Mudra - les gestes des mains

Les gestes dans la danse indienne

In Indian dance, every hand gesture has a symbolic value and a precise meaning.

These gestures are called 'mudra', Sanskrit word (language of the old Hindu texts) meaning "sign" or "seal". The ancient instruments used to seal (rings, stamps) were called mudras.

According to the Tantric school, the term 'mudra' comes from the Sanskrit word "mud", which means "happiness", "pleasure", to which is added "dru", which means "highlight". The mudra is therefore the attitude that brings happiness, thanks to the mudras' divine powers, which put the human being in resonance with the divine.

Practiced in all ages, religions, cultures, mudras are specific actions by which we express, consciously or unconsciously, states of mind, emotions, intentions.

The most ancient mudras are to be found in the caves of Ajanta and in the sculptures of Khajuraho. The first documents that describe mudras are The Book of Mantras (Mantra Shastra), The book of invocations and prayers (Upasana Shastra) and The Book of classical dances and the Bhagavad Gita.

Originally, mudras are sacred gestures used by yogis and priests of the Vedic period, which would have accompanied their sacred recitations of these hand gestures. Mudras are related to different spiritual practices and religions: Vedism, but also Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga ...

In Hinduism and Buddhism, mudra specifies a symbolic gesture used by priests during religious rituals, performed through specific bodily postures, with certain parts of the body, especially with the hands. The different arm postures which may be associated with mudras are called "hastas."

In iconographic representations (painting, sculpture), Mudra is a codified and symbolic position of the hands which expresses the nature and the function of the deities. In Buddhist art, the Mudras of Buddha are Abhaya mudra (protection, grace), Varada mudra (fulfillment, generosity), Gyan mudra (the gesture which specifies the argumentation or the instruction).

In yoga, mudra is a static posture aiming to favour mental stillness during meditation: Maha Mudra (the whole body is fixed), or a single portion, typically the hands: Jnana mudra. Mudras are used as a therapy in order to remediate deficiencies and diseases. The power of a mudra is given by its subtle energetic effect. Mudras associated with chakras (energy centers located along the spine) generate positive energy in the human being, harmonize and equilibrate the yin and yang energies, facilitate the flow of the vital spirit Prana.

In Ayurveda (ancient Indian medicine “science of life”), each finger of the hand corresponds to a chakra and to one of the five elements. Agni (fire) corresponds to the thumb, vayu (air) to the index, akasha (ether) to the middle finger, prithvi (earth) to the ring finger and jala (water) to the little finger. The right hand represents the sun and the left hand represents the moon.

In Indian classical dance, mudras are single hand gestures or double hand gestures, that can be meaningful or simply aesthetic. They also accompany a wider bodily expression (the body mouvements ) that will give full meaning to the dance. Indian dance does not reproduce the natural movements of the body, it transforms all gestures using a new language, a technical and aesthetic system. Even when a domestic gesture is reproduced, it is executed in a stylized way, integrated into the rhythm and beauty of dance. The dance has a ritual, supernatural and divine dimension. Gestures are marked, well-defined and identifiable one by one, but they follow a fluidity that seems spontaneous.

Each mudra covers a very large number of meanings (Viniyoga) depending on the context and how it is executed. Mudras can represent people, objects, animals, or gods as well as feelings, actions or abstract concepts. The face plays a very important role: the eyes always follow the hand.

Indian dancers use 32 single hand gestures, called Asamyukta Hasta (hands not joined), which can be executed with the right hand, the left hand or both hands simultaneously (non-united), as well as 24 double hand gestures called Samyukta Hasta (joined hands, each hand with the same gesture) and 68 combined hand gestures, calles Mishra Hasta (different gestures with each hand).

ASAMYUTA HASTA (single hand gestures) SAMYUTA HASTA (double hand gestures)

Date de dernière mise à jour : 05/07/2021