by Ananda Coomaraswamy | 1917 | 16,981 words | ISBN-13: 9788121500210
This is the English translation of the Abhinaya-darpana by Nandikeshvara: an encyclopedic manual of the art of gesticulation. It belongs to a wide range of literature known as Natya-shastra: the ancient Indian art of dramatic performance, theatrics, dance and music. The Abhinaya Darpana is an abridgement of the Bharatarnava, a much larger exposit...
The Classification of Hands (hasta bheda).—The characteristics of the Hands will be set forth in order. There are two kinds, the Single (asamyutta) and the combined (samyutta).
There are twenty-eight Single Hands as follows:
- (Padma-) Kośa,
Three additional single hands are mentioned (at the bottom of the chapter):
Patāka (flag): the thumb bent to touch the fingers, and the fingers extended. Usage: beginning a dance, cloud, forest, forbidding things, bosom, night, river, world of the gods, horse, cutting, wind, reclining, walking, prowess, graciousness, moonlight, strong sunlight, knocking, meaning of the seven cases, wave, entering a street, equality, applying sandal paste, one’s self, taking an oath, silence, benediction, a good king, palmyra leaf, slap, touching, saying “Such and such”, the sea, the way of good deeds, addressing (a person some distance away), going in front, the form of a sword, month, year, rainy season, day, sprinkling water.
According to another book, the thumb is bent against the base of the forefinger and the palm and fingers extended. When Brahmā, the Shaper, went to Parabrahmā, as he saluted him with the cry of “Victory!” he held his hand like a flag, since when it has been called the “flag hand”. It is the first of all hands, it originates from Brahmā, its colour is white, its sage Siva, its race Brāhmaṇa, its patron deity Parabrahmā. Usage: saying “Victory, victory!”, clouds, forbidding things, forest, night, saying “Go!”, going, conveyance, wind, chest, front, merit (puṇya), preeminence, flow, abode of the wise, crying “Ha! ha!”, moonlight, sunlight, abode of the gods, removal of hindrance, wall, cutting, pleasing others, cheek, applying sandal paste, mustering an army, boundary, removing fear, having no refuge, decrease, covering, reclining, the earth, flame, pouring rain, wave, wings of a bird, petitioning a king, saying “Thus”, eye, saying “Like what?” and “Like that”, slap, touching, lake, massage, closing a dispute, strong wind, end of the robe (añcala), cold, heat, radiance, shadow, ear, season, half-year, day, fortnight, month, purity, high birth, approach, saying “Protect”, or “Caress”, Brāhmaṇa caste, pure colour. (Plate X a.).
Tripatāka (three parts of the flag): the third finger of the Patāka hand is bent. Usage: a crown, tree, vajra weapon, the bearer of the vajra (Indra), screw-pine flower, light, rising flames, cheek, patterns drawn on the face or body (patra - lekhā), arrow, turning round, union of woman and man.
According to another book: same definition. It is so called since Śakra (Indra) and others held the vajra weapon with three parts of the “flag”, leaving out the third finger. Its colour is red, it is of Kṣattriya race, its sage is Guha, its patron deity Siva. Usage: invocation, descent (avataraṇa), lifting or bending down the face, touching auspicious things, hook, site (khala), disrespect, doubt, crown, tree, Vāsava (Indra), vajra, stroking the hair, lamp, marking the brow-spot, tying a turban, applying strong scents, closing the nose or ears, rubbing-down a horse, arrow, screw-pine flower, patterns drawn on the face or body, the flight of certain birds, tongues of flame, Kṣattriya caste, red colour. (Plates VII B, XII A.)
Ardha-patāka (half-flag): the little finger of the Tripatāka hand is also bent. Usage: tender shoots (pallava), panel for writing or drawing (phalaka), bank of a river, dagger (krakaca), knife, flag, tower (gopura), horn (sṛṅga), saying “Both.”
Kartarī-mukha (arrow shaft face): in the same hand, the forefinger and little finger are outspread. Usage: separation of woman and man, opposition or overturning, stealing, the corner of the eye, death, disagreement, lightning, sleeping alone, falling, a creeper.
