Jatisvaram in Mōhiniyāṭṭaṁ is a rhythmic assemblage of musical notes and pure dance movements.

In the previous article, we explored the first item in the Mohiniyattam repertoire, Cholkettu. This dance form primarily focuses on the Nrutha aspect and draws parallels between it and the Prithvi thathva of Panchabhoota.

The second item in Mōhiniyāṭṭaṁ recital is called Jatisvaram. It is an assemblage of svaras (musical notes) within the framework of a rāga and in tune with its tāḷa (time-beat). The danseuse exhibits nṛutta (pure dance) appropriately. Various patterns of aṭavus, in tune with the tāḷa, are assorted in this pure dance recital. The svara passages are designed to highlight the grace and attraction of the dance movements.

Vayu, the next element among Panchabhoota, is related to the Pranamayakosha of life. Vayu manifests as Swara or musical notes. In other words, musical notes or swara-s emanate from the controlled vibrations of the air column by a singer’s vocal chords. Thus, swara-s or musical notes originate from the flow of vayu. The nritha or pure dance form that combines movements corresponding to musical swara-s is called jathiswaram. It is the second item of a Mohiniyattam repertory in the Kutcheri format. Compared to the first item, Cholkkettu, Jathiswaram adds another layer of complexity or flavor to the performance by including musical notes in its orchestration. This can be likened to another step in the spiritual pursuit, where the jeevathma elevates itself to another level of spiritual attainment on the journey towards the final destination of Moksha.

Nritha or pure dance is meant to evoke beauty or aesthetic sensibilities in the spectator according to Natyashastra. Regardless of the audience’s level of knowledge about the art form, jathiswaram appeals to all of them. It serves as a performative piece that initiates the audience into the core aspects of the art form, just as explicit forms of worship initiate a sadhaka into the spiritual journey.

The two manifestations of Vayu—sound and its refined form, music—constitute the vachika qualities of a Jathiswaram.

Assisted by Sreekanth Janardhanan

Photo Courtesy : Natanakairali Archives

Artists : Bindu Rajendren, Anju Peter and Keiko Okano


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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