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Mohiniyattam Dance - Kerala


What is Mohiniyattam Dance?

Mohiniyattam, also spelt as Mohiniattam, is the traditional dance form of Kerala performed exclusively by women. It is one of the ancient Indian classical dance forms recognized by Sangeet Natak Akademi. The dance is characterized by suggestive hand movements (mudras), rhythmic footwork and lyrical music. Mohiniyattam is meant to be performed as a solo recital and is a gentle, graceful dance depicting the theme of shringar or love. Mohiniyattam is believed to have originated in the 16th century but flourished from the 19th century under the patronage of the King of Travancore Swathi Thirunal. It is one of India’s most loved dance forms even today.



It is believed that this dance form originated in the 16th century, and took off eventually in the 19th century under the reign of Swathi Thirunal, who was the king of the state of Travancore, which is the Southern part of Kerala. Under the sovereignty of Swati Thirunal, this dance form achieved great reputation, and the king left no stone unturned to promote the study and practice of this dance form. In addition to that, a popular poet from Kerala, Vallathol played a pivotal role in popularizing this dance in the early 20th century as well. The word ‘Mohiniyattam’ when broken down means exactly what the dance portrays. The word ‘Mohini’ means an enchantress or a woman who attracts the onlookers with her charm, and ‘aattam’ means ‘graceful and seductive body movements’.

There is an interesting legend behind the true formation or concept of this dance, which is directly related to Hindu mythology and in particular Lord Vishnu, who disguised himself as ‘mohini’ or in other words the enchantress and did this particular dance to lure the demons away, and to save Lord Shiva.


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Gracefulness and beauty of a woman are the core components that make up the Mohiniyattam dance. Over the centuries, Indian women have been portrayed as the embodiment of sensuality and poise, and the Mohiniyattam dance celebrates the basic essence of true Indian femininity. The overall costume, makeup and jewelry exhibit the loveliness of an Indian woman.

Vocal music of this performance art incorporates different rhythms and lyrics of many of the compositions performed in this dance form are in Manipravala that is a mix of Sanskrit and Malayalam language while the music style is Carnatic. Instruments played during a Mohiniattam performances usually comprise of Kuzhitalam or cymbals; Veena; Idakka, an hourglass-shaped drum; Mridangam, a barrel-shaped drum with two heads; and flute.



The attire used in this dance form is simple and does not appear complicated, yet it is ethereal in its appeal with a touch of opulence and old world charm. There is only one particular saree used in this dance and that is the famous and much sought after Kerala Kasavu saree (which is a white saree along with a rich golden brocade border). The Kerala Kasavu saree is one of the finest sarees found in Kerala and the basic blend of colors are the creamy white along with a rich golden border. Simple, yet elegant is well showcased through this saree which makes the dancer look divine and almost dreamlike.


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Folk Dance of Kerala

More folk dances of Kerala Natanam, Kathakali, Ghanta Patua, Bagurumba Dance, Bathakamma Dance, Chah Baganar Jumur Nach, Changu Dance, Padayani Dance, Kaikottikali, Kaliyattam, Tappatikkali, Chakyarkoothu Dance


Mohiniyattam Dance Video

Mohiniyattam Dance is one of the most famous folk dances of Kerala. Here is the Mohiniyattam Dance Video.



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