Towards Understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions….Part Fifteen (MUDRA VIGYAN)


(The ancient Christian pictures of Lord Jesus Christ often depict the right hand of Christ in a kind of mudra – which is, in essence, PRAN MUDRA – or a variation of Pran Mudra. The Buddha is often depicted with his right hand having the beads/rosary in a similar Mudra in many temples and sculptures. Many Hindu Gods and Goddesses have their hands in many mudras……The act of praying, which joins both the hands with the fingers of each hand touching each other, is actually an equalling/annulling of all the elemental energies in the human body to allow the cosmic power to enter the human body……)

pran mudraMudra Vigyan tells us that the five fingers represent the five elements. The thumb represents fire energy, the forefinger represents air energy, the middle finger represents Aakaash (or vacuum) the ring finger represents earth energy, and the little finger, represents water energy.

Yogis and Saints use the fingers to adjust or manipulate the different energies of the elements in the human body. Indian systems of alternate medicine often uses the science behind Mudra Vigyan to cure diseases or disorders. The collective human consciousness often adopts natural laws and natural truths to inculcate them in ordinary expressions in day to day existence. For example, the most common symbol for hitching a hike or asking a lift, is to raise the thumb keeping all other fingers closed. The five fingers represent the five elements – and among all the elements, FIRE is the most visible. Then is it any wonder that the collective human consciousness has adopted the thumbs up sign to signal a lift?

thumbs up

Again, when the student in the class wants to go for urinals, what finger does the student raise? The little finger! The little finger, represents the water element. Is it any wonder that the collective human consciousness has chosen the little finger to express the need to go to the urinals? And also, the most abnoxious use of the middle finger – used in many movies and which is a common expression of expressing distaste, tells the other, that the other person is “shunya” – zero – as the middle finger represents aakaash – vacuum – The person showing this mudra, is unconsciously telling the other, “I will consign you to nothingness” – I wonder how many of the people using this sign language know what the middle finger actually stands for.

index fingerWhen a person in “authority” speaks, he/she often uses the index finger, speaking with an “air” of authority! The “I” or the ego of the person is stimulated by the air element, while the person uses the index finger. The “air” of authority is derived from the index finger’s “air” element.
Mudra Vigyan teaches how to connect, short circuit, or enhance the five elements in the body using the fingers. The deities of various Hindu Gods and Goddesses express various mudras in their sculpted form, to denote various elements or forces – and praying to that God or Goddess, one gets attuned to that particular energy. Dance forms effectively enhances the various elements by various mudras performed during the dance.clapsSimple acts like clapping of hands release an enormous amount of elemental energy in the atmosphere – Is it any wonder that applauses always generate the much needed enthusiasm to appreciate? When a person applauds, he/she appreciates the person (on the stage/on the dais/on the screen- etc) from the bottom of his/her being – the elemental way! Clapping of hands is now incorporated in many yoga classes and laughter therapy classes. It is true that the sound of clapping of hands is one of the best antidotes for depression.

A person who does not give, closes his fists often – such a person will not receive much from the universe as well – because unless one opens his palms to GIVE, will he be able to RECEIVE! – Both giving and receiving requires the palms to be opened – to the forces, powers, and elements of the universe…….

Towards understanding Hindu Culture, Rituals and Traditions….Part SEVEN (Namaskar is a mudra!)

( Shaking hands often involve touching an other person. Even though it is a very friendly gesture, it can often transmit unfriendly germs. Sometimes, we might be uncomfortable shaking hands with a person who has a sweaty palm, or whose cleanliness we may not trust. But shaking hands in the corporate world is an accepted norm everywhere. Shaking hands is the most trusting gesture that we can see in day to day life, and is part and parcel of our everyday life. But is shaking hands the only way to greet? No. Just the other day, I was visiting a patient in the hospital, and the attendant was telling everyone NOT to shake hands, as it might transmit germs. This is especially true since we travel in buses, touch the doors, knobs, handles, purse, etc, and we do not know how much of germs we may carry….Whereas the Indian way of greeting by doing Namaste is so clean, and…! ) 

The symbolism of Namaskar and its relevance to Mudras….

The Indian way of greeting, Namaskar, (Pranam, Pronam,Namaste, vanakkam, Namaskaram, swagatham, etc) by joining the hands together is now gradually being adopted in the west. The joining of hands at the level of the heart symbolically signifies the greeting from the heart/soul/atman. Both hands join together at the palms straight across the chest signifies a salute from the soul, or a welcome from the heart.

There are other interpretations of the symbolism, like the right hand representing higher nature and the left, lower nature, and the joining signifying the meeting of the two natures to form a single mind of the person. Some others interpret it as a greeting from one mind to another also. Some others say that it signifies, “I bow to the God in you” or “I bow to you” or “my soul bows to your soul” – Like this, the interpretations for the symbolism of the NAMASKAR is different for
different regions and different beliefs –  But what is little known is that the five fingers represent the five elements – this is best expressed in Mudras. Mudras are very common in various dance systems like Bharatha Natiyam, Kathakali and Kuchipudi. One can find various Gods and Goddesses assuming some mudra or the other. Even Lord Jesus Christ is often depicted in India with his right hand in Pran Mudra. In Mudra Vigyan, Namaste or Pranam or Namaskar is known as Anjali Mudra. Anjali Mudra increases the peace and poise of the person practicing it.

The significance of the five fingers is that Thumb stands for fire energy (which is why we have the thumbs up sign for success or victory?) Index finger stands for Air/Wind energy, Middle finger stands for space/Akash/Shunya – the ring finger stands for Earth energy (another reason for putting the ring on this finger) and the little finger stands for water energy.

The true meaning of Namaskar is the neutralization of all the energies by bringing both the hands together so that each finger of one hand touches the corresponding finger of the other hand, to denote that the person does not have any powerful positive/negative energies to affect the other person. Thus, it is a true gesture of friendship and welcome.

     Praying Hands. We approach the almighty in this gesture…..

(To be continued)