A Prominent Structural Feature Of Most Traditional Native-American Music Is Mohiniattam – The Dance of the Enchantress

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Mohiniattam – The Dance of the Enchantress

Foreword:

Mohiniattam is a highly expressive dance form from Kerala, one of the most beautiful places in India. It is made up of two words, “Mohini” and “Atam”. Mohini refers to a very beautiful woman or witch and Atam means dancing. So this traditional Mohiniattam dance form basically means witch dance. Mostly performed solo but enhanced to be performed by women in a group, the basic style of performance is ‘Lasya’ and ‘Bhava’ is her Sringara or romantic love. It is a feminine dance with attractive wave-like body movements. The delicate theme of love is played out with suggestive gestures, rhythmic footwork and lyrical music. Rock your wide hips and gently move left and right while standing upright. This is reminiscent of the rustling of palm leaves and the gently flowing rivers that flood Kerala.

One of the youngest Indian classical dances, Mohiniatam originated in the 16th century, largely under the influence of Swati Tirunal, the King of Travancore, famous for his obsession with the art form. He was a great patron of fine arts and encouraged artists from all over India to perform at his court.

Legend:

There are two main legends associated with the dance form. According to Hindu legend, in order to escape a powerful curse, the gods decided to stir the Divine Sea Palaji (Sea of ​​Milk) to obtain the ambrosia of eternal life called ‘Amris’. They had to form an alliance with the devil to carry out their mission. They churned the sea using the mountain Meru as a pivot and the serpent Vaski as a rope. A pot of gold containing ambrosia also emerged, along with many other items thrown out by the constant stirring. This raised the eyebrows of God. Imagine demons becoming immortal after being consumed. They will take over all three worlds: Earth, Heaven and the Underworld! The gods ran to the protector among the Hindu trinity Vishnu, who, considering the gravity of the situation, agreed to help the gods. So Lord Vishnu took the form of a gorgeous heavenly witch called ‘Mohini’. Then he stole the Pot of Amris from them and handed it over to the gods.

Vishnu again assumed the form of Mohini. This time, we will destroy the demon Bhasmasura (the ash demon). This demon underwent severe penance and forced the gods to grant him boons – he would not be destroyed unless he himself pointed a finger at the top of his head. I thought I put it in But he foolishly underestimated the cunning of the gods! Mohini appeared and slowly began to seduce. The enchanted demon began to dance with her following her every move.Mohini made the demon frenzy and feigned dance steps to make her head, which the demon copied and turned to ashes. I pointed her finger at the top. This enchanting dance of the sacred Mohini has become known as ‘Mohiniattam’.In keeping with the legendary hero, Mohiniattam Her dance theme is love and Krishna (God of Playboy) is the star . Audiences are uplifted as the dancers express their love for him through circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. The dance form has her 40 basic movements and uses hand gestures and mudras to convey its context. Influenced by her two South Indian dance forms, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali.

Outfit and make-up:

This beautiful style of dance involves the use of eye movements that are sensual yet captivating rather than overtly provoking the viewer. The idea is to be attractive without being obnoxious. Therefore, the dancers’ makeup and costumes are very simple but elegant. . Fluttering lashes, curving brows, and captivating eyes all captivate the beholder and transport them to a virtual paradise.

The color of the costume is usually white or off-white with a golden fringe called ‘kasab’. Her hair is gathered in a bun on the side just above her ears and adorned with jasmine flowers. Jewelry is usually a pair of elaborate earrings and a neck choker, paired with a long necklace of coins.

The accompanying music is typically classical Carnatic typical of South India. Mohiniattam’s vocal music includes variations on rhythmic structures known as chollu. The lyrics are written in Manipuravaram, a mixture of Sanskrit and Malayalam. It is sung by trained singers or by teachers who teach dances to performers. The instruments used during the performance are cymbals, violins, typical instruments of Kerala Muridangam, madharams (percussion instruments) and edakas (hourglass-shaped percussion instruments).

Seduction or enchantment is done slowly and deliberately. Through slow and medium tempos, dancers can find ample space for improvisation and suggestive babas and emotions.Mohiniattam’s signature style is the complete absence of heavy stamping and rhythmic tension. is. Mohiniatham’s footwork is gentle, soft and slippery. The movements are never abrupt, but dignified, light and natural, but the vertical lines of the body never collapse. The dancers sway rhythmically from side to side, and their movements are smooth and seamless. This dance is based mainly on the theme of ‘Sulingala’ or love, with an enhanced performance of feminine moods and emotions. Thus, among the styles detailed by Bharata Muni in his ancient Indian treatise on dance, Natya Shastra, Mohiniattam resembles the Kaishiki type, which means grace. There are four types of ‘adhavas’: jaganam, daganam and samisulam.

After the death of Swathi Thirunal, Mohiniattam declined and in the 20th century, the great Malayalam poet Vallathol founded Kerala Kalamandalam to promote Mohiniattam and Kathakali and revive Mohiniattam. The institution is also credited with further researching and codifying the dance. Over the past decades, Mohiniatham’s repertoire has been developed and expanded by dedicated performers who have ensured that this beautiful dance style retains a distinct identity within Indian classical dance. It is a beautiful dance that continues to express the beauty and charm of Marayali women.

MOHINIATTAM – Dance of the Enchantress

Sanjay Velayudhan

©Sanjay Belayudhan

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