Monday, February 14, 2011

Mohiniattam: "dance of the enchantress"

Left image: Goddess Mohini enchanting the demons and distributing the amrita to the devdas.

Wednesday last week I had my first Mohiniattam class. This dance style from Kerala is one of the eight Indian classical dance forms. Formed by two words - mohini which means 'enchantress' and attam meaning 'dance'.
Inspired by the ancient legend of samundra manthan (churning of the Milky Ocean) - it is said that the devdas (demigods) and the danavs (demons) put aside their enmity and decided to churn the Milky Ocean to obtain amrita, the elixir of immortality. Gods and demigods started this joint-venture by planting the high mountain Mandara as the churning rod and twining the sinuous serpent Vasuki around it. This process caused the mountain to rotate and made it possible to churn the ocean. Unfortunately the waters turned dark blue and black and poisonous fumes engulfed the cosmic breath. Demigods and demons started to scream for help because halahala (poison) started to emerge. As they realized the dangerous situation they started praying and Lord Shiva appeared to rescue them. Shiva drank up all the poison - because of this legend Shiva got the title of Neelakanth since his throat turned blue. Once this calamity was over demigods and demons did not give up this project and worked with more zeal. As we all know hard work pays off - their reward was a pot containing amrita that pop up from the ocean. The pot was unfortunately snatched away by a demon - this wasn't a good surprise for the demigods. Once a demon were to drink amrita - it would become immortal. Demigods were afraid that everything would be destroyed and demons would take power and total control - they immediately - prayed to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu is known for amending situations created by Brahma or Shiva. Vishnu took form of Mohini (Mohini is the only female avatar of god Vishnu). Mohini - a beautiful enchantress - took over the pot of amrita by distracting the demons with her graceful dance of enchantment. She then gave it back to the demigods helping them to retain their immortality. Once the demigods had swallowed amrita they fought off the demons.
Mohiniattam inspired by this legend contains soft and bewitching movements. The waist is the central point on which the upper and lower body turns in gentle curving figures of eight or U-shape. The footwork is soft and delicate and I have to confess it is very hard to remain soft and in a steady position. I really enjoyed my first class and really hope to have soon more.
Here a wonderful two videos (one and two) relating the legend of samundra manthan (churning of the Milky Ocean).

(Disclaimer: Please note that I have written this story as how I understood it from different texts and sources. All content provided on this blog are for informational purposes only. I will make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site).
Photo source: google images

1 comment:

  1. This story does not portray vishnu in any respectful manner. This is clearly cheating someone after making use of them. Only shiva shines in this story.