According to another book: the forefinger of the Tripatāka hand is out(-spread). Once upon a time, the sages say, Śaśāṅka-śekhara (Śiva), set out to slay Jaḍandhara; he drew a circle round the centre of the earth with his forefinger, and that is the origin of the Kartarī-mukha hand. It originates from Siva, its sage is Parjaniya, its race Kṣattriya, its colour coppery, its patron deity Cakrapāṇi (Viṣṇu). Usage: red paint for the feet (padālaktaka), drawing patterns on the body, yearning of separated husband and wife, overturning or opposition, Mādhava, lightning, sleeping alone, buffalo, deer, fly-whisk, hill-top, elephant, bull, cow, thick coil of hair, Kṣattriya caste, copper colour, scissors, tower. (Plates VII d, XI c.)
Mayura (peacock): the third linger of the Kartarī-mukha hand is joined to the thumb, the other fingers extended. Usage: the peacock’s beak, a creeper, bird of omen (śakuna), vomiting, forehead, stroking the hair, forehead, brow-spot, wiping away tears, argument according to law (śāstra), renown.
Ardha-candra (half-moon): the thumb of the Patāka hand is stretched out. Usage: the moon on the eighth day of the dark fortnight, a hand seizing the throat, a spear, consecrating an image, a platter, origin, waist, anxiety, one’s self, meditation, prayer, touching the limbs, greeting common people.
According to another book: same definition. This hand originates from the desire of Siva for ornaments, of which the moon is one. Its sage is Atri, its race Vaiṣya, its colour smoky, its patron deity Mahādeva. Usage: bangle, wrist, mirror, astonishment, effort, intemperance, entirety, beating time, tying up the hair, supporting the cheek in grief, the ear of an elephant, expelling evil-doers, wiping sweat from the brow, adolescence, ability, moon, greeting common people, consecration, eyebrow, cloth, bow, preëminence, tightening the girdle, making a vessel, the body, movement of the feet, carrying a child, the back, white colour, Vaiṣya caste. (Plate X b.)
Arāla (bent): the first finger of the Patāka hand is curved. Usage: drinking poison, nectar, etc., or sharp acid.
According to another book: the thumb and forefinger of the Patāka hand are curved. It was first used by Agastya in drinking (āpośanam kṛte) the seven seas. Its colour is red, its race mixed, its patron deity Vāsudeva—such is its history according to Bharata and others. Usage: the sipping of water (āpośana) by Brāhmaṇas, benediction, the aversion of a parasite (viṭā) for his friend, dressing the hair, saying “Come soon!”, circumambulation at morning and evening prayer, wiping sweat from the brow, putting collyrium on the eyes, etc.
According to another book: same definition. It originates from Pārvatī, who used it in a lover’s quarrel with Sadāśiva. Its sage is Dhruvasa, its race Brāhmaṇa, its colour red, its patron deity Mārici. Usage: Brahmā-weapon, nose (mukhāgra), curve, turning round, javelin, proceeding, fighting, crossing, disrespect, lovers’ quarrel, opinion, abandonment, dice, throwing a spear, ferocity, secrecy, copper colour, Brāhmaṇa caste. (Plate X F.)
Muṣṭi (fist): the four fingers are bent into the palm, and the thumb set on them. Usage: steadiness, grasping the hair, holding things, wrestling.
According to another book: the thumb placed on the middle finger, and the fingers closed. It originates from Viṣṇu, who used this hand when he fought with Madhu. Its sage is Indra, colour indigo, race Śūdra, patron deity the moon. Usage: grasping, waist, fruit, agreement, saying “Very well”, sacrificial offerings, greeting common people, carrying away, strong hold, holding a book, running, lightness, wrestling, holding a shield, holding the hair, fisticuffs, grasping a mace or spear, indigo colour, Śūdra caste. (Plate X c.)
Śikhara (spire): in the same hand, the thumb is raised. Usage: the God of Love (Madan), bow, pillar, silence, husband, tooth, entering, questioning, the body, saying “No!”, recollection, intimate suggestion (abhinayāntara), untying the girdle, embrace, lover, letting fly śakti and tomara weapons, sound of a bell, pounding.
