Murdra: Sign Language of Hand Gestures
Amir Hossein Zakergou
Reprinted from: Honar Nameh, University of Art, Tehran, No. 23, 2004 (A brief of the article)
It is impossible to understand Oriental art, especially the religious art of the East, without knowledge of symbolic concepts it embodies. Those who approach such arts from a strictly aesthetic viewpoint can never go beyond the surface of things. Such an approach would be similar understand a human being by referring to information about an individual’s height, weight, hair color and eyes.
Buddhist art, like most religious art, contain details that are filled with meanings and convey a hidden message. The deciphering of Buddhist art is the key to understanding their concepts; and it is not possible to read and understand the text without learning the language.
I have pointed to the many aspects of Eastern religious art and architecture here and elsewhere. This article discusses the symbolic meaning of Murdras, which is the Sanskrit word for the many hand gestures found in Buddhist art. There are, of course, many such Murdras, not all of which can be discussed here.
Therefore, after pointing to the place of Murdras in religious ritual, only eight of the more common Murdras are discussed here, which are the principal ones:
Signifying, Fearlessness, Charity, Concentration, The Wheel of Law, Dialog, Higher Reason, Touching of the Earth and Devotion.