Art

Masterly Mohiniyattam

For the past many years, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has been conducting its annual Sangeet Samaroh to commemorate the Founder’s Day. This year, the Fest began on November 6 with a breathtaking Mohiniyattam performance by Dr. Methil Devika, who is the first Sangeet Natak Akademi Yuva Puraskar awardee for Mohiniyattam. Her performance clearly established how she has re-defined Mohiniyattam from a languid lasya oriented form to a total composite classical dance with emphasis on nritya, abhinaya, bhava, feminine grace and precise geometrical body movements. In sync with the avowed mission of Bhavans to promote India’s heritage and the two pillars of Sanskrit and Sanskriti, Devika started with an invocatory shloka from Sankaracharya’s Sanskrit work Soundarya Lahiri. The lines emphasised Shiva Shakti union as a denominator of human value to beauty. With such a spectacular opening verse, Devika slided into a territory of male-oriented aspect of dance - Shiva Tandavam. Normally associated with male dancers, the cosmic dance of Shiva is generally not performed by female dancers and that too in Mohiniyattam which is often understood as dance of the enchantress. She chose the rarely heard or seen Charana Shrunga Rahita Nataraja Stotram composed by sage Patanjali in Sanskrit. The story is that Nandi, the guardian of Chidambaram Temple, refused to let Patanjali have darshan of Lord Natataja. Peeved at the insult, Patanjali, the master of grammatical forms, spontaneously composed this poem in praise of Lord Shiva in a way totally devoid of Diirga Matra (syllable like leg) or Shrunga Matra (syllable like horn). Pleased, Shiva came out of the inner sanctum and joyously danced to this song and Nandi’s ego was restored. Devika adapted the composition to Mohiniyattam and structured masterly choreography to portray Sowmya Tandavam of Shiva. This was followed by a very powerful conquest of Rakhta Beeja Asur by Devi Durga which signifies the triumph of good over evil. The depiction of manifestation of thousands of evil Asur from each drop of Rakhta Beeja’s blood was mesmerizing and the interchange of character from Asur to Devi Ma revealed the tremendous practice and perfection of the artiste.

Devika ended her dance with a traditional Mohiniyattam composition of Maharaja Swati Thirunal “Alarsala Parithapam” which had her stamp of authority on her phenomenal achievement as a dancer, scholar teacher, choreographer and writer. It was a befitting celebration of Sanskrit and sanskriti .


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