According to another book: same definition. It originates from Candraśekhara (Śiva), when he held Mt. Meru as his bow. It originates from that Meru-bow, its sage is Jihna, its race Gandharva, its colour dusky, the God of Love (Rati vallabha) its patron deity. Usage: gratifying the ancestors, steadiness,
establishing a family, hero, spire, friend, cleaning the teeth with to and fro movement, plying a palmyra fan, difference, saying “What?”, drinking water from a spouted vessel (bhṛṅgāra), the number four, letting fly śakti or tomara weapons, enjoying consequences, demure attitude of an amorous girl, bashfulness, bow, the God of Love (Smara), saying “No! ”, charity, permanent mood (sthayi bhāva), Vināyaka, Mahiṣa-mardinī, heroism, galloping of a horse, half-moon, brow-spot, etc., making the sign of the hair-knot, sapphire, intensity. (Plates X d, XII d, XV c.)
Kapittha (elephant-apple): the forefinger of the Śikhara hand is bent over the top of the thumb. Usage: Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī, winding, holding cymbals, milking cows, collyrium, holding flowers at the time of dalliance, grasping the end of the robe (celāñcala), veiling the head with the añcala, offering incense or lights, etc.
According to another book: same definition. Long ago when the Churning of the Ocean was done, Viṣṇu used this hand to pull upon Mt. Mandara. Its sage is Nārada, its race Ṛṣi, its colour white, its patron deity Padmagarbha (Viṣṇu). Usage: churning, Lakṣmī, offering incense or lights, etc., spreading cowries, holding elephant goad or vajra, or a sling, or cymbals, showing a dance (nāṭya), holding a lotus of dalliance (lilābja dhāraṇa), counting Sarasvatī’s rosary, pounding barley etc., seizing the end of the robe (celāñcala), Ṛṣi caste, white colour.
Kaṭaka-mukha (opening in a link): the forefinger and middle finger are applied to the thumb. Usage: picking flowers, holding a pearl necklace or garland of flowers, drawing a bow slowly, distributing folded betel leaves, applying such things as musk or scent, speech, glancing.
According to another book: the thumb of the Kapittha hand is thrown forward. This hand originated when Guha received instruction in archery from Siva. Its sage is Bhārgava, its colour coppery, its race Deva, its presiding deity Raghurāma. Usage: holding a pearl or flower garland or a fly-whisk, drawing out an arrow, holding out a mirror, reins, conveyance, breaking a twig, cleaning the teeth, picking flowers, distributing folded betel leaves, applying musk, embrace of harlots, drawing the bow, holding the discus, holding a fan, gold colour, Deva caste. (Plate XI A.)
Sūci (needle): the forefinger of the Kaṭaka-mukha hand is upraised. Usage: one, Parabrahmā, demonstration, one hundred, sun, city, world, saying “Thus”, or “What?”, “He”, fan, threatening, pining away, rod, the body, astonishment, braid of hair, umbrella, capability, down (roma), beating the drum, turning the potter's wheel, wheel, circle, explanation, evening.
According to another book: same definition. It originates from Brahmā, when he said “I am unique.” Its sage is the sun, its race Deva, its colour white, its patron deity Viśvakarmā. Usage: boastings, truth-telling, pointing to a distant country, life, going in front, one, the twilights, solitude, lotus stalk, saying “Sädhu”, looking at things, saying “Thus”, world, Parabrahmā, unity, rod, turning a wheel, sun, sunrise and sunset, arrow, secret, hero (nāyaka), śilī-mukha arrow, saying “What?”, saying “He”, metal, handle, threatening, addressing inferiors, listening, yearning for the beloved, recollection, nose, beak, white colour, vision. (Plate XIII a.)
Candra-kalā (digit of the moon): the thumb of the Sūci hand is released. Usage: to indicate the crescent moon (Plate XIV a).
Padmakośa (lotus bud): the fingers separated and a little bent, the palm a little hollowed. Usage: fruit, wood-apple, elephant-apple, etc., breast, curve, ball of flowers, light food, bud, mango, rain of flowers, cluster of flowers, the japa -flower, the shape of a bell, the hole of a snake, a water-lily, an egg.
