Mudra in Worship and Rituals: In Conversation with Subroto Bhattacharya

Mudra in Worship and Rituals: In Conversation with Subroto Bhattacharya

in Interview
Published on: 09 October 2018

Surangama Lala Dasgupta

Surangama Lala Dasgupta has been a passionate dancer since her childhood. A gold medalist in Sangeet Praveen (Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad), she also holds a Masters degree in Psychology. Through the years she has brought together psychology and Kathak to create a new genre of performing arts. She believes that performing arts has therapeutic effect on human well-being. Her focus is to bring about peace and harmony through her various innovative dance renditions.

Subtroto Bhattacharya, priest and tantric practitioner in conversation with Surangama Lala Dasgupta on the use and application of mudra in worship and rituals.

Surangama Dasgupta: You are a priest and a tantra practitioner. You perform several rituals. I want to ask you a few questions regarding mudra in worship rituals. While performing mantra or Sanskrit chants, you use some mudras. I want to discuss about those.


Subroto Bhattacharya: Mudra, our subject of discussion today, is very interesting. Personally, I feel that mudra is intrinsic to the cycle of creation, evolution and destruction. Worshippers need to be connected to their God, and mudra can be the means of achieving that goal. We can please God through mudras, and today, I want to discuss how. When we meditate, we see a holistic picture of our deity, identified through the deity’s attire, body parts and the like. The appropriate mudra helps us to concentrate and achieve that vision.


First, let me demonstrate kurma (tortoise) mudra. We are discussing kurma mudra for meditation because in Vastu Shastra, kurma represents spiritual stability (sthiti). Without sthiti, nothing can be achieved, not even God. Through this mudra, we stabilise our mind, body, and soul, generate energy from shushumna, transfers it through ida and pingala (energy pathways of the body) and ultimately rests it in our heart. To know India, to know our civilisation, we have to understand Divinity. I believe we can achieve that through the sensation of touch that connects the different parts of our hand and palm. The first thing I want to point out is that, on the surface of this palm, there are many points of energy concentration which help in worship. The end of the palm is called brahmakhetra (brahman - soul/ultimate reality, khetra - area). The middle is called agnikhetra (agni - fire). The front is divided into many sections, like debtirtha (deb - God, tirtha - pilgrimage), kayatirtha (kaya - body) and pitritirtha (pitri - ancestor). Ritualistic offerings to God are done through debtirtha by joining the two hands, that is, positive and negative energy, together and tilting them forward. When we pay respect to our ancestors, we use pitritirtha and offer holy water.


First, I will demonstrate the yoni (female organ) mudra. All the fingers of both the palms are interlaced, with the little finger in front of the ring finger and the thumb connected to the middle finger. Here, we have the yoni mudra. Through this mudra, we can worship and satisfy the Goddess of Power. The mudra represents shrishti (creation).


Second is abahoni mudra. Then come sthapon, sandhiban, sangriudhya and mamah. Through these mudras, we say to our God, 'Please come, and sit. Do not be hurt and forgive me for calling you from your abode.' Then we ask the God to kindly stay for as long as the rituals in his/her honour are performed. The Pranam symbolises the desire to preserve God in ourselves as long as we live. In religious practices, we can use mudra primarily for two modes of worship, the Tantrik and the Vaidik. In ancient times, there was a division between the two. But, nowadays, it is all the same. During Durga Puja, we use some aspects of Tantrik mode of worship. Even in the Vedic Ages, we had mudras like the abahon, sthapon, and sandhiban and apart from these, we had the dhenu (cow) mudra. Cow is considered a very holy animal in our religion. It is believed among all our reincarnations, after we take birth as a cow, the next birth will be as a human. For dhenu mudra, we need to get our hands together as we do in Pranam. We then spread our fingers and touch the tip of individual fingers with each other.


After the dhenu mudra we have the chakra mudra. This is primarily used in Vishnu Puja.


Next, we have the matsya (fish) mudra. The preacher, Maa Sarada has said that we have to be like a fish and avoid mud to have a peaceful life. When we bring life into the deity in clay, we use the akarshani mudra. Leliha mudra is also used to infuse the clay figurine of the deity with life. Through contact of different fingertips with each other, we can maintain a connection with our mind and body. For instance, by touching together the thumb and the forefinger, gyan (knowledge) mudra is created. Through this mudra, we can maintain a connection with our brains. This mudra is primarily used for meditation, and is believed that using this mudra will accentuate concentration and that energy will ascend to our Agyachakra (point of transition from spine to brain).


Next, we have tatta mudra. It is formed by joining the ring and the middle fingers and thumb. It connects our heart to different parts of our body. The process of purifying our mind and body like this is called Nyash. Kharga mudra is obtained by touching the forefinger with the middle finger and the ring finger with the little finger and thumb and spreading them at a 90-degree angle. This mudra is used in religious sacrifices to the deity.