Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hand Gestures type in traditional Indian Dance - Art & Culture of India

Hand gestures open a window to fathom the mansion of Indian dance. They provide clues to understanding and appreciating the otherwise intricate and highly complex texture of the mansion. They are being briefly introduced to acquaint the reader with the dance speech. The Reading on hand gestures will reveal nuances in Dance and Music : Surrender to the Bliss.

PATAKA (The Flag) : The open palm is held facing upwards, the four fingers and thumb held all close together. It is used at the beginning of a dance, and to denote clouds, a forest, things, bosom, might, peace, a river, heaven, prowess, moonlight, strength, sunlight, wave, entry, silence, an oath, the sea, sword and a palm leaf.

TRI-PATAKA (There Parts of the Flag) : The palm faces outwards. The thumb and first, second and little fingers are kept straight. The third finger is bent into the palm. It is used to express the holding of a trident, turning round, crown, tree, flower, light, arrow, invocation, book, stroking the hair, lamp etc.

ARDHA-PATAKA (Half Flag) : the hand is rested with the palm facing outwards. The thumb, first and second fingers are extended straight, the third and little fingers, are bent into the palm. It is used to express two or both, knife, a horn, a tower, etc.

KATARI MUKHA (Face of the Arrow Shaft) : The hand is raised with the palm facing outwards. The first and second fingers are extended straight up, the third finger is bent into the palm and the thumb is placed to touch the tip of the finger. It is used to express opposition, disagreement, falling separation (of lover), a creeper, yearning, buffalo, deer, fly, hill-top and elephant.
MAYURA (Peacock) : The hand is raised with the palm upwards. The first, second and little fingers are extended straight, the third finger is bent to touch it at the tip. It is used to express the peacock’s beak, wiping away something, wiping away tears, stroking the hair, the forehead mark, etc.

ARDHA-CHANDRA (Half Moon) : The palm faces upwards slightly. The four fingers are stretched together and the thumb is stretched to its fullest away from the rest of the fingers. It is used to express the moon (on the eighth day), anxiety, prayer, greeting, meditation, bangle, wrist, mirror, ear of an elephant and bow.

ARALA (Bent) : The palm is raised to face outwards. The second, third and little fingers are stretched straight, the finger crooked or curved and the thumb a little bent beside it and almost touching the tip of the finger. It is used to express nectar, drinking poison, benediction, dressing the hair, decorating the face, etc.

SUKUTANDA (Parrots’s beak) : The palm is raised facing outwards. The second and little fingers are stretched, and the third and the first fingers are curved forward, while the thumb is bent a little beside them. It is used to express the sense of shooting an arrow, mystery, anger, Brahma – the Creator, fighting, bow, abandonment and refusal.

MUSHTI (First) : It depicts the four fingers bent into the palm and the thumb set on them. It is used to express steadfastness, holding or grasping things, stronghold, holding a book, holding a shield or spear, order imprisonment, Yama (the God of Death), etc. 

SIKHARA (Spire) : The palm is raised outwards. The four fingers are bent into the palm, and thumb is extended straight out. It is used to express silence, questioning, sound of a bell, pillar, husband, saying no, embrace, steadfastness, hero, friend, sapphire and intensity.

KAPITHA (Elephant Apple) :  The palm is raised outwards. The second, third and the little fingers are bent into the palm and the first fingers is bent forward; the cymbals, holding flower, holding a rope, offering lights, Lakshmi, Saraswati, milk, showing a dance, pounding seed and winding.

KATAKA MUKHA (Opening in a Link) :  The palm is raised outwards, The third and little fingers are extended and bent very slightly, the first finger and thumb curved forward to touch at the tips, and the second finger bent to touch the base of the thumb. It is used to express the picking of the flowers, holding a pearl necklace, holding a garland, flowers, giving betel leaves, applying scent, drawing a bow slowly, glancing, holding a mirror, breaking a twig, holding a fan, etc.

SUCHI (Needle) : The palm is raised outwards. The third and little fingers are extended and bent very slightly, the first finger stretched straight, and the second finger bent to the tip of the thumb and the thumb bent a little forwards. It is used to express the saying of ‘this or that’, threatening, astonishment, explaining, rod, braid of hair, umbrella, beating the drum, life, solitude, lotus stalk, etc.

CHANDRA KALA (Digit of the Moon) :  The palm is raised facing outwards. The second, third and the little fingers are bent forward parallel to the palm, and the first finger and the thumb are stretched apart and extended straight. It is used to express the crescent moon, the face and the crown of Lord Shiva.

PADMAKOSA (Lotus Bud) : The palm is hollowed and faced outwards. The four fingers are bent apart a little, and the thumb moved in towards the bent fingers. It is used to express the idea of frisking about, fruit, mango flower, lotus bud, water lily, curve, bud, cluster of flowers, bellshaped, brilliance, charm, coconut and blossoming of a bud.