According to another book: the hand is like a perfect white lotus. Nārāyaṇa used this hand when worshipping Siva with lotus flowers to obtain the discus. Its sage is Padmadhara, its race Yakṣa, and it also partakes of the Kinnara kind, its presiding deity is Bhārgava. Usage: trunk of an elephant, brilliance, vessel of gold or silver, coil of hair, moderation, charm, saying “Sādhu”, bell, ball of flowers, lotus, hole of a snake, etc., curve, breast, coconut, mango, karṇīkāra, mirror, bending a bough, rain of flowers, pot, egg, opening (of a flower), wood-apple, elephant-apple. (Plate XId.)
Sarpa-śīrṣa (snake-head): the middle of the Patāka hand is hollowed. Usage: sandal-paste, snake, slowness, sprinkling, cherishing, etc., giving water to gods and sages, the flapping of elephants’ ears, massage of wrestlers.
According to another book: same definition. This hand is derived from Viṣṇu, who showed it when he offered to protect the Devas against Bali, and promised to put him down. Its sage is Vāsava (Indra), its colour turmeric, its race Deva, its patron deity Śiva. Usage: rouge (kuṅkuma), mud, prāṇāyama, washing the face, occasion of charity, sandal paste, elephant, a short man, massage of wrestler’s shoulders, fondling, milk, water, saffron, bashfulness, concealing a child, image, drinking water, clinging (līna), saying “Very true”, Brāhmaṇa caste, turmeric colour, saying “It is proper”, answering, sprinkling sandal powder, applying sandal paste, etc., holding the breasts, etc. of women.
Mṛga-śīrṣa (deer-head): in the above hand, the thumb and little finger are extended. Usage: women, cheek, traditional manners (krama-maryāda), fear, discussion, costume of an actor (naipathya), place of residence, tête-à-tête, drawing three lines on the brow, patterns on the ground, massage of the feet, combining, house, holding an umbrella, stair, placing the feet, calling the beloved, roaming.
According to another book: the thumb and little finger are raised. It springs from Gaurī, who used the Mṛga-śīrsa hand to draw three fines on her forehead when practising tapas for the sake of Śiva. Its race is Ṛṣi, its sage is Mārkaṇḍeya, its colour white, its presiding deity Maheśvara. Usage: wall, deliberation, opportunity, place of residence, Padminī, Śaṅkhinī or Hastinī woman, slowness, applying sandal paste etc., gestures (abhinaya) of women, screen, stair, self-manifestation, order, having three lines drawn on the brow, consideration (vitarka), deer-face, indicating one’s self, the body, Ṛṣi caste, white colour.
Siṃha-mukha (lion-face): the tips of the middle and third fingers are applied to the thumb, the rest extended. Usage: coral, pearl, fragrance, stroking the hair, a drop of water, salvation (mokṣa) when placed on the heart, homa, hare, elephant, waving kuśa grass, lotus garland, lion-face, testing the preparation of medicine. (Plates XIIb, XIIIa.)
According to another book: the thumb, middle and forefinger held like the eye of a coconut, the third finger bent, and the little finger erect. It is derived from Siva when he made a pellet of the poison that sprang from the sea of milk. Its sage is Krauñca, its race Siddha, its colour golden, its patron deity Padma. Usage: grapes, rudrākṣa seeds, holding the chin, breast-bud (kuca-praroha), areca-nut, bells, blue lotus, fruit, coral, a mouthful, asterism (nakṣatra), jujube fruit, circle, partridge, cātaka, anything small, hailstone, Siddha caste, myrobalan fruit, gold.
Sola-padma (full-blown lotus) (= Ala-padma): all the fingers separated, turned about the little finger. Usage: full-blown lotus, elephant-apple etc., turning, breast, yearning for the beloved, mirror, full-moon, a beautiful vessel, hair-knot, moon-pavilion (candra-śālā), village, height, anger, lake, car, cakra-vāka (bird), murmuring sound, praise.
According to another book: it is the Ala-pallava hand when there is turning. It originates from Srī Krishna, when he was stealing butter and milk. Its sage is Vasanta, its race Gandharva, its colour dusky, its patron deity the Sun. Usage: fresh ghī, yearning for the beloved, head, sweetmeat, full-blown lotus, cluster of flowers, crown, ball, praises, beauty of form, dancing (naṛṭana), fort, palace, braided hair, moon-pavilion, sweetness, saying “Sādhu”, palmyra fruit. (Plate XII c.)
