Identifying Suchi and Tarjani

People have been pointing fingers for long and the inferences from them seem to be infinite. Imagine trying to infer intent from a pointed forefinger of a stone sculpture ! Yes, ideed, a pleasant chat on one such, lead to a wonderful lesson on Iconography. Take a look at these beautiful door guardians from Thakkolam ( thanks to kathie for bringing them up for discussion and Arvind and Varalaaru.com team for photographs and Mrs Subhashini for the sketches)


There are myriad of hand poses, but today the question is centered on two different hand postures – Hasta mudras, which look very similar – the Suchi and Tarjani.

We turn to Elements of Hindu Iconography by Sri Gopinath Rao for assistance.

“Suchi-hasta has been misunderstood by some Sanskrit scholars to mean the hand that carries a suchl or needle. ……………………….. But, like the Tarjani hasta, the Suchl-hasta, also denotes a hand-pose, in which the projected forefinger points to an object below, whereas in the tarjani-hasta the forefinger has to point upwards, as if the owner of the hand is warning or scolding another”

Let us take a closer look at the two door guardians.

Its really sad that such magnificent masterpieces in stone cannot be cleaned and maintained properly – infact one of the doorguardians seems to be pointing at the cockroaches troubling him while the other seems to point away from the ungainly intruders.

This seems a positive identification of the Tarjani hasta. How about the famed doorguardians of the Tanjore Big temple?

The distinction when comparing them to the sketches, seems a bit vague.

Are they pointing or warning or both?

We head back to the book to refer – Suchi hasta where the forefinger points to an object below

Let us try this on some classic examples.

The famed Kalarimurthy of Kodumbalur Moovar Koil.

Positively Suchi !

How about the famed Sculptural Monalisa – Darasuram Gajasamharamurthy?

Again its Suchi.

Now comes the trickier parts. These two exhibits from the V&A Museum London.

Obviously both are in the process of giving a discourse and we cannot take it as a threatening or warning gesture. Returning to refer again from the book, this interesting mention caught my eye. The description is of the famed Umasahita panel from Ellora


“Siva is herein holding in one of his left hands the upper part of the garment of his consort and keeps one of his right hands in the suchi pose and the other appears to be carrying a book. He is evidently giving out to Uma one of the puranas…….”

Now, the hand is evidently not pointing downwards. Now is Siva warning or scolding or just pointing out to his consort? Why is he holding her garment – maybe she is not attentive and he is….

11 thoughts on “Identifying Suchi and Tarjani

  1. தமிழில் ‘ஆள்காட்டி விரல்’;
    ஸம்ஸ்க்ருதத்தில் ‘தர்ஜநீ’
    தர்ஜநம் என்றால் அதட்டுதல்.
    தமிழ்ப் பதமே பொருத்தமான பொருளைத் தருகிறது என்பார் காஞ்சிப் பெரியவர்

    தேவ்

  2. Now is Siva warning or scolding or just pointing out to his consort?//

    அது ஒரு விஷயத்தை வலியுறுத்தி சொல்வதாகவும் இருக்கலாம் என்று தோன்றூகிறது!.

  3. In the system of dance, based on Bharata’s Natya Shastra and Nandikeshvara’s Abhinaya Darpana, there is only suji or suci hasta. In the practice of Bharata Natyam generally the Abhinaya Darpana is followed, and suci is one of the 28 single mudras. It denotes, among other meanings, direction, time (the past for instance) ordering, ‘go’, listen!, etc. I understood in iconography other rules are followed.

  4. It is awesome.One more interesting piece of information, I would like to share with you.In earlier times, the head of the family, wore a silver ring in the index finger which was called ‘Dargini’, it indicated his rights to be the sole decision maker in the family.

  5. Hello Vijay!
    Great post. I suppose you should refer to Natyashastra to see the application of Suci (btw NS doesnt recognise tarjani as a seperate hand gesture). Iam only translating the text (Natyasastra of Bharata, IX.65-77)- Sucimukha’s representation include disc, lightning, banner, bunches of flower, ear-ornament, …..number one….ideas like ‘it is good’….
    hence for the icons of dakshinamoorthy etc we may assume that it represents ONEness/Monoistic ideas. For Ellora one it may be taken as appriciative gesture.
    Thanks again for showing such grt images.

  6. இன்று தான் தங்களுடைய வலைப்பதிவை பார்த்தேன். இவ்வளவு நாள் தெரியாமல் போய் விட்டதே என்று வருந்தினேன்.ஏனென்றால் நான் போன வருடம் கோயில் கலையில் பட்டயம் பெற்றேன்.மிகவும் அருமை நல்ல முயற்சி. உங்கள் முயற்சிக்கு என் வணக்கங்கள்.

    • மிக்க நன்றி கற்பகம்,

      கண்டிப்பாக அனுப்பவும். தனி மடல் அனுப்பி உள்ளேன்

      நன்றி
      விஜய்

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