Free Essay

The Theory of Odissi

In: Other Topics

Submitted By SushrutVaidya
Words 1630
Pages 7
The Theory of Odissi
An analysis on the traditional dance form of Odissi; it’s history, meaning and will focus on some of the different repertoires and positions in Odissi.

Sushrut S. Vaidya

Odissi is the classical dance form of the state of Orissa, popularly known for its picturesque temples and the combination of highs and lows in its music. During the course of the performance, one can notice the dancer depicting the structure of the temples and those of the idols, which come to life through the flowing movements, and graceful poses of the dancer.


Odissi, as a dance form, may very well be one of the oldest forms of classical dances – with caves that date back the 2nd century depicting the origins of a dance scene with the assistance of full orchestration, naturally seen in Odissi. Archaeologists and scholars of dance have dated these caves to before Bharata’s Natyashastra, in which Odissi is mentioned as a style from South India by the name of Odra Magadhi. Though these performances were made at the Jagannath temple in Puri, it was widely performed in many Shaivite, Vaishnavite and Sakta temples in Orissa. The history of this dance form only says so much, the living tradition however, shows a lot more. It has been kept alive through the generations by two clans, the Maharis and Gotipuas.

Maharis were once known as the Devdasis of Orissa. The word Mahari is derived from two Sanskrit words, namely Mahan and Nari, which translate as the great / chosen one. These chosen ones would serve Lord Jagannath through the use of music and dance. The Maharis would perform mainly Nritta (pure rhythmic dance steps) and Abhinaya (art of expression) based purely on mantras and shlokas. Then came the time of the famous poet Jayadeva, who composed the lyrics of the Geet Govind. Using the lyrics of the Geet Govind, the Maharis then adapted to this dance style and performed for their deity.

The Gotipuas however, were the precursors to the Maharis and to that of the Odissi classical dance. The word Gotipua is derived from two words in Odia, the common language in Orissa; Goti and Pua, translating into small boy. The translation is so because of this form of dance being originally performed by groups of boys, who would depict the life of Lord Krishna and Radha, his consort.

During the Mughal and British rule however, the duties of the Maharis and the Gotipuas shifted exponentially. Once famed and respected as temple dancers, they were now employed to entertain the royal families and courtiers of the royal courts. More as a form of entertainment, they soon ceased to be respected as the devotees and servants of Lord Jagannath. This was evident however, in most of the classical dance styles in India, and led to a steep decline in the overall belief of dance. And once the bill prohibiting temple dancing was passed, most of these dancers, who had no other way of living, lost their places in society and were forced into prostitution to survive the change in power that had taken place earlier.

It was only in the late 1950’s that the world took notice of this beautiful dance form known as Odissi. Priyambada Mohanty represented the state of Orissa at various dance festivals in India and brought about a sense of awareness and interest amongst the vast audiences that would come to see him perform. In par with him was Indrani Rehman. She, under the guidance and critique of Dr. Charles Fabri, India’s leading dance and art critic, sought after the art form of Odissi, making her the first professional dancer to learn this dance form. During her time learning from Guru Sri Deb Prasad Das, renowned for his rigorous styles and forms, she went onto national and international fora to popularise, through her various performances, the beauty that she found in Odissi. Since then, the reputation for Odissi has risen to a point where it is accepted by society and is recognised anywhere around the world.


Traditional Odissi repertoire includes:

1. Mangalacharana: It is an invocation piece, welcoming the gods and the audience to watch the performance. Generally, dancers pay their homage to the Lord for whom this dance exists, Lord Jagannath. A shlokas (hymn) in praise of the god or goddess of the dance is sung, the meaning of which is shown through the dance performance, followed by a salutation to Bhoomidevi (Mother Earth), as a form of forgiveness for stamping on her. The Trikhandi Pranam, which means “three folded salute”, too, follows this: above the head to the Gods, in front of the face to the guru (teacher) and at the chest to the audience.

2. Battu Nrutya: This is a form of dance in praise of Lord Shiva – the cosmic Lord of Dance. Also known as Batuka Bhairava, it is one of 64 furious forms of Lord Shiva. It is a form of pure Nrutya (Dance) and is one of the most difficult to master. This performance begins with a series of poses resembling sculptures, which portray certain actions such as playing of the Veena (stringed instrument), the Pakhawaj (Drum), the Venu (Flute) and the Karatala (Cymbals). It is through these actions that the dancer is able to portray the relationships that exist between the dancer and those of the sculptures that adore the walls of temples in Orissa. The combination of these steps with a rhythm in place brings forth the Battu Nrutya performance. What is to be noted is that there is no song or any recitation as such; only rhythmic syllables (Taal) chanted in par with the dance steps.

