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Jyothi Venkatachalam

1. Simhamukha: When the tip of the middle finger and the third finger touch the thumb and the other fingers are extended, the mudra is called Simhamukha. It is used to show a hare, an elephant, a lotus garland, a lion's face, mixing and testing of medicine by physicians.

2. Kangula: This mudra also is called Langula and depicted by bending the ring finger inwards (toward the palm) from the Padmakosha mudra. It is used to show the tinkling of bells or anklets on a child's feet, bunch of grapes, coconuts, a handful, a betel nut tree and holding of the chin.

3. Alapadma: When fingers from the little finger are bent and then separated from each other, it is called Alapadma or Solapadma. It is used to denote a fully blown lotus, the full moon, a village, height, a lake, circular movement, beautiful, anger, big tank, cart and praise.

4. Chatura: The thumb is bent inside the palm in such a way that it touches the foot of the third finger. The little finger is stretched out and all the other fingers are held tightly together. It is used to denote gold, copper, iron and other metals, oath showing the face, a little, difference of caste, slow gait, breaking into pieces, oil and ghee.

5. Bramari: When the thumb and the middle finger are joined (touch each other), the forefinger is curved and the remaining fingers are stretched out, the mudra is called the Bramari hasta. It is used to show a bee, a parrot, a wing, a cuckoo, a crane and other small birds.

6. Hamsasya (swan beak): When the thumb and the forefinger touch each other and the remaining fingers are stretched out, the mudra is called Hamsasya. It is used to denote blessing, tying of the mangalsutra or thread, putting a wick in the lamp, a touchstone, a jasmine, sound of flute, writing and act of painting.

7. Hamsa-Pakshaka: When the little finger from the sarpa-sirsha is well extended, it becomes Hamsa-Pakshaka. This mudra is used to show the number six, putting a nail, construction of a bridge, covering and arranging.

8. Samdamsa: If the fingers of Padmakosha are opened and closed in quick succession, the hand is called Samdamsa. It is used to denote the number five, the belly, offering to deities, fear, worship wound and worm.

9. Mukula: If the five finger tips meet together, it is called Mukula. Eating, the five arrows of cupid, holding a seal or sign, navel, water lily and plantain flower are shown using the Mukula mudra.

10. Tamra-Chuda: The curving of the forefinger from the Mukula hasta makes the Tamarachuda mudra. It is used to denote a cock, a crane, a cow, a camel, a pen and a calf.

11.Trishula (trident): The thumb and the little finger are bent to touch each other. It is called Trishula. It is used to show the number three, a Bel-leaf and the trident.

These are the 28 most widely used single-handed gestures or Asumyuta hastas. There are four additional mudras, according to other treatise. They are Urnanabha or Vyaghra, Ardhasuchi, Bana and Palli. We shall learn about the gestures of Combined Hands or Samyuta Hastas in our next issue.

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

Indian classical music with its infinite reservoir of raagas puts forth melodies to suit our every mood. There are raagas for every time of day, for every season. There are raagas of course for every 'rasa' - mood or sentiment. The parameters and scale of every raaga (musical entity) are quite strict even though the delineation of any particular raaga varies from artist to artist.

The introduction of an outside note to the raaga can effectively alter its essence and mood. Being a Hindustani classical vocalist myself, I am naturally prone to listening to this genre most of the time. I do expose myself to every kind of music under the sun but always come back to my first love in the end. This I find to be the most satisfying.

For the Indian classical music lover - be it an aficionado or a novice - there is a whole host of choices to listen to in today's world of the Internet and various personal media. You can google raagas and musicians, post and share music with fellow classical junkies, fight over performance technicalities and personal preferences on any number of chat rooms and newsgroups. The fact of the matter is that everyone wants to personalize their playlist to reflect their unique taste and preference.

Here is part of my iPod playlist. At the top is Ustad Rashid Khan. Khan is King in my 'Planet M'! Blessed with a depth of feeling and the most robust, forceful voice I have ever heard, this 40-something vocalist is fearless. He delves into the pathos of Malkauns, flirts with the amorous raaga Bageshee, ushers us into twilight with his haunting Purya Dhanashree and soothes the soul with his lilting Desh raaga.

Even his recent rendering of the song "Aaoge Jab Tum Saajna" in the Hindi feature film "Jab We Met" is charming and characteristically Rashid. He sings aalaps and taans with such casual elegance. Khan's rendition of the morning raaga Ahir Bhairav, including the fast-paced composition 'Albela Saajan Aayo Re,' comprehensively captures the pristine glory of a new dawn. His taraana in raaga Jhinjoti prances and meanders through a series of vividly colorful emotions and touches the soul every single time I hear it.

His rich and textured raaga Jog when heard at night surely induces the honey-heavy dew of slumber. Khan is an acquired taste, the more you listen the more intoxicating his voice and music become. Bhimsen Joshi - the masterful 'Saadhak' (achiever) of our times, is a cut above the rest. His forceful, vociferous yet emotive rendering of the khayal (a compositional genre) and his thunderous taans (speedy passages), are legendary. Pandit Joshi's inimitable rendering of the composition "Tu Ras Kanha Re" in raaga Durga is an all-time favorite.

Though his music is packaged in numerous albums, the Siddhi collection - released about a decade ago, is the most comprehensive. You get to listen to this maestro's music from way back in the 1940s all the way up to the 1990s. His mastery over all raagas of the Kalyan thaat (a parent group) is clearly enunciated in raagas Yaman Kalyan, Shudh Kalyan, Kedar, Bhoopali, etc. My favorite is a 1940s recording of a live Pandit Joshi performance featuring a phenomenal raaga Multani. The way Pandit Joshi always weaves intense, eclectic phrases of a raaga with continuity makes him a force of nature indeed! This maestro's homage to Goddess Lakshmi (the Hindu deity of prosperity and wealth) in the Kannada language devotional number 'Bhagyada Lakshmi Baaramma' is extremely popular.

Music of the hoary past, haunting melodies of a bygone era, the nostalgia of a simpler time are truly personified in the elevated music of some of India's departed stalwart musicians. They have stuck with me and are now happily imprisoned in my tiny, wondrous invention of high human ingenuity, namely my iPod.

A colossus in Hindustani music is most certainly Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Hailing from the Patiala Gharana (school of thought), this musician is the penultimate Badshah (Emperor) of both the khayal and thumri genres in my experience. While Bade Ghulam Ali Khan's evergreen rendition of raaga Rageshree has equal parts of gravitas and beauty, his semi-classical thumri offerings are the stuff of legend. The Ustad's strong, dreamy, adroit voice singing some of the most memorable and playful thumris include 'Kaa Karoo Sajni Aaye Na Balam' in raaga Mishra Bhairavi. In the romantic Hindi film "Mughal-E-Azam" (early 1960s), Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, has rendered the composition 'Prem Jogan Ban Gayi' in raaga Sohni. This is the most perfect background for blossoming love between the Mughal prince Salim and the fictitious courtesan Anarkali.

There is an interesting story behind how the movie director K. Asif and the music director Naushad got this giant of classical music to sing for the movie. When Bade Ghulam Ali Khan initially refused to sing, they simply showed him a picture of the breathtakingly beautiful actress Madhubala. Instantly mesmerized, the maestro acquiesced.

To be continued. 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 US. 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

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