Athough we speak of a language of gestures, it is useful to remember that the hands are not the only tools of this language. A verse of the Abhinayadarpanam succinctly gives us a technique to make this language as eloquent as possible. Here is a free translation of the verse: “Where the hand goes, the eyes follow (the dancer looks at it); when looking at something, the mind (concentration) follows; where there is concentration, emotion is conveyed; and where there is emotion, conditions are ripe for the creation of rasa.” And rasa is the goal of art according to the ancient treatises. Here is the eighth single-hand gesture in Nandikeswara’s list:


Start with the palm open, all fingers straight and held close together. Then bend the thumb from the first digit, and the index and ring finger from the second digit.


Shukatunda is often used to show a sharp object, such as a spear or an arrow. Interestingly, in depicting abstract images, it can be used in contrasting ways: to show threatening anger, as well as the murmurings of a dallying lover, or in remembering past deeds or abodes.

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