The placing together of the palms at the level of the heart or forehead
in the traditional Indian gesture of salutation, respect, and adoration
is known as the namaskara mudra
(Sanskrit: Anjali, Kritanjali Mudra).
This gesture of veneration is probably the oldest of all Indian mudras.
In Buddhist iconography this mudra is described as ‘palms-folded’ or
pressed together, and is the principal gesture of several of the forms
of Avalokiteshvara and his attendants. In his four-, eight-, and
thousand-armed forms Avalokisteshvara is commonly depicted with a
wish-granting gem between his slightly cupped palms. This jewel
symbolizes his possession and granting of the jewel of the Buddhadharma,
although his wish-granting gem is not usually mentioned as an attribute
in descriptions of Avalokiteshvara.
As a gesture of supplication or adoration this mudra is commonly made by
the various devas and nagas who attend upon and make offerings to the
deities. It is also employed in the ritual practice of
prostration, where the cupped palms are placed before the forehead,
throat, and heart to represent the purity of body, speech and mind.
The term anjali literally means “two handfuls’, and is derived from the
cupped hands being pressed edge to edge, as if they were holding a
double-handful of grain or water.
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