Ranga Parichaya Mohiniattam Festival 2009 
Photos: KR Sankaran 

February 5, 2010 

Natana Kaisiki, the Mohiniattam Gurukulam of Natana Kairali celebrated the 10th Ranga Parichaya  Mohiniattam Festival  successfully from 20th to 22nd of December at the  Arangu of Natana Kairali, Irinjalakuda.  The three day long festival was inaugurated by Swami Hari Om Ananda. 

Natana Kairali is a research and performing centre for the traditional art forms of Kerala, founded by G Venu in 1975 and Natana Kaisiki is a wing of Natana Kairali added to it in 1979, which was founded by Nirmala Paniker, who is a disciple of Mohiniattam exponent Guru Kalyanikutty Amma. Natana Kaisiki is very unique because it is dedicated only to the promotion and preservation of the dance and theatre traditions of the women of Kerala, especially Mohiniattam, Nangiar Koothu and Thiruvathirakali.  
The Mohiniattam festival 2009 started with a lecture demonstration by Nirmala Paniker and her students. The topic was how the movements in Mohiniattam are related to  nature and the day to day life of Kerala. 
The first day presentation was dedicated to the old tradition of Mohiniattam and Kapila, one of the senior most students of Natana Kaisiki, was the performer. The program started with a Cholkettu consisting of stylised syllables, then a Devi sthuti, again syllables and finally ended with a few lines invoking Siva, with the main raga being Saurashtram and tala Adi.  

Nirmala Paniker
The second item was a Varnam, raga Neelambhari and tala Adi by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal, the great king who took special care and rejuvenated Mohiniattam in the 19th century. The varnams in Mohiniattam mostly describe the distress of the heroine separated from her beloved. This new choreography provided ample opportunities to Kapila to demonstrate her histrionic talent. 

The performance ended with a Desi Mohiniattam called Mukkuthi / Moksha Nritham. Normally it is a very simple theme that says that kurathy lost her nose ring and is searching for it. Mohiniattam exponent, choreographer and scholar Nirmala Paniker brought in a highly philosophical approach in which an inner meaning dealing with the human search for moksha was also projected.  
The second day of the festival started with a very educative lecture by Vijaya Kumar Menon,  a well known scholar of many art forms of Kerala. This day, the importance was given to Desi Mohiniattam, which is also Nirmala Paniker’s recent contribution to the repertoire of Mohiniattam.  When the revival of Mohiniattam took place in Kerala Kalamandalam, the dance form went through many reforms, believed as necessary to its rescue at that time. In this process, some items were removed from the repertoire. But considering the importance of preventing Mohiniattam from becoming rootless, and to keep its indigenous aspects, it was necessary to keep the folk traditions in the repertoire alive. That led Natana Kaisiki to the revival of several such dances of this kind namely Poli, Easal, Chandanam, Kurathi, Mukkuthi and Kummi.  

Poli - Sudharma
Mukkuthi - Sandra
The first item presented this evening was called Poli, an invocation to ‘Amma daivam’ (mother goddess) in her different ancient forms like Kali, Neeli, Karumari, Rudra etc., and pray to her to be present everywhere and wishes happiness and prosperity to the whole community around her; these are her children. Then Meenakshi Menon, one of the  disciples of Guru Nirmala Paniker, presented one of her own choreographies. She selected a few lines of the song “Vandippin Mathavine” penned by the great Malayalam poet Mahakavi Vallathol, who founded Kerala Kalamandalam.  

The performance ended with another Desi Mohiniattam called Easal. In Easal, there are two dancers - Lakshmi kurathi and Parvathi kurathi. In the beginning of the dance, there is an encounter between Lakshmi kurathi and Parvathi kurathi. Then towards the end, they become friends.  The lines for Easal have been taken from the “Lakshmi – Parvathi Samvadam Pattu.” The music was composed under the guidance of Kavalam Narayana Paniker. 

Photo: KK Najeeb
On the last day, new Margi choreographies of Natana Kaisiki  were performed by the students. The items presented were ‘Nrithyati Nrithyati,’ an invocation dance, then   Varnam, Padam, Thillana, Saptham and a Kummi too. Kummi belongs to the group dance category and in olden days, the Mohiniattam dancers used to conclude their performance with one of these items. All the items were newly choreographed and taught by Nirmala Paniker. The main dancers were Uma Devi, Sandra Pisharody, Sudharma, Parvathy, Remya J, Remya R Menon and Greeshma. Kummi was performed by young dancers Gayathri, Medha, Chaithanya, Anupama, Mridula, Hridya and Atmaja. 

The accompanying artistes were: Reju Narayanan, Kalanilayam Ramakrishnan (vocal), Kalanilayam Prakasan (maddalam), Chalakudy Reghunath, Visakhan (flute), Kalanilayam Kaladharan (edakka) and Nirmala Paniker (nattuvangam).