Dasaavataram is a term often referred to as the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the god of preservation, in the Hindu tradition. Vishnu is said to descend in a new avatar to restore the cosmic order and eradicate evil on the earth through subsequent ages. InBharatnatyamdance form too it is often depicted and the classical texts specify various hand mudras that denote these avataars. Thus, Dasaavatara hasta are the hand positions or postures which depict the ten avataars of Vishnu.
The ten avatars of Vishnu are represented in the NatyaShastra as follows:
DhritouMatsyaahataarasya hasta ityamidheeyate”
Lean forward and show matsya hasta at shoulder level to denote matsya avatar.
Dhritoukurmaavataarasya hasta ityamidheeyate”
The body is bent 90 degrees, so that the back is horizontal and kurma hasta is held in front of the face, to denote kurma avatar.
Hold the Varaha hasta taking from the left side (waist), stopping near the mouth, with the head and body thrown back.
Narsinghaavataarasya hasta ityuchyatebudhaiha”
Left hand in simhamukha and right hand is in tripataka. Place the right foot on the left knee.
Sa vaamanaavataarasya hasta ityabhidheeyate”
The Knees are bent to go short. Left hand in mushti near the left shoulder. Right hand in mushtiis at waist level.
Dhritaaparshuraamasya hasta ityabhidheeyate”
Left hand in Ardhchandra at the hip and right hand in ardhapatakais at the shoulder level.
“Kapitthodakshine haste vaametushikharahakaraha
Urdhvamdhritoraam Chandra hasta ityuchyatebudhaiha”
Right hand in kapittha held a little below the waist and left hand in shikhara held a little above the shoulder level.
“Pataakodakshine haste mushtirvaamakaretatha
Balraamaavataarasya hasta ityuchyatebudhaiha”
Right hand inpataka and left hand in Mushti, held together near the right shoulder (the thumb of pataka held by mushti).
Aasyopakanthekrishnasya hasta ityuchyatebudhaiha”
Both hands in mrigashirsha, facing each other, held near the face. Left thumb held near the lips on the right side and right thumb touches the left little finger.
Kalkyaakhyasyaavataarasya hasta ityabhidheeyate”
Right hand is stretched backwards, above head level, in Pataka. Left hand is stretched forward in tripataaka, at shoulder level, with right leg lifted across partially stretched.
Dasaavataram as an item is one of my treasured pieces and I have performed it on many occasions. It has been choreographed beautifully by my Guru and much appreciated by the audiences each and every time.