Odissi Dance - The Odissi dance of Odisha (Orissa) is one of the six acknowledged classical dance forms of India. Like all other Indian classical dances, it also has its initiation in religion and philosophy with an origin in the temples of Odisha (Orissa). The rhythm, Bhangis and Mudras used in Odissi dance have a distinct style of its own. The dance is performed mainly with the theme of Infinite love of Lord Krishna and Radha.
The allied art of this dance and music is more popularly known as the Panchama Veda that was cultivated with success from a very ancient period in Odisha (Orissa). It was King Mahameghavahan Kharvela, a proficient master in the art of dance and music himself, who provided a strong footing for further development of this art through his royal patronage. The Hathi Gumpha inscription states that in his third regal year King Kharvela entertained the people of capital city by organizing dance and musical performances. This noble tradition created by Kharvela came to be followed by the latter rulers of Odisha (Orissa), and this art made further strides of progress under the patronage of the Bhaumakara and Somavansi monarchs.
However, the community which played the greatest role in popularizing this art--by giving it a news sprit, a new hope and horizon--was the community of the temple maidens or Devadasis. Devadasis or Maharis used to practice this dance form and used to perform it before the lord as a form of prayer or ritual. At first, only some Mantras accompanied their Nrutya. But after Jayadev composed the Geeta Govindam, thus incorporating abhinaya in dance form, the grace of this dance form got revived.
Odissi dance would have got diminished inside the temples but for Ray Ramananda--a dramtist and musician--who introduced it in another form. He taught Odissi to some boys and presented the dance form as Gotipua Nacha. He convinced Chaityna Dev that singing and dancing were also forms of prayer. Thus, Odissi dance form was enriched by the encouragement of various kings and a sweeping Vaishnava cult. Subsequently, Odissi was further refined and became a higher form of dance than Gotipua Nacha. Odissi includes both Tandava and Lasya elements. It has Navatala system. But the element that distinguishes Odissi form other dance forms is the grace. In Odissi, the torso movement is considered very important which is soft, lyrical and graceful. The basic body position is chowka that is supposed to be a replica of Lord Jagnnath's body position.
The dance has a mention in Bharat Natya Shastra as 'Odra magadhi'--one of the ancient names of Odisha (Orissa) other than Kalinga and Utkal. The five departments of Odissi are Mangalacharan, Sthai or Batu, Pallavi, Abhinaya and Moksha. Odissi has its own style and music. Similar to other classical dance forms, in Odissi too the Guru Shisya tradition is prevalent. It takes around five to seven years to get trained in this style. But, as Guru says, a whole life dedication also seems to be less to master the form completely.
Famous Odissi Dancers - Some of the renowned Odissi dancers are Guru Pankajcharan, Guru Kelucharna, Late Debprasad, late Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kumkum Mohanty, Indrani Rehema, Guru Nabakishore, Guru Gangadhar, Guru Ranbir, Guru Subrat Pattaniak and Illena.