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Decoding the mudras

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Book ‘Mudraakhyam,’ by Mohiniyattom exponent Sreedevi Rajan, is a reference book for practitioners. K. Pradeep

To enjoy and value classical dance, it is imperative that one understands the meaning of mudras and the movements. Using the two palms and 10 fingers the dancer creates a whole universe, and sometimes communicates more effectively than words. Mudraakhyam is a reference guide that describes in detail all the mudras used in Mohiniyattom.

Sreedevi Rajan, daughter of Kathakali maestro Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and doyenne of Mohiniyattom Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, has written the book. She has over five decades of experience as a Mohiniyattam performer and teacher. “This is perhaps the culmination of my lifelong ambition. All that I picked up from my parents, my own research, teaching experience and, of course, passion for the art find representation in this work,” says Sreedevi.

Mudras and slokas

The original reference guide is the Hasthalakshanadeepika . Most of the mudras used are derived from this seminal work. But like any art form, mudras have evolved. Hence, according to Sreedevi the need for such a guide. She has documented all the traditional mudras and their usage and translated them into English. What this book primarily attempts to do is describe all the existing mudras in Malayalam slokas. Sreedevi then transliterates the Malayalam slokas and also arranges them in alphabetical order (according to the Malayalam alphabet) and translates them. “I have also incorporated some of those I have created and also attributed new usage to some of the existing ones. For instance, there are certain characters that do not have a specific identity. There are no defining mudras. I have tried to introduce mudras for more than 20 characters such as Ahalya, Mandodari or Kumbakarnan.”

The highpoint of this book is the use of photographs of all the hasthamudras along with detailed descriptions. Dancer Smitha Rajan, Sreedevi’s daughter, has demonstrated the mudras.

This visual dictionary (Rs. 1, 200) makes it an ideal handbook for a Mohiniyattam practitioner.

Mudraakhyam: A Visual Dictionary on Mohiniyattam Hand Gestures

Kalyana Krishna Foundation, Rs. 1,200


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