Mohiniyattam – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Dance Styles Glossary

I. What is Mohiniyattam?

Mohiniyattam is a traditional dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Kerala. It is a graceful and elegant dance style that combines elements of both classical Indian dance and folk dance. The name “Mohiniyattam” is derived from the words “Mohini,” which means enchantress, and “attam,” which means dance. This dance form is known for its fluid movements, subtle expressions, and intricate footwork.

II. History and Origins of Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam has a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. It is believed to have been developed by the king of Travancore, Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, who was a patron of the arts. The dance form was originally performed by women in the temples of Kerala as a form of worship to the goddess Bhagavati. Over the years, Mohiniyattam has evolved and gained popularity as a classical dance form that is performed on stage.

III. Characteristics of Mohiniyattam

One of the key characteristics of Mohiniyattam is its emphasis on grace and fluidity. Dancers use subtle movements of the body, hands, and eyes to convey emotions and tell stories. The dance form also incorporates elements of storytelling, with dancers often performing pieces that depict mythological tales and legends. Mohiniyattam is known for its intricate footwork, which is performed with precision and grace.

IV. Costumes and Jewelry in Mohiniyattam

The costumes and jewelry worn by Mohiniyattam dancers are an important part of the performance. Dancers typically wear a white or off-white saree with gold borders, which is draped in a unique way that allows for fluid movements. The jewelry worn by dancers includes traditional temple jewelry, such as necklaces, earrings, and bangles, which add to the elegance of the performance.

V. Music and Instruments used in Mohiniyattam

Music plays a vital role in Mohiniyattam performances, providing a rhythmic structure for the dancers to follow. The music for Mohiniyattam is typically classical Carnatic music, which is accompanied by traditional instruments such as the veena, flute, and mridangam. The lyrics of the songs often convey themes of love, devotion, and mythology, adding depth and meaning to the performance.

VI. Training and Techniques in Mohiniyattam

Training in Mohiniyattam requires dedication and discipline, as dancers must master a variety of techniques and movements. Students typically begin their training at a young age, learning basic steps and gestures before progressing to more complex choreography. Dancers must also develop their expressions and storytelling abilities, as these are essential components of Mohiniyattam performances. Advanced students may also learn to improvise and create their own choreography, adding a personal touch to their performances. Overall, Mohiniyattam is a beautiful and captivating dance form that continues to enchant audiences around the world.