Gotipua the majestic folk dance of Odisha – India: In Odia, “Goti” means “single” and “Pua” means “Boy”. The Gotipua dance has been performed in Orissa by young boys who dress up as female to perform and pray to Lord Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe.
The actual form of the dance is executed by a group of boys. The group performs acrobatic figures inspired by the life of Radha & Krishna. A Gotipua starts to learn this amazing dance form at a very early age until adolescence when their androgynous look is fading.
Know about their costumes and make-up –
In order to transform themselves into graceful feminine dancers, the boys do not cut their hair to make an elaborate hair-do in a knot. Garlands of flowers are woven into the hair like in Odissi dance. They apply make-up on their face with white and red powder. Kajal or black eyeliner are used to apply around the eyes with a broad outline to give them an elongated look. The Bindi or the red dot is also applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it known as Chita. Traditional paintings adorn the face and are the identity of every dance school.
We have read that the dance costume has evolved over time. The traditional dress is a “Kanchula”, a bright-colored blouse with shiny embellishment. An apron-like and embroidered silk cloth is tied around the waist like a frill worn around the legs: it is called “Nibibandha”. The boys have given up their traditional costumes due to the influence of modernity. In some cases, they still adhere to the tradition: they use the Pattasaree made with one piece of tissue around four meters long, which is worn tightly by having equal lengths of material on both sides, and by tying a knot on the navel. Those traditional dresses are often replaced by a newly designed cloth easier for dressing.
The dancers wear specially designed jewelry like necklaces, bracelets, armbands, and ear ornaments made with beads. The nose piercing jewelry has been replaced these days by a painted motive. They add ankle bells to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet. Palms and soles are painted with a red liquid called “Alta”.
The costume, jewelry, and bells are sacred items.
Gotipua Dance History
In ancient times, the temples of Odisha had female dancers called “Devadasi or Mahari”. They were devoted to Lord Jagannath. The sculptures of the dancers on the bas-reliefs of the famous temples of Odisha including the world-famous Sun Temple in Konark and the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri. The temples show evidence of this very ancient tradition.
Around the 16th century, with the decline of the Mahari dancers, the class of these boy dancers came into existence in the state, to carry out the tradition. This was during the time of Bhoi king Rama Chandra Dev, founder of the Bhoi dynasty.
The Gotipua dance is in Odissi style, but their technique, costumes, and presentation differ from those of the Mahari. The singing is done by the dancers themselves.
Many articles read that, from the Gotipua dance that the present form of Odissi dance has been inspired. Most of the present-day Gurus of Odissi dance (like the famous Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra from Raghurajpur village) were Gotipua in their young days.
The captivating style of Odissi dance is based on Tandava (vigorous, masculine) and Lasya (graceful, feminine) dance,
and has two basic postures:
“Tribhangi” where the body is held with three bends of the head, torso, and knees, and “Chouka”, a square-like stance that symbolizes Lord Jagannath.
The fluidity of the upper torso is characteristic of Odissi and is often compared to the gentle waves of the sea that forever caress the Orissa beaches.
The repertoire or the collection of the dance includes:
Sa re ga ma (a pure dance number, celebrating the beauty and highlighting mastery of technique). This dance is portraying the elegant dancers and musicians carved into the outer walls of ancient temples.
Vandana Prayer (worship prayer) of God or Guru (a customary invocation, offering prayers of gratitude to Mother Earth, the Divine Lord Jagannath, and one’s Guru, and welcoming the audience). The dancers perform a 3 step-salutation, the first one above the head towards God, the second in front of the face for the Guru, and the third in front of the chest for the audience.
Abhinaya (enactment of a song, interpretation of the poetry of ancient writings). This dance depicts the Radha-Krishna oriented poems such as the famous Gita Govinda from the 12th century. The verses used for narration are extremely ornate in content and suggestion. Graceful, fluid, and sensual, the Abhinaya is like a moving love poem with facial expression, eye movement, and mudra gestures.
“Come and see, my love
Here comes Krishna, the flute player, the Supreme Performer
Come and see, my love
He dances wearing ankles bells
So lovely rhythmic patterns he makes
Listen to his melodies, the mardala beats
Listen to his flute and clappings”
Bandha Nrutya (presentation of acrobat yogic postures, creation of figures of Radha Krishna, having similarity to visual presentation drawn up by Pattachitra artists, the traditional painting of Odisha). Musical accompaniment is provided with Mardala (two heads drum, a rhythm percussion instrument of Odisha), Gini (small cymbals), Harmonium, Violine, Bansuri (Flute)
and one or two vocalists.
Bandha Nrutya or the Acrobatic Dance
The most interesting part of Gotipua is “Bandha Nrutya”, a dance with acrobatic figures and movements. The difficult and intricate poses of the body with supplying of various limbs, are known as “Bandha” (acrobatic in Odia language). To be able to perform these figures, the boys need to start learning the dance at the early age of five or six. The postures mostly refer to mythological scenes from the life of Krishna.
“Abhinaya Chandrika”, an ancient text on Odissi Dance written by Maheshwar Mahapatra during the 15th century, gives a detailed study of the various movements of the feet, hands (mudras), the standing postures, the movement, and dance repertoire.
“Sangita Darpana”, an ancient text from the 17th century about music and dance, gives a complete repertory and overall style of presentation.
These writings give details about Bandha Nrutya.
Abhinaya Chandrika mentions more than 25 varieties of Bandha :
They are Gagana, Dhurmukha, Torona, Shayana, etc…
Some Bandhas are found in oral tradition and are known as –
Chira (welcome pose)
Padmasana (lotus pose)
Hansa (swan: represents wisdom, grace, and beauty,
and is the vehicule of Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music & arts)
Mayura (peacock: sacred bird of the Hindu mythology,
whose feathers were adorning the head of Krishna)
Chara Mayura (grazing peacock: represents splendor and majesty)
Keli kadamba (the holy tree under which Krishna was playing)
Garuda (mythical eagle, the vehicle of Vishnu)
Kandarpa Ratha (chariot of Kandarpa, the God of Love)
Sagadi (wheel, compared to the wheels of Jagannath chariot)
Kaliyadalan (defeat of Blacksnake by Krishna)
Bakasura Badha (Krishna killing Bakasura demon)
Radha Krishna, etc…