About Me

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Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam dancer. Happily married to Dileep Kannan. Mother of a beautiful angel -Tamanna. Daughter of Mr. E.M Haridas & Mrs. Girija Haridas. Daughter-in-law of Dr. K. P Kannan & Mrs. Shobhana Kannan A Disciple of Smt. Shyamala Surendran at Dharani School of Performing Arts, Kochi MFA in Bharatanatyam from SASTRA University under the guidance of Dr. Padma Subramanyam

September 30, 2011

Chapter 8: Downfall of The Devadasis

It has been said the war between the Chera and Chola dynasties which occurred throughout the 11th century A.D led to the utter destruction of Kerala’s old capital Mahodayapuram (present day Kodungallur in Thrissur district, Kerala) and which subsequently led to a severe decline in foreign trade. The region of Kerala was divided into various small provinces and hence had independent rulers for the same. As for the temples lying across various regions, their management went into the hands of the community of Namboothiris (Hindu orthodox Brahmins from the state of Kerala), which resulted in this community wielding in latter years a great deal of power & influence.

As per various historical accounts, the Namboothiris (considering themselves equivalent to feudal lords), started making new rules in the management of the temples. A great many of these rules & regulations resulted in the casting of false aspersions upon the chastity of the Devadasis residing in the temple premises. It was also around this time that the local chieftains and other influential personalities of the regions started the practice of keeping the most appealing of the Devadasis as their courtesans, mistresses and concubines, and took them away from the temple premises. Thus, the brides of the gods soon found themselves as the "brides" of ordinary men. The rest of the set of Devadasis, who were not able to leave the temple premises, soon found themselves falling into a deep dark pit of man's deceit, lust and arrogance.

As per various historical accounts, it is said that the beautiful and talented Devadasis soon started falling victim to the lust of the temple guardians - the Namboothiris. These extremely conceited men (or at least a majority of them) led the Devadasis to think that if the latter maintained sexual relations with the former, the Devadasis would remain as chaste as ever for the rest of their lives, as the Namboothiris considered themselves as Gods on Earth (and who has ever lost their chastity by being with the Gods, right?)! And to further complicate matters, the hubris of these men made their poor wives at home believe that the same men should be worshipped for maintaining extra-marital affairs with the supposed brides of gods! What a wonderful & hypocritical merry-go-round they constructed! However, as gender discrimination was always a part of society in those days (and today), if there were any cases in which the same Namboothiris' wives were found to have extra-marital affairs with other men, they would be deemed as impure, sinful and completely cut off and thrown out of their clan. 

The famous Kerala historian Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai in his book named “Chila Kerala Charithra Prasnangal” (Some Problems in Kerala History - Part I, II & III) has written about how the priests of the temples (most of whom were Namboothiris) had illicit relationships with Devadasi women.

It has been historically noted that incidentally, there were also a number of Namboothiri women who became Devadasis as well. 
Temple dancer (Devadasi) and street musicians. Paintings circa 1800 from Tanjore, Tamil Nadu.
So once these servants of Gods started "serving" (or were forced/coerced to serve ordinary mortals), the children (illegitimate or otherwise) of these Devadasis were faced with no other choice but to also follow their mothers' paths. It was during these times that the reputation of these women within the larger community took a major beating and their standing within the community changed completely from being the brides of gods, to mistresses/concubines for men. This led gradually to a situation where none of the women from the influential and higher classes/castes were willing to become Devadasis. Hence, by the 13th century A.D, the Devadasi tradition became a hereditary one, passed on from mother to daughter and to future generations, like an heirloom (and an accursed one at that).

  • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma (my Guru's Guru)

Chapter 7 : Life of the Devadasis (& a little history)

In the first few centuries (A.D), the poojas and rituals conducted in temples in Kerala followed the Dravidian (A term used to refer to the diverse groups of people found in southern India who speak native languages belonging to the Dravidian family of languages) tradition according to texts written by Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai and Ulloor S. Parameswara Iyer (famous historians from Kerala). 

The migration of Aryans to the Dravidian regions of South India led to a gradual transformation of the lifestyles and traditions of the people. The Aryans were perceived as having introduced elaborate temple rituals like extravagant flower offerings, the distribution of food, singing, dancing etc.  As singing and dancing became a significant part of temple offerings, like we have seen in previous posts, plenty of families 'gave' away their daughters to temples to become the Brides of Gods for the rest of their lives. These  girls came to be called Devadasis or Thevadichis .

