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  DANCE COLUMN
ASAMYUKATA HASTA (SINGLE-HANDED GESTURES IN BHARATANATYAM) Continued...


Jyothi Venkatachalam
By 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 jvenkata@yahoo.com


MUSIC



Lavanya Dinesh
MUSINGS ON A MUSIC MAESTRO
By LAVANYA DINESH

The 'bansuri' or the Indian bamboo flute has been an integral part of Indian mythology, music and religion for centuries. As a young cowherd, Lord Krishna - the most inspirational God to Indian music, dance, art and architecture, excelled in the art of enchantment through his playing of the flute - also known as 'Venu' or 'Murali.' Lord Krishna mesmerized humans and animals alike with his haunting and rapturous music. When I listen to the bansuri, especially played by the inimitable maestro Pandit Ronu Majumdar, I often visualize the mellifluous strains of melodies emanating from Krishna's flute. So sublime and pleasing is Majumdar's music.

Until the 20th century, the bansuri was a folk or pastoral instrument used mostly by shepherds. It was elevated to the Hindustani classical genre in modern times by the legendary flutist Pandit Pannalal Ghosh. Others followed, including Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao, Pandit Venkatesh Godkhindi (in the south), etc. There is a new breed of popular Hindustani bansuri players such as Praveen Godkhindi, Nityanand Haldipur, Rupak Kulkarni and Rakesh Chaurasia.



Pandit Ronu Majumdar
Majumdar's outstanding resume and long list of accomplishments are truly extraordinary. This artist is a complete musician - apart from being a flutist par excellence, Ronu also is a highly creative composer, envisioning and constructing whole melodic music symphonies. Apart from several solo albums of Hindustani classical music, the musician is part of several national and international albums. He has composed music for India's first IMAX movie "Mystic India" (2004) based on the life and times of the great saint Swaminarayan who lived two centuries ago. This movie has been screened in several IMAX theaters around the world. It is still running at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) in Tampa. The synchronized harmony of many Indian instruments, including bansuri, sitar, sarod, santoor, guitar, violin, veena, tabla, pakhawaj, etc. and also a unique blend of Western instruments for a perfect and harmonious fusion, is the hallmark of Majumdar's composing style. To him, melody is king, emotion the queen and technical excellence, purity and fidelity to the subject matter form the throne from which they reign. This is reflected in not only the music of "Mystic India" but also in several of Majumdar's fusion albums, including "Dhyana," "Krishna's Journey," "Song of Nature," "Carrying Hope," etc.

Majumdar has collaborated with Western musicians such as Ry Cooder, John Hassles, Christian Seiferd and so on for many international releases such as "Fascinoma," "In Search of Life," etc. "Ethereal Rhythms" and "Mysticism of Wood Wind" are Majumdar's other popular releases.

Majumdar and the bansuri are synonymous. He is a household name in India and his star is on the rise on the world music scene. He was nominated for a Grammy in 1996 and has composed soundtrack for the Hollywood film "Primary Colors" (1998) starring John Travolta.

Having interviewed and witnessed live performances of many famous musicians in my capacity as a music critic and classical vocalist, I am not easily flustered by the prospect of meeting someone new. But when I got the opportunity to meet Majumdar recently (he had come to Tampa for a performance and set up camp in the city for a week), I was truly excited and star-struck. I was immediately taken by Majumdar's unpretentious demeanor and lively candor. This artist was easy to converse with. My mention of his brilliant album "Krishna's Journey" being a favorite in our house, including that of my musician husband and 7-year-old daughter, struck a nerve with him. He explained the synthesis of the various tracks of this album depicting Lord Krishna's life and it was fascinating. During my meeting, I was fortunate enough to witness his singing prowess as well as listen to his beautiful rendition of several pieces from this album and a few devotional numbers in an intimate setting. Majumdar narrated the anecdote where he used the melody from a moving Bengali lullaby that his father sang to him as a child. This formed the basis for one of the themes of "Krishna's Journey." Majumdar seems to be constantly inspired by life's journey. The beauty, the pathos, the agony and ecstasy of our eternal sojourn are reflected in his music and compositions. The sincerity and commitment that came across in his live performance and narration added a new dimension to my enjoyment and appreciation of his music as a whole.

There have been great influences in Majumdar's musical life, including his father and guru Pandit Bhanu Majumdar, guru Pandit Vijay Raghav Rao and also the legendary Pandit Ravi Shankar. He has remained ever faithful to the traditions of the 'Maihar Gharana' or School of Hindustani classical music. Majumdar's soulful bansuri playing, simply put, captures the colors and emotions of life, creating a truly transcendental experience for the listener.

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 lavanya@lavanyadinesh.com.



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