Catura: the thumb is bent to touch the base of the third finger, the first and adjoining fingers outstretched together, and the little finger extended (separately). Usage: musk, a little, gold, copper etc., wet, sorrow, aesthetic emotion (rasāsvāda), eyes, difference of caste, oath, playful converse (sarasa), slow-stepping, breaking to pieces, seat (āsana), oil or ghī, etc.
According to another book: in the Patāka hand, the thumb is made to touch the middle line of the third finger, and the little finger is stretched out. It originates from Kaśyapa, who used this hand to show the way to Garuḍa when he wished to steal the nectar. Its sage is Valakhilya, its colour variegated, its race mixed, its patron deity Vainateya. Usage: gorocana, dust, playful converse, red paint (laktaka), concentration of mind (or attention), camphor, eye, chin, earring, face, brow, side glance, beloved, policy, musk, sugar, honey, oil, ghī, cleverness, mirror, gold, diamond, emerald, sufficiency, a little, a moderate quantity of anything, indigo, white colour, mixed caste, sword, cheek, tip of the ear.
According to another book: the forefinger of the Haṃsāsya hand is bent. It originates from Kaśyapa when he was making earrings for the mother of the Devas. Its sage is Kapila, its colour dark, its race Khacara, its patron deity the King of Flying Creatures (Garuḍa). Usage: union (yoga), vow of silence, horn, tusk of an elephant, picking flowers with long stalks, bee, uttering the karṇa-mantra, taking out a thorn, untying the girdle, adverbs of two letters, flying creatures, dark colour. (Plate X E.)
Haṃsāsya (swan-face): the middle and following fingers are separated and extended, the forefinger and thumb are joined. Usage: tying the marriage thread, initiation, certainty, horripilation, painting (citra-samlekhana), gad-fly, drop of water, raising the wick of a lamp, rubbing (metal on a touchstone), examining things, drawing fines, carrying garlands, signifying “Soham” (That am I), metaphor (rūpaka), saying “No!”, indicating things to be examined by rubbing, accomplishment of a task.
According to another book: the tips of the forefinger, middle finger and thumb are joined, the rest extended. This hand is derived from Dakṣiṇa-mūrti (Śiva), when he was teaching the Tattva system to the sages at the foot of the Nyagrodha tree. Its sage is Sukha, its colour white, its race mixed, its presiding deity Caturānana (Brahmā). Usage: instructing in wisdom, ritual (pūjā), demonstration of a thesis (nirṇaya), offering sesamum, speaking, reading, singing, meditation (dhyāna), demonstrating bhāva, applying wax, horripilation, pearl, gem, sound of the flute, gathering together (samyutta), smell, own self, drop of water, taking aim, seal-ring, kissing, Brāhmaṇa caste, white colour. (Plate VII c.)
Haṃsa-pakṣa (swan-feather): the little finger of the Sarpa-śīrṣa hand is extended. Usage: the number six, constructing a bridge, making marks with the nails, arranging.
According to another book: same definition. It is said to be associated with tāṇḍava dancing, and springs from Tāṇḍi. Its sage is Bharata, its colour indigo, its race Apsara, its patron deity the God of Love (Pañcasāyaka). Usage: constructing a bridge, restraining, gathering, feathers of a bird, completion, drawing a portrait (rūpa-lekhana), dusky colour, Apsara caste, and in Śubha-nāṭya.
According to another book: the middle finger of the Haṃsāsya hand is outstretched. This hand originates from the Goddess of Speech, when she bestowed a rosary. Its sage is Viśvavāsu, its race Vidhyādhara, its colour white, its patron deity Vālmīki. Usage: tooth, small bud, singing (saṃgīta), gentle dances (lāsya-naṭana), exegesis (ṭīka), jñāna-mudrā, scales, flaw in a tooth, sacred thread (yajñopamta), line, examining, painting pictures (citra-lekhana), truth, saying “No!”, saying “A little”, moment, listening, testing metals etc. on the touchstone (nikaṣa), shining white, taking aim, nail, sprout, guñja seed, the number eight, fire-fly, poison, blades of grass, red ants, mosquito, eclipse, collecting pearls, bug, fly, garland, down, pointing (sūcana), solitude, touching, Veda, snow, speaking, slipping, cutting off, a wound, brow-spot, collyrium, Vidyādhara caste, white colour, slowness.