Thevadichi literally means one who is at God’s feet.

Theva + Adi + Achi = God + Feet + Woman

Currently, it is very sad that this word is used in a very demeaning manner for insulting women (in Kerala).

Education: For the intellectual growth of these girls, institutes of education and performing arts were established. Their training began at the tender age of 5 and special tutors were appointed. From the age of 5-8 years, the girls concentrated mainly on singing and dancing. During the ages of 8-12 years, they were taught to read and write, mainly poetry and drama.

Costumes & Jewellery: Authentic and custom-made costumes and jewellery were made especially for these girls who at that point in time enjoyed a high degree of prestige in society. It is said in historical accounts that even a girl from the ruling royal family at that time became a Devadasi willingly. This girl travelled in palanquins along with an entourage. Nevertheless, Devadasi were not allowed to perform outside temple premises even if they were offered high remuneration.

It has been noted that some of these highly talented women were prominent decision-makers when it came to the affairs of the temple(s) they were in. For e.g. At the famous Thanumalayan temple in Suchindram (a town in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, India), the renowned Vasantha Mandapam was constructed under the supervision of the Devadasis residing in that temple.  A few of the beautiful female sculptures created in this temple are said to be modelled after a Devadasi called Sitamma and her daughter. It is also said that Devadasis were highly trusted as messengers and guardians of gold/jewels by other influentials members of the larger community (especially women). Apparently, a Pandya Queen called Chokathandadi contributed 200 gold coins every year for a festival in this temple, and gave the responsibility of safeguarding these coins to a Devadasi called Rani Thiruvani.

It has been said that in spite of all the fame and recognition, the girls were only too willing to quietly accept their position as brides to the gods, while allowing all the gold and jewels that came their way in the name of the temple to be appropriated by the men who ran the temple affairs. These girls who in turn became women were said to have maintained their chastity till the end of their lives. They spent their lives as divine brides, forever immersed in prayers, rituals, poojas, meditating, dancing, and singing to the gods with immense and complete devotion.
Devadasi playing drums - Miniature Painting
  • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma (my Guru's Guru)

September 14, 2011

Chapter 6: The Birth & Rise of Devadasis

The Devadasi tradition (Deva - God; Dasi - Servant) was a religious tradition that began ~ 2000 years ago or around the 1st century A.D. This ancient ritual involved young virgin girls being betrothed, married and offered to a particular deity or to a temple. These girls were expected to dedicate their entire lives to the deity and by extension, the temple, by taking care of the temple surroundings and giving music and dance performances. They learned and practised dance forms which later became the Indian classical dance formats that we know and see today. In those times, these Devadasis also enjoyed a high status in society. There is an interesting legend regarding the beginning of this system.

Our ancestors’ blind faith in the Divine and the urge to appease the gods at every turn led to them sacrificing young virgin boys and girls frequently. Since the male population was required as hunters and farmers, the female population (as usual) had to bear the brunt of being sacrificial goats. It is said that, once, when famine struck a part of South India, as usual, the people turned to the gods to appease them through ‘Poojas’ (temple offerings) and sacrifices. A young beautiful girl was chosen as the first sacrifice. The poor girl was made to sit in front of the yagna fire with a flower garland around her neck and a horde of murmuring spectators around her. A self-appointed “pujari” (priest) cum executor is all ready to behead the girl. Lo and behold!, the girl disappears and only the flower garland remains. The crowd is amazed and dismayed at the same time, fearing the apparent dire consequences from the gods for the ceremony coming to such an abrupt end. That very same night, a nameless and lustrous divine form bedecked in rare jewels appeared in front of all the mortals, shimmered for a moment though and then vanished in a flash. For a while, the poor people thought they were dreaming. However, the very next day, a large area next to the yagna fire and sacrificial place that used to be completely devoid of any animals was filled with deer. The people came to believe that the herd of deer was a gift from the earlier-seen divine & lustrous form for the young beautiful girl that the latter had morphed into or rather abducted! Hence the place was marked as holy and perhaps the first ever temple constructed as gratitude to the gods. After this incident, the people of that region started to give away their young daughters and sisters to the temple(s) to please the gods. Looks like they must have thought it was a much better option than allowing those helpless girls to be beheaded.

