Mohiniyattam is a classical dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is known for its graceful movements, subtle expressions, and intricate hand gestures. Mohiniyattam is primarily performed by women and is characterized by its lyrical and feminine style.
The word “Mohiniyattam” is derived from two Malayalam words, “Mohini” (meaning enchantress) and “aattam” (meaning dance). As the name suggests, the dance form focuses on portraying the enchanting beauty and grace of the female form. It is often considered as a dance of seduction and storytelling.
Mohiniyattam is performed solo, with the dancer typically adorned in traditional attire, which includes a white or off-white sari with golden borders. The costume is usually accompanied by minimal jewelry and the hair is styled in a bun adorned with flowers.
The movements in Mohiniyattam are soft, flowing, and graceful, with an emphasis on curved postures, swaying movements of the body, and subtle footwork. The hand gestures, known as mudras, are intricate and play a vital role in conveying emotions and narratives. The facial expressions, known as rasas, are also significant in Mohiniyattam, as they help to depict various characters and moods.
The music for Mohiniyattam is usually in the Carnatic style, accompanied by traditional instruments such as the mridangam (a percussion instrument), veena (a stringed instrument), and flute. The lyrics of the songs are typically in Malayalam and revolve around themes of love, devotion, and mythology.
Mohiniyattam has its roots in the Devadasi system, where women were dedicated to temples and performed dances as offerings to deities. Over time, it evolved into a secular art form and gained recognition as one of the major classical dance styles of India. Today, Mohiniyattam is performed not only on traditional occasions and festivals but also on various stages across the world, showcasing its rich cultural heritage.