3. Pallavi: Known as a ‘pure’ dance item, a Pallavi is a performance in which the raga that is sung is expressed through the eye movements, body postures and the intricate footwork of the dancer. The word Pallavi is derived from the Sanskrit word Pallava, which means “ to blossom” or “to elaborate”. The two main components of this form of dance are the Taal (rhythm) and Laya (speed). This can be applicable to not only the music and rhythm, which start off slow and graceful and build into a fast, rhythmic tempo towards the end, but to also the dance by itself. Initially, the eyes, neck, torso, and feet move gracefully as though it were telling a story, soon progressing into multiple patterns in par with the musical tempo. Though there are barely any meaningful words that are sung in the tune, but the Since the concept of Odissi revolves around the use of temples structures and sculptures within the temples, it’s a conundrum as to whether the structures of the temples inspire this art form or whether it was the sculptures that are embossed into the stone inspires the dance.

4. Abhinaya: This type of dance has more to do with the expressions needed to enact a particular song or piece of poetry. The underlying story is told through the use of mudras (hand gestures), bhavas (facial expressions), eye movements and fluidity in the body of the dancer. Just as the dancer is fluid, graceful and sensual, such is the music to which she dances. The choice of music is commonly Abhinayas on Oriya songs, Sanskrit Ashthapadis, Sanskrit stutis like Dasavatar Stotram (depicting the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, the preserver) or the Ardhanari Stotram. The songs as well as the dances are based on the Radha-Krishna themes while the initial pieces are dedicated to Lord Jagannath, the divine one and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

5. Moksha: The Moksha is the concluding part of the performance / recital. Derived from Sanskrit, Moksha stands for “spiritual liberation” or leaving of the soul from the body to attain a state of salvation known as Nirvana. This dance is known to represent the spiritual form of the dancer merging with the feature of a performance. The movements and poses that are created in this piece create new patters with the aim of bending space and time. Dancers, through their senses and body, eye, feet and hand movements give the viewers the visualisation of self-attaining peace. The dance moves, from a melodious and wooing start to a crescendo that creates the aura of attention towards itself. Seldom the audience lose their grasp on the series of events that are portrayed on stage. Accompanied by the cosmic sound of “Om”, this dance (Moksha) dissolves into the conclusion of nothingness, portraying the definition of Moksha and emphasizing it’s meaning: the deliverance of the soul.

To conclude, the rising dance form of Odissi, which had once lost its form, not only comes back with an influence of current generations but also depicts the culmination of characteristics that prove it to be one of the oldest dance forms in the history of India. The various dances, postures and music pieces reflect on its history and help it tell various tales on the small concentric topic of devotion unto one God.


Alessandra Lopez y Royo, "The reinvention of Odissi classical dance as a temple ritual," published in The Archaeology of Ritual ed. Evangelos Kyriakidis, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA 2007

"Gotipua Dance Festival". Tourism of Orissa, Government of Orissa.

"Odissi". 12 July 1997 Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) "Odissi Classical Dance of India – Classical Odissi Dance India, Classical Odissi Dance Vacations India, Classical Odissi Dances Tour in India".

[ 1 ]. "Odissi Classical Dance of India – Classical Odissi Dance India, Classical Odissi Dance Vacations India, Classical Odissi Dances Tour in India".
[ 2 ]. "Gotipua Dance Festival". Tourism of Orissa, Government of Orissa.

Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Entertainment in India

...directors, to use the Indian term. Movie soundtracks are released as tapes and CDs, sometimes even before the move is released. Dance[edit] Main articles: Indian classical dance and Indian folk dances Indian classical dance is performed in different styles. Its theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni, a sage from Tamil Nadu (400 BC). The Natya Shastra most important ancient treatise on classical Indian dance. It is also called the fifth Veda in reference to the foundation of Hindu religion and philosophy, from which sprang the related South Indian musical tradition of Carnatic music. Its various current forms include Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Manipuri, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniaattam, Kathak and Sattriya. Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating in Tamil Nadu. It is thought to have been created by Bharata Muni. In ancient times Bharatanatyam was performed by mandir (Hindu temple) Devadasis. Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharatanatyam dance postures karanas. Odissi is one of the oldest surviving forms of dance, with depictions of Odissi dancing dating back as far as the 1st century BC. Like other forms of Indian classical dance, the Odissi style traces its origins back to antiquity. Dancers are found depicted in bas-relief in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneswar) dating back to the 1st century BC. The Natya Shastra speaks of the dance from this region and refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. Kathakali......

Words: 2841 - Pages: 12

Premium Essay

Folk Dance

...thrived.  Miyoung Kim established the Korean Dance Studies Society of Canadain 1979. For more information on Korea and its dance culture visit  The Korea Society has a lesson plan for K-12 teachers on Traditional Korean Dance. Modern Modern dance usually refers to 20th-century concert dance that developed in the United States and Europe. Rebelling against classical ballet, early modern dance pioneers began to practice "free dance", often in bare feet. In America, Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis developed their own styles of free dance, paving the way for American modern dance pioneers Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and José Limón. In Europe, Rudolf von Laban, Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and François Delsarte developed theories of human movement and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and expressionist dance. Today the term modern dance is sometimes used interchangeably with contemporary dance. However, for some people, modern dance refers only to dance that was aligned with the modernist art movement of the 1930s and all dance that developed afterwards, from these early roots, is contemporary dance. See also Contemporary Dance. Canada's earliest modern dance company is Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers, founded by Rachel Browne in 1964. Four years later, Patricia Beatty, David Earle and Peter Randazzo foundedToronto Dance Theatre with the goal of nurturing modern dance in Canada. There are now hundreds of Canadian......

Words: 6745 - Pages: 27

Premium Essay


...Thedance was premiered in 1914, quickly catching the eye of the talented husband and wife duo,Vernon and Irene Castle, who lent the dance its signature grace and style. It was laterstandardized by Arthur Murray, in whose version it began to imitate the positions ofAmerican Tango.Indian DancingIndian classical dance is a misnomer, and actually refers to Natya, the sacred Hindu musicaltheatre styles. Its theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni (400 BC).Dances performed inside the sanctum of the temple according to the rituals were calledAgama Nartanam. This was a spiritual dance form.Dances performed in royal courts to the accompaniment of classical music were calledCarnatakam. This was an intellectual art form.Darbari Aatam form of dance appealed more to the commoners and it educated them abouttheir religion, culture and social life. These dances were performed outside the templeprecincts in the courtyards.The Sangeet Natak Akademi currently confers classical status on eight "dance" forms:Bharatanatyam; Kathak; Kathakali; Kuchipudi; Manipuri, Mohiniaattam; Odissi and SattriyaLine dancingA line dance is a formation dance in which a group of people dance in one or more lines,executing the same movements. Certain line dances may be considered variations of circledances, where people are joined by hands in chain, e.g., the Dabke dance of the Middle East.In fact, most circle dances may be danced in a line formation, rather than in a circle; this ismost common......

Words: 1415 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Bharatnatyam vs. Kathak

...denote the Natyashastra-based performing art styles (Hindu Online). The myth of the origin of classical dances states that Natya, the art of dance and theatre, was the creation of God Brahman, the creator of the Universe, who was asked to give mankind a fifth Veda, which unlike the four earlier four Vedas, could be understood by everyone (Dr. Miettinen). God Brahma then taught the art of Natya to the mythic sage Bharata who is said to have recorded the teachings in the Natyashashtra (Dr. Miettinen). The Natyashashtra is said to be the "world's largest and most comprehensive dance manual and still forms the foundation of classical forms of theatre and dance in India" (Dr. Miettinen). The Natyashashtra is also credited for introducing the theories of bhava and rasa which are an important part of Indian classical dances. Rasa, meaning 'essence' "refers to the sentiment that the bhava, manifested by the actor, should evoke in the audience" (Dr. Miettinen). There were originally eight rasas but a ninth one has also been added. These rasas include srngara: the erotic, hasya: the comic, karuna: the pathetic, raudra: the furious, vira: the heroic, the bhayanaka: the terrible, bibhatsa: the odious, abhuta: the marvelous and santa: the tranquil (Dr. Miettinen). An integral part of Indian classical dances is the use of mudras or hand gestures that are performed by the artists as a way to narrate a story or demonstrate certain abstract concepts such as emotion. According to Dr.......

Words: 2669 - Pages: 11

Premium Essay

India Forbes magazine , July 1987. Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to humans. Charaka, the father of medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago. Today Ayurveda is fast regaining its rightful place in civilization. Christopher Columbus was attracted India's wealth and was looking for route to India when he discovered the American continent by mistake. The art of Navigation was born in the river Sindh 6000 years ago. The word ‘Navigation’ is derived from the Sanskrit word NAVGATIH. The word navy is also derived from Sanskrit 'Nou'. In Siddhanta Siromani (Bhuvanakosam ) Bhaskaracharya II described about gravity of earth about 400 years before Sir Isaac Newton. He also had some clear notions on differential calculus, and the Theory of Continued Fraction.  4. Languages of India Hindi Sanskrit Tamil Gujarati Urdu Punjabi Malayalam Bengali Marathi Konkani Kannada Assamese Telegu Oriya Rajasthani  5. Vedic Philosophy The Vedas are the oldest written text on our planet today. They date back to the beginning of Indian civilization and are the earliest literary records of the human mind. They have been passed through oral tradition for over 10,000 years, and first appeared in written form between 2500 - 5,000 years ago. Veda means “Knowledge” in Sanskrit.  6. The Ancient Vedic Hymns Rig Veda - Knowledge of Hymns, 10,859 verses “ There is only one truth, only men describe it in different ways.“ Yajur Veda - Knowledge of Liturgy, 3,988 verses Sama Veda -......

Words: 5560 - Pages: 23

Free Essay

Android Os

...Valayapathi-kundalakesi. ------------------------------------------------- Performing arts[edit] Bharata Natyam Odissi dance. Bhangra folk dance. Dance[edit] Main article: Dance in India Let drama and dance (Nātya, नाट्य) be the fifth vedic scripture. Combined with an epic story, tending to virtue, wealth, joy and spiritual freedom, it must contain the significance of every scripture, and forward every art. — First chapter of Nātyaśāstra, sometime between 200BC - 200AD[108][109] India has had a long romance with the art of dance. Nātyaśāstra (Science of Dance) and Abhinaya Darpana(Mirror of Gesture) are two surviving Sanskrit documents, both estimated to be between 1700 to 2200 years old.[109] The Indian art of dance as taught in these ancient books, according to Ragini Devi, is the expression of inner beauty and the divine in man.[110] It is a deliberate art, nothing is left to chance, each gesture seeks to communicate the ideas, each facial expression the emotions. Indian dance includes eight classical dance forms, many in narrative forms with mythological elements. The eight classical forms accordedclassical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, yakshagana of Karnataka, manipuri of Manipur, odissi (orissi) of the state of Odisha and the sattriya of Assam.[111][112] In addition to the......

Words: 10182 - Pages: 41

Premium Essay


... kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, yakshagana of Karnataka, manipuri of Manipur, odissi (orissi) of the state of Odisha and the sattriya of Assam. In addition to the formal arts of dance, Indian regions have a strong free form, folksy dance tradition. Some of the folk dances include the bhangra of Punjab; the bihu of Assam; the zeliang of Nagaland; the chhau ofJharkhand; the qauwwalis, birhas and charkulas of Uttar Pradesh; the jat-jatin, nat-natin and saturi of Bihar; theghoomar of Rajasthan; the dandiya and garba of Gujarat; the kolattam of Andhra Pradesh; the yakshagana of Karnataka ; lavani of Maharashtra;Dekhnni of Goa; Karakattam, Oyilattam, and mayilattam of Tamil Nadu. Recent developments include adoption of international dance forms particularly in the urban centres of India, and the extension of Indian classical dance arts by the Kerala Christian community, to tell stories from the Bible. Music” Main article: Music of India Music is an integral part of India's culture. Natyasastra, a 2000-year-old Sanskrit text, describes five systems of taxonomy to classify musical instruments. One of these ancient Indian systems classifies musical instruments into four groups according to four primary sources of vibration: strings, membranes, cymbals, and air. According to Reis Flora, this is similar to the Western theory of organology. Archeologists have......

Words: 4683 - Pages: 19