Enjoy learning the swaying movements of the charis – Dakshinaparshwa and Unnatha – in Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam has a few unique styles of movements when compared to other classical dance art forms in the region. In our journey into exploring the dance methods and movements in Mohiniyattam, we have explored the various foot and arm movements. In the previous article, we also discussed the different stylised footwork in this dance form or what is known as charis in Mohiniyattam. 

To reiterate, we explained that charis are used by a dancer to show different techniques to move from side to side and front to back with stylised footwork. Charis are essential components that enhance the Nrutha or pure dance and are also essential for modulating the speed of the dancer. 

There are 14 different charis in Mohiniyattam. Four of them have the hands fixed in the left hip and the other 10 use different nritha hasthas or hand gestures. Charis such as Valayam, Namitha and Natha were discussed in the earlier article. 

Here we continue to further explore different kinds of charis such as Dakshinaparshwa and Unnatha


Rhythm: Theithei thatha thithei thatha

Hold the left arm in a three-quarter-fold position with the Hamsasya gesture facing down and hold close to the chest and stand in the half-sit position. 

Dakshinaparshwa : Artist: Meenakshy Menon (Natanakaisiki)

Hold the right arm in a half-fold position with the Ardhachandra gesture in the right hand and hold it close to the head with the palm facing upward. Raise the right leg slightly up and hit for the beat theithei and simultaneously bend the upper body towards the right and look towards the right hand. 

For the second beat thatha, hit the right foot slightly behind the initial position and, at the same time, rotate the right hand hinged about the wrist and hold the hamsasya gesture with the palm facing downwards. 

During this move, hold the Hamsasya gesture in the left hand to an Ardhachandra facing upwards. The body and the eyesight should be straight. 

For the beat thithei, hit the left foot near the right foot and for the thatha hit it slightly behind it. This is a chari used to move backwards. 

Mohiniyattam artist Bindu Rajendran demonstrating Dakshinaparshwa and Unnatha


Rhythm: Theithei thatha thithei thatha

Stand in a half-sit position. Move similar to the previous Dakshinaparshwa chari towards the back. While hitting the Theithei thatha with the right foot, hold thripathaka gesture in the right hand with the palm facing upwards with the right arm in half-fold position towards the right side parallel to the head and rotate the right hand, move and fix it in the right side of the waist with a circular movement (chuzhippu). During this movement, keep the left hand fixed at the left waist. 

Unnatha : Artist: Meenakshy Menon (Natanakaisiki)

For the second half of this chari (thithei thatha), repeat the same movement on the left side.

Photo Courtesy: Natanakairali Archives

Assisted by Sreekanth Janardhanan

Write to us at editor@indiaartreview.com


Guru Nirmala Paniker is a danseuse, choreographer and researcher of repute. She established Natanakaisiki, the dance research and training wing of Natanakairali.

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