Mohiniattam is a classical dance form of Kerala. Mohiniattam is derived from the words "Mohini" (meaning beautiful women) and "attam"(meaning dance). Thus, Mohiniattam dance form is a beautiful feminine style with surging flow of body movements. Mohiniattam dance in Kerala developed in the tradition of Devadasi system, which later grew and developed a classical status.
Mohiniattam is a solo female dance (in a single costume), where musical melody and the rhythmical swaying of the dancer from side to side and the smooth and unbroken flow of the body movement is the striking feature. The Mohiniattam dance focuses mainly on feminine moods and emotions. Usually, the theme of Mohiniattam dance is "sringara" or love. Subtle subjects of love are executed with suggestive abhinaya, subtle gestures, rhythmic footwork and lilting music. The legend of Vishnu as "Mohini", (the enchantress) forms the core of Mohiniattam dance.
The credit for reviving the Mohiniattam dance in the nineteenth century goes to Swati Tirunal. Swati Tirunal was an enlightened ruler of Travancore (Southern Kerala) and promoted the study of Mohiniattam. Swati Tirunal composed many of the musical arrangements and vocal accompaniments that provide musical background for the Mohiniattam dancers. The noted Malayalam poet Vallathol, who established the Kerala Kalamandalam dance school in 1930, also played an important role in reviving the Mohiniattam dance form.
The performers of Mohiniattam dance usually wear an off-white colored sari with gold brocade borders. Hairs of the dancer are gathered in a bun and decorated with jasmine flowers. The Mohiniattam dancer is adorned with Gold Jewellery including necklaces, bangles, waistbands and anklets. The tinkling of the Jewellery produces music as the dancer performs the dance. Mohiniattam dance is accompanied by musical instruments like violin, Veena and Mridangam and the dancer narrates episodes from the epics and legends through elegant steps, rhythmic movements of her arms and amazing facial expressions. The Hastha Lakshandeepika is a classical text and forms the basis of hands and arms movement in Mohiniattam.