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Welcome to Natanakaisiki and Natanakairali!

Class at Natanakaisiki - Photo by P.V. JayanMohiniyattam Gurukulam of Natanakairali (Irinjalakuda, Kerala)

Natanakaisiki is a research and training centre for female dance and theatre traditions of Kerala. Mohiniyattam, Nangiar Koothu and Thiruvathirakkali are the major art forms at present being studied at Natanakaisiki which was founded by Nirmala Paniker in 1979. Read more on >>

Natanakairali was founded in 1975 by G. Venu with the idea of reviving and rejuvenating traditional art forms of Kerala that were on the verge of decline. Read more on >>

Activities of the Mohiniyattam kalari

  • One of the major activities of Natanakaisiki is a Mohiniyattam kalari (school) where students are trained in the dance form following the methodology deviced by Nirmala Paniker. The training is rigorous and based on a highly involved as well as personalized gurukulam pattern.
  • Natanakaisiki offers special short-term courses for teaches and advanced students on selected aspects of Mohiniyattam like hand gestures, pure dance patterns and theory.
  • Traditional types of Mohiniyattam performances following the catchery pattern from cholkattu to saptham as well as lecture-demonstrations are also arranged by Natanakaisiki.
  • The new choreographies presented by Natanakaisiki include Kalidasa's famous Sanskrit poem Kumarasambhavam.


Mohiniyattam is one of the classical dance forms of India which originated and developed in Kerala. Among the various styles detailed in Bharata's Natya Sastra (the most important treatise on Indian art forms), it resembles the lasya or graceful type. This dance form is famous for its beautiful swinging and swaying movements and intricate facial expressions.

Nirmala Paniker

Nirmala Paniker - Photo by P.V. JayanNirmala Paniker, disciple of guru Kalyani Kutty Amma, is a dancer and choreographer. As a research scholar, she has investigated the links between the dance forms practiced by the women of ancient Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Her main contribution consists in the revitalisation of those Mohiniyattam techniques that had largely been overlooked in the recent repertoire, most notably its desi or regional aspect. The features shared by Mohiniyattam, Nangiyar Koothu and Thiruvathira Kali and the dances described in the Tamil epic poem Cilapadikaram are of special interest to her.

Initiated into the rich heritage of the Kerala arts through her childhood experiences where she witnessed several folk,ritual and martial arts the seed of inquiry sprouted in Nirmala's mind.Trained first in Bharatnatyam and then in Mohiniyattam she undertook research to rewrite the forgotten chapters of the Mohiniyattam technique and repertoire.

She sought to find a common link between Mohiniyattam, Nangiar Koothu and Thiruvatirakali. The outcome of Nirmala's current study of Chilappatikaram, a Tamil epic by Ilangovan is poised to uncover a vast mine of untapped information co-relating dance practices in ancient India.

Currently Nirmala Paniker has established Natanakaisiki - A Research and Performing Centre for the Female Dance and Theatre Traditions of Kerala (A Special Wing of Natana Kairali).

Nirmala Paniker is supported by her husband G. Venu (author of several books on Indian Performing Arts and Founder-Director, Natanakairali)


  • Post-Diploma with 1st class in Bharatnatyam (Kalakshetra style) from R.L.V. Fine arts academy, Tripunitura
  • Trained in Mohiniyattam for several years under Guru Kalyani Kutty Amma and Prof. Satyabhama at Kerala Kalamandalam
  • Had special training under Guru Ammannur Madhava Chakyar on the various aspects of abhinaya in Kutiyattam and Nangiar Koothu
  • Learnt Kathak and Odissi under Sri B. B. Acharya at Acharya Kalamandir, Jamshedpur
  • Learnt Thiruvathirakali under the great gurus of Thiruvathirakali, Shri Bhanu Asan of Thiruvananthapuran, Shri Lakshmikutty Amma of Alapuzha, and Smt. Savitri Brahmani Amma of Irinjalakuda


  • Junior Fellowship, Dept. of Culture 1984
  • Senior Fellowship of the Government of India(1996)
  • Senior Fellowship for the second time in 2002
  • Krishnan Kutty Smaraka Award 2003
  • Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademy Award for her contribution in the field of Mohiniyattam in 2004

Work experiene

  • Head of The Dance Dept., The Lawerence School, Lovedale (1974-2000)
  • Conducted workshops on Indian dance in U.K under a cultural exchange programme
  • Presented Lec-dems at the Rietberg Museum Zurich with the Kutiyattam troupe
  • Participated in the 50th Indian Independence year celebrations in Japan with the Kutiyattam troupe
  • Resource person of The World Theatre Project, Sweden.
  • Worked in Mozambique and Sweden in collaboration with The World Theatre Project

Major contributions

Nirmala Paniker is the Founder-Director of Natanakaisiki and has played an important role in the revival of Nangiyar Koothu in Irinjalakuda. She has developed a systematic methodology for the teaching of Mohiniyattam. In 2000, she has choreographed "Leela" on the basis of the great Malayalam poet Kumaranasan's work of the same title in the form of a Mohiniyattam Saptham.

Her pioneer efforts for the revival of the desi aspects, called poli, easal, kurathy and chandanam, have been been hailed as a veritable renaissance in the world of Mohiniyattam. She also authored and choreographed many items such as varnams and keerthanams and imparted them to a new generation.


  • Mohiniyattam the lasya dance (co-authored by G. Venu)
  • Nangiyar Koothu - the classical dance theatre of Nangiyars
  • Hand Gestures of Hasthalakshanadeepika in Mohiniyattam*

* "Nirmala uses both the photograph of the dancer presenting the mudra and its graphic version in line drawing. The original text from Hasthalakshanadeepika in Sanskrit and its meaning given in Malayalam and English make it a multilingual treatise on Mohiniyattam.

This cogent and well-researched volume is a major contribution to the study and to a better appreciation of Mohiniyattam and its place in the rich art forms of Kerala. No doubt, this will be of constructive and practical use for the Mohiniyattam artistes as well as for the devoted enthusiasts who want to get a better insight into this rich and ancient dance form."

– The Hindu Book Review, Nov 04, 2008



Nirmala Paniker, Director
Ammannur Chakyar Madhom
Irinjalakuda - 680121 (Kerala, India)

Ph: +91-(0)480-2825559
Mobile: (0)98952 66242

Class at Natanakaisiki - Photo by P.V. Jayan