• Mohiniyattam literally interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the celestial enchantress of the Hindu mythology, is the classical solo dance form of Kerala.
  • Mohiniattam though born out of the fusion of Kathakali and Bharatnatyam, has developed its own identity.
  • In the word Mohiniattam, ‘Mohini’ means a maiden who charms the onlooker and ‘attam’ means dance.
  • The Mohiniattam dances describe episodes from the epics and legends through graceful steps, rhythmic movements of her arms and facial expressions.
  • The delicate body movements and subtle facial expressions are more feminine (dominance of lasya) in nature and therefore are ideally suited for performance by women.
Sunanda mohiniattam

Type and Theme of Mohiniattam

  • Mohiniattam is also known as the ‘Dance of the Celestial Female magicians’. It narrates the story of feminine dance of Vishnu.
  • It is essentially a solo dance, performed by female dancers. However, the basis of this dance also signifies the transformation of Lord Vishnu into a female form and also the concept of Ardhnareeshwara that is male and female as one.
  • The theme of Mohiniattam is love and devotion to god. Mohiniattam signifies the dance of enchanters that causes destruction of the wicked and brings delight and pleasure to the good.


  • The repertoire sequence of Mohiniyattam is similar to that of Bharatanatyam, so of contains seven items that are performed to a structure described in classical dance texts:
    • Cholkettu (invocation, but starts with offering reverence to a goddess Bhagavati and ends with a prayer to Shiva),
    • Jatisvaram or more precisely Swarajeti,
    • Varnam (a play wherein she embeds a mimicry for distraction while communicating the underlying story or message),
    • Padam (song),
    • Tillana (dancer’s interpretation of melody the musician create),
    • Shlokam and
    • Saptam

Salient Features

  • Mohiniyattam is characterized by graceful, swaying body movements with no abrupt jerks or sudden leaps. It belongs to the lasya style which is feminine, tender and graceful.
  • The movements are emphasized by the glides and the up and down movement on toes, like the waves of the sea and the swaying of the coconut, palm trees and the paddy fields.
  • The foot work is not terse and is rendered softly. Importance is given to the hand gestures and Mukhabhinaya with subtle facial expressions.
  • The hand gestures, 24 in number, are mainly adopted from Hastalakshana Deepika, a text followed by Kathakali. Few are also borrowed from NatyaShastra, AbhinayaDarpana and Balarambharatam.
  • This art form denotes the element of Air.
  • The vocal music for Mohiniattam is Carnatic Music. The music also accentuates these movements by being extremely lyrical, sensuous and concentrating more on bhava than trying to articulate the swara patterns. This mode of singing is called Sopanam.
  • There is a typical costume for Mohiniattam, which is a mixture of white and gold.
Mohiniyattam costumes Kerala

Famous Proponents

  • The first renowned Mohiniattam dancer was Kalyaniamma. She also taught in Shantiniketan.
  • The other notable proponents are Krishna Paniker, Madhavi Amma etc.

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