2 ½ years of writing on Indian dance for Khaas Baat publication, I have had a few dedicated readers who either call me or at least make it a point to acknowledge and compliment me for a column. Last time, some suggested that as there are many children in Florida who are learning Bharatanatyam, an article on mudras (hand gestures) and its usage would be helpful for students and their parents. Hence, I’m introducing this particular topic. I will be mentioning at least a few common usages for each gesture if not all. This topic will be covered in four issues.

To understand Bharatanatyam better and reach out to the audience, we use language through the expressive gestures of the hands. This has been one of the most ancient or oldest forms of communication. It is sure that these gestures played an important role in the evolution of human language.

In dancing, each mudra or symbol of the hands is credited with divine origin. We Indians are proof to this because all over the world we remind one another about the divinity in each one of us by greeting each one with the folded hands or ’anjali hasta’

According to Nadikesvara’s Abhinayadarpanam, there are two major varieties of hasta mudra or gestures of the hands. They are:

Asamyukata Hasta (single-handed gestures)

Samyukta Hasta (gestures with both the hands combined)

Asamyukta Hastas: There are 28 single-handed gestures. However, six new ones were added later on. Today, we shall learn about seven of them:

1. Pataka: The hand in which the thumb is bent and the fingers are extended. This mudra is used to show the beginning of a dance, dark clouds, forest, night, river, abode of the Gods, horse, wave, entering a street, touching things, knocking the door, taking an oath, broom, Palmyra leaf (which was used as paper in ancient days), shield, month, year, rainy day, moonlight, strong heat, sweeping, forbidden things, cutting, wind, walking prowess and offering to the gods.

2. Tripataka: From Pataka mudra, the ring finger is bent. This mudra is used to show a crown, tree, Lord Indra, flame rising from a lamp, pigeon, cheeks, decorations drawn on a face, arrow and turning.

3. Ardhapataka: From the Tripataka mudra, the little finger is bent. This mudra is used to show bank of a river and stream, small knife, flag, sprouts (tender leaves), board, tower and horn.

4. Kartarimukha: From the Ardhapataka mudra, the fore and middle finger are spread out like a scissor. This mudra is used to show separation of a man and a woman, opposite, rolling, corner of the eye, lightning, death, falling, sleeping alone and weeping.

5. Mayura: The ring finger touches the thumb and the other fingers are extended. This mudra is used to show a peacock, creeper, bird, vomiting, removing hair and sprinkling water from a river while praying, wiping away tears, sacred treatises, and curls on the forehead, tilaka (ornamental mark on the forehead) and a famous thing.

6. Ardhachandra: From the Pataka mudra, the thumb is stretched out. This mudra is used to show the phase of the moon on the eighth day of the dark fortnight, a hand seizing the throat, spear, plate from which you eat, origin, waist, thought, telling oneself, mirror, showing the feet, carrying a child and meditation.

7. Arala: From the Pataka mudra, the pointer finger is bent. This mudra is used to show drinking poison or nectar, strong wind, wiping the sweat of the brow, showing aversion toward evil people.

To be continued.

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at


Lavanya Dinesh

The illustrious musician-composer Saint Thyagaraja was better known for his exquisite standalone musical compositions, but he also created two musical plays or operas in Telugu. The first play “Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam” consists of five acts, 45 kritis or compositions set to 28 different raagas or melodies with 138 verses. The second dramatic treatise, though equally scholarly and beautiful, is shorter with one act and 21 kritis in 13 raagas (43 verses). The stories in these plays are fictional in nature, yet extol the beauty and good deeds of the Lord. Thyagaraja, who was initiated into chanting shlokas and mantras (holy scriptures and hymns) as a young boy by in his father – especially the ‘Rama Taraka Mantra,’ was barely in his teens when he wrote the composition “Namo Namo Raghavaya Anisham” and set it to raaga Desika Todi.

Saint Thyagaraja’s works are luminous examples of literary expression, musical essence and adoration of the Almighty. The most popular and well- known compositions are the Pancharatna kritis – the five gems among compositions. All five are set to Aadi taala – a rhythmic cycle of eight beats. They are Jagadaanandakaaraka (raaga Naata), Dudukugala Nanne (raaga Gowla), Saadhinchane (raaga Aarabhi), Kanakanaruchira (raaga Varaali) and Endaro Mahaanubhavulu (raaga Shree).

Lavanya Dinesh
The first composition Jagadaanandakaraka in raaga Naata is only one of the five composed in the Sanskrit language. Thyagaraja sings the praise of Lord Rama, the cause for eternal bliss. In Dudukugala Nanne (raaga Gowla), the composer enumerates all the transgressions and misdeeds he has committed in his life and asks for the Lord’s forgiveness.

Saadhinchane, the third pancharatna kriti in Aarabhi, describes the many leelas (deeds) and mischief of the Lord manifested on earth. Thyagaraja laments that inspite of his steadfast devotion, the Almighty has not yet fully embraced him.

The fourth composition Kanakanaruchira is set to raaga Varaali. This complex yet attractive composition is the least performed piece among the five. There is an interesting anecdote that goes along with this song. The pervading superstition is that if a student is taught this composition, a rift develops between the teacher and the student. Thus, it is rarely taught or sung or played.

In the last of the five compositions, Endaro Mahanubhavulu (raaga Shree), Thyagaraja has eulogized the greatness of true devotees of the Lord. He prostrates before and prays to all great souls – saints, sages and devotees who have lived through the ages.

Shri Thyagaraja led a life of simplicity, purity, sacrifice and devotion. The fame and popularity of his musical compositions live on.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. Lavanya regularly performs at musical venues both in India and the U.S. She has three album releases to her credit. The artist has worked as a music critic and feature writer for The Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at

Contact Information
The Editor:
Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 2004 Khaas Baat.

Anything that appears in Khaas Baat cannot be reproduced, whether wholly or in part, without permission. Opinions expressed by Khaas Baat contributors are their own and do not reflect the publisher's opinion.

Khaas Baat reserves the right to edit and/or reject any advertising. Khaas Baat is not responsible for errors in advertising or for the validity of any claims made by its advertisers. Khaas Baat is published by Khaas Baat Communications.