Indian Classical dance is a result of a continuous evolution through hundreds of years, metamorphosing itself with the times, the generations, the kingdoms that supported its growth and dedicated families of dancers who spent their whole life in learning, researching and most importantly documenting this knowledge. As this started being handed down to future generations it only grew further, branching out and reaching more people, drawing in connoisseurs from all walks of life, roping in students who wanted to help build this legacy further and make it what it is today.

Among the many facets to it, most classical dances like Kathak use multiple gestures to create a performance. They use different gestures to express the core of the story through facial expressions, body movements and through the use of the hands and fingers.

The meaning of mudra (gesture) in Sanskrit is mudam anandang rati dadati (‘that which gives ultimate joy’). A Mudra is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist iconography, performing arts, and spiritual practice, including yoga, dance, drama and tantra. Hand mudras (hasta mudra) are an important of Kathak and many other Indian classical dances. It makes the story easy to understand, when the performer uses appropriate mudras to communicate and express to the audience.

According to the Bharat Natya Shastra, there are 64 hand Mudras and according to Abhinaya Darpan, there are 55 Hand Mudras. The latter very beautifully explains how the dancer expresses oneself through Kathak. As you render a song by singing it, you express the meaning of the song through hand gestures, use your eyes to stir into it the blend of emotions and keep track of the time with your feet.

Broadly speaking there are two main categories under which all the mudras can be segregated.
Asanyukt Hast Mudra – is the mudra that can make by using one hand.
Sanyukt Hast Mudra – is the mudra that can make by using both the hands.

Understanding the hasta mudras and executing them correctly is a part of building yourself as a powerful performer. Each finger in our hand also plays an important role in reciting the story of dance. Our fingers are named as follows

TARJANI: Fore Finger
MADHYUMA: Middle Finger
ANAMIKA: Ring Finger
KANISHTHA: Little Finger

The application of mudras to invoke emotions, nature and reality is not limited to dance. In fact, mudras cross the boundary of dance and enter the world of abhinaya (acting), where they perform crucial symbolic, interpretative and poetic functions.