Details shared by Ramakrishnan A, Palakkad
Mohiniyattam, which literally means “the dance of the enchantress”, is an amazing classical dance form originated in Kerala in the 16th century and later on popularized by Swathi Thirunal Maharaja in the 19th century. The dance is linked to Hindu mythology. When Gods and demons together churned Palazhy (“the Milky Ocean”), the demons got hold of the nectar, the elixir of immortality. Then Lord Mahavishnu manifested himself as a beautiful woman called Mohini (the enchantress) and performed the dance Mohiniyattam in front of the demons to steal the nectar from them. The dance involves graceful movement of the body, rhythmic footwork, mudras of hands, appealing facial expressions and eye movements that will enchant the mind of the spectators. The costume include traditional Kerala white sari with golden brocade that depicts feminine beauty. Mohiniyattam gives more importance to hand gestures (Mudras) and facial expressions. Maddalam, idakka, Veena, and flute are some of the usual instruments that accompany Mohiniyattam. Mohiniyattam has a close resemblance with the Bhartanatyam and Kuchipudi dances in several components, but there is subtle difference in style.
There are several specialized training schools in different parts of the country that conduct courses in Mohiniyattam. Kerala Kalamandalam is doing its best to promote Mohiniyattam. Mohiniyattam is presently performed in connection with temple festivals, arts festivals and cultural programs. Several resorts and hotels in Alappuzha arrange this dance performance for tourists as a part of tourism promotion.
Kalamandalm Kshemavathy, Kalamandalm Sathyabhama, Bharathi Shivaji, Sunanda Nair, Kanak Rele, etc., are some of the well-known present day artists.
Mohiniyattam strictly follows the classical Natya Shastra scriptures and is performed in tune with the Carnatic classical music. The dancer should undergo several years of severe training in specialized dance schools like Kalamandalams.