India - Odissi

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

Odissi Dance Form of India

The Odissi or the Orissi dance is an ancient Indian classical dance from the Eastern state of Orissa. It is a beautiful form of sacred dance having a long, yet broken tradition. Highly stylized in nature, it utilizes the powerful and energetic footwork or tandava, juxtaposed with sinuous, graceful feminine postures and movements or the Lasya. It was originally developed in the temple of Jagannath in Orissa, as a form of worship and meditation in the early part of 16th century. Odissi dance deals largely with the love theme of Radha and Krishna. Handed down from teacher to disciple for thousands of years, the Odissi emphasizes on the spirituality and the devotion.

The rhythm, the bhangis and the mudras used in Odissi dance have a distinctive quality of their own. The most important feature of Odissi dance is the Tribhangi which divides the body into three parts, the head, the bust, and the torso. Any posture which deals with these three elements is called tribhangi. The mudras also play important role. The use of mudras helps to tell a story in a manner similar to the hula of Hawaii.
The Odissi style is referred as the Odra-Magadhi in the Natya Shastra. This dance tradition was kept alive by the devadasi attached to the Jagannath Temple.

Before the introduction of the Gitagovinda in temples, the devadasis used to dance to the recitation of hymns and bols of talas. But after Gitagovinda became the part and parcel of the rituals, the devadasis performed even the abhinaya with different bhavas and rasas. There are three schools developed, the Mahari, the Nartaki and the Gotipua. The Mahari tradition has the devadasi dance developed in temples. The Nartaki tradition has the odissi dance developed in royal courts. The Gotipau style is characteristed by the use of young boys dressed up in female clothing to perform female roles. Later, the British rule brought Odissi dance to near extinction. After Independence, the Odissi dance went through reconstruction which involved combing the ancient texts, and examining the dance postures represented in bas-relief in the various temples.

Most notable personalities in the reconstruction process are Guru Deba Prasad Das, Guru Mayadhar Raut, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Mahadev Rout, Guru Raghu Dutta, and Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra.
The Odissi dance style has the Managlacharna, the Batunrya or the Sthayi Nata, the Pallavi, the Abhinaya and the Moksha.

The mangalacharana involves the dancer dedicating herself to the Lord and begging forgiveness of the Mother Earth for stamping her feet upon her. She also apologises to the audience for any shortcomings and offers salutations to the Guru. The Batu Nrytya is pure dance which begins with a series of sculpturesque poses symbolising the playing of the veena, the drum, the flute or the cymbals. The Pallavi is graceful and lyrical where the tune is in some raga and sung to the accompaniment of the Sargam and the Bols. The abhinaya has facial expressions depicting the rasa and the bhava to bring out the inner meaning and the mood of songs. The Moksha Nrutya being the last item, is performed to the accompaniment of the rhythmic syllables with a fast tempo.

The accompaniment for the Odissi dance includes the musical instruments such as the Pakhawaj or the Madal, the bansuri or the bamboo flute, the manjira or the metal cymbals or the Sitar and the tanpura. The music has the influence of the Hindustani style.

The well known artists of the Odissi dance are Kavichandra Kalicharan Patnaik, Kelu Charan Mahapatra, Pankaj Charan Das, Deba Prasad Das, Priyambada Hejmadi, Padmashree Sanjukta Panigrahi, Minati Mishra, Kumkum Mohanty, Oopalie Oparajita, Sangeeta Das, and many more.


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