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This classical dance form of Kerala was first performed by women in temples, over a thousand years ago, as an offering to God, their beloved. The movements may appear simple, but effort is required to capture the grace, suggestive of ocean waves, as seen in goddess Mohini, the Enchantress. This dance form exudes enchantment grace and passion. Mohiniyattam is a fusion of ' Bharathanatyam ' and ' Kathakali ', as it combines the graceful elegance of Bharatanatyam and dynamism and vigour of Kathakali. The performances are done only by women. In Mohiniyattam, the Lasya element of dancing is predominant, and the mood created is Sringaram (erotic) Mohiniyattam literally means the 'Dance of the Temptress'.
Mohiniyattam in Kerala took shape in the tradition of Devadasi dance and grew and developed a classical status. The word 'Mohini' literally means a maiden who excites desire or steals the heart of the on looker. It is a solo female dance (in a single costume ) in which the striking features is the musical melody and rhythmical swaying of the dancer from side to side and the smooth and unbroken flow of the body movement. The dance is focused essentially on feminine moods and emotions.
The swaying coconut trees in the gentle breeze is reminiscent of the soft and languorous movements of Mohiniyattam - the feminine classical dance form of Kerala. Literally meaning the Dance of the Enchantress, it is deeply rooted in femininity, GRACE (Lasya) and BEAUTY (Sringara) forming the quintessence of this dance form.
Of all the classical South Indian styles, Mohiniyattam can be singled out with admirable distinction, for it's characteristic body movements, marked by the graceful sway of the torso. What is unique is the easy going rise and fall of the body, with emphasis mainly on the torso. The movements are never abrupt, but dignified, easy, natural, restrained and yet subtle. The glances, postures, gait employed are so subtle and graceful that they convey the infinite suggestiveness of radiant love.
The traditional costume worn in Mohiniyattam is white with a gold border, and gold ornaments are worn. The unique coiffure with hair gathered on the left side of the head reflect it's aesthetic appeal, making it distinct from the other dance forms of India. The regional system of music that Mohiniyattam follows is the SOPANA style which in it's lyricism is evocative of the spiritual element.
It was during the reign of the great Poet King, Maharaja Swati Tirunal that Mohiniyattam received considerable patronage. After his untimely demise, adverse circumstances led to the decline of this dance form till when in the 1930's Mahakavi Vallathol founded the Kerala Kalamandalam and once again revived the dance form. More recently, relentless efforts of exponents and researchers like Guru Padmashri Smt. Bharati Shivaji have contributed significantly in ensuring Mohiniyattam's place on the world map.
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