Hence, as time passed, offering virgin girls to the gods became a ritual. These girls’ lives completely revolved around the temple. They were completely cut off from their respective families; and hence were never able to have a normal life like their peers. No marriage, no motherhood. They were brides to the temple deity till their death but at the same time they were treated by worshippers as equivalent to their “God”. They spent their days worshipping, singing and dancing for their “Celestial Groom”. They lived on whatever was contributed by the temple devotees.

It was at this point in the history of Indian classical dance that the ancient dances (as mentioned in preceding chapters), performed before these times, transformed itself into “Lasya” - to be performed by the women of the temples. Just like forests were cleared and converted into towns, coarse behaviour, language & costumes into refined ones; all the erstwhile holy places (as marked by the people or self-appointed religious guardians) were turned into high walled temples with beautiful sculptures. The temple girls gradually transformed from being just dancers into graceful performers in full -fledged, defined costumes. Stages were constructed just opposite the temple sanctum so that the dancers could have direct view of the inner sanctum. As per the records of those times, the dancers’ eyes and hearts are filled with love and devotion for their Idol. The Devadasis were honoured and treated with various privileges and given mansions in the temple premises. The sculptures of the these graceful and bedecked dancers were carved inside on pillars and other structures within the temple premises.

Thus was born the tradition of the Devadasi.
Sculptures - Dancing Girls @ Konark Sun Temple
  • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma (my Guru's Guru)

Chapter 5: Ulpathi - The Beginning

Ages ago, much before man started to speak or draw pictures, communication transpired through actions and sounds. When hunting was the only occupation man had i.e. even before farming was discovered, these ancestors of ours apparently danced for reasons unknown; to entertain or express themselves. As time progressed and as man became more aware of the birds & the bees and the world around him, and as he started to worship Nature, he must have danced to please all the living & non-living objects like the mountains, trees, serpents etc. whom he worshipped as gods. Perhaps this must have been the origin of what came to be called as tribal dance. This could have possibly been adopted or adapted to form the temple dance after the first temples were built in South India.
Worshipping trees and snakes
Incidentally, all the art forms seen in Kerala at present were apparently previously found in the Chera Chola Pandya Thondai mandalams (administrative divisions) of the old Tamizhakam district i.e. the region encompassing present-day Kerala and Tamil Nadu (two South Indian states). Currently, due to geographical & language differences, the classical dance styles varies.

Being Indian, I might sound a bit partial here. I strongly feel that the dance forms of my country are very different from the various dance forms from around the world. It could be due to the solid combination of multiple expressions and graceful movements, the accompanying music and even due to the vivid way of story-telling, which brings alive all the mythological stories our grandmothers used to narrate to us during our childhood.

Like I mentioned before, Natyashastra is the foundation of all the Indian classical dance forms, but just like the water that flows from the top of a mountain and branches out into different rivers; similarly, Indian Classical Dance is divided into 9 dance forms according to language, geography and costumes. They are:
  • Mohiniyattam (Kerala)
  • Kathakali (Kerala)
  • Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu)
  • Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Odissi (Orissa)
  • Kathak (North India)
  • Manipuri (Manipur)
  • Sattriya (Assam)
  • Gaudiya Nritya (Bengal) . This is the latest addition according to the Sangeet Natak Akademi
From Top Left in clockwise order : Manipuri, Kathak, Sattriya (Dr. Indira Bora), Kuchipudi (Dr.Raja & Radha Reddy),
Mohiniyattam, Odissi, Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, Gaudiya Nritya (Dr. Mahua Mukherjee)
  • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma ( my Guru's Guru)

