Ananya : The Unparalleled - October 6 to October 10, 2012 - Purana Quila, New Delhi - Daily at 7 to 8.15 pm - Entry Free
Monday, 8th October 2012
Mohiniattam - Vijaylakshmi and group (Delhi)
Reminiscent of ocean waves, swaying palms and lush paddy fields is, literally, the dance of the mythical enchantress Mohini. This traditional style was once performed by devadasis in temples which grew over time and acquired a classical status. Performed only by women, the form reveals the lasya aspect of dance. Hence, the prevailing rasa, or aesthetic mood, is of shringara (erotic) – also a metaphor for man’s desire for the divine. Some scholars trace the style to the 2nd or 3rd century AD – the era of the great Tamil epic Silappadikaram. Others believe it was created in the mid-18th century in the court of Maharaja Swati Tirunal of Travancore. But like all Indian dance, Mohiniyattam has evolved over several hundred years surviving a difficult phase in the last century. Music in Mohiniyattam has a special quality. The punctuated thrust of rhythmic nuances in vocal rendition is preserved in the mnemonic language of drums such as Edakka, Madhalam, Timila and Chenda. Chengila, a kind of gong, helps the singer to keep time.
Vijayalakshmi is acknowledged as one of the most eminent exponents of Mohiniyattam today. A unique combination of a researcher and performer, Vijayalakshmi has endeavoured to constantly expand traditional boundaries through innovative choreography inspired by a pan-Indian and global perspective. She has played a significant role in rejuvenating this beautiful Indian classical dance form with innovative productions, including Unniarcha (inspired by Kalaripayattu, the ancient martial art form); Swan Lake, inspired by the music of the celebrated Russian composer Tchaikovsky; and Paryapti, which draws upon the rich cultural ethos and music of Bengal. Variously honoured, Vijayalakshmi has performed at some of some very prestigious venues in India and the world, including the Lincoln Center, the Bolshoi Theatre, the Edinburgh International Festival and the World Music Institute, New York.


Paryapti provides the perfect mirror to reflect the quintessential femininity of Mohiniyattam in its celebration of Durga, the patron deity of Bengal and embodiment of the Feminine. It is this thread that binds the cultures of Kerala and Bengal that the artistes emphasise in Paryapti. The presentation celebrates the inherent divinity in all things by exploring the culture and status of courtesans in India. Courtesans have been extolled by poets in Indian literature as being highly accomplished and epitomised in Indian mythology by Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Over the ages, these women played a significant role in the evolution and preservation of Indian music and dance. At the turn of the 20th century, however, they were condemned due to the misplaced morality and orthodoxy that took root in India. According to a Bengali folk legend, these women pleaded with Shiva for compassion. The Lord blessed them saying when Parvati’s homecoming was celebrated on earth as Durga, her clay image would be complete only if the idol included the soil from their house. To this day, the soil from a sex worker’s house is a traditional requisite for the consecration of Durga’s idol. The ceremony redefines the sacred, underlines its inclusiveness, and is symbolic of an outcast woman’s desire for fulfillment, or Paryapti.