Kerala, God’s own country, the land of coconuts, the land of greenery with its swaying palms, dancing paddy fields and green trees is sandwiched between the vast Arabian sea and the rising Sahyadri hills. With the climatic condition helping agriculture the people of Kerala had enough time to evolve a culture, typical to the flora and fauna of the region.
An early morning stroll amid the paddy fields takes you to a world of infinite joy. We can hear apart from nature singing and dancing people doing the sadagams (practice). We can hear pattu sadagam (vocal practice) Vayitharri (syllables) Mai sadagam (body exercises) Nrithabhyasam (dance practice) Kannu sadagam (eye exercises) etc. Sometimes it makes one wonder whether this is Indraloka or heaven with the celestial beings involved in the practice and perfection of various art forms.
Kerala is a rich storehouse of varied tradition and a distinct culture. There appears to be a constant interaction between nature and mankind, between God and mankind, and God is worshipped through nature, religious ceremonies and through dance. The dance in Kerala can be divided into the ritual form, dramatic form, narrative form and the spiritual form.
The most primitive form of dance in Kerala is the ritual form; wherein man himself becomes God or spirit and dances in frenzy, sometimes even blessing the devotees. Example: Theyyam, Pambinthullal, Vellichapadthullal etc.
In the dramatic form the dancer enacts the role of different Gods and Goddess and conveys to the audience the different mythological stories highlighting their characteristic traits. Example: Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Krishnanattam etc.
There is yet another form; the narrative form, wherein the dancer narrates the story of the great epics through dance, music or narration such as in Ottamthullal, Chakiarkoothu, Kaikottikali etc. In ottamthullal and chakiarkoothu lot of humor is added to make the stories interesting and meaningful, by interweaving present-day topics so that people are aware of the happenings and relate to the great epics or puranas.
Lastly there is the spiritual form wherein the dancer through her dance conveys her longing to be united with God. This dance signifies the longing of a mortal to be united with the immortal. In other words craving of the atma to join the Paramatma. This is the highest form of bhakti namely the shringara bhakti .The constant endeavor of prakruti to join purusha; this is the underlying rasa or emotion of Mohiniattam. The union of feminine and masculine forces has resulted in creation. The feminine force is prakruti and the masculine purusha. Feminine is atma and masculine Paramatma.
This is the reason why many of the great poets, kings and mendicants assume the female form and write intensely, ardent, passionate love poems about the love and longing which they have for God. The highest form of union is between man and women, through love, which leads to sexual act, and the resultant is creation. Since God is the man, the poets both male and female assume the female form. Most of the mohiniattam dance lyrics expresses in its variation the theme of separated lovers longing and their passion.
Dr. Kalamandalam Radhika, http://www.kalamandalamradhika.itgo.com/