    September 3, 2011

    Chapter 4: Natyashastra

    As mentioned earlier, Natyashastra is the encyclopaedia of Indian classical dance. The origin have already been explained in the previous chapter. Now I would like to provide a few details about Natyashastra. The list of chapters in the Natyashastra are:-
    • Origin of drama
    • Description of the theatre setting
    • Puja (offering) to the gods of the stage
    • Description of the Karana dance (key transitions)
    • Preliminaries of a play
    • Sentiments (Rasas)
    • Emotions and other states
    • Gestures of minor limbs
    • Gestures of the hands
    • Gestures of other limbs
    • Cari (leg movements)
    • Different gaits
    • Zones (geographical places) and local usages (customs, dress etc.)
    • Rules of Prosody (rhythm, stress and intonation of speech)
    • Metrical patterns (Patterns in music, rhythm & dance)
    • Diction of a play
    • Rules on the use of languages
    • Modes of address and intonation
    • Ten kinds of plays
    • Limbs of the segments (of the play)
    • Styles
    • Costumes and make-up
    • Harmonious performance
    • Dealings with courtesans
    • Varied performances
    • Success in dramatic performances
    • Instrumental music
    • Stringed instruments
    • Time measure
    • Dhruva songs (songs to be sung in a drama)
    • Covered instruments (percussion)
    • Types of character (roles)
    • Distribution of roles
    • Descent of drama on the Earth
    Before the presentation of the drama or play, there are standard rituals which are described in detail in the Natyashastra. The principal deity of the drama or play, Shiva, is always worshipped. Shiva, in the form of Nataraja, is offered a puja before any stage performance, after which the well-being of the audience is wished for.

    In the beginning, the drama was performed on the slopes of mountains or in the open. Later it was found that it needed protection from natural calamities and also from troublesome elements in society, especially when protests from some groups of people ending up taking a violent form. This can be seen even in present day dramas. So playhouses were constructed. Bharatamuni gives the details of construction of a playhouse right from the selection of land and its preparation, the construction material, building plans, pillars, measurements and so on.

    Bharatamuni then goes on to describes histrionics, which is called Abhinaya in Natyashastra. The drama is communicated to the spectators in four ways:
    1. The communication through body movements, called Angika Abhinaya, where the movements of major limbs like head, chest, hands and feet as well as the movements of minor limbs like eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, chin etc. are involved. The glances, gestures, gaits are also part of angika abhinaya.
    2. The communication by speech is called Vachika Abhinaya. In this, the vowels, consonants and their places of origin in the mouth, intonation, modes of address etc. are discussed. While giving the literary aspect of drama Bharatamuni describes ten types of dramas which are known as Dasharupaka. One of them is Veethi i.e. road shows.
    3. Extraneous representation is called Aaharya Abhinaya and is executed by means of costumes, make up, ornaments, stage properties etc.
    4. Representation of temperament of the characters is called Sattvika Abhinaya. It is the highest quality of abhinaya expressing the inner feelings of the character by subtle movements of the lips, nose, trembling of the body, turning the face red, tears rolling down the face etc.    
    Then Bharata describes how to represent the phenomena like sunrise, sunset, different times of the day, rains etc. which is called Chitrabhinaya. He also mentions in detail how to show the animals on stage, how to make them artificially and with what material.

    Bharatamuni also makes a note of the dramatic competitions, how to conduct them, the qualification of judges, gifts to be given to the actors in one of the chapters.

    A lot of importance is given to music in Natyashastra, wherein about nine chapters have been dedicated to music. In vocal and instrumental music, he describes Swara (a musical note) and its use in expressing particular aesthetic sense i.e. Rasa
    • Gandharam and Nishadam are used for expressing a tragic sense i.e. Karuna rasa
    • Shadjam and Rishabham is used for expressing a gallant and amazing sense respectively i.e. Veera and Adbhuta rasa
    • Madhyamam and Panchamam is used for expressing a sensual and comic sense respectively i.e. Shrungara and Hasya rasa
    • Dhaivata is used for expressing a repulsive sense i.e. Beebhatsa rasa
    Details about Murcchana (a group of swaras to be sung together) and its types are also specified. The music is derived from the Sama Veda. Gandharva music is also Sama music. Seven notes were already established in Sama music. The Sama singers were connected with sacrifice and gandharvas were professional singers or musicians of the gods. Swara, Pada (composition) and Tala (beats) are the three constituents of gandharva music. Rhythm, i.e. Taal, is derived from tala, i.e. stability. Taal is the foundation essential to music. It is indicated by the clapping of hands also. Bharatamuni describes various taals. He says, "All music, vocal and instrumental, along with dance, should be performed harmoniously to give a pleasant experience". Bharatamuni then gives details about songs to be used in drama. They are called Dhruvas.

