Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Orissa, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences.The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. First century BCE bas-reliefs in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) testify to its antiquity. It was suppressed under the British raj but has been reconstructed since India gained independence.

It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis, and upon the basic square stance known as chauka.

Origin and history

The first clear picture of Odissi dance found in the Manchapuri cave in Udayagiri which was carved at the time of king Kharavela. Flanked by two queens Kharavel himself was watching a dance recital where a damsel was performing dance in front of the court with the company of female instrumentalists. Thus Odissi can be traced back to its origin as secular dance. Later it get attached with the temple culture of Odisha. Starting with the rituals of Jagannath temple in Puri it was regularly performed in Shaivite, Vaishnavite and Sakta temple in Odisha. An inscription is found where it was also engraved that a Devadasi Karpursri’s attachment to Buddhist monastery, where she was performing along with her mother and grand mother. Thus it proves that Odissi first originated as a court dance. Later it performed in all religious places of Jaina as well as Buddhist monasteries. Odissi, was initially performed in the temples as a religious offering by the 'Maharis' who dedicated their lives in the services of God. It has the most closer resemblance with sculptures of the Indian Temples.

The history of Odissi dance has been traced to an early sculpture found in the Ranigumpha caves at Udaygiri(Odisha). dating to the 2nd century BC. Thus Odissi appears to be the oldest classical dance rooted in rituals and tradition. In fact, the NãtyaShãstra refers to Odra Magadhi as one of the vrittis and Odra refers to Odisha.

Temple history
In Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, there exists Jain caves, which date back to the 2nd century BC which served as a royal palace for King Kharavela. It is suggested by scholars that Odissi is the archeologically oldest Indian classical dance form due to sculptural evidence found in the caves. There are several sculptures of dancers and musicians are in Konark Sun temple and Brahmesvar temple in Bhubaneswar.In the excavated ruins of the Buddhist Ratnagiri hills in Orissa dating back to the 6th-9th centuries, several panels and icons of dance are found resembling present day Odissi dance. In the Tantric temples, such as the Hirapur Shrine, many of the yoginis especially are depicted in poses reminiscent of present day Odissi. In Odisha, when Hinduism became a big centre of worship of Shiva, it is only natural that dance would be used as a form of worship, since Lord Shiva was a master dancer himself. He is the Nataraj, the Cosmic Lord of Dance. The Shaivite temples of Bhubaneswar display innumerable sculptures in postures of Odissi. The Vaishnovite Temples such as Jagannath temple and Konark sun temple abound with an array of dancing sculptures carved into the temple walls, giving testimony that a particular school of dancing had continued from the Shaivite art tradition to the Vaishnovite art form.

Manuscript evidences
Sage Bharata's The Natya Shastra, written in 2nd century AD, speaks of four types of Pravrittis (local usages): Avanti, Dakshinatya, Panchali, and Odra Magadhi and the areas where each type is employed. Some scholars have interpreted that Odra Magadhi is a reference to Odissi, in fact, "the earliest literary reference to Odissi”. Abhinaya Chandrika written by Maheshvara Mahapatra is a detailed study of the various movements of the feet, hands, the standing postures, the movement and the dance reperoire. It also includes illustrations of the Karanãs mentioned in NãtyaShãstra. Manuscript Shilpaprakãsha is among those illustrated manuscripts which deals with the Orissan architecture and sculpture as well as the figures of dance. In this one finds a elaborate analysis of the manner in which the salabhanjikãs or the feminine figures caleed the alasa kanyas are carved in the temple. The illustrations of Shilpaprakãsha reinforces the evidence of sculpture in temples. A rather an unexpested source, the Jain Manuscripts, especially the Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya Kathãs show traces of Orissan dance style although they were being executed in Gujarat. The marginal figures of dancers show women in poses and movements similar to the distinctive style of Orissa. Eg in one of the famous illustrated Jain Manuscript called the Devasanpada Kalpasutra (1501, Jamnagar), there is depiction of the samapada, the tribhangi and the chuaka. This shows that there was a great deal of mobility between east and west and many migrations took place. According to some historians, there were groups of dancers who were brought to Puri from Gujarat and also from Andhra.

Mughal and British period
During the Mughal rule of India, the duties of the maharis, the temple dancers, shifted as they were also employed to entertain the royal family and courtiers in the royal courts. They became associated with concumbinage in respect to the king and ceased to be respected solely as servants to Lord Jagannath. Although the British have helped India in several ways, a decline and degradation occurred in all the Indian classical dance styles during the British period, especially when a bill was passed prohibiting temple dancing. Most of these dancers associated themselves with prostitution to survive.

