Mohiniattam – The Dance of the Enchantress



Mohiniattam is a quite expressive dance kind of Kerala, the most wonderful area in India. It is made of two words and phrases, “Mohini” and “attam”. Mohini refers to an really gorgeous lady or enchantress and attam signifies dance. So this traditional Mohiniattam dance type mainly usually means the dance of an enchantress. It is generally performed solo but it has been increased so as to be performed by girls in a group. The fundamental model of general performance is “Lasya” and the “Bhava” getting Sringara or passionate love. This dance is enchantingly feminine with wave-like human body actions. Fragile themes of really like are executed with suggestive gestures, rhythmic footwork and lyrical tunes. The performance includes the swaying of wide hips and the gentle movements of erect posture from aspect to aspect. This is reminiscent of the swinging of the palm leaves and the carefully flowing rivers which abound Kerala.

One particular of the youngest Indian classical dances, Mohiniattam came into currently being in the course of the 16th Century A.D mainly underneath the impact of the king of Travancore, Swati Thirunal who was famous for his obsession with artwork kinds. He was a wonderful patron of good arts and inspired artists from all about India to conduct at his court docket.


There are mostly two legends linked with the dance variety. According to a Hindu legend, in buy to escape a strong curse, the gods decided to churn the divine ocean Palazhi (the ocean of the milk) to attain the ambrosia of everlasting everyday living called “Amrith”. They had to get into a coalition with the demons in get to fulfill the activity. They utilised the mountain Meru as the pivot and the serpent Vasuki as the rope to churn the ocean. Alongside with many other merchandise that ended up thrown up by the regular churning, the golden pot that contains the ambrosia also emerged. As before long as the pot grew to become seen the demons snatched it for themselves and refused to share it with the gods. This elevated the divine eyebrows. Think about if the demons experienced come to be everlasting just after its use. They would just take about all the 3 worlds-earth, heaven & the underworld! The gods ran to the preserver between the Hindu trinity-Vishnu who agreed to assist the Gods considering the gravity of the circumstance. So, Lord Vishnu assumed the type of a lovely heavenly enchantress known as “Mohini”. It was not quick to get hold of the pot back again so Mohini broke in an enchanting and sensual dance and managed to seduce the fickle minded demons and snatch the “Pot of Amrith” from them and handed it in excess of to the Gods.

Vishnu took the form of Mohini the moment yet again. This time to demolish the demon Bhasmasura (the demon of the ashes). This demon by by means of difficult penance compelled the gods to give him a boon-that he would be un-destroyable unless he himself pointed his finger at the best of his head. Consequently, he deluded himself that he experienced received immortality. But foolish that he was, he experienced underestimated the crafty of the gods! Mohini appeared and began her sluggish enticement. The mesmerized demon started out to dance with her following all her actions. Mohini worked the demon into frenzy and in the guise of a dance action, she pointed her finger at the prime of her head which the demon copied and was turned into ash. This mesmerising dance of the divine Mohini so came to be recognised as the “Mohiniattam”. In preserving with the hero of the legends, the concept of Mohiniattam dance is enjoy and Krishna (the playboy God) is most often the hero. The overall performance elates the spectators when the dancer expresses her really like for him as a result of round actions, sensitive footsteps and subtle expressions. The dance type has 40 fundamental movements and utilized hand gestures or mudras to communicate its context. It has been motivated by two South Indian dance varieties- the Bharathanatyam and Kathakali.


This stunning style of dance involves the use of eye movements that are sensual however does not provoke the viewer but enchants in these a way that it is not overt. The plan is to allure without the need of staying offensive. Thus the make-up and costume of a dancer is pretty basic still elegant. Emphasis is laid on eye make up because most expressions contain emoting via eyes. The fluttering eye lashes, the curved eye brows and the captivating eyes all enchant the viewers and take them to a digital paradise!

The colour of the costume is usually white or off-white with a golden border termed “Kasavu”. These sarees are attribute of Kerala. The hair is carried out up in a bun on the aspect just over the ear and is adorned with jasmine bouquets. It is nicely recognized that these flowers have a seductive fragrance. The jewelry is ordinarily an elaborate pair of earrings and a choker for neck, teamed with a very long necklace of cash.

The accompanying tunes is usually classical Carnatic, standard of south India. The vocal new music of Mohiniattam entails variants in rhythmic composition recognised as chollu. The lyrics are in Manipravalam, a combination of Sanskrit and Malayalam. It is sung by educated singers or the instructor who teaches the performers to dance. The musical instruments made use of throughout the performance are Cymbals, Violin, usual musical devices of Kerala-Mridangam, Maddhalam (percussion instruments) and Edakka (an hour-glass shaped percussion instrument).

The seduction or enchantment is slow and deliberate. Through sluggish and medium tempos, the dancer is equipped to discover sufficient place for improvisations and suggestive bhavas or feelings. The distinctive fashion of Mohiniattam is the finish absence of hefty stamping and rhythmical tension. Footwork in Mohiniattam is gentle and delicate and sliding. The movements are under no circumstances abrupt, they are dignified, easy and purely natural, but the vertical line of the entire body is hardly ever damaged. It is characterized by the rhythmical swaying of the dancer from aspect to aspect and the easy and unbroken move of the physique movement which is its hanging characteristic. The dance is based mostly on enhanced efficiency of feminine moods and thoughts with the topic predominantly that of “sringara” or enjoy. That’s why, amid the variations comprehensive by Bharatha Muni in the ancient Indian treatise on dance, the Natya Shastra, Mohiniattam resembles the Kaisiki variety that means swish. The fundamental dance actions are the termed “adavus” that are of 4 forms- Taganam, Jaganam, Dhaganam and Sammisram.

Soon after the dying of Swathi Thirunal, the Mohiniattam went into a decrease and in the twentieth century, the excellent Malayalam poet Vallathol revived it after developing the Kerala Kalamandalam to encourage it and Kathakali. The establishment also gets the credit for looking into additional about the dance and codified it. Above the earlier number of many years, the repertoire of Mohiniattam has been formulated and expanded by dedicated performers who have ensured that this beautiful dance design retains a distinct id amongst the classical types of India. It is a stunning dance variety that will endure for a lengthy time to appear and keep on to symbolize the magnificence and allure of the Malayali ladies.

By Sanjai Velayudhan

© Sanjai Velayudhan

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