Chandanam, a Mohiniyattam choreography, from the Desi repertoire that has been developed by Guru Nirmala Paniker.

Historically in Mohiniyattam, items such as Chandanam, Poli, Mookuthi, etc., were once part of the repertoire. However, as time passed, the stories depicted through these dances veered towards the obscene, leading to their eventual disappearance from Mohiniattam presentations. In the last 30 years, I have delved into these forgotten choreographies, conducted intensive research, and successfully revived them. I have incorporated these elements into my signature style, known as Desi Mohiniattam.

In this exquisite choreography, the dancer gracefully enters the stage bearing sandalwood paste and rose water, extolling their many glorious qualities. She articulates that the sandalwood paste graces the chest, body, and forehead of the great Lord Maha Vishnu himself. She proceeds to illustrate how sandalwood possesses the remarkable ability to cool those afflicted by Kamadeva’s arrows of love and even those who have been poisoned. Following this, the depiction of the churning of the milky ocean, known as Palazhimadhanam, takes center stage. Devas and Asuras join forces in this grand endeavor, utilizing the vast body of the serpent Vasuki as their churning rope.

During the churning Vasuki vomits the poison Kalakoota which can destroy the whole universe. Lord Shiva cups this poison in his palms and proceeds to drink it. 

Chandanam, a Mohiniyattam Desi item revived by Guru Nirmala Paniker, is performed by Mohiniyattam dancer Keiko Okano. This composition is set to the Saurashtra Ragam and Aiyadi thalam.

As soon as goddess Parvathi sees this, she goes and holds Shiva’s neck tightly for fear that he would swallow the poison and destroy himself. Seeing this lord Vishnu puts his palm over Shivas mouth so that he would not spit the poison out causing lord shiva to faint. In her helplessness the Goddess begins to beseech all to come to Shiva’s rescue, but to no avail. Parvathi takes the form of the fearsome Kali and takes sandalwood paste from Vishnu’s chest and rubs it over Shiva’s chest thus reviving him.

(Shiva is about to faint. Photo Mohiyattam artist Ms.Bindu Rajendran)

The dancer then begins to give sandalwood paste to all present.

Assisted by Sreekanth Janardhanan
Nirmala Paniker

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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