    The musical instruments (all of which continue to be extensively used even nowadays) are divided in four groups:
    • Stringed instruments are called Tata (like the Veena & the Violin)
    • Wind-blown instruments are called Sushira (like the Flute)
    • Percussion instruments are called Avanaddha (like the Tabla, Mridangam, Idakka)
    • Cymbals are called Ghana (like the Nattuvangam)
    Bharatamuni also describes how to play all the four groups of instruments. The examples of the instruments quoted just above are the major ones still used for all Mohiniyattam performances to this day.

    All of the above that I have just written carries only a brief and concise introduction to the Natyashastra. There are many other topics described in it and their finer details would be given in the main manuscript. The Natyashastra invariably shows the deep level of thought and development of the arts, even in ancient times.


    Chapter 3: The Arrival of Dance on Earth

    Under the tutelage of their father, Bharatamuni’s sons became extremely proficient dancers but they were extremely haughty as well. They started performing dance items filled with vulgarity. This angered the Maharishis (the great ancient sages) immensely. Enraged, the latter cursed the former to be born on earth as ordinary mortals.

    Later in the era, King Nahusha who had the freedom to visit the heavenly abode of the gods anytime he wanted, brought down Bharatamuni’s sons to earth. They begot children from women residing on earth and Natya Veda was trained to these children. Finally, after years of penance, Bharatamuni’s sons were released from their curse and returned to their heavenly abode. From amongst the descendants of Bharatmuni born on earth - Kohalan, Shandilyan and Dhathilan were the main characters who spread Natyaveda around the earth.

    • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma ( my Guru's Guru) 

    Chapter 2: Origin Of Indian Classical Dance

    The Natyashastra is known as the encyclopaedia of Indian classical dance. It is accepted as the foundation to all the dance forms in our country.

    As per Hindu mythology, the first era of the earth was known as the Satya Yuga or the Krita Yuga; the "Era of Truth", when mankind was ruled by the gods themselves and the world was filled with goodness and justice. The Krita Yuga was followed 10,000 years later by the Treta Yuga where lust and desire started creeping into the minds of man. So at the onset of the Treta Yuga, the mythological king of the gods, Indra, requested Lord Brahma (the Creator) to combine the universal of all ancient scriptures, the four Vedas, into a single text in order to make it both comprehensible and interesting for ordinary mortals, regardless of their caste or creed. Hence was authored the Natya Veda.
    Brahma creating the Natya Veda
    The main essence of the Natya Veda is as follows:
    • Recitative (style of delivery) from the Rig Veda
    • Music from the Sama Veda
    • Theatrical Representation (Angika Abhinaya) from the Yajur Veda
    • Expressions and Sentiments (Rasa & Bhava) from the Atharva Veda
         As the story goes, the gods themselves felt that they were quite incapable of learning and enacting the Natya Veda effectively, this was duly taught to Bharatamuni; the son of Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma then created 25 apsaras (celestial beauties) bestowed with unparalleled beauty and talent, to learn the knowledge of dance, namely; Manjukesi, Sukesi, Misrakesi, Sulochana, Saudamini, Devadatta, Devasena, Manorama, Sudati, Sundari, Vigagdha, Vividha, Budha, Sumala, Santati, Sunanda, Sumukhi, Magadhi, Arjuni, Sarala, Dhrti, Nanda, Supuskala, Supuspamala and Kalabha.
    Illustration of Apsaras
       Bharatamuni then taught the Vrittis (expressions) to his 105 sons and the above named Apsaras. The Vrittis are four in number and are as follows:
    •      Bharati (Vocals)
    •      Satthvathi (Emotions)
    •      Aarabhati (Forceful movements - includes running, jumping & exercises)
    •      Kaishiki (Delicate movements)
    The first 3 were taught to his sons and the last one to the apsaras. As per the  mythological account of the time, Bharatamuni and his entourage then performed Natya (dramatic representation), Nrithya (intepretative dance) and Nritta (pure dance steps performed rhythmically) for the first time at Lord Indra's Dhwajotsav (Flag Festival) which was highly appreciated by everyone present. The same was performed in front of Nataraja (Lord Shiva, the Destroyer) himself who was extremely pleased and also contributed his opinion. He advised Bharatamuni to add “Aṅgahāra” i.e. the process of moving the limbs from one point to another. Since it is loved and practiced by Hara (Lord Shiva), the shadow of his name is incorporated in the term Aṅgahāra.  He also instructed Bharatamuni to add the “Pradosha Nrithya” into their repertoire as Poorvarangam (worship and preparation of the stage). Pradosha Nrithya is a cosmic dance performed by Lord Shiva. The word ‘pradosha’ means ‘dusk’, while ‘nrithya’ means ‘dance’. As the name suggests, Lord Shiva performs this dance at twilight in the presence of Parvati, His consort. According to Hindu mythology, this dance is performed to free his devotees from their suffering.
    Shiva Tandav
    As the story goes, Lord Shiva also appointed one of his attendants Tandu to teach them his own aggressive form of dance, known as the Tandava while His consort Parvati taught Lasya (an extremely feminine & fluid type of dance) to Usha, the daughter of Shiva’s ardent devotee Banu. Usha was then directed to teach Lasya to the milkmaids of Dwarka (the city that Lord Krishna built on earth) i.e. the Gopikas, who in turn passed this on to the women in Sourashtra (present day Western India). Thus the art of Lasya was spread across ancient India, and subsequently, the world.
    Illustration of Lasya
    • The book (in Malayalam) 'Mohiniyattom-Charitravum Aataprakaravum' by the Mohiniyattam maestro (Late) Smt. Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma (my Guru's Guru)

