Vijayalakshmi has explored several new dimensions in Mohiniyattam, presenting new choreographies, by drawing upon both traditional and contemporary sources. One such work was Unniarcha, a legend inspired from Vaddakkan Paattukal, the ballads of North Malabar. This was a singular innovation in the realm of Mohiniyattam, where for the very first time elements of Kalaripayattu, the 2000 year old martial art tradition of Kerala, was incorporated into Mohiniyattam.

Among the various heroes, Unniarcha, the heroine, stands out supreme, being a woman of extraordinary physical strength and mental resilience. She is believed to have been well versed in the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu.

Drawing upon a regional source, this choreographic work added a refreshing dimension to Mohiniyattam, unexplored in the past. Elements of Kalaripayattu were incorporated, since Unniarcha is believed to have been proficient in Kalaripayattu. The theme exemplifying the Veera Rasa is an interesting contrast to Sringara which is more often depicted in Mohiniyattam.

Although it belongs to the hoary past of Kerala’s cultural ethos, it echoes the contemporary spirit as well. The work celebrates the woman’s extraordinary physical and mental resilience, and her determination to overcome obstacles without losing grace. While Unniarcha is a heroine excelling in traditional warfare, she could well be a woman of today, rooted in tradition, yet modern in her perspective and coping with several challenges.


“Enchanting all, with song of the body…The high point of the evening was a dance ‘Unniarcha’, choreographed and performed by Vijayalakshmi, the young talented daughter of Bharati. Reconstructing the legend of North Malabar region, it centered around a folk heroine supposed to be a martial art expert. With the dance drama amalgamating various elements of Kalaripayatu – ancient martial art of Kerala...So as Unniarcha came alive, both her strength of purpose and grace of Mohiniyattam found an echo in her rhythmic postures.”

Indian Express


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