Thursday, July 15, 2010

Odissi - The Oldest Classical Dance of India

India has eight classic dance forms and Odissi is one of them. This beautiful dance form traces its roots to the state of Orissa, which, is located in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent. Apart from its amazing dance moves, Odissi is also famous as the oldest Indian dance form which is still surviving in its full form. This dance form was suppressed under the rule of the British, but, after the Indian independence, Odissi was revived again.
The uniquity of Odissi
What distinguishes the Odissi dance form from the other Indian classical dance forms is its emphasis on tribhangi. Tribhangi is a dance form where the body movement is divided into three breaks which include the movement of the chest, the head and the pelvis. The Odissi dance is performed on chauka, which is a square stance.
History of Odissi dance and music
Evidences show that Odissi was initially a court dance. Then this secular dance also began to be performed in religious and spiritual places like temples and Buddhist and Jain monasteries. This Indian classical dance used to be performed regularly in the Jagannath Temple in Puri and Vaishnavite temple, Shaivite temple and Sakta temple in Orissa. Odissi dancers, who, dedicated their performances as offerings to the God in the temples, used to be known as ‘Maharis’. The Konark Sun temple, Buddhist Ratnagiri hills, Bhubaneswar’s Brahmesvar temple and the Tantric temples like Hirapur Shrine contain detailed sculptures of Odissi dancers and musicians.
Tradition of Odissi
The tradition of Odissi dance existed in three different schools, which were – Nartaki, Mahari and Gotipua. Maharis were the temple dancers of Orissa, who, were chosen to dance at the Lord Jagannath temple of Puri. Initially, they mainly performed nritya or pure dance along with abhinaya or poetry interpretation, based on the lyrics of Gita Govinda by Jaydev. The Gotipua tradition emerged towards the 6th century when the Vaishnavas began to protest against women dancing. Gotipuas were young boys who dressed up as women Maharis and performed dances outside the temples, to the lyrics of Vaishnava poets, which, were usually dedicated to the divine lovers ‘Radha – Krishna’.  Nartaki dance was popular in the royal courts after women were banned to dance in temples by the British. But in a matter of time, Nartaki dance form faded too and only Gotipua school of Odissi dance remained.
Odissi music
Odissi music is the synthesis of four different music classes which are chitrakala, panchal, chitrapada, and dhruvapada. While Chitrakala is the usage of art form in music, Chitrapada is the music form where words are used alliteratively. In Dhruvapada, the first lines of the song are sung repeatedly.
Odissi dance costume and jewelry
The Odissi dance costume comes in the form of a brightly colored saree with shades of green, red, purple and orange. Traditionally, the dancers drape themselves in Sambalpuri saree. The makeup comprises a red bindi on the forehead with a pattern drawn with sandalwood paste. The eyes are done up in a broad and elongated outline with a kajal and liner. Filigree jewelry is worn by the dancers, which comprise the traditionally crafted tikka, allaka, jimkis, necklaces and bangles. A prominent head piece called mahkoot is also worn which is traditionally made of dried reed called sola. The back piece of the mahkoot is decorated with flowers and is called ghoba, adorning around the dancer’s bun. This part represents the head chakra or the centre of energy. A Longer part emerges from the back piece and it is called thiya. This represents either the sacred flute of Lord Krishna or the spire of Jagannath temple.

picture source: wikipedia, picturesindia

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