Mohiniyattam is a traditional dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is one of the eight classical dance forms recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the national academy for music, dance, and drama in India. Mohiniyattam is known for its graceful and subtle movements, expressive hand gestures, and captivating storytelling through dance.
Key features of Mohiniyattam:
- Graceful Movements: Mohiniyattam is characterized by its fluid and gentle movements, which exude grace and elegance. The dancer’s body movements, especially the upper torso and hips, are emphasized to create a mesmerizing visual appeal.
- Costume and Attire: The traditional costume of Mohiniyattam includes a white or off-white saree with a golden border, known as the “mundu,” draped in the Keralite style. The blouse is usually matching and modest. The dancer also wears jewelry, including a headpiece, earrings, necklaces, and anklets, which enhance the overall presentation.
- Expressive Hand Gestures: Like other classical Indian dance forms, Mohiniyattam uses “mudras” or hand gestures to convey emotions, narrate stories, and depict various characters. The mudras in Mohiniyattam are delicate and subtle, reflecting the feminine essence of the dance.
- Facial Expressions: “Rasas” or facial expressions play a crucial role in Mohiniyattam. The dancer skillfully expresses various emotions, ranging from love and devotion to anger and sorrow, enhancing the narrative aspect of the performance.
- Music and Instruments: The dance is accompanied by traditional Kerala music, which includes vocal singing and instrumental music. The musical compositions are usually in the classical Carnatic style, and the instruments commonly used are the mridangam (double-headed drum), veena (stringed instrument), and flute, among others.
- Themes and Stories: Mohiniyattam often portrays themes from Hindu mythology, particularly stories related to the love and devotion of Lord Krishna and the tales of other deities. The performances include both pure dance sequences and expressive storytelling.
- Training and Tradition: Learning Mohiniyattam requires years of dedicated training under the guidance of experienced gurus (teachers). The dance form is traditionally performed by women, and the training involves mastering the intricate footwork, hand movements, facial expressions, and overall stage presence.
Mohiniyattam is cherished for its poetic and lyrical quality, making it a unique and important part of Kerala’s cultural heritage. The dance form’s charm lies in its ability to transport audiences to a world of grace, beauty, and emotive storytelling through the art of dance.