Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma is considered the mother of Mohiniyattam in the form we see it today. She was instrumental in bringing Kerala’s very own classical Dance style into the mainstream of Indian Classical dance, rendering it a formal structure and organization. Mohiniyattam is deeply indebted to the constructive contributions of the three Pillars or Moorthy’s Sri Swathithirunal, Sri Vallathol and Smt. Kalayanikutty Amma for its revival. Kalyanikutty Amma cleared the mythical mystery behind the name of this dance form and gave it the most convincing explanation based on truth, social and historical evolution, interpreting Mohiniyattam as the dance of a beautiful lady than that of a mythical enchantress from heaven.
Kalayanikutty Amma was introduced to Mohiniyattam in her early twenties when she joined Kerala Kalamandalam. During those days, when dancing was not considered appropriate for aristocratic families, children were seldom allowed to learn dance as it was considered a matter of shame for the whole family. When Kalyanikutty Amma joined Kalamandalam, she had to face many difficulties. She was turned out of her home and was denied everything she was entitled to. Later, after completing her studies in Kalamandalam, Poet Vallathol handed her the responsibility of elevating Mohiniyattam to a better status in society. She undertook the Himalayan task of reviving this art form from the social degradation and gave it a solid foundation and structure. She traveled all over Kerala and visited numerous temples. From the old temple inscriptions and Thevadichi’s (temple dancers) of the bygone days who were still around, she was able to revive Mohiniyattam and give it a position among other classical dance forms of India. She developed many adavus (basic steps) and a repertoire format for Mohiniyattam. Her life long commitment to this dance style is a part of Mohiniyattam history now. She has published her efforts into two books. Mohiniyattam- History and Dance Structure is the most elaborate and authentic documentation available on Mohiniattam till date. She had an illustrious array of students, Mrilalini Sarabhai , Smitha Rajan (her grand daughter) ,to name a few.
Kalyanikutty ammma’s life is studded with landmarks and achievements. In 1938 Mahakavi Shri Vallathol bestowed upon her the title Kavayithri (a title given for excellence in poetry). In 1940 she was married to Sri. Krishnan Nair (the Kathakali maestro). In 1952, they established Kerala Kalalayam in Aluva and then shifted it to Tripunithura, Cochin in 1959. In 1972, she received a Fellowship from Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Academy. In 1974, both Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy and Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Academy honored her for her priceless contributions to Mohiniyattam. In the same year Kendra Sangeetha Nataka Akademy conferred on her the title Guru. In 1980, she received Keerthi Shanghu from Kerala Kalamandalam. In 1982 Kerala Fine Arts Society awarded her Natya Praveene. In 1986 Kerala Kalamandalam honored her with a Fellowship. In 1997 she was awarded the coveted Kalidasa Puraskar by Madhya Pradesh goverment for her work in Indian Classical dance world. This illustrious career came to an end in May I999. Her legacy lives on through Mohiniyattam and her numerous disciples.