an oriya etymon means a single boy. A dance which is
performed by a single boy dancer in female costume is
known as Gotipua dance. When the dance of the
Maharis slowly disintegrated due to variouu reasons, the
class of these boy dancers was started to carry out the
tradition & it is largely from them that the present
form of Odissi dance has been revived. It is acknowledged
that most of the present Odissi gurus were Gotipua
dancers in their early days.
Though it is not known how & when these boy dancers came in, it is certain that they did not appear till 17th century A.D. as we don't find any record or reference to this dance in form.The Gotipua dance appears to have originated in the reign of Prataprudradeva (A.D.1497-1540) and gained popularity in the subsequent muslim period on account of the rigidity of the purdah system which led to the seclusion of women and made their presence scarce on the festive occasions. But this contention does not seem sound as the reign of Prataprudradeva saw the reorientation of Devdassi-dancing in the temple of lord Jagannath. Some are of opinion that Ramananda Ray, the Vaishnavite minister of Prataprudradeva is the originator of this class of boy dancers. This contention also appears immemorable as there are elaborate description in religious texts about the activities of Ramananda in the field of dance, drama & music and that the devadassis of the temple of Jagannath alone remained his disciples. There is no evidence whatsoever of Ramananda having introduced boy dancers in the temple in place of women. The Gotipua dancers are never allowed to dance inside the temple. Only on some festive occasions they are specially allowed to perform in the temple precints.
A Gotipua party consists of four or five members and the guru always remains in charge of it. The guru also sings & plays on the harmonium. Other members are two accompanists i.e., a madala player & a ginni player, and one or two boy dancers. The dance of the Gotipuas is in Odissi style, but their technique, costum & all presentations differ from that of Maharis. The songs are generally compositions of Vaisnava poets of Orissa on the alliance of Radha & Krishna.
Gotipuas also perform a few dance numbers called the Bandha Nritya. These are acrobatic in nature and involve difficult physical exercises which can be mastered only at a very early age.
During the closing years of the last century, the dance of the Gotipuas came to be much influenced by the decadent Sakhi Nacha of the southern district of Orissa. The Sakhi Nacha which was also performed by boys in female costume was an imitation of the volptuous dance of the devadasis who belonged to the adjoining Telugu regions. The Sakhi Nacha had a lasting influence on the dance of the Gotipuas.