Odissi : The Classical Dance of Odisha


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Odissi takes its name from the state of its origin, Odisha. Odisha’s interesting geographical position at the exact center of the eastern border of India, has influenced its culture and tradition a great deal, thus making its dance and music very unique. Odissi dance is accompanied by Odissi music, a synthesis of four classes of music.Dhruvapada, Chitrapada, Chitrakala and Panchal. The Dhruvapada is the first line or lines to be sung repeatedly. Chitrapada means the arrangement of words in an alliterative style. The use of art in music is called Chitrakala. Kavisurya Baladev Rath, the renowned Odia poet wrote lyrics, which are the best examples of Chitrakala. All of these were combined to form the style that’s peculiar to Odissi music.

Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. Tribhangi meaning “Three bends “and inspired by the temple sculptures, is the feminine curvaceous sculptural position with the body weight on one foot . The independent movement of head, chest and pelvis and upon the basic square stance known as Chauka or Chouka that symbolises Lord Jagannath. This dance is characterised by various Bhangas (Stance),which include  stamping of the foot and striking various postures as seen in Indian sculptures. Bhanga, Abanga, Atibhanga and Tribhanga are the common Bhangas.

The Odissi tradition existed in three schools  , Mahari, Nartaki, and Gotipua.

Maharis were Odia devadasis or temple girls, the name is derived from  Maha (great) and Nari or Mahri (chosen) particularly those at the temple of Lord Jagganath,Puri. Early Maharis performed mainly Nritta (pure dance) and Abhinaya (interpretation of poetry) based on Mantras and Slokas. Later, Maharis especially performed dance sequences based on the lyrics of Jayadev’s Gita Govinda. Bhitari Gauni Maharis were allowed in the inner temple while Bahari Gauni Maharis, though in the temples, were excluded from the sanctum sanctorum.

The Gotipua tradition  emerged by  the 6th Century . Gotipuas were boys dressed up as girls and taught the dance by the Maharis. During this period, Vaishnava poets composed innumerable lyrics in Oriya dedicated to Radha and Krishna. Gotipuas danced to these compositions and gradually stepped out of the precincts of the temples.One of the reason provided for the  emergence of Gotipuas is that Vaishnavas did not approve of dancing by women.


The Classical Dance of Odisha

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.

About Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre  :
Government of Orissa has set up an autonomous Institution styled as “Odissi Research Centre” in the year 1986 for promoting and propagating the Odissi Dance Form and Odissi Music and conducting Research in various facets of this rich cultural heritage of the State.

Subsequently, the name has been changed to “Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra Odissi Research Centre” (GKCMORC), as a token of honour to the Late Guru who had devoted his entire life for establishing this dance form as a Classical one as well as made it popular all over the World and brought new experimentation in this Dance Form. The Centre is established with the aim to propagate all the three styles of Odissi Dance i.e. Guru Kelu Charan style, Guru Pankaj Charan Style and Guru Deba Prasad Style.

The Chief Minister, Odisha is the Chairman of the Centre and Eminent Artists and Art-Critics are associated with it. The Governing Body is the Highest Authority to look into the policy matters and the Chief Executive is the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre. He/She is the Ex-officio Secretary of the Governing Body, Committees and Sub-Committees which may be set up by the Governing Body.

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