SARPA SIRSA (Snake Head) :  The palm is hollowed, slightly, raised and faced outwards. The fingers and the thumb are closed together, extended and bent a little at the top. It is used to express a snake, sandal paste, sprinkling, cherishing, giving water to the Gods, washing the face; short man, shoulders, images, water and very true.

MRIGA SIRSA (Deer head) : The palm is raised facing outwards. The little finger is extended straight, the three other fingers are bent parallel to the base of the palm, and the thumb tip touches the centre of the first finger. It is used to express fear, the face of a deer, discussion, drawing lines on the brow, cheek, patterns on the ground, calling the beloved, applying sandal paste and order.

SIMHA MUKHA (Lion Head) : The face is raised facing outwards. The first and the little fingers are straight; the second and the third fingers are bent parallel to the palm, and the thumb touches the tips. It is used to express a lion’s head, a lotus garland, stroking the hair, fragrance, appeal, hare and elephant.

LANGULA (Tail) : The palm is raised facing outwards, extended straight. The first and second fingers are bent parallel to the palm, and the thumb is bent to touch the first joints of these fingers; and the little finger is bent to touch the first joint of thumb. It is used to express water, water lily, little bells, partridge, grapes, seed, blue lotus, coral and anything small.

SOLA PADMA (Full-blown Lotus) :  The palm is faced upward and hollowed. All the fingers and the thumb are spread out and bent to form a petalled circle. It is used to express the idea of a full-blown lotus, the hair-knot, anger, praise, full moon, a round face, a ball, beauty, etc.

CATURA (Semi-circle) :  The palm is faced outwards and hollowed. The first second and third fingers and the thumb are bent like a hooded snake, and the little finger is extended straight. It is used to express the sense of sorrow, playful, converse, copper, sweetness, face, breaking, etc.

BHRAMARA (The Bee) :  The palm is very slightly hollowed, and the third and little fingers are separated and bent a little. The second finger is bent parallel to the base of the palm, and the thumb bent to touch the tip of the second finger. The first finger is bent to touch the first joint of the thumb. It is used to express the bee, parrot, cuckoo and wing.

HAMSASYA (Swan Face) :  The palm is raised facing outwards and very slightly hollowed. The little finger is extended straight. The third finger is also extended but bent very slightly, and the first and the second fingers are bent forward to touch the thumb at the tips. It is used to express swan’s beak, tying the marriage thread, certainty, drop of water, carrying garlands and a jasmine.

HAMSA PAKSHA (Swan Feather) :  The palm is raised facing outwards and very slightly hollowed. The little finger is extended straight, and the other three fingers are bent a little forward, while the thumb bends over to touch the centre of the second finger underneath. It is used to express the number six, arranging things, a covering and feathers.

SAMDAMSA (Grasping) : The palm is raised facing outwards. The first finger is bent down to touch the thumb at the tip, and the other three fingers are extended forward and very slightly bent at the joints. It is used to express generosity, sacrificial offering, worship, the number five, small bud, gentle dance, sprout, blades of grass, eclipse, fly, garland, pointing, snow, etc.

MUKULA (Bud) :  The palm is raised facing outwards. The four fingers are ben forward together, and the thumb is bent to touch the tips of the fingers. It is used to express water lily, eating, banana flower, prayer, lotus bud, life, self, worship and fruit.

TAMRA CUDA (Cock) : The palm is raised facing outwards. The third and the little fingers are bent into the palm. The first finger is bent and touches its own base, the second finger is bent forward, and the thumb goes to touch it at the first joint. It is used to express a cock, writing or drawing, camel, calf, the number three, Vedas, a leaf, etc.

TRISULA (Trident) :  The palm is raised facing outwards. The first, second and third fingers are extended straight, and the little finger is bent into the palm, with the thumb folded into the edge of the palm, and straight against the first finger. It is used to express the trident, three together, wood-apple, a leaf, etc.

URNABHA (Spider) :  The palm is raised facing downwards and hollowed. All the fingers are spread out and bent and the thumb is bent also. It is used to express scratching the head, head of a lion, tortoise, desperation and a spider.

BANA (Arrow) : The palm faces upwards and is slightly hollowed. The little finger is extended; the three other fingers are bent to touch the thumb at finger tips. It is used to express the number six, contentment and perseverance.

ARDHA-SUCHI (Half-needle) : The palm is raised outwards. The second, third and the little fingers are bent into the palm. The first finger is extended and the thumb is held close to the edge of the palm, up to the first finger. It is used to express the idea of something coming up, sprouting, a bird, a blade of grass, and a stalk of corn.

The dance, after studying the single hand gestures, goes on to the study of the combinations of these, wherein both the hands are used. There are twenty-seven such combinations as taken from the Sanskrit treatise. No doubt, some schools of dance have further elaborated on these fundamental combinations and permutations to make the language of signs even more comprehensive.

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