    Chapter 1: Life, Dance & Me


    Angikam Bhuvaman
    Yasya Vachikam Sarvavatmayam
    Aaharyam Chandrathaaradhi
    Thamnuma Saathwikam Shivam         
    It is my belief that any form of art is a practice of meditation. Executing one's favourite form of art in which one is talented is one way of reaching, feeling and touching what is beyond. Some may synonymize this as “Divinity”.  There are certain times in life, whether soothing or trying, when you would like to share something extremely intimate with those around you, but which one’s fellow mortals cannot comprehend, and then you turn towards those residing in the heavens for advice, help or maybe just to listen to your innermost thoughts.  At the end of this correspondence (always one-way, surely), you might say - Thank God!, or Oh My God!

    For those human beings who believe in a higher power (or powers), the most regular way of communicating with their respective deities (depending on how many deities you subscribe to) is through prayer. For hardworking, career-oriented folks, it’s through their job. That’s maybe why the saying goes; “Work is Worship”. Artists communicate through the talent that is bestowed upon them at birth and/or through the talent acquired from the utmost dedication, perseverance and hard work. Of course, having a brilliant, enlightened and supportive teacher never hurts. Very few people are actually termed as “gifted”, which is truly a great compliment. My father always says that if one does not show dedication or at least interest towards nurturing their 'God-given' gifts or talent at some point of their life, then it is a sin (I know it sounds slightly over-the-top, but still, fathers have their own notions).

    Now the part about dance and me. Dance has always been an integral part of my life. From the tender age of five, I put my best foot forward (modestly speaking, of course) into the world of classical dance, which then became a lifelong journey. I commenced dancing by learning Bharatanatyam (the dance form which was kindly shared with the world by the Indian state of Tamil Nadu). Learning Bharatanatyam has continued till this very day. It was after 18 years of studying Bharatanatyam, when I expressed 'no desire at all' to learn Mohiniyattam, that my Guru Smt. Shyamala Surendran literally and irrevocably dragged me into the world of Mohiniyattam, a deed upon which i now look back with immense gratitude and appreciation. Dragged is definitely the right word, as I had been conveniently avoiding learning this art form, thinking (mistakenly, as it turned out) that it would affect my Bharatanatyam, and to be quite honest I also carried at that time a misconception that the pace of Mohiniyattam was dragging & slow. I know I am being tautological but that was my impression of Mohiniyattam at that time. To the Haritha of 2007, Mohiniyattam did not have the exciting and swift movements of Bharatanatyam. Also I thought it would not suit my personality (Can you believe the arrogance?).  Finally due to the sweet perseverance of my Guru, I started learning Mohiniyattam, which opened up an entire new world of dance for me. 

    So it is in this backdrop that I have now chosen to write about dance in general & Mohiniyattam in particular, in my own small way. This is my way of paying homage and also apologising for misunderstanding a beautiful, graceful and a completely entrancing form of classical dance - Mohiniyattam.