Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting


Buddhas and Bodisattvas and frequently other deities are shown with their hands forming a number of different ritualized and stylized poses [Mudrâs].

They may be holding different objects as well within these poses. Each singly and in combination have specific meanings.

Right-Hand Gestures

Gesture of Protection

[abhaya] MudraThis gesture is also called "blessing-" or "fearless" mudra. Generally, this positionis shown with the palms[s] facing outward and the fingers extended upwards.

The arm is elevated and slightly bent. You can find abhayamudrâ sometimesalso as a left-hand gesture. This mudra is characteristic of Buddha Shakyamuniand Dhyani Buddha Amogasiddhi.

Gesture of Argument

Mudra [vitarka] This gesture is also called "discussion" musta. The right arm is bent, the hand raised with the palm outwards. Thumb and forefinger touch and thus form the “Wheel of Dharma”. This is the mystic gesture of Taras and Bodhisattvas. The Vitarka Mudra is the gesture of discussion and argument. It is characteristic of those regarded as teachers and instructors.

Gesture of Witness

Mudra[bhumisparsha] This gesture is also called "thouching the earth" mudra or "calling the earth to witness" mudra. The right arm is pendent over the right knee. The hand with the palm turned inward and all the fingers extended downward with the finger touching the lotus throne. The left hand lies on the lap with palm upward. This gesture symbolizes Shakyamunis victory over Mara. The Dhyani Buddha Akshobhya shows the same Mudra.

Gesture of Charity

Mudra[varada] This gesture is also called »conferring boon« or »grace«-mudra. The arm is extendedall way down with palm facing outwards. You can find varadamudrâsometimes also as a left-hand gesture. This is the mudra of Dhyani BuddhaRatnasamhava, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and [sometimes] standing BuddhaShakyamuni.

Gesture of ascetic

Mudra[shramanamudrâ] also called renunciation mudra. The hand point downwards away from the body as a symbol for renunciation of secular pleasures.

Gesture of Understanding

Mudra[cincihna] Thumb and index finger grasp a fine object as a a grain of truth. This is a symbol for the spiritual understanding.

Gesture of Threatining

Mudra[tarjana] This gesture is also called »warning«-mudra. Only the index finger os raised while the other fingers are locked up in the fist. You can find abhayamudrâ sometimes also as a left-hand gesture. This mudra is characteristics of most of the wrathful deities.

Gesture of Bannishing

Mudra[karana] This mudra , indicates the hand stretched out, either horizontally or vertically, palm turned forward. The thumb presses down the middle two fingers [like the horns of a Yak against an enemy], while the index and litle fingers extend straight upwards. You can find abhayamudrâ sometimes also as a left-hand gesture. Ekajata and Yama frequently shown in this mudra.

Gesture of Salutation

Mudra[buddhasramana] Also called »Greeting Mudra«. In this mudra the right hand is lifted in line with the shoulder, the wrist bends backwards and the fingers and the palm face upwards. The fingers point outward, away from the body. The is the gesture of Vasudhara and Usnishijaya. It symbolises enlightenment and is also known as vandana mudra.

The performance of homage Gesture

Mudra[tarpana]. The arms are bent at the elbow with hands raised even with shoulders. The fingers ares lightly bent with the fingertip extending towards the shoulders. The palms of the hands face downwards. A mudra frequently shown by Namasangiti. The Tarpana Mudra is the mudra of the offering.

Harina Gesture

Mudra[harina] In this mudra the thumb along with the second and third fingers touch the tips, forming a ring. The little and the index fingers extend upwards. Frequently, symbols or emblemes are held in this manner.

Left-Hand Gestures

Gesture of leisure

[avakasha] The sitting person is holding her left hand on her lap, palm upwards. The mudra stands for place, location, opportunity.

Kataka mudra

Mudra[Kataka] A fist like mudra in which the fingers bend together until the thumb and the index finger meet, forming an open tube. This position is frequently used in icons in which fresh flowers or other venerated objects are inserted.

Gesture of wisdom

Mudra[jnana] The tips of the index finger and the thumb join, forming a circle, the other fingers are extended straight. This mudra is held against the chest, palm towards the chest. Inthis way, it differs from the vitarka mudra in which the palms face away from the body.

Both hands Gestures

Kartari mudra

MudraThis mudra is held with the hands at shoulder level. The thumb and the ring finger [third finger] touch the tips forming a circle. The index and middle finger extend straight resembling rabbits ears or the horns of a deer. Frequently, symbols appear between these two fingers.

Gesture of Meditation

Mudra[dhyana] It is also called Samadhi or Yoga Mudra. Both hands are placed on the lap, right hand on left with fingers fully stretched and the palms facing upwards. This is the characteristic gesture of Buddha Shakyamuni, Dhyani Buddha Amitaba and the Medicine Buddhas.

Gesture of Meditation with bowl

MudraThe Gesture of Meditation is also showed with a beggingbowl, but not with an other kind of bowl.

Gesture of teaching

Mudra[dharmacakrapravartana] In this gesture both hands are held against the chest, the left facing inward, covering the right facing outward. The index finger and the thumb of each hand making a circle. It is characteristic of Dhyani Buddha Vairocana. It is also a gesture of hands exhibited by Lord Buddha while preaching the first sermon in Sarnath

Gesture of knowledge fist

Mudra[vajramudra] The right hand makes a fist, thumb enclosed, index finger extended upward, palm out; the left hand forms a fist, palm inward and encloses the extended index finger. You will find tis gesture very often mirror-inverted.

Gesture of perfection

Mudra[uttarabodhi] This gesture is also called "best-perfection"-mudra. In this position all fingers are intertwined. The index fingers extend straight up and are together. Frequently, Shakyamuni Buddha as liberator of the Nagas present his mudra.

Gesture of nectar sprinkling

Mudra[kshepana] Also called »Sprinkling of Ambrosia« mudra. The two hands join, palm to palm, and the index fingers extend together and usually point downwards towards a vase or container. The other fingers and the thumbs are interwined.

Gesture of Praying

Mudra[namaskara] In this gesture, the hands are kept close to the chest in devotional attitude with the palms and fingers joined. This is the special gesture of Avalokiteshvara with more than two arms.

Gesture of Holding the Jewel

Mudra [manidhara]The hands are arched and hold a wishing juwel, which can not be seen because of it´s transparency. This is a mudra of Avalokiteshvara, and is often confused with the similar gesture of greeting.

Warding ogg evil gesture

Mudra[Bhûtadâmara] Also called »Trailokyavijaya« or awe-inspiring mudra. It shows the hands crossed at the wrist, the right hand over the left hand, palms turned outwards. Usually the two middle fingers are slightly bent and the hands may both hold additional symbols like Vajras and Ghanta.This is frequently seen in the representations of Vajrapani and Bhutadamaravajrapani.

Gesture of respect

Mudra [anjali] The hands are placed in a prayer position in front of the heart chakra. This gesture is considered a sign of respect.