ODISSI Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. 1st century BCE bas-reliefs in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) testify to its antiquity. It was suppressed under the British but has been reconstructed since India gained independence.
It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis, and upon the basic square stance known as chauka. The first clear picture of Odissi dance found in the Manchapuri cave in Udayagiri which was carved at the time of king Kharavela. Flanked by two queens Kharavel himself was watching a dance recital where a damsel was performing dance in front of the court with the company of female instrumentalists. Thus Odissi can be traced back to its origin as secular dance. Later it got attached with the temple culture of Odisha. Starting with the rituals of Jagannath temple in Puri it was regularly performed in Shaivite, Vaishnavite and Sakta temple in Odisha. An inscription is found where it was also engraved that a Devadasi Karpursri’s attachment to Buddhist monastery, where she was performing along with her mother and grand mother. Thus it proves that Odissi first originated as a court dance. Later it performed in all religious places of Jaina as well as Buddhist monasteries. Odissi, was initially performed in the temples as a religious offering by the 'Maharis' who dedicated their lives in the services of God. It has the most closer resemblance with sculptures of the Indian Temples.
The history of Odissi dance has been traced to an early sculpture found in the Ranigumpha caves at Udaygiri (Odisha). dating to the 2nd century BC. Thus Odissi appears to be the oldest classical dance rooted in rituals and tradition. In fact, the Natya Shastra refers to Odra Magadhi as one of the vrittis and Odra refers to Odisha.
Temple historyIn Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, there exists Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Jain caves, which date back to the 2nd century BC which served as a royal palace for King Kharavela. It is suggested by scholars that Odissi is the archeologically oldest Indian classical dance form due to sculptural evidence found in the caves. There are several sculptures of dancers and musicians are inKonark Sun temple and Brahmesvar temple in Bhubaneswar.
In the excavated ruins of the Buddhist Ratnagiri hills in Odisha dating back to the 6th-9th centuries, several panels and icons of dance are found resembling present days Odissi dance.
In the Tantric temples, such as the Hirapur Shrine, many of the yoginis especially are depicted in poses reminiscent of present day Odissi. When Odisha became a big centre of worship of Shiva, it is only natural that dance would be used as a form of worship, since Lord Shiva was a master dancer himself. He is the Nataraj, the Cosmic Lord of Dance. The Shaivite temples of Bhubaneswar display innumerable sculptures in postures of Odissi. The Vaishnavite Temples such as Jagannath temple and Konark sun temple abound with an array of dancing sculptures carved into the temple walls, giving testimony tha a particular school of dancing had continued from the Shaivite art tradition to the Vaishnovite art form.
Manuscript evidencesSage Bharata's The Natya Shastra, written in 2nd century AD, speaks of four types of Pravrittis (local usages): Avanti, Dakshinatya, Panchali, and Odra Magadhi and the areas where each type is employed. Some scholars have interpreted that Odra Magadhi is a reference to Odissi, in fact, "the earliest literary reference to Odissi”. Abhinaya Chandrika written by Maheshvara Mahapatra is a detailed study of the various movements of the feet, hands, the standing postures, the movement and the dance reperoire. It also includes illustrations of the Karanãs mentioned in NãtyaShãstra. Manuscript Shilpaprakãsha is among those illustrated manuscripts which deals with the Odia architecture and sculpture as well as the figures of dance. In this one finds a elaborate analysis of the manner in which the salabhanjikãs or the feminine figures caleed the alasa kanyas are carved in the temple. The illustrations of Shilpaprakãsha reinforces the evidence of sculpture in temples. A rather unexpected source, the Jain Manuscripts, especially the Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya Kathãs show traces of Odia dance style although they were being executed in Gujarat. The marginal figures of dancers show women in poses and movements similar to the distinctive style of Odisha. E.g. in one of the famous illustrated Jain Manuscript called the Devasanpada Kalpasutra (1501, Jamnagar), there is depiction of the samapada, the tribhangi and the chuaka. This shows that there was a great deal of mobility between east and west and many migrations took place. According to some historians, there were groups of dancers who were brought to Puri from Gujarat and also from Andhra.
Mughal and British periodDuring the Mughal rule of India, the duties of the maharis, the temple dancers, shifted as they were also employed to entertain the royal family and courtiers in the royal courts. They became associated with concubinage in respect to the king and ceased to be respected solely as servants to Lord Jagannath. Although the British have helped India in several ways, a decline and degradation occurred in all the Indian classical dance styles during the British period, especially when a bill was passed prohibiting temple dancing. Most of these dancers associated themselves with prostitution to survive.
By the 6th century the Gotipua tradition was emerging. One of the reasons given for the emergence of Gotipuas is that Vaishnavas did not approve of dancing by women. Gotipuas were young boys dressed as girls and taught the dance by the Maharis. During this period, Vaishnava poets composed innumerable lyrics in Odia dedicated to Radha and Krishna. Gotipuas danced to these compositions. The Gotipuas stepped out of the precincts of the temples.
Nartaki dance took place in the royal courts, where it was much cultivated before the British period. At that time the misuse of devadasis came under strong attack, so that Odissi dance withered in the temples and became unfashionable at court. Only the remnants of the gotipua school remained, and the reconstruction of the style required an archaeological and anthropological effort that has tended to foster a conservative purism.
Mahari traditionThe consecration of females to the service of temple dancing began in the Shaivite temples and continued in the Jagannath temple in service of the Lord Jagannath. These female attendants have been known as maharis (great women) or devadasis (servants of the lord) and have been considered the wives of Lord Jagannath. Odissi developed through their art. The first evidence of the Mahari institution in Odisha comes from a commemorative inscription by Udyota Kesari, the last King of the dynasty. In the 10th century the King’s mother, Kolavati Devi, dedicated temple dancers to Lord Shiva in the Brahmeswar Temple. Raja Anantavarma Chodagangadeva appointed dancing-girls for ritual services in the Jagannatha temple in the 11th century, and these Maharis were the ones responsible for keeping the dance alive for centuries. Through the technique of unequal division of weight and firm footwork balancing a fluid upper torso, the dancer achieves a sensuality that is uncommon in other classical dance styles. Some eminent Mahari dancers are Moni Mahari, Dimmi (Domi) Mahari, Dungri Mahari (Harapriya), and Padmashri Guru Pankaj Charan Das.
Gotipua traditionIn the Odia language Gotipua means single boy. Gotipua dance is performed only by boys who dress up as females.
During the rule of King Prataprudra Dev, who was a follower of Sri Chaitanya, started this boy dancing tradition again as Vasishnavs were not approving of the females in to dance practices. .
The jewelry is made from intricate filigree silver jewelry pieces. Filigree, in French, means “thin wire,” and in Odia it is called Tarakasi. This highly skilled art form is more than 500 years old and is traditionally done by local artisans on the Eastern shores of Odisha. The jewelry pieces themselves are an important part of the Odissi dancer’s costume. They are the tikka (forehead ornament), allaka (head piece on which the tikka hangs), unique ear covers in intricate shapes, usually depicting a peacock’s feathers, with jimkis (bell shaped earrings) hanging from them, two necklaces- a smaller necklace worn close to the neck and a longer necklace with a hanging pendant, and two sets of bangles worn on the upper arm and wrist. The process of creating each piece takes the collaboration of many artisans each specialized in one step of the many that turns a lump of raw silver into a handcrafted work of art.
Head pieceThe crown, or mahkoot, worn by the Odissi dancer is made only in the devotional city of Puri in Eastern Odisha. It is formed from the dried reed called sola in a tradition called sola kama. The reed is carved by a series of cuts into the rode-like stem and forms various types of flowers when a string is tied in the middle of the rod and pulled tight. As the string tightens, flowers bloom into, jasmines, champa-one of the five flowers of Lord Krishna’s arrows, and kadamba -the flowers under which Radha would wait for her beloved Lord Krishna.
The mahkoot consists of two parts. The flower decorated back piece, called the ghoba, sits around the dancer’s hair pulled into a bun at the back of the head. This piece represents the lotus with a thousand petals that lies above the head in the head chakra, or energy center. The longer piece that emerges from the center of the back piece is called the thiya and this represents the temple spire of Lord Jagannath or the flute of Lord Krishna.
The saree worn by Odissi dancers are generally coloured with bright shades of orange, purple, red or green. This saree features traditional prints of Odisha and shiny embellishment. This costume are drapped around the body in unique traditional way unlike other classical dance of India. Generally Sambalpuri Saree is being used in Odissi dance more than any other type of Sarees. The make-up of an Odissi dancer include Bindi (red dot) is applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it. Kajal (black eyeliner) is applied around the eyes with a broad outline to give them an elongated look.
Odissi gurus and performersPadma VibushanKelucharan Mohapatra, Guru Pankaj Charan Das ,Guru Deba Prasad Das and Guru Raghunath Dutta were the four major gurus who revived Odissi in the late forties and early fifties.Sanjukta Panigrahi, the great exponent of Odissi, was a leading disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's and popularized Odissi by performing extensively, both in India and abroad. In the mid-sixties, two other disciples of Kelucharan Mohapatra, Kumkum Mohanty and Sonal Mansingh, were best known for their performances, both in India and abroad. Shrimati Laximipriya Mohapatra performed a piece of Odissi abhinaya in the Annapurna Theatre in Cuttack in 1948. This is widely upheld as the first ever performance of a classical Odissi dance item after its contemporary revival.
Most of the present day gurus were Gotipua dancers themselves, and have trained dancers and teachers all over India and abroad. In the early fifties, the outside world began to take note of Odissi. Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi and Dr. Susama Tej represented Odisha in the classical dance category at the Inter University Youth Festival, New Delhi, in 1954 and 1955. It was here that Dr. Charles Fabri witnessed their performances, hailed Odissi as a great classical dance form, and helped Indrani Rehman and Sonal Mansingh study it. Sadly, Priyambadi Mohanty Hejmadi left for the US for 16 long years, where she hardly performed, barring a recital or two here and there. She returned to India only in the mid-nineteen seventies, by which time well known dancers had already occupied a permanent and prominent space on the Odissi horizon, and by which time Odissi had evolved considerably. The baton in India was wielded gloriously, and with outstanding success and public acclaim, by Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kumkum Mohanty and Sonal Mansingh, each of whom was a major and distinctive star.
Some of the upcoming Odissi performers are Rahul Acharya, Ramesh Chandra Jena, Devraj Patnaik, Ellora Patnaik, Kavita Dwivedi, Yudhistir Nayak, Lingaraj Pradhan, Pabitra Kumar Pradhan, Bijay Sahoo, Rajashri Praharaj, Madhusmita Mohanty, Rajashree Chintak Behera, Sandhyadipa Kar, Rajika Puri, Vishnu Tattwa Das, Saswat Joshi, Saswati Garai-Ghosh, Shibani Patnaik, Sreyashi Dey, Bani Ray, Shreelina Ghosh, Aadya Kaktikar, Sonali Mishra, Niharika Mohanty, Arushi Mudgal, Ayona Bhaduri, Rekha Tandon and several others around the world.
Odissi in Popular CultureIn India1993: Dressed in a resplendent orange sanyasin dhoti (probably inspired by the Mayurbhanj Chau costume worn in Shiva Tandava items), renowned actress Meenakshi Sheshadri danced a tandava item composed chiefly in Odissi, by none other than her guru late Padmabhushan Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra, in the film Damini – Lightning.
1996: Rekha was seen imparting Odissi dance lessons (Shikhandika pose) to a group of young learners, while Indira Varma was shown learning Odissi steps to the accompaniment of the mardala in Mira Nair's magnum opus film Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love.
2003: Rani Mukherjee performed a dance at the International Indian Film Academy Awards function dressed in Odissi costume and a number of celebrated Odissi expressed disapproval for insulting the integrity of the dance and the costume.
2007: An entire sequence of dance in Odissi costume was featured near the end of the Bollywood movie Bhool Bhulaiyaa and was performed by actress Vidya Balan and Malayalam actor Vineeth.
2009: Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, who took Odissi lessons for an India-China joint film venture, The Desire loosely based on the life of Odissi dancer Pratima Gauri Bedi.
Outside India1991: A short (23 second) Odissi dance scene was featured in Michael Jackson's music video of Black or White. The legendary pop-singer and dancer performs some Odissi, too.
1998: Madonna danced along with Odissi dancers live on stage during the 1998 MTV Award ceremony. US-based Odissi performers, Patnaik Sisters, were chosen to choreograph and perform alongside the legendary pop artist.
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