Orissi may well claim to be the earliest classical Indian dance style on the basis of archaeological evidence, the most outstanding being the Rani Gupta caves of the second century B. C. in Orissa. Scholars have dated these caves and their carvings to be earlier than the writing ofthe Natyascistra.

By: Diksha Sharma

Posted on: 28/11/2020 View : 291


Orissi may well claim to be the earliest classical Indian dance style on the basis of archaeological evidence, the most outstanding being the Rani Gupta caves of the second century B. C. in Orissa. Scholars have dated these caves and their carvings to be earlier than the writing ofthe Natyascistra. While there may be some questions about the date ofthe caves, certainly the reliefs include the first finished example of a dance scene with full orchestration. Whatever may have been the dance style prevalent at that tune, it is obvious that the traditions codified in theNatyