A sculpted panel in the Khandagiri-Udaigiri hills belonging to 2nd Century BC proves that Odissi dance was prevalent in Orissa at that time. Many other written treatises and evidences clearly indicate that centuries ago Odissi was being performed in royal courts and temples. In addition to the Maharis (temple devadasis) and Rajnartakis (royal court dancers), another class of dancers called Gotipua (boys in female attire) started dancing Odissi for the general public from the 16th century AD.Generously and enthusiastically patronized by the successive rulers of Puri, the Maharis were dancing inside the Jagannath temple twice daily before the deities, as an essential temple service. The tradition continued for centuries until fourth decade of this century. Owing to lack of royal patronage, the tradition came to an end. During 1950s, a group of determined scholars and gurus revived the dance form by consulting the relevant ‘Shastras’ and countless sculpted dance figures on the walls of the Konark Sun Temple. The Odissi dance seen today is in the line of what was revived in the 1950s. The technique of Odissi includes repeated use of ‘chauka’, a square-like position and the ‘tribhangi’, or thrice deflected posture. These postures, sculpturesque poses and the characteristic shifting of the torso from side to side, lends the fluid grace and a distinctively lyrical quality to the movements which is characteristic to Odissi style.

Dr. Jivan Pani