The term mudra is often translated as ‘to seal’. One explanation of ‘to seal’ is that mudra comes from a joining of mud – bliss and dhra – dissolving – thus mudra is that which dissolves duality and brings together deity and devotee.
Like many other Indian terms, mudra has a variety of meanings according to the context in which it appears. For example, mudras in Hatha Yoga often refers to particular body postures – sometimes, but not exclusively, involving hand gestures. In Buddhist Tantra, mudra can refer to the female partner of a male practitioner. In Hindu iconography, gods & goddesses are often depicted with their hands making mudras (for example, the twin gestures of dispelling fears and granting boons). Mudras are also widely used in various stages of Tantric ritual and various deities have mudras which are associated with them. According to some texts for example, Ganesha has seven mudras used in ritual worship, one of which is:
“Hold middle fingers straight and the forefingers anchored with each other at the middle joints. The forefingers should bend a little and pull one another. This is the Ankusha (goad) mudra.”