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In the Bharatnatyam dance tradition we portray mythological themes as well as everyday life as in stories of love or separation, seasons, bravery, kindness etc. The classical texts in this regard detail out almost all aspects of the contemporary life. One such example is the hands/mudras denoting the prevalent caste system which was actually closely linked with the occupations too. There are five hastas or hand mudras/gestures denoting the jaatis or castes. These are as follow:

  1. Rakshasa Hasta:

    “Mukhe karaabhyaam shakatou raakshasaanaam karaha smritaha”

    Both hands are held in Shakatam on either side of the mouth.

  2. Bramhana Hasta:

    “Karabhyaam shikharam dhrittvaa yagyasootrasya soochane
    Dakshinen krite niryag bramhanaanaam karaha smritaha”

    Both the hands held in shikhara, left hand inverted on the left shoulder and right hand brought down to the waist, diagonally across the chest, signifying Janeyu, the sacred thread.

  3. Kshatriya Hasta:

    “Vaamen shikharam tiryag dhritvaamyen pataakika
    Dhrita yadi kshatriyaanaam hasta ityabhidheeyate”

    Left hand is held in shikharam, and right in patakam at the shoulder level, stance of the brave warrior.

  4. Vaishya Hasta:

    “Kare vaame tu hansaasyo dakshine katakaamukhaha
    Vaishyahasto ayamaakhyaato munibhirbhartaadibhihi”

    Left hand in Hamsasya (to show holding the balance) and right hand in Katakamukha moved from left to right (to represent placing weight measure and things on the scale) denoting the business aspect.

  5. Shoodra Hasta:

    “Vaame tu shikharam dhritvaa dakshine mrigsheershakaha
    Shoodra hastaha sa vigyeyo munibhirbharataadibhihi
    Yadashtadashajaatinaam karm ten karaha smritaaha
    Tattaddeshajaanaamapi evamuhyam budhottamaiha”

    Left hand in Shikharam and right hand in mrigashirsham held near the mouth, with the body bent forward (bow down), as in servitude.

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