Mohini muse | Daily News

Mohini muse

Mohini Attam has its origin in the Kerala state of India. Mohini Attam is a female classical dance form of India. There is no room for males in this dance form. According to Hindu mythology once Lord Vishnu took as Mohini Avatar and danced. Mohini Attam is also based on puranic themes as all other Indian dance forms. Mohini Attam is now used by the female dancers to entice the audience. Kathakali is a masculine and male-dominated dance form of Kerala. Both these dance forms originated in the Kerala soil and both have been very much influenced by the mythical Hindu stories.

The origin of Mohini Attam cannot be mentioned exactly. But it could be said that the feminine dance Mohini Attam bears a close affinity to Bharat Natya. Mohini Attam developed along with Bharatha Natya, and Kathakali. Mohini Attam is sometimes described as a blend of Sadir (an earlier form of Bharatha Natya,) and Kathakali.

Early stages

The feet are kept apart as in Bharatha Natya; the feet are also stretched out as in Kathakali. Mohini Attam grew up in Kerala and reached its peak during the period of Travancore Maharaja, Swathi Thirunal Maharaja. One of the brothers of Tanjore Quaritte Vadivelu who migrated to Travancore became Travancore Swathi Thirunal Maharaja's court, Vivian. Vadivelu gave an impetus to this dance. In the early stages, compositions of Valathal Narayan Menon and Swathi Thirunal Sakithiyams (Verses) were presented in Mohini Attam.

The basic literature of Mohini Attam was supposed to be composed by the Sanskrit scholar Mazhamangalam Nayaranan Namboothiri in 1079 A.D. His treatise is Vyavaharamala. This particular treatise elaborates how much fees have to be levied by the Mohini Attam dancers for their performance.

Unlike most other classical dance forms this particular dance form did not originate in temple and temple environs. The period of origin of Mohini Attam could not be traced. However, this dance form was developed in and around royal palaces. Unlike other Indian classical dance forms, this particular dance form never moved to the Hindu temples, yet it is based on Hindu mythology.

This graceful dance form flourished mainly during the Travancore Maharaja Swathi Thirunalâ's rule. During the period of Swathi Thirunal Maharaja, this art flourished by different dimensions. The melodious Carnatic musical base is the soul of the dance form. It is a very graceful and slow-motion dance form. It uses abundant Abhinaya, and excellent facial expressions. Mostly Sringara Rasa (Erotic sentiments) dominates the entire dance. Floating body movements and hand movements are well maintained in this feminine Indian classical dance form. Stiff movements are not seen in this dance. The body movements sway and swing rhythmically. Slight sidewise torso movement is the distinguishing feature of the dance.

Selective ragas

The slight sidewise torso movement is often called Atibhanga in Mohini Attam. The items in the Mohini Attam repertoire starts with Slonka, sollukattu, Jatheswaram, Saddam, Varnam, Padam, Kriti, Thillana and Slonkam. Normally an invocatory item of Mohini Attam recital starts with a Slonka, particularly in a selective Raga. That raga is Aananda Bhairavai.

This Slonka is always done in praise of the Goddess of Bhagavathi of Kerala. It is mostly ended up with another dance item named sollukattu. This concluding piece of the sollukattu is always in praise of Lord Vishnu or Lord Siva.

Mohini Attam also uses some of the classical pieces used in Bharatha Natya such as Jetheswaram, Saddam, Varanam, Padam Thillana and Slogam. One could easily understand that Mohini Attam is the classical dance of immediate neighbouring Tamil Nadu state. Tamil Nadu's classical dance is Bharatha Natya.

Hence Bharatha Natya, influence on Mohini Attam is clearly seen. Nritta, Nirtya and Natya (Pure Dance), Nritta, (Bhava, Abhinaya, Hand gesture, and Rasa) Nirtya are equally used in Bharatha Natya. But in Mohini Attam, Natya is the predominating feature. Head ornaments for Mohini Attam are Netti Chuti and Surya Chandran.

Different costumes

For neck Kasumali, necklace and short necklaces Illaka Thali and Mulla Mottu Mali are often used as neck ornaments in this feminine dance form. Finger rings, hand bangles called Attam and Valayam are used for the hand. For anklets Ellas, Kinni and anklets are worn. But the ornaments used in Mohini Attam are almost similar to that used in Bharatha Natya. In Mohini Attam an exceptional hairstyle is adopted with a tied knot on the left side of the head. White flower garlands are beautifully tied around the knot. Mohini Attam uses only white pleated costumes with gold borders.

In Bharatha Natya, colourful costumes and different patterns of costumes are used. Hence there is a general belief that Mohini Attam is a combination of two state classical dances of India (Bharatha Natya of Tamil Nadu and Kathakali of Kerala). To revive this art, the great poet Vallathol Narayanan Men established Kerala Kala Mandalam, in 1935. Mohini Attam developed alongside Bharatha Natya and Kathakali. It is sometimes described as a blend of Sadir and Kathakali.