Mohiniattam: Dance of the Enchantress

Saji Menon, Megha Ahire and Dimple Nair performing Mohiniattam
(l to r) Saji Menon, Megha Ahire and Dimple Nair performing Mohiniattam

Mohiniattam is the elegant, lyrical classical dance of Kerala, prevailing for centuries and is normally performed by women. The dance movements symbolize the exquisite swaying of the palm trees of Kerala. It is the dance of the enchantress and not the dance of the seductress as misunderstood by many. It is based on the lasya concept of dancing, a feminine, graceful style of dancing, initiated by goddess Parvati.

Stories of Mohiniattam’s origin

According to Hindu mythology and varied sacred texts, there are various references to the word Mohini and the evolution of Mohiniattam. During Amruta Manthan (churning of the ocean in search of the nectar of immortality), in a tussle between the devas (gods) and asuras (demons), the demons were about to snatch the pot of nectar, but Lord Vishnu appeared as a beautiful damsel, Mohini, and took away the pot of nectar. Hence, Mohini is referred to as the beautiful woman of enchantment. The word Mohini is derived from the words mohit and moham.

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Guru Vijay Shanker
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Guru Vijay Shanker

Guru Vijay Shanker is a professional Kuchipudi-Kathakali exponent, actor, choreographer and arts critic for more than four decades.