Derived from Hastalakshnadeepika, the Hasta mudras in Mohiniyattam plays the most important role in angika abhinaya

Mudras have deeper meanings and aesthetic significance across cultures, traditions and art forms. In the last article, we discussed the origin of intricate hand gestures(hasta mudras) in dance and theatre tradition. Here we are discussing how they are used in Mohiniyattam.

In Mohiniyattam, one can observe a few mudras that are used as shuddha nrutta hasta/mudra. These 10 mudra or hand gestures are mentioned among the 24 mudras in Hastalakshanadeepika.  


As seen in the picture, the mudra should be held one span away from the chest and the elbows should be held upright


The Ardha Chandra Mudra intensifies the elegance of the movement thus increasing the overall beauty of Shudha Nrutha. It is used commonly in many adavu-s.

Ardhachandra on left hand and Tripataka on right hand


The most striking feature of this mudra is its tendency to add unique grace to movements. This is especially observed in the ‘dola’ position. The Tripataka hasta is used in ‘dola’ position. The ‘dola’ position is common stand used in Indian dance in general and Mohiniyattam in particular. The Tripataka hasta completes the look of adavus with its clean lines. The oldest idol that was discovered in Mohan-Jo-Daro “(the dancing girl) also holds the same ‘dola’ in Tripataka hasta position.


Mushti adavu that begins with the Mushti is seen in the picture. This particular adavu is in the ‘THA’Ganam category and its chollu is ‘Thi Tha Thi Thi’


Vardhamanakam can be mostly observed in the Chari movements.

Shuddha nrutta adds great elegance and beauty to the movements. The above Mudra adds a unique flavour to Mohiniyattam. In Mohiniyattam’s Shuddha Nrutta, one can observe two ways of using gestures. Either both hands could be used to portray same mudra or one can also use a different Mudra on each hand simultaneously.

Artists: Sandra Pisharody and Keiko Okana

Photo Courtesy: Natanakairali Archives

Assisted by Sreekanth Janardhanan

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Nirmala Paniker

Guru Nirmala Paniker is a danseuse, choreographer and researcher of repute. She established Natanakaisiki, the dance research and training wing of Natanakairali.

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