Think Kerala and this iconic image of a Kathakali dancer immediately comes to everyone’s mind. The extraordinary splendour of a performer in a brilliant costume and a mask like face-do, who brings to life Gods and Goddesses, Demons and Spirits, swirling around with amazing energy in a dark and sombre stage. Accomplished Kathakali dancers can move their eyeballs in 17 different ways, their eyebrows in 8 different ways and their eyelids in another eight. For the uninitiated, Kathakali is a dance form indigenous to Kerala, colourful and dramatic in content and character. Scenes from Indian epics and mythology are the themes for the dance. But here is the interesting twist – each Mudra (ritual hand gesture) of Kathakali has a specific health benefit. And today Iam going to talk about 10 such Mudras with terrific health benefits which Sarath Kumar, a Kathakali Maestro taught me during my trip to Cochin some years ago.“Eat light and you would need to wear a Mundu,” he had warned me. Just so you are aware Kathakali has over 1000 Mudras. There is lot to take away from this interactive session; concepts behind the Mudras (ritual hand gestures), Eye & Facial movements as well as the colorful costumes of Kathakali and its distinctive face painting. I leave you with some photographs of my amazing 2 hours with the Maestro. Try it out. They are very simple and can be done by anyone, anywhere; in the bus, in the car while waiting for the traffic-light to go green, on the train to work, while on the flight, office or at home.
Mudras- Ritual Gestures of Kathakali and their health benefits:
The ‘Hamsasya Hasta’ in Classical Dance represents the shape of a ‘Swan’ and is also similar to ‘Gyan Mudra’ in Yoga which increases the memory power, enhances concentration and prevents insomnia.
The ‘Trishula Hasta’ depicting ‘Trishula/ Trident’ matches with ‘Varun Mudra’ which is claimed to balance the water content in the body and prevent pain caused by inflammation or shrinkage of muscles.
The ‘Mayura Hasta’ symbolizes the ‘Peacock’ resembles ‘Prithvi Mudra’ that improves the complexion of the skin and helps to increase weight.
The ‘Simhamukha Hasta’ typifying a ‘lion head’ is similar to the ‘Apana Mudra’ which regulates diabetes and helps to cure constipation and piles.
The ‘Kartarimukha Hasta’ represents ‘Scissors’ and tallys with the ‘Prana Mudra’. It removes vitamin deficiency and fatigue, improves immunity and power of eyes and reduces eye related diseases.
‘Mudras’ or ‘healthy hastas’ are a small aspect of the Indian classical dances. Other than that these dances improve our body posture, increase our flexibility, improve our body balance, give us a grace and most importantly teach us discipline.