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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Mudrā literally means ‘that which gives pleasure to the deity’.

The word ‘mudrā’ has been used in several senses. It's various inferences are as follows:

  • Etymologically, it means ‘that which gives pleasure to the deity and makes its heart melt out of compassion’.
  • In the āgamas and tantras it is used to indicate the following:
  1. A pose of hand
  2. A posture of the body
  3. One of the five makāras[1]
  4. Woman companion of the tāntrik sādhaka
  • In dance also several mudrās indicating several bhāvas or sentiments are used.
  • In iconographical works, the images are depicted as exhibiting several mudrās[2] like abhayamudrā[3] or varadamudrā[4] or cinmudrā.[5]
  • In puja or worship, some of the mudrās used are āvāhanī,[6] or sammukhīkaraṇī,[7] kurma[8] and avaguṇṭhana.[9]
  • The mudrās also called bandhas in Haṭhayoga vary from 8 to 108. They indicate several processes of controlling the body and the prāṇic energy which give health, strength and energy as also freedom from diseases. Some of these mudrās are:
  1. Mahāmudrā
  2. Nabhomudrā
  3. Mātāṅginī
  4. Others
  • In the political sciences as depicted in the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya,[10] a mudrā represents a seal of the government. Different kinds of seals were used for different purposes like seals on merchandise for having paid the tax or about their quality or while issuing instructions in the name of the king.
  • Sometimes, those who committed abominable crimes were branded with certain signs called ‘mudrās’ and banished from the kingdom. For instance, a thief was branded with the sign of a dog on his forehead.


  1. Makāras menas various kinds of grains.
  2. Mudrās means poses of hand.
  3. Abhayamudrā means the pose of protection.
  4. Varadamudrā means the pose of granting boons.
  5. Cinmudrā means the pose of imparting knowledge.
  6. Āvāhanī means inviting the deity.
  7. Sammukhīkaraṇī means requesting the deity to turn towards the worshiper.
  8. Kurma means in meditation on the deity.
  9. Avaguṇṭhana means covering the food ceremonially while offering it.
  10. He lived in 321-300 B. C.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore