Mohiniyaattam is a temple ritual dance. Mohiniyaattam is performed by ladies only and it portrays feminine love. Facial expressions and hand gestures are its accent – both are in a sense copied from Kathakali and Bharatanaatyam. It is a solo dance and performed in a raised platform.
The costume used is the traditional woman dress of Kerala. It is in more or less sandalwood colour in plain with golden gilt borders. Wearing style is in a set pattern. The cloth is with uniformly and closely pleated and after wearing it looks like a skirt. It will not touch the feet. Instead, it ends up little below the knee. Blouse is made of similar type of cloth. Similar type of small cloth uniformly and closely pleated and in semi-circle form is worn from waist to below in front over the skirt-like costume.
In Mohiniyaattam more importance is there for gold ornaments. Ear rings are small or big or big ring type. Necklace is made with the imprint of Laxmi’s (goddess of prosperity) picture. Some short necklaces named Ialaka Thaali, Ngaapada Thaali, Poothodi and Mullamuttumaala are also worn. Bangles called Valayam or Katakam; waist ornaments named Udyaanam, Kingini and Ear-rings; anklets in different designs are also part of ornaments. Other ornaments include Netti Chutti and Surya Chandran. Netti Chutti is in a chain format which is placed on the middle of the head with its pendant lying on the upper forehead. About an inch away from the pendant is Surya (sun) on right side and Chandran (moon) on left side.
Face is given natural or beige colour base and light red on cheeks. The face all over is well powdered. A red mark is given on the forehead as feminine mark as per Indian Hindu culture. Eye-brows and eyes are blackened and lips made red.
The whole hair is gathered and tied like a bun with slant towards left. The hair bun is profusely decorated with white Jasmine.
Formerly, the instruments used were Thoppimaddalam (special type drum), Kukkavana (a wind instrument), Kuzhithalam (small cymbal), Thuti (small wood carved instrument with skin covering at both ends) and Edakka (hour glass shaped instrument with animal skin covering). Now-a-days, the instruments used are Mridangam, Edakka, Veena and Violin.
Mohiniyaattam consists of different performances called Cholkettu, Jathiswaram, Varnana, Padam, Kriti, Tillaana and Slokam. Slokam can be performed solitarily also. In normal course, Slokam is staged in the beginning, middle or end of the performance.
Basic dance steps are four. They are named Taganam, Jaganam, Dhaganam and Sammisram. The four steps have five stances or say bents called Samam (equal), Ara (half), Muzhu (full), Mukkaal (three-fourth) and Kaal (quarter). Basic gaits have five types known as frog, swan, peacock, kuyil and snake.