Thanks to Guru Tara Rajkumar and Guru Nirmala , who transmitted to me this beautiful dance- and lifestyle, now Mexico has dancers who can learn it, practice it and make it known.

Its profound spiritual and ritual background is linked to meditation, to devotion and to the rituals of the temples

MOHINIYATTAM

Mohiniyattam, one of the seven styles of classical Indian dance, is a beautiful form of dance of the women of Kerala, in southern India, tropical land of numerous performing and ritual arts.

Mohini literally means ‘a young woman who arouses desire or steals the heart of whoever looks at her’. Attam means ‘the dance of’. Thus, the Mohiniyatam dance style is known as “The Dance of the Divine Enchantress”. Her movements are gentle and undulating, inspired by the sway of the ocean’s waves and the palm trees in the wind, as Mohiniyattam belongs to the category of the “Lasya” or feminine dance. 

Mohiniyattam through times

The dancer of Mohiniyattam and other classical Indian dances approaches the mythological and religious deities intimately, not only dancing for them, as was traditional in her role as Devadasi in the rituals of the temples since the VIIIth century (see article “Devadasis of the temples” ––“Devadasis en los templos”–– in Forum) but also embodying these deities and narrating episodes of their lives and their feats.

For this purpose, the dancer uses a non-verbal language consisting of hand gestures and facial expressions or abhinaya, as well as the technique of the dance itself.

1/6

There are two Puranic stories or legends about the origin of Mohiniyattam. In both cases, the Lord Vishnu takes the shape of a woman in order to attract someone by dancing beautifully.

 

According to the first legend, a long time ago the demon Bhasmasura imposed upon himself terrible penances in order to please the god Shiva, who, thus flattered, granted him the gift of turning into ashes whatever he might touch.

Bhasmasura then decided to test the efficacy of his gift directly against Shiva, who had to take flight in order not to be reached by Bhasmasura. They both ran and ran across the entire universe. No one could solve this situation because no one dared come near the demon. Then Shiva implored Vishnu to grant him his protection.

Vishnu consented and appeared in the shape of a beautiful woman, Mohini, who was not afraid to approach Bhasmasura. When Bashmasura saw her, he forgot his purpose and immediately fell in love and wished to marry her. Mohini replied that she had taken a vow and that she would only marry the man who would be her equal in a dance contest. Thus, Mohini began her enchanting dance, and the demon struggled clumsily to equal her. Finally, Mohini asked, “And can you also do this?” and she touched her head. The demon, forgetting his gift, touched his head and reduced himself to a pile of ashes. 

The second legend tells us that, once upon a time, in the bottom of the ocean, the Gods and the Asuras (jealous gods) fought between themselves for the elixir of life or amrita.

  The fight was being won by the Asuras, and one of the Gods ran to beseech Vishnu to protect the Gods from the demons, for, if the Asuras ever took hold of the amrita, the world would be dominated by these until the end of time.

  Vishnu then transformed himself into the beautiful dancer Mohini and appeared at the scene of the battle. She began to dance graciously, capturing the attention of the demons, who immediately abandoned the fight and ran, beguiled, after her.

 Thus the gods were able to safeguard the amrita for good, worthy purposes

It is interesting to note that in this manifestation of the god Vishnu, Mohini does not fear the demons, and her boldness safeguards the safety of the universe, which is the task of Vishnu.shnú.

 

The training in classical Indian dance is based on the tradition of the Guru – Shisha (Master and student), where there is great respect for the teacher of a lineage and for the process of learning, practice and transformation into a dancer. The rigor and discipline must be impeccable. Traditionally, the student lives at the home of the teacher during his or her training, and this is how I learnt in India. It is very important for the students not to inflate their ego and to always have humility in order to be able to represent Mohini and her dance in a pure, genuine manner.

Natanakaisiki Institute

© 2017