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Mo­hiniy­at­tam is a dance form said to have orig­i­nated in Ker­ala. It is closely re­lated to Bharathanatyam of Tamil Na du, Mo hi ni yatt am which was orig­i­nally called 'Dasiy­at­tam'. Orig­i­nated as the tem­ple dance per­formed by De­vada­sis, it por­trays fem­i­nine love in its myr­iad forms - car­nal, de­vo­tional and ma­ter­nal- with ac­cent more on Lasya and Bhava. In the main items Cholkettu, Pa­davar­nam and Padam, Mu­dras and fa­cial ex­pres­sions are more im­por­tant than the rhyth­mic steps. Cos­tumes and or­na­ments of Mo­hiniy­at­tam have much in com­mon with fe­male char­ac­ters of Kood­iy­at­tam and Kathakali.

Once Mo­hiniy­at­tam was per­formed only in Tem­ples premises and royal courts. The first ref­er­ence to Mo­hiniy­at­tam is found in 'Vyava­hara­mala' com­posed by Mazhaman­galam Narayanan Nam­bood­iri, of 16th cen­tury AD. Ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions to this art form were given by Ma­haraja Swathi Thirunal, Iray­im­man Thampi and Kut­tikunju Thankachi.

Af­ter Swathi Thirunal's pe­riod there was a down­fall of Mo­hiniy­at­tam. It some­how de­gen­er­ated into eroti­cism to sat­isfy the Epi­curean life of a few pro­vin­cial satraps and land­lords. The renowned Malay­alam poet Val­lathol re­vived it and gave it a sta­tus in modern times through Ker­ala Kala­man­dalam which is presently do­ing its best for the de­vel­op­ment and pop­u­lar­ity of Mo­hiniy­at­tam.

Kala­man­dalam Kalyanikutty Amma (wife of fa­mous Kathakali artist, late Pad­mashree Kala­man­dalam Kr­ish­nan Nair) and Chin­nammu Amma are well known Mo­hiniy­at­tam per­form­ers. Among the present day artists Kala­man­dalam Sathyab­hama, Kala­man­dalam Kshe­ma­vathi, Bharathi Si­vaji, Kanak Rele, Sunanda Nair etc.. are well known artists. Smt. Kanak Rele de­serves a spe­cial men­tion as she is not a Malay­alee. She has es­tab­lished a Nritya Ma­havidyalaya in Mum­bai to pro­mote Mo­hiniy­at­tam along with other dance forms.

Most of the com­po­nent items of Mo­hiniy­at­tam are sim­i­lar to Bharat­natyam and Kuchipudi, though sub­tle dif­fer­ences of style is ob­vi­ous. The lan­guage used in the lyrics is a pleas­ant mix­ture of Malay­alam and San­skrit, known as Ma­nipravalam. For­merly, the Padams were spe­cially com­posed to in­clude only Sringararasa. Now a days artists are us­ing any clas­si­cal or semi-clas­si­cal com­po­si­tions, even from other lan­guage. The real beauty of Mo­hiniy­at­tam comes through only when ma­ture ladies en­act the ro­man­tic padams spe­cially writ­ten to present the Ashta Nayikas: Swad­heena Bharthruka, Khan­ditha, Ab­his­arika, Vipral­ab­dha, Kala­handtharitha, Vasakasajja, Proshithab­harthruka, Vi­ra­holkhan­ditha.

The ac­com­pa­ni­ments for Mo­hiniy­at­tam are Vo­cal, Veena, Venu, Mad­dalam and Idakka. Other in­stru­ments are also not un­usual.

Com­pared most other dance forms, Mo­hiniy­at­tam gives more im­por­tance to ges­tu­ral and fa­cial act­ing. The Mu­dras (hand ges­tures) are al­most al­ways same as those em­ployed in Kathakali. The artists try to en­act the lyrics al­most in its en­tirety, like in Kathakali.

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