Indian culture has been a continued fascination for me. Everything that goes into their culture has a purpose. From meals, to clothes, to gestures, each tradition holds a higher meaning than what is seen by the naked eye. Specifically, their dances consist of flowing movement with gestures called mudras. Mudras are similar to sign language in that the hands create signs that represent words or meanings (3). Mudras range in meaning from a simple animal, to a complex ideal about the world. Indian dances, or Bharatnatyam, tell stories in ways that written words cannot express (4).

In the picture photographed by The Saaz, the woman is telling a story within one movement. To begin, the way her left hand is positioned can signify one of two things, either the “face of a lion,” or “a rabbit,” (1). Her right hand’s position did not match up to any of the research presented, so I have to presume that it is in a position that comfortably holds her story together. With my research and inferences, I came to the conclusion that this movement is telling the famous Indian children’s story about “the foolish lion and the clever rabbit,” (2). What happens in the story is that this ferocious lion has been attacking all the innocent animals until one brave rabbit makes a move. The rabbit tells the lion that there is another lion that challenges him to see who is the supreme ruler. The rabbit then leads the lion to a river where the unintelligent lion sees its shadow in the water and jumps in to attack the “other lion.” From there, the lion drowns. The moral of the story is that “intelligence wins over might,” (2). Her hands not only tell the story but her facial expression as well. Her eyes are piercing exemplifying the intensity between the lion and the rabbit, yet her lips have a soft smile and appeal to them that seem childlike. Not only do her gestures justify the dance but the colors chosen as well. The red painting along her feet and hands can represent fear. The fear could be from the rabbit facing the lion or even the lion facing another lion. Although painting on the feet and hands is common in Bharatnatyam, the colors used can indicate different emotions within the story.

The woman also signifies the role of Indian women in society. Here, the woman is meant for entertainment purposes and that exactly aligns with what this picture portrays. The women are intended to entertain the man and tend to their every need. It is culture for women to cook for the men, tend to the men, and look out for the men. It is also the woman’s duty to entertain the guest and make sure everyone is satisfied. Not only are they to entertain but to be a figure to gaze at. This woman’s make up is done beautifully and elegantly so that she mimics a man’s wildest desires. The look of a woman says a lot about who they are: what generation they are from, what marital status they are, etc. The customs behind the picture portrays the idea that woman are objectified and are meant for merely entertain.

Bharatnatyam expresses stories, love, theories, and more. The dance is more than just the movement. The way the dance is performed can say a lot about what emotion is being presented. The time and consideration gone into Bharatnatyam only underlines the Indian community as a whole. There is more than what meets the eye with their culture: whether that be the dance, the language, the food, or the tradition. India holds significance in that they are a beacon to look upon for guidance.

Anjali. “Simhamukha Hand Gesture (Mudra).” Online Bharatanatyam RSS. Online Bharatanatyam, 25 Mar. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (1)

“Indian Baby Names, Hindu Baby Names.” The Foolish Lion and the Clever Rabbit. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (2)

“List of Mudras.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (3)

“THE SAAZ (Music Academy).” THE SAAZ (Music Academy). Awesome Inc., n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. (4)


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