Mukula (bud): the thumb and fingers are brought together so as to show their tips. Usage: water-lily (kumuda), eating, the God of Love (Pañcabāṇa), holding a seal, navel, plaintain flower.
According to another book: the fingers of the Padmakośa hand are brought together. It originates from the Scion of the Wind (Hanuman) when he attempted to seize the sun, mistaking it for a ripe bimba fruit. Its sage is Viśākhila, its race Saṅkīrṇa, its colour tawny, its patron deity the Moon. Usage: charity (dāna), prayer (japa), humble speech, eating, lotus bud, self (ātman), fife (prāṇa), the number five, behaviour of an amorous woman, kissing children, worshipping the gods, umbrella etc., bud, accepting fruits, mixed race, brown colour.
According to another text: the thumb and little finger of the Patāka hand are pressed together. Of old, when the Three Vedas assumed a visible form, and stood before Brahmā to make exposition of themselves, they used this hand. Its sage is Vajrāyudha (Indra), its colour mother of pearl, its race Deva, its patron deity Bṛhaspati. Usage: the Three Worlds, trident, the number three, wiping away tears, the Three Vedas, wood-apple leaf, rubbing down a horse, leaf, panel (phalaka), cock, Deva race, white colour.
Triśūla (trident): the thumb and little finger are bent. Usage: wood-apple leaf, three together.
Thus the Twenty-eight Hands are set forth. But it is said that there are as many hands as meanings.
According to another text (three others are mentioned, as follows):
Urṇa-nābha (spider): the fingers of the Padmakośa hand are bent. It originates from Narasiṃha when he was tearing the body of the Daitya (Hiraṇyakaśipu). Its sage is Sārdulaka, its race Kṣattriya, its colour blood-red, its patron deity the Primal Tortoise (Kurmāvatāra of Viṣṇu). Usage: scratching the head, theft, Narasiṃha, face of a deer, lion, monkey, tortoise, karṇikara, breast, fear, Kṣattriya caste, blood-red colour.
Ardha-sūcika (half-needle): the forefinger of the Kapittha hand is raised. Usage: sprout, young bird, etc., large insect.
Footnotes and references:
The Patāka hand is commonly seen in the abhaya mudrā of images, but is sometimes replaced by ardha-candra.
According to Dhanaṃjaya (“Daśarūpa”, I, 126) the Tripatāka hand is used in stage whispers (janāntika) to shut out the others when only one person is addressed out of several present on the stage, e. g. “Śakuntalā”, vi, 24.
A fuller description of the Kartarī-mukha hand is quoted by T. A. Gopinatha Rao, from an unnamed source, in “Hindu Iconography,” 1914, p. xxxi, where it is stated that it is used for holding attributes (cf. on Plate XI c) such as the conch and discus; and also that the thumb and third finger should meet near the middle of the palms. The hands of images conform to this rule in most cases, but not invariably. Most likely there exists some confusion of Kartarī-mukha and Mayura hands. Our figure shows the Kartarī-mukha hand according to the text description.
This hand often replaces the Patāka, e. g., in the Abhaya mudrā of Plates I,
The tip of the forefinger and the side of the middle finger are applied to the tip of the thumb, the third finger is bent beside the middle finger, and the little finger is also bent, but to a less degree. According to T. A. Gopinatha Rao, “Hindu Iconography,” Vol. I, pt. I, description of terms, p. 16, this hand (syn. Siṃha-karṇa) in images is generally intended to receive the daily offering of a fresh flower, and this is supported by the Ajaṇṭā usage.
This hand is also used in teaching and is known to some iconographers, perhaps incorrectly, as Vitarka mudrā.
To indicate prāṇāyama the sarpa śīṛṣa hand is held upon the bridge of the nose, precisely as in the daily ritual of regulated breathing.
In this case, exceptionally, the definition quoted “from other books” differs markedly from that of Nandikeśvara: this form of Saṃdaṃsa hand is identical with Nandikeśvara’s Haṃsāsya hand, and is quite distinct in form and significance from his Saṃdaṃsa.