4 November 2020—Mudra Arpanam
Nrithyanveshka Natya Vidushi Dr. Chethana Radhakrishna. P. M. (Vidwath in Bharatanatyam, BAPA Dance-Music-Sanskrit, M.A.in Sanskrit, M.A. in Dance, Ph.D.), was the guest speaker at the Wednesday Webinar on 4 November 2020. A Bharatanatyam Lecturer at KSGH University for Music and Performing Arts, Mysuru, the founder of Gurudev Academy of Fine Arts, and an ever-learning artist, Chethana presented her Ph.D. thesis for which she was awarded Doctorate by Mysore University.
The speaker commenced by showing a beautifully bound copy of her thesis titled ‘A Comparative Study of Mudras According to Bharata’s Natyashastra and Some of the Ritualistic Traditions in India’. She explained her research questions, the primary texts the work referred to, the outcomes and findings, and the challenges faced as she worked towards its completion.
Having first established the premise that Bharatanatyam, like many other classical art forms, can be a means of enhancing spirituality and to uplift oneself to a higher level of consciousness, she spoke about the hand gestures called ‘hastas’ in Bharatanatyam and ‘mudras’ when used in rituals. She proposed that some of these mudras can be used not only in rituals but also in dance and proceeded to state reasons to substantiate that statement.
She explained that our hands influence the energy of our physical, emotional, and spiritual body. Knowledge of these ritualistic ‘mudras’ can add to the repertoire of students of classical dance—especially their skills in non-verbal communication, their understanding of the healing powers of ‘mudras’, and the beauty of their performance. The speaker emphasised that the use of mudras in Bharatanatyam can widen the horizon of the art form and bring a ritualistic dimension to the dance, along with enhancing its aesthetic value. She demonstrated a comparison of various ‘mudras’ and ‘hastas’ which depict the same concept or idea and how they both could be used in dance.
The discussion that followed saw many a question from dancers, connoisseurs of the art form, and the curious alike. The concepts of Devadharmi, natyadharmi and lokadharmi mentioned in the talk were elaborated upon. The way ‘mudras’ are used in rituals and their healing powers even in isolation were also explained to the uninitiated. The challenges of the proposed infusion of mudras into dance which will change its language considerably, affecting the ease with which the audience will understand the art form, were also acknowledged and discussed.