Odissi The Devine Classical Indian Dance form


Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originated in the eastern part of Odisha, also known as Orissa, and has a history that dates back more than 2000 years. Odissi is a highly expressive dance form that combines music, poetry, drama, and mythology to tell stories and convey emotions.

Odissi dance is performed with a lot of grace and fluidity, and it is characterized by the use of curved body positions, intricate footwork, and facial expressions. The dance form has two major styles — the Mahari style and the Nartaki style.

The Mahari style is the older of the two and was traditionally performed by the devadasis or temple dancers in the Jagannath temple in Puri. The Nartaki style, on the other hand, was developed in the 20th century and is more secular in nature.

Odissi dance is performed to classical music that is based on ragas and talas. The music is usually played on a range of traditional instruments like the sitar, flute, violin, manjira and pakhawaj/mardala. The dance is also accompanied by singing, which is done by the group of singers.

The costume for Odissi dance is usually a saree draped in a specific way that allows for freedom of movement. The saree is often adorned with intricate embroidery and jewelry. The dancers also wear ankle bells called ghungroos, which add to the rhythm and sound of the dance.

Odissi dance is often performed in groups, with each dancer portraying a different character or aspect of the story being told. The dance is also used to express a range of emotions, from joy and love to anger and sorrow.

In recent years, Odissi has gained popularity around the world as a unique and beautiful form of dance. It is now taught and performed in many countries, and has become an important part of the global cultural landscape.

Historical Evidence

The history of Odissi dance can be traced back to the ancient temples of Odisha, where it was performed as a form of worship and devotion. There are several historical and archaeological pieces of evidence that attest to the antiquity of the dance form.

One of the most famous examples is the depiction of dance poses and postures in the carvings and sculptures of the Konark Sun Temple, which dates back to the 13th century. These carvings are believed to represent the earliest known examples of Odissi dance and provide valuable insights into the style and technique of the dance form.

Another important source of historical evidence is the treatise Abhinaya Chandrika, written by Maheshwara Mahapatra in the 15th century. This text provides detailed instructions and descriptions of the various elements of Odissi dance, including the mudras (hand gestures), footwork, and facial expressions.

More recently, the efforts of individuals like Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, who played a key role in the revival and popularization of Odissi dance in the mid-20th century, have helped to preserve and promote the dance form for future generations.

Here’s a reference link to learn more about the history of Odissi dance: https://www.culturalindia.net/indian-dance/classical/odissi.html

Several individuals have made significant contributions towards the development and promotion of Odissi dance over the years. Here are some of the most notable names:

  1. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra: He is considered to be the father of modern Odissi dance and played a key role in the revival and popularization of the dance form in the mid-20th century. He developed his own unique style of Odissi dance and trained numerous students who went on to become leading dancers in their own right.
  2. Sanjukta Panigrahi: She was one of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s most famous students and is regarded as one of the greatest Odissi dancers of all time. Her performances were noted for their grace, fluidity, and emotive power, and she helped to bring Odissi dance to a wider audience through her extensive touring and teaching.
  3. Guru Pankaj Charan Das: He was a pioneering figure in the development of Odissi music and was responsible for codifying many of the basic principles and techniques of Odissi singing. He also trained several generations of musicians who have gone on to become leading performers and composers in their own right.
  4. Guru Mayadhar Raut: He was a renowned dancer and choreographer who played a key role in the development of Odissi dance in the post-independence era. He developed several new dance compositions that incorporated elements of folk and classical dance styles, and his work has been widely acclaimed for its creativity and innovation.
  5. Guru Debaprasad Das: He was a leading exponent of the Gotipua tradition, which is a precursor to modern Odissi dance. He was instrumental in preserving and promoting this ancient dance form, and his work has helped to inspire a new generation of Odissi dancers and choreographers. Gotipua is a style of dance that originated in the state of Odisha and was traditionally performed by young boys who would dress up as girls and perform in temples and other religious settings.

These are just a few of the many individuals who have made significant contributions to the development and promotion of Odissi dance over the years. Their work has helped to preserve and promote this beautiful and expressive art form for future generations to enjoy.

Where Odissi dance stands today

Odissi dance has undergone significant development since its revival in the mid-20th century. Today, the dance form is taught and performed around the world, and it continues to evolve through the work of contemporary dancers and choreographers.

One of the most significant developments in recent years has been the incorporation of new themes and stories into Odissi dance performances. While the dance form has traditionally been used to tell stories from Hindu mythology, contemporary dancers are now exploring a wider range of themes and narratives, including social and political issues.

There has also been an emphasis on incorporating new technology into Odissi dance performances. Many dancers are using video and projection mapping to enhance their performances, creating stunning visual displays that complement the dance movements.

In addition, there has been a renewed focus on training and education in Odissi dance. Several institutions and organizations have been established in recent years to promote the study and practice of the dance form, and there are now many opportunities for dancers to train and perform at the highest levels.

Another important development has been the increasing recognition of Odissi as a global art form. The dance form is now performed and taught in many countries around the world, and there are numerous international festivals and competitions that showcase the best of Odissi dance.

Overall, the development of Odissi dance as of today reflects a dynamic and ever-evolving art form that continues to thrive and evolve in the modern era.

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