Mohiniattam originated in Kerala, the south-western state of India. The word mohini means enchantress and aatam means dance; and according to the legends, mohiniattam is the dance of an enchantress.


Mohiniattam has its distinct lasya style - slow, soft and graceful movements, with the predominant emotions either being shringara (love) or bhakthi (devotion).


The dancers always wear white or off-white costumes, decorated with golden brocades, gold jewellery and hair bunched upon the left side of the head adorned with jasmine flowers, reminding the spectators of traditional Kerala women, as in Raja Ravi Varma paintings.


Like Bharatanatyam, this dance form was also linked to the devadasi tradition and was considered inappropriate and the dancers were looked down by the society. Through the efforts of social pioneers like Maharaja Swathi Thirunal (early 18th century) and Kerala poet laureate Vallathol Narayana Menon (20th century), Mohiniattam underwent a number of revivals and emerged as an elegant dance form of both national and international significance.