Mohiniyattam is one of the classical dance forms of Kerala. It was mainly performed in the Temples of Kerala. It is also the heir to devadasi dance heritage like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. There is a story of Lord Vishnu taking on the guise of a mohini to enthrall people, both in connection with the churning of the milk ocean and with the episode of killing Bhasmasura
Mohiniyattam is based on the themes of love and devotion and more often the hero is Vishnu or Krishna. The audience can feel His invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. The movements are graceful like Odissi and the costumes sober and attractive.
The repertoire of Mohiniattam follows closely that of Bharatanatyam. Beginning with Chollukettu, the dancer performs Jathiswaram, Varnam, Padam and Thillana in a concert. Mohiniyattam like many other forms follows the Hasthalakshana Deepika as a text book of hand gestures. The style of vocal music for Mohiniattam is classical Karnatic.
MUSIC FOR MOHINIYATTAM
The vocal music of Mohiniyattam involves variations in rhythmic structure known as chollu. The lyrics are in Manipravalam, a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam. The Mohiniyattam dance is performed to this accompaniment by the subtle gestures and footwork of the danseuse. The performer uses the eyes in a very coy yet sensual manner, the purpose being to enchant the mind without enticing the senses.
THE MOHINIYATTAM JEWELRY AND COSTUME
The costume in Mohiniyattam dance comprises of a white ‘kasavu’ saree, a decorated blouse and a waist garment. The edges are embellished with golden fabric know as kasavu kara. The makeup is simple. The face is treated with yellow and pink colored paste. The eyes are given a lining of black color. The lips are reddened. The hair is tied up and adorned with jasmine flowers.
Mohiniyattam jewellery is marked by its use of gold or gold plated jewelry. Usually Mohiniyattam jewellery set consists of necklaces, ‘vanki’ (armband), ‘oddiyanam’ (waistband), nose stud (Nath Bullaku) and ‘jimikki’ (swinging ear ornaments). Necklaces are basically of two types: ‘maangamala’ and ‘Kaasumala’. The ‘mangamala’ is made by linking together gem studded mango shaped pieces. The ‘kasumala’ is made by attaching gold coins together.
The pendants for the necklaces are shaped like swans, peacocks and parrots. Similar to mangamala or kasumala, the elakkathali is another famous traditional ornament in the Mohiniyattam Jewellery set. The oddiyanam is also gold plated which may sometimes have the picture of Goddess Lakshmi engraved in it. This particular type of oddiyanam is known as Lakshmi Belt. This plain Lakshmi Belt is very popular and often Bharatanatyam dancers use it as part of Bharatanatyam jewellery.