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Mudra, the hand gestures

In the ancient treatises of sculpture and painting, the language of the body was recognized as a significant matter in expressing the inner thoughts of the character sculpted on the temple. A while ago, I discussed in this book the body language directed by that unknown author; however, some hand gestures used in ancient paintings and sculptures have identical value, just like the gestures of the human body. Those hand gestures were formulated primarily for Indian classical dance, and later, those art forms were used in sculptures similarly. In the cave paintings of Ajanta, I noticed the use of Mudras in the paintings of Lord Buddha and some other Buddhist mendicants to express various spiritual thoughts. Each gesture has a significant value and unique meaning that helps to understand the inner spirit of those creations. Indeed, without knowing those hand gestures, we might lose something special that will prevent us from relishing Indian sculptures widely later.


It is commonly believed that gestures, or mudras, are only made with the hands by forming different finger positions. However, it is essential to note that gestures can also be expressed through various body parts such as the mouth, eyes, lips, tongue, and legs during dance performances to convey different emotions. Nevertheless, hand gestures are more important than other gestures of the body parts.


Throughout history, dance and song have shown devotion to God, as seen in the ancient Vedic era. Lord Shiva, the deity of dance and music, was the first to unveil various musical tunes at the request of Narada, a devoted follower of Narayana. The mesmerizing music momentarily captivated the universe, causing it to halt. This exceptional event occurred in Rudraprayag, a small town in the Himalayan valley where Narada requested Lord Shiva to unveil the secrets of music.


Here, I would like to demonstrate some critical gestures with meanings and values.


Anjali Mudra
Lord Buddha in Anjali Mudra

Anjali Mudra is one of the most popular dance or yoga gestures. It involves drawing the palms together at the heart, showing the sculpture of Lord Buddha on the left side. This gesture is also used as a posture of prayer, and in India, it is commonly used to honor someone by saying ‘Namaste’ at the time of introduction or goodbye.

When in a temple, it is customary to perform a specific gesture to show respect to the deity. This gesture symbolizes the inner thought of bowing to the divinity within God, expressing one's sincere reverence.


Dhyana Mudra - The Dhyana Mudra gesture symbolizes the perfect harmony between the mind and soul. During meditation, one is wholly absorbed in the divine cosmic mantra "AUM." While it may seem easy to engage in this chant, it actually requires a lifetime of practice to hear it resonate throughout the vast universe.


Dhyana Mudra
Lord Buddha in Dhyana Mudra

In this concept, the right hand symbolizes enlightenment, while the left represents the illusory nature of existence. When the thumb tips of both hands are joined, it signifies the two physical channels of the human body, male and female. Although I will delve deeper into this topic in upcoming chapters, I must stress the importance of male and female dedication in bringing about the universe's existence. The mudra hand gesture briefly signifies this secret factor. The photo inserted on the right side is the demonstration of Dhyana Mudra. Lord Buddha meditates in this form.


Gyan Mudra - The term "Gyan" refers to wisdom. Utilizing the Gyan mudra supports concentration on a wandering mind. Bringing the tip of the index finger to the end of the thumb allows for gathering a concealed power at the ends of these two digits. The human body holds numerous

Gyan Mudra hand gesture
Gyan Mudra

hidden strengths that we unconsciously misuse, often without realizing it. According to Theosophy, God created us in his image, endowing us with these same secret powers. By slowly gaining control of the wandering mind through the consistent and patient practice of the Gyan mudra, we can access the power residing at our fingertips. However, achieving complete control may take a considerable amount of time. I experienced the truth of the above-stated fact once I was in the Himalayas for the long term. I got the chance to meet an ancient Hindu yogi who

described this gesture. He also helped me for a while to experience what actual concentration is and what would happen in that position. I performed the described gesture in padmasana, and after a few seconds, he touched my forehead. Suddenly, I felt as if everything around me vanished in one or two seconds, and even my physical sensations disappeared. Unfortunately, I cannot fully articulate this experience in writing. After a while, he touched my forehead again, and I returned to my original state. In conclusion, he stated, "You had reached the ultimate level of meditation through sheer willpower of mine, and that with lifelong practice, you can achieve this state again."


Padma Mudra hand gesture
Padma Mudra

Padma Mudra - Tied to the heart chakra, the Lotus Mudra is a symbol of purity that is said to help open the heart center.  This mudra, however, is mainly used in Indian classical dance, but the mudra has its spiritual significance. Still, I did not see this gesture in the sculptures of deities, but I noticed this gesture somewhere in the dancing model. Three middle fingers help catch the cosmic energy, and joining both thumbs and little fingers circulates to the entire body.

According to the teachings of sages, performing this Mudra helps alleviate tension and reminds us of the divine grace that resides within us.


Abhaya Mudra hand gesture
Abhaya Mudra

Abhaya Mudra - I came across a widely recognized mudra in Indian sculpture, Abhaya Mudra, frequently observed in statues of Hindu Gods and deities. This gesture symbolizes a blessing that alleviates the anxiety of our soul and reassures us to move forward confidently, without any confusion or fear. This mudra is commonly seen in sculptures of Lord Narayana and Shiva. In India, elders typically use this hand gesture while blessing young one, and monks also use it. Some goddesses utilize this gesture to bestow upon us delightful blessings. This gesture is a protective measure against negative energy and a calming influence on the mind, reducing anxiety and inner turmoil.


Prithvi Mudra hand gesture
Prithvi Mudra

Prithvi Mudra - The Prithvi Mudra is a hand gesture that helps balance the Earth element within the body. This mudra is often depicted in Hindu art, including paintings and sculptures of deities and even Lord Buddha, to symbolize the presence of Earth elements within the human body. According to Hindu theosophy doctrine, the five primary factors that form our world are soil, fire, water, wind, and sky (hollow space). These elements are believed to create our human body as well. The Prithvi Mudra signifies the deep connection between our body and the Earth's elements.  From a yogi's perspective, it helps to balance the different components inside of our body, and it also assists in keeping strength by avoiding alleviating fatigue. Having this mudra in a statue of God designated to us fosters self-confidence. 


The influence of nature on both our physical and mental well-being is well-known. As the seasons change, we become acutely aware of this impact, with each season distinctly affecting our minds. This is because the fundamental elements of our bodies are the same as those found on Earth. Our mental and physical states are closely intertwined, with feelings of sadness often leading to a loss of energy. It follows that the seasonal changes also impact our minds, as the first rain clouds fill us with delight, and we rush out to revel in the rain. The Earth seems to be working magic on us in ways we may not even realize.


I came across a treatise on Yoga that features numerous mudras. However, I have only demonstrated a few mudras in ancient paintings and sculptures. These gestures have specific meanings that highlight the character's attitude; when we replicate them, we can connect with them spiritually. We may even feel compelled to respond similarly. For instance, if we see a statue of Lord Shiva bearing the Abhaya Mudra gesture, it signifies that we can feel safe and secure in front of the effigy. This same perspective is also followed during the process of Hindu worship.


The ancient sages made a remarkable discovery by converting silent sculptures into a language. In Indian sculpture, the body's movements and hand gestures have specific meanings and forms that bring them to life. To communicate with these ancient characters, one needs both knowledge and sensitivity. This unique language can convey a wide range of emotions silently and also has a philosophical aspect influenced by Indian spiritualism and the practice of Yoga. This language is based on research on ancient yogis and is logically sound. With their specific mudras, the characters significantly impact the Indian soul, motivating it to take decisive action. These mudras are also featured prominently in Ajanta's cave paintings, symbolizing something special for the viewer.

















  



 


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