Most popular classical Indian dances - Mohiniyattam and Bharatnatyam

On 21-07-2010

Mohiniyattam is a dance form said to have originated in Kerala. 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.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. The accompaniments for Mohiniyattam are Vocal, Veena, Venu, Maddalam and Idakka. Other instruments are also not unusual.


Bharatnatyam is one of the most popular classical Indian dances. Bharatnatyam is more popular in South Indian states of Tamil Nadu andKarnataka. The Bharatnatyam dance flourished in the Hindutemples of South India. The temple dancers (Called Devadasis or servants of god) flourished under royal patronage and religious devotion. At present Bharatnatyam is an immensely popular classical dance form of India. Bharatnatyam encompasses all the traditional aspects of classical dance: the mudras(hand positions), abhinaya (facial expressions), and padams (narrative dances). In this dance form the dancers make considerable use of hand-and-eye movements to express different emotions. Bharatnatyam is a term derived from the four most important elements of dance (in Sanskrit).

These are:

  • Bha from Bhava (emotion)
  • Ra from Raaga (music or melody)
  • Ta from Taala ( rhythm)
  • Natyam meaning dance.

The credit of reviving and popularizing the Bharatnatyam in its present form goes to Rukmini Devi, who gave it new life and respectability. Bala Saraswati, the queen of Bharatnatyam also deserves accoladesfor her work and efforts to popularize Bharatnatyam.

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