Mohiniyattam is the female semi-classical dance form of Kerala. Literally, the dance of the enchantress, Mohiniyattam was mainly performed in the temple precincts of Kerala. It is also the heir to the devadasi (girls who were dedicated to gods) dance heritage like Bharatnatyam. The word 'Mohini' means a maiden who exerts desire or steals the heart of the onlooker. The first historical reference to Mohiniyattam is found in 'Vyavaharamala' composed by Mazhamangalam Narayanan Namboodiri, assigned to the 16th century AD. In the 19th century, Swati Thirunal, the king of erstwhile Travancore, did much to encourage and stabilize this art form. The post Swati period however witnessed the downfall of this art form. It somehow degenerated into eroticism to satisfy the Epicurean life of some provincial satraps and landlords. It was Poet Vallathol who again revived it and gave it a status in modern times through Kerala Kalamandalam, which he founded in 1930.
The theme of Mohiniyattam is love and devotion to god. Vishnu or Krishna is more often the hero. The spectators could feel his invisible presence when the heroine or her maid details dreams and ambitions through the circular movements, delicate footsteps and subtle expressions. It is essentially a solo dance, but in present times it is performed in a group as well. Mohiniyattam maintains a realistic makeup and simple dressing. The dancer is attired in a beautiful white and gold-bordered sari. The style of vocal music for Mohiniyattam, is classical Carnatic.