The dance has a religious background in India. In the Hindu-mythology is the dance a holy action; an activity who is older than the earth itself. Accordingly to that, Shiva (Nataraj) the God of creation and destruction has destroyed and create the world with his dance. India has seven classical dance forms: Mohiniyattam, Kathakali, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Odissi.
Mohiniyattam is a traditional female semi-classical dance form of Kerala, India . Originated as the temple dance performed by Devadasis, it portrays feminine love in innumerable forms: carnal, devotional and maternal, with the accent more on Lasya and Bhava.
The main traditional theme of the dance is love and devotion to God, with usually Vishnu or Krishna being the hero. The term Mohiniyattam comes from the words "Mohini" meaning a woman who enchants onlookers and "attam" meaning graceful and sensuous body movements. The word "Mohiniyattam" literally means "dance of the enchantress " . The dance has influences and elements from two South Indian dance forms, the Bharatanatyam and Kathakali .
Mohiniyattam presents the mind of Kerala, the wondrous and incomparable beauty of the landscape, the scenic backwater where the palm fronds fill up the Kerala skyline, gracefully and in perfect tune with nature and its rhythm. The movements are soft and graceful (lasya oriented) like the sway of palm leaves in the gentle breeze.
There is no precise historical evidence to establish the antiquity of Mohiniyattam, but it seems to be an old temple dance. The tradition of Mohiniyattam can be traced back to the 18-19th century, a period generally considered as the golden era of arts and literature in the history of Kerala. It was during the reign of the great Poet King, Maharaja Swati Tirunal, who did much to encourage and stabilise Mohiniyattam. He made the music aspect of Mohiniyattam rich and attractive, by composing a number of Varnams, Padams and Tillanas. After his rule came to an end, the standard of Mohiniyattam declined because of lack of patronage. It was resurrected in AD 1930, when Mahakavi Vallathol founded Kerala Kalamandalam and once again revived the dance form.
The dance follows the classical text of Hastha Lakshanadeepika, which has elaborate description of Mudras (expressions by the hand palm and fingers). There are approximately 40 different basic movements, known as “Adavus” in Mohiniyattam. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam follows closely that of Bharatanatyam. Beginning with Cholkettu, the dancer performs Jatiswaram, Padam, Varnam and Thillana in a concert. Varnam combines pure and expressional dance, while Padam tests the theatralic talent (focused on Abhinaya) and Thillana the technical skills of the dancer.
The style of vocal music for Mohiniyattam is classical Carnatic. Mridangam, Violin and Edakka lend excellent support to the vocal music and to the visual-rhythm of Mohiniyattam.
The make-up and dressing is simple and semi-realistic. She wears white or off white jacket and sari with gold or red border. The dancer's face is made up of yellow and pink-paste, her exes are decorates with Kajal and the lips are reddened. The hair is tied in a bundle on the left side with white jasmine flowers around it. The whole body and head is decorate with jewelleries.