Tradition and dancers
The Odissi tradition existed in three schools; Mahari, Nartaki, and Gotipua. Maharis were Orissan devadasis or temple girls (their name deriving from Maha (great) and ‘Nari’ or ‘Mahri’ (chosen) particularly those at the temple of Jagganath at Puri. Early Maharis performed mainly nritta (pure dance) and abhinaya (interpretation of poetry) based on mantras & 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.

By the sixth century the Gotipua tradition was emerging. One of the reasons given for the emergence of Gotipuas is that Vaishnavas did not approve of dancing by women. Gotipuas were young boys dressed 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. The Gotipuas stepped out of the precincts of the temples.

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.

Mahari tradition
The consecration of females to the service of temple dancing began in the Shaivite temples and continued in the Jagannath temple in service of the Lord Jagannath. These female attendants have been known as maharis (great women) or devadasis (servants of the lord) and have been considered the wives of Lord Jagannath. Odissi developed through their art. The first evidence of the Mahari institution in Orissa comes from a commemorative inscription by Udyota Kesari, the last King of the dynasty. In the 10th century the King’s mother, Kolavati Devi, dedicated temple dancers to Lord Shiva in the Brahmeswar Temple. King Anantavarma Chodagangadeva appointed dancing-girls for ritual services in the Jagannatha temple in the 11th century, and these Maharis were the ones responsible for keeping the dance alive for centuries. Through the technique of unequal division of weight and firm footwork balancing a fluid upper torso, the dancer achieves a sensuality that is uncommon in other classical dance styles. The Mahari dance is a perfect vehicle for the balance of sexuality and spirituality, as required by Tantrism. Some eminent Mahari dancers are Moni Mahari, Dimmi (Domi) Mahari, Dungri Mahari (Harapriya) , Padmashri Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Ratna Roy.

Gotipua tradition
In Odia language Gotipua means single boy. Gotipua dance is performed only by boys. This dance form evolves after declination of Mahari dance form around 1497 to 1540 during the rule of king Prataprudra Dev. Prataprudra Dev who was follower of Sri Chaitanya started this boy dancing tradition as Vasishnavs were not approving of the females in to dance practices. so it possible that the dance tradition must have come after Sri Chaitanya came to Odisha. Dance vocabulary and repertoire Traditional Odissi repertoire consists of:

An invocational piece. After paying homage to Lord Jagganath a sloka (hymn) in praise of some God or Goddess is sung, the meaning of which is brought out through dance. Mangalacharan also includes the ‘bhumi pranam’, begging forgiveness of mother earth for stamping on her, and the ‘trikhandi pranam’ or threefold salutation - above the head to the Gods, in front of the face to the gurus and in front of the chest to the audience.

Battu Nrutya
A dance piece offered to the Lord of dance - Lord Shiva in his ‘Batuka Bhairava’ form. This piece brings out the essence of Odissi. The the interrelationship between temple sculptural art and Odissi dance is established with an array of sculpturesque poses taken directly from the innumerable dancing sculptures adorning the temples of Orissa. These poses are stringed together with steps in different rhythms.

A pure dance item in which a raga is elaborated through eye movements, body postures & intricate footwork. Pallavi literally means “blossoming”. This is applicable not only to the dance, but also to the music, which accompanies it. Pallavi starts with slow, graceful & lyrical movements of the eyes, neck, torso & feet & slowly builds in a crescendo to climax in a fast tempo at the end. Both the dance and the music evolve in complexity as the dancer traces multiple patterns in space, interpreting the music dexterously in the multilayered dimensions of taal (rhythm) and laya (speed).

An expressional dance where a story conveyed to the audience through mudra or hand gestures (the language of Indian classical dance), facial expression and body movement. Abhinaya can be performed on verses in Sanskrit or Oriya. Most common are Abhinayas on Oriya songs or Sanskrit Ashthapadis or Sanskrit stutis like Dasavatar Stotram (depicting the ten incarnations of Lord Vishu) or Ardhanari Stotram. Most of the abhinaya compositions are based on the Radha-Krishna theme. The Astapadis of the kãvya 'Gita Govinda' written by the Saint Jayadev are an integral part of its repertoire . The beginning pieces are dedicated to God of Orissa, Lord Jagannatha - an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Dance drama
Usually longer than Abhinaya and typically performed by more than one dancers. Some of the much appreciated dance dramas composed by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra are: Sudama Dharitra Bhanjana, Mathamani Pradhana, Balya Leela, Rutu Samhara, Krishna Sudama, Dushmanta Sakuntala, Utkala Mauda Mani, Yagnaseni, Meghadoot, Kumari Sambhava, Sapan Nayaka. Usually Hindu mythologies are chosen as themes, but experimenting with the theme and form in recent years have led to extremely unique creations.

