Śākta Mudrās

Hand Gestures in Tantric Goddess Worship

This PhD project intends to contour and further our understanding of hand gestural or mudrā practice in Śākta tantric rituals with a particular emphasis on the South Indian goddess tradition Śrīvidyā. Rooted in older traditions, mudrās have always been an integral part of tantric rituals. Delineating on how Śākta tantric practitioners construct a symbolic world through their visualisation and use of mudrās, this project will explore training methods of mudrās followed by Śrīvidyā practioners. As a central part of this endeavour, the intertwined nature and presence of mudrās in Indian classical dance and Hindu temple traditions will be investigated through a combination of textual studies and fieldwork. On a broader level the project seeks to explore the ways in which body-symbolism (particularly hand gestures) have emerged in vedic and tantric traditions and how this practice has become ‘performative’ by applying a semiotic approach.

Janaki Nair is PhD student at Northumbria University, researching on semiotics, tantric traditions (especially Śrīvidyā) and Indian dance. She is a dancer and Śrīvdiyā practitioner herself and affiliated with the Śākta Traditions research project at the OCHS.