Odissi - the Dynamism of Divine and Human Passion



Odissi, which originated in Orissa situated at the Bay of Bengal in India, is the highly inspired, impassioned, ecstatic and sensuous form of dance. It was performed in the temples of Orissa as a religious rite and offering by the Devadasis known as Maharis. Thus, Odissi is a rich and generous cultural gift of the land well known for its dedication to religion and arts.

The people of this land raised magnificent temples, each erected as an act of prayer and embellished by the skills of master craftsmen, sculptors and architects. They belong to the "enchanted millennium of classical art". Restrained, relaxed, rhythmic and real, they portray an unbroken sequenc e of a dance recital to the accompaniment of music. These became the centre of art and culture and it was here that Odissi, one of India's scintillating dance forms was born, nurtured and nourished.

For centuries together, the magnificent temples at Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Kornark remained the focal point of religion and art. The Fundamental principal and purposes of a temple and an art are the same. They compliment each other.

The temple walls, studded with sculptures of dancing poses, singing stances and mithunas tell of the Golden age of Indian Classical Dances, music and sculpture. The poses of the figures carved on the temple are based upon dance poses and dance rhythm to evoke specific moods. Complex groups of images follow a rhythmic pattern across the wall surfaces like the intricate beat of Indian drums in development of a classical raga.

Rooted deeply in traditions and rituals the dance is very old. The technique, style, its stages, the repetoire and finale were almost amorphous and we cannot say how exactly the Maharis had danced it in the past. So the Maharis and the Achariyas adapted the existing format of Bharatha Natyam along with the sculpures on the walls of the temples to the present form of new Odissi. This is a well established and codified classical dance form of India, a dance of love, delight, and intense passion, lyrical, pure, divine and human, all rolled into one.

It commences with the invocation to Gods and salutations to the Mother Earth, the Elephant headed God Vigneshwara, remover of all obstacles. Here the spectators are ushered into a facianting world of mime, music and motives reflecting sculpture stances.

The Introductory piece is a fine example of short but sweet piece of pure and expressional dance. The prelude ends with the recitation of a shloga in Sanscrit or Orissi and its fine interpretation by the dancer, reflecting a delicate balance between pure dance, expressional dance and a combination and acting and dance. Then follows the Pallavi which corresponds to the Jateeswaram. It is highly lyrical which familiarises us with the mood of the dance. Usually it's from the Gita Govinda, underlining the passionate love of Krishna for the cowherdess Radha. The expressional number is laced with some very fast dance sequences. It is a very evocative item full of fine sculpuresque stances, scintilating footwork and a variety of dance patterns demanding a great command and technique on the part of the dancer and finally leads to the climax which is called Moksha.

This corresponds to Tillana and litterally means salvation, liberation, release or deliverance. Here the dance and the dancer become one culminating into an all inclusive awareness, a fathomless deep consiousness where all thoughts are dissolved and fused into perfect harmony and equilibrium.

Odissi presents a fine synthesiss of lasya (feminity) and Tandava aspects of the Indian Classical Dance. The dancer very efficiently changers from one to the other according to the need of the expressional number, rythmic syllables and abhinaya. The dance numbers are either in Sanskrit or Orissi and the music is a combination of Hindustani and Carnatic classical styles.

The performance and enjoyment of Odissi dance recital, so tender and vigorous, intensly erotic and devotional, moving in sculpturesque poses, is an unique experience; a constant source of delight and inspiration. It transcends all the limits of communication leading to a rich aesthetic and spirtual experience. Like its source, the all time Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, Odissi is also for ever and it is for all the classes and masses.


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