Mohiniyattam means literally means”Dance of the Temptress” or " Dance of the Enchantress" is a classical dance form of Kerala, India. It is believed to be originated in 16th century CE, it is one of the eight Indian classical dance forms recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. It is considered a very graceful form of dance meant to be performed as solo recitals by women. The movements may appear simple, but effort is required to capture the grace, suggestive of ocean waves, as seen in goddess Mohini, the Enchantress.The Mohiniyattam dance is performed to this accompaniment by the subtle gestures and footwork of the danseuse
Brief History of Mohiniyattam
Mohiniyattam was popularized as a popular dance form in the nineteenth century by Swathi Thirunal, the Maharaja of the state of Travancore (Southern Kerala), and Vadivelu, one of the Thanjavur Quartet. Swathi Thirunal promoted the study of Mohiniyattam during his reign, and is credited with the composition of many music arrangements and vocal accompaniments that provide musical background for modern Mohiniyattam dancers. The noted Malayalam poet Vallathol, who established the Kerala Kalamandalam dance school in 1930, played an important role in popularizing Mohiniattam in the 20th century.
Mohiniyattam Dance Form and Elements
Mohiniyattam dance form typically represents and performs as Lord Vishnu disguised as a Mohini. Mohini stands for beauty which takes away heart with her expression, gestures and movements. There are two stories of the Lord Vishnu disguised as a Mohini. In one, he appears as Mohini to lure the asuras (demons) away from the amrita and other one is when Lord Vishnu incarnates as Mohini to save Lord Shiva from the Demon Bhasmasura.The main theme of the dance is love and devotion to God.Mohiniyattam is a drama in dance and verse.The costume includes white sari embroidered with bright golden brocade at the edges.The performer uses the eyes in a very coy, sensual manner to enchant the mind without enticing the senses.
The dance involves the swaying of broad hips and the gentle movements of erect posture from side to side. This is reminiscent of the swinging of the palm leaves and the gently flowing rivers which abound Kerala, the land of Mohiniyattam. There are approximately 40 basic movements, known as atavukal.Sri Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, Sri Vallathol Narayana Menon (a poet and founder of the institution, Kerala Kalamandalam) and Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Ammaare considered as the backbone and pillars of Mohiniyattam as they contributed to the shaping out of the contemporary Mohiniyattam during the later part of the 20th century.Guru Kallyanikutty Amma cleared the mythical mystery behind the name of this dance form and gave it the most convincing explanation based on truth, social and historical evolution, interpreting Mohiniyattam as the dance of a beautiful lady than that of a mythical enchantress from heaven.