A mudra is a bodily posture or symbolic gesture. The
use of the mudras is quite common in the Hindu Poojas, Tantric
worships, Yoga and also in Classical Indian dances. In Hindu
iconography, the deities are often depicted with their hands making
various mudras. Various deities have several specific mudras which are
associated with them.
In Hindu and Buddhist iconography every representation of Buddha or a
Vedic deity is depicted with a characteristic gesture of the hands.
The origins of the word mudra are uncertain as is the precise evolution
of its meaning. At a very early period in the post-Vedic literature of
India the term mudra designated the idea of a seal or the imprint left
by a seal. Somewhat later usage takes on the meaning of “way of holding
the fingers”, designating a ritual gesture and marks of identity of a deity.
The gesture is a sign, a ritual seal. Seal implies symbolism of
authenticity, power, date, season, year, nakshatra, zodiacal sign, phase of the Moon or other planet.
HINDU THEATRICAL SYMBOLISM
Along with karanas (body positions), mimics (face expressions reflecting the state of spirit, different feelings such as love, anger, calmness, enlightenment etc.) and poetical mantras (reflecting the flow of thought) mudras
help in symbolical expressing different objects, including astronomical
phenomena. Apart from acknowledging purely theatrical and esthetic
aspect of mudras we emphasize the importance of astronomical context in
Vedic calendrical ritual and liturgy or sacred therter.
In Yoga metaphysical symbolism each finger represents one of the five
elements—the thumb is agni (fire), the forefinger is vayu (air), the
middle finger is akash (ether), the ring finger is prithvi (earth) and
the little finger is jal (water).
There are two types of mudras, single-hand and double-hand. The single-handed mudras number 28 and are called Asamyukta Hastas.
There are 24 double-handed mudras (Samyukta Hastas) symbolizing every half-month in a Luanar Year.
Apart from calendrical meaning, each gesture has its own bundle of specific meanings and uses (Viniyogas).
To download the mp3 Sanskrit shloka file listing all samyukta hastas, right click here and save to your computer.
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