Odissi- a unique dance style from Odissa

Odissa is such a state in India which is often ignored by the mainstream India, much like the North East, but we have one such gem coming from this place, which is one of the 8 Classical dances, – Odissi. The ornaments, costumes, songs, and everything else are a trademark of the culture and traditions of the state.

History Of Odissi-Dance

The Udayagiri caves in the state of Odissa have the earliest documentation of the art form, in the form of carvings and sculptures in the caves. Other caves in the state too, have such inscriptions where Jain gods and goddesses are shown to be dancing in such positions which resemble to Odissi alot. Kalpasutra, which is a religious text of Jainism, includes the positions which are fundamental to this dance form, they are Samapadam, Tribhanga, and Chowka. Interestingly, some carvings in the temples across the state have survived till date, and one of them is the famous Jagannath temple of Puri. It was originally a temple dance and the dancers were known as Moharis. During the British rule as well as during the Mughal invasion, the dancers were forced to entertain the royals and thus this dance became stigmatized. The male dancers, known as Gotipuas, received training in this dance as a form by incorporating the aspect of martial arts to it, as a means of military training. It was during the post independence period that it evolved into a classical dance, and was given its name by a very renowned Odia poet and researcher, Pattanayaka.

Style Of Odissi-Dance

The lucid movements represent the element of water, and the dancer appears to make geometrical figures through hand and body movements. Lasya aspect is more prominent here. The Tribhanga position mentioned earlier, is when the dancer bends their torso, knees and elbows in such a way as to form an aesthetic frame. The Chowka position is when the dancer keeps booth feet at a distance, bends the knees in half-sitting positions, and hands are at shoulder level, bent at elbows at 90 degrees. These two positions are the major distinctive feature of the dance form. The Hasta Mudras, or hand movements are taken from Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpanam, just like all other classical dances.

Music and Instruments

The music system is a mixture of Hindustani and Caranatic style, and has a plethora of ragas (rag) inspired from both, for example, Mohanam, Khamaj, Hamsadhwani, Kafi, etc. The instruments include violin, sitar, flute, cymbals, Mardala, etc. The opening piece is known as the Mangalacharanam, where the dancer offers flowers to the rangmanch, her gurus, and the audience. Tharijam, a Nritta piece is performed before the Moksha, which is the last piece of the repertoire.

Costume and Makeup

A Orissi dancer drapes a colorful silk saree which is often made of the local silk fabric, today the costumes are stitched. A piece goes over the blouse, and the lower half is a fan between the legs which opens when the dancer is in Chowk or Tribhanga positions. The ornaments are made of silver. A semicircular piece goes over the bun which resembles a God’s aura. The forehead is adorned with Allaka, and a big red bindi. Other ornaments like armlets, earrings, necklaces, bangles, kamarbandh and ghungroo follow. The male dancers wear a dhoti and only a necklace and a kamarbandh.

Famous Odissi dancers

Pankaj Charan Das is known as the ‘Father of Orissi’. He was the adopted son of a Mohari, and is the one who expanded the stage of Orissi from just a temple dance. His performances were rich of the Bhakti rasa as he would pray to Lord Jgannatha through his performances. Kasturi Pattanaik was the one who is credited for the evolution of contemporary Orissi. She introduced new styles and gave this dance a classical outlook. Kelucharan Mohapatra, another leading exponent was the first to receive a Padma Vibhushan in Orissi. He was a legendary classical dancer and popularized this dance form in the 20th century.  His son, Ratikant Mohapatra and daughter in law Sujata Mohapatra are equally famous Orissi dancers today.

–          Aditi Teredesai

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