Mohiniattom is the traditional dance form of Kerala. This is a feminine dance form based on the graceful movement of body. Mohiniattom features Grace and Beauty ( Lasya and Sringara). Among the four types of bodily movements as described in Natyasasthra Kaisiki is adopted in Mohiniattom.It is considered as most suited for expressing the Sringara Beauty). Most of the compositions in Mohiniattom are based on Sringara too.
Mohiniattom is a dance from reinvented from the temple dance form of Dasiattom. There are many dance maestros who contributed for reviving and popularizing this dance form.Kunjukutty Amma, Chinnammu Amma, Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, Bharathi Sivaji and Kanak Rele are some among them.
There are so many inferences, interpretations, and controversies about the origin of Mohiniattom. Like there were in many parts of India in Kerala too there was the practice of Devdasies and the temple dances performed by them Dasiattom or thevadisiattom later structured and reformed to Mohiniattom;this is one version about the origin of Mohiniattom. But there is no evidences in strong support of this claim. The first written mention about Mohiniattom is seen in “Vyavahara Maala” a book believed to be written in 1709 by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboothiri. This book mentions about dividing the prize money by the artists among themselves after a mohiniattom performance. Kunchan Nambiar who was contemporary to Mazhamangalam also mentions about this dance form in his recitals Thullalpattu.In Khoshayathra ( Procession) he mentions about all the then prevalent art forms while describing the richness and prosperity.
Hasthamudra( Gestural expressions by Hand)
Hasthamudras, the gestural expressions using hand is very important in dance formslike Bharathanayam and Mohiniattom. These mudras are equivalent to words. Each mudra has its own meaning. The mudras are taken from “Hashta lakshana Deepika” which describes about 24 mudras such as Pathaka(Flag)Mudrakhyam(.Beatiful)kadkam(bangle),Mushti(Fist), Karthareemukham( Arrow shaft/Scissors)Sukathundam( Bird’s Beak),Kapithakam( the fruit of a tree), Hamsapaksham(Wing of a Swan) Sikharam(Mountain)Hamsasyam( Head of Swan),Anjali( Folded Hand),ArdhaChandram( HalfMoon) Mukuram( Mirror)Bhramaram( Beetle),Soochikamugham(needle)Pallavam(Sprout)Tripathaka(Three parts of the flag), Mrugaseersham( Head of a Deer)Sarppasirasu( Head of a Cobra), Vardhamanakam( seedling) Arralam(Peak of a Mountain),Oornanabham(Spider),Mukulam(Bud) Kadakamukham.
Kerala kalamandalam initiative of Vallathol Narayana Menon in 1930 at Cheruthury have amajor role in reviving Mohiniattom. In Kalamandalam along with Kathakali Mohiniattom also got encouragement.Vallathol when decided to start Mohiniattom classes at Kaalamandalam was in search of a suitable person as trainer and found out Kalyanikuttiy amma who was a student under Appekkat Krishnapanikkar.Vallatthol took the initiative to revive Mohiniattom changing many sampradayas( methods) used at that time in Daasiattam. The more modest and structured dance form of Mohiniattom derived like that. Vallathol asked Kalyanikutty Amma to make the movements swift and enchanting . Another change brought in to Mohiniattom was positioning the master (Trainer) and orchestra to one side of the stage. Till that time the trainer used to move along the dancer reciting the slokaa .
Mohiniattom is the dance from which give emphasis to Lasya( Grace) so the movements are enchanting .Cholkkettu,Jathiswaram,Padam,Padvarnam, Thillana are the major types of Mohiniattom usually performed . Chollkketuu is the dance praising of God Shiva and Parvathi. Lasya (Grace) is prime in this form. The keertthanas or slokas are to be meaning fully expressed through movements and gestures of hand body, eyes, legs and head. While moving from one situation to another ( Adavu) “chari” to be done. Chari is the name for moving backward. This is also a peculiarity of Mohiniattom.
The attire for dancers in Mohinniattom also had many changes. Nine yard sari in White cotton with Jari in border is pleated and draped around. It will be fixed with Odyanam (hip chain). Blouse also will be with Jari border. Hair will be put up round ,to the left side decorating with flowers. There are traditional ornaments also use to wear in Mohiniattom. Nettichutti , thoda(Ear stud) Kasumala ( Garland with coins) Poothali( Garland in floral pattern) are the ornaments used. This dance form attracts on its swift and enchanting movements and beautiful attire.
Orchestra and Music
Till certain period, the songs were of Sopana style and instruments were like thoppi maddhalam, and thithi. The traditional kerala style of music was followed in Mohiniatttom. But now Carnatic music, Mrudangam Violin etc are also being used.