Mohiniyattam, also spelled Mohiniattam (Malayalam: മോഹിനിയാട്ടം), is a traditional South Indian dance from Kerala that was formulated in the 19th century at the court of king Swati Tirunal by Vadivelu, one of the Thanjavur Quartet. This dance has influences and elements from two dance styles: Dasiattam, a predecessor or Bharatanatyam, and Kathakali.
It is one of the Indian classical dance forms. It is considered a very graceful dance meant to be performed as a solo recital by women. The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words "Mohini" meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and "aattam" meaning graceful and sensuous body movements. The word "Mohiniyattam" literally means "dance of the enchantrees.
There are two stories of the Lord Vishnu disguised as a Mohini. In one, he appears as Mohini to lure the asuras (demons) away from the amrita (nectar of immortality) obtained during the churning of the palazhi or Ocean of Milk.
In the second story Vishnu appears as Mohini to save Lord Shiva from the demon Bhasmasura. The name Mohiniyattam may have been coined after Lord Vishnu, and the main theme of the dance is love and devotion to God, with usually Vishnu or Krishna being the hero. Devadasis used to perform this in temples. But it also has elements of Koothu and Kottiyattom in it. Mohiniyattam is a drama in dance and verse.
The dance involves the swaying of broad hips and the gentle movements of erect posture from side to side. This is reminiscent of the swinging of the palmleaves and the gently flowing rivers which abound Kerala, the land of Mohiniyattam. There are approximately 40 different basic movements, known as 'atavukal', in Mohiniyattam.
The three Pillars, Sri Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma, Sri Vallathol Narayana Menon (a poet and founder of the institution, Kerala Kalamandalam) and Smt.Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma (who is considered as “the mother of Mohiniyattam”), contributed to the shaping out of the contemporary Mohiniyattam during the later part of 20th Century. Guru Kallyanikutty Amma cleared the mythical mystery behind the name of this dance form and gave it the most convincing dance of a beautiful lady than that of a mythical enchantress from heaven.