It is the typical dance form of Kerala.
Mohini means enchantress and attam is dance. As the name denotes,
it is an amorous (Lasya) dance performed in slow, elegant and sensuous
pace with formulated hand gestures translating the song to which
it is performed.
It is closely related to Bharathanatyam
of Tamil Nadu, which was originally called 'Dasiyattam'. Originated
as the temple dance performed by Devadasis, it portrays feminine
love in its myriad forms - carnal, devotional and maternal- with
accent more on Lasya and Bhava.
Mohiniyattam is said to have originated in Kerala. It is an art
form of Travancore of nineteenth century enlivened during the regime
of King Swati Thirunal. The king, a scholar, Sanskrit poet and an
exponent of Carnatic and Hindustani music, patronized and popularised
this art form with whole-hearted co-operation and lyrical support
from Irayimman Thampi, a noted poet, often referred to as gem of
Most of the component items of Mohiniyattam are similar to Bharatnatyam
and Kuchipudi, though subtle differences of style is obvious. The
language used in the lyrics is a pleasant mixture of Malayalam and
Sanskrit, known as Manipravalam. Formerly, the Padams were specially
composed to include only Sringararasa. Now a days artists are using
any classical or semi-classical compositions, even from other language.
The real beauty of Mohiniyattam comes through
only when mature ladies enact the romantic padams specially written
to present the Ashta Nayikas: Swadheena Bharthruka, Khanditha, Abhisarika,
Vipralabdha, Kalahandtharitha, Vasakasajja, Proshithabharthruka,
Among the main items Cholkettu, Padavarnam
and Padam, Mudras and facial expressions are more important than
the rhythmic steps.The tuft knotted at the side of the head adorned
by a garland of jasmine circling it, the dancer with normal facial
make up and clad in gilded sari with series of pleats and jacket
sways her body to the rhythm of orchestrated background music.
Compared most other dance forms, Mohiniyattam
gives more importance to gestural and facial acting. The Mudras
(hand gestures) are almost always same as those employed in Kathakali.
The artists try to enact the lyrics almost in its entirety, like