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- The dynamism of Divine Love and Human PassionLord Jagannath

Odissi is the most ancient of all classical Indian dance forms, which was originated from the eastern state of Orissa in India. It is a graceful style of classical dance that is inspired thematically by the literature, art and spiritual movements of the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism, and in technique, by the ancient Hindu temple sculptures of Orissa. Originally Odissi was performed as mahari or devadasi dance, in front of Lord Jagannath in the temples of Orissa, which can be traced to 10th century A.D. The dances of maharis in the temples were basically ritualistic. The Nartikis performed in the royal court and for the general public at the traditional festivals like Vasantotsav.

With social and political changes in Indian society, the Mahari tradition started declining and a new class of dancers was created to revive the Odissi dance tradition starting in the 17th century. This class consisted of young boys or Gotipuas who danced in female costumes for the general masses to convey the spiritual stories.

After India’s independence from colonial rule in 1947, much of Odissi dance was revived by a number of individuals known as Gurus. The legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Deba Prasad Das, Guru Mayadhara Rout etc., scholars and performers came together for research based on the traditions and ancient texts such as the Natya Shastra and Abhinaya Darpanam, to create this style in its present form.

The classical dance form of Odissi is a dance of love and passion, tender and intense. Highly stylized in nature, it utilizes both powerful, energetic footwork (Tandava), and graceful feminine postures and movements (Lasya). The most important elements in the Odissi dance are the Bhangis (stylised poses) and Karanas (Yoga based body positions). It has an intensely emotional and lyrical structure which is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna. Suprava Mishra

Traditionally Odissi dance is performed by four parts, Mangalacharana, Pallavi, Avinaya and Mokshya.

Mangalacharana - a dance of invocation. It consists of a verse in praise of a divinity like Brahma, the God of creation, Saraswati, the Goddess of art, or Ganesha, the God of knowledge, followed by a sequence of steps, emphasising the Odissi idiom.

Pallavi - means to elaborate. It consists of pure dance movements and steps with a chosen time cycle and set to a musical raga (melody). In this part, dancers shows various body postures similar to temple sculptures.

Avinaya – the emotions and the expression. In Avinaya, the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govinda of poet Jayadeva written in the 12th century A.D., are used by dancers to depict the love and devotion to God. Songs of other Oriya poets are also danced with subtle expressions and emotions.

Mokshya – the concluding part. In mokshay, a dancer employs various dance units to create a lasting visual effect on spectators.


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Last updated February 20, 2004