The concluding item of a recital. Moksha means “spiritual liberation”. This dance represents a spiritual culmination for the dancer who soars into the realm of pure aesthetic delight. Movement and pose merge to create ever new patterns, ever new designs in space and time. The dance moves onto a crescendo that is thrilling to both, the eye and the ear. With the cosmic sound of the “Om”, the dance dissolves into nothingness — just like Moksha or the deliverance of the soul in real life.

Odissi terminology

In Indian classical music this is the slow introductory movement in raga. It is free of rhythm.

Hide category of the 4 musical divisions, eg Mardala, Tabla, and Mridangam.

Asanjukta Dhvanis
Sound created by striking the Mardala with one hand.

One complete cycle of a taal.

Odissi term used to describe the spoken drum neumonics. During dance performances Bani are spoken by the percussionist or the guru.

In taal, this would be the groups the taal is divided into. Also the points on which the tali, or khali would be. eg, Adital (Odissi) is divided into 4 groups of 4 beats. It is said that Adital has 4 Bhago. These are the measures. Odissi music term.

Devotional song.

In tal, this would be how the divisions of the tal are divided. eg, in Adital (Odissi), the sixteen beats are divided into 4 groups of 4. So the Chondo for Adital is 4 + 4 + 4 + 4. This describes what the Bhagos are.

Original temple dancers who were "servitresses of God"

Gita Govinda
Jayadev's famous poem depicting the life of Radha and Krishna. Themes from this poem tremendously affect the classical arts of India.

The barrel-shaped tension pegs which adorn the Mardala. These are made from wood and can be shifted and more straps (Pitha) can overlap them to create more or less tension for tuning.

Young boys trained in the fine art of Odissi dance. The Gotipuas were allowed to leave the temple and dance for the public. The current form of Odissi is heavily influenced by the Gotipua tradition (and also the temple carvings from Orissa.)

Khondo Ukutto
When bani and ukuttos are formed together to make phrases. eg, Kititaka gadigana. Odissi term.

The ending sequence that is repeated to designate that the ending of the piece or of a section. Typically in 3 repeats. Odissi term. People in Orissa inter change Tihai and Mano. But they mean the same.

Maharis or devadasis
the original temple dancers of Orissa, but now extinct. This is the root of Odissi dance that was later taught to young boys, Gotipuas. The style is now modernized and work is being done to preserve it.

Odissi music
Odissi dance acompanied by Odissi music. Odissi music is a synthesis of four classes of music, i.e. dhruvapada, chitrapada, chitrakala and panchal. The dhruvapada is the first line or lines to be sung repeatedly. The use of art in music is called chitikala. Kavisurya Baladeva Rath, the renowned Oriya poet wrote lyrics which are the best examples of chitrakala. Chitrapada means the arrangement of words in an alliterative style. All these were combined to form the style peculiar to Odissi music. Chhanda (metrical section) contains the essence of Odissi music. The chhandas were composed combining bhava (theme), kala (time), and swara (tune) The chaurisha represents the originality of Odissi style. All the thirty-four letters of the Oriya alphabet from 'Ka' to 'Ksha' are used chronologically at the beginning of each line. A special feature of Odissi music is the padi which consists of words to be sung in druta tala (fast beat). Odissi music can be sung to different talas: navatala nine beats), dashatala(ten beats) or egar tala (eleven beats). Odissi ragas are different from the ragas of Hindustani and Karnataki music. The chief Odissi ragas are Kalyana, Nata, Shree Gowda, Baradi, Panchama, Dhanashri, Karnata, Bhairavee and Shokabaradi. Odissi music is sung through Raganga, Bhabanga and Natyanga Dhrubapadanga followed by Champu, Chhanda, Chautisa, Pallabi, Bhajan, Janana, and Geeta govinda, which are also considered to be in the repertoire of Odissi or an allied act form of Odissi. Odissi music has codified grammars, which are presented with specified Raagas. It has also a distinctive rendition style. It is lyrical in its movement with wave-like ornamentation. The pace of singing in Odissi is not very fast nor slow, and it maintains a proportional tempo which is very soothing.

Costume and Jewellery
The jewelry is made from intricate filigree silver jewelry pieces. Filigree, in French, means “thin wire,” and in Oriya it is called Tarakasi. This highly skilled art form is more than 500 years old and is traditionally done by local artisans on the Eastern shores of Orissa.[11] The jewelry pieces themselves are an important part of the Odissi dancer’s costume and is comprised of the tikka (forehead ornament), allaka (head piece on which the tikka hangs), unique ear covers in intricate shapes, usually depicting a peacock’s feathers, with jimkis (bell shaped earrings) hanging from them, two necklaces- a smaller necklace worn close to the neck and a longer necklace with a hanging pendant, and two sets of bangles worn on the upper arm and wrist. The process of creating each piece takes the collaboration of many artisans each specialized in one step of the many that turns a lump of raw silver into a handcrafted work of art.

Head piece
The crown, or mahkoot, worn by the Odissi dancer is made only in the devotional city of Puri in Eastern Orissa. It is formed from the dried reed called sola in a tradition called sola kama. The reed is carved by a series of cuts into the rode-like stem and forms various types of flowers when a string is tied in the middle of the rod and pulled tight. As the string tightens, flowers bloom into, jasmines, champa-one of the five flowers of Lord Krishna’s arrows, and kadamba -the flowers under which Rhada would wait for her beloved Lord Krishna. The mahkoot consists of two parts. The flower decorated back piece, called the ghoba, sits around the dancer’s hair pulled into a bun at the back of the head. This piece represents the lotus with a thousand petals that lies above the head in the head chakra, or energy center. The longer piece that emerges from the center of the back piece is called the thiya and this represents the temple spire of Lord Jagannath or the flute of Lord Krishna.

The saree worn by Odissi dancers are generally coloured with bright shades of orange, purple, red or green. This saree features traditional prints of Odisha and shiny embellishment. This costume are drapped around the body in unique traditional way unlike other classical dance of India. Generally Sambalpuri Saree is being used in Odissi dance more than any other type of Sarees. The makeup of an Odissi dancer include Bindii(red dot) is applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it. Kajal( black eyeliner) is applied around the eyes with a broad outline to gove them an elongated look.

Odissi today
Padma Vibushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, Guru Pankaj Charan Das and Guru Deba Prasad Das were the three major gurus who revived Odissi in the late forties and early fifties. Sanjukta Panigrahi, the great exponent of Odissi, was a leading disciple of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra's and pursued his efforts to revive the art form. In the mid-sixties two other disciples of Kelucharan Mohapatra, Kumkum Mohanty and Sonal Mansingh, were best known for their performances both in India and abroad. Another prominent figure was the late Guru Surendranath Jena, who taught a different style of Odissi in which the poses of the style are used as moving parts of sequences rather than static poses. The style differs from the better-known style of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in being slower and therefore requiring greater balance and control. His disciples, including the late Usha Chettur and Radhika Jha have learned this style.

Today gurus of dance have created a new generation of highly talented dancers. Most of the present day gurus were Gotipua dancers themselves and have passed on the dance form to dancers and teachers all over India and abroad. In the early fifties the outside world began to take note of Odissi. Priyambada Mohanty and Dr. Susama Tej represented Orissa in the classical dance category at an Inter University Youth Festival in 1954 and 1955. It was here that Dr Charles Fabri witnessed their performances and hailed Odissi as a great classical dance form and helped Indrani Rehman and Sonal Mansingh study it. Kelucharan Mohapatra, Pankaj Charan Das, Deba Prasad Das, Mayadhar Raut, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Surendranath Jena, Kumkum Mohanty, Sonal Mansingh and Protima Gauri all contributed notably to the propagation of Odissi.

The current crop of Gurus includes Hare Krishna Behera, Nandita Behera, Sharmila Biswas, Ileana Citaristi, Meera Das, Ranjana Gauhar, Dibakar Khuntia, Ramli Ibrahim, Aloka Kanungo, Sharon Lowen, Sonal Mansingh, Daksha Mashruwala, Aruna Mohanty, Leena Mohanty, Ratikant Mohapatra, Sujata Mohapatra, Madhavi Mudgal, Sharmila Mukherjee, Oopali Operajita, Jhelum Paranjape, Chitralekha Patnaik, Gangadhar Pradhan, Manoranjan Pradhan, Durga Charan Ranbir, Madhumita Raut, Jyoti Rout, Ratna Roy, Bijayini Satpathy, Kiran Segal, Surupa Sen, Bichitrananda Swain and many others.

Some of the upcoming promising Odissi performers are Rahul Acharya,Devraj Patnaik, Ellora Patnaik, Rajika Puri, Rajashree Chintak Behera, Mamata Das, Vishnu Tattwa Das, Lipsa Dash, Sreyashi Dey, Mitali Dev, Sanjukta Dutta, Kavita Dwivedi, Shreelina Ghosh, Reela Hota, Aadya Kaktikar, Sonali Mishra, Niharika Mohanty, Arushi Mudgal, Kakoli Mukherjee, Yudhistir Nayak, Arupa Gayatri Panda, Shibani Patnaik, Debashree Pattnaik, Lingaraj Pradhan, Pabitra Kumar Pradhan, Bijay Sahoo, Colleena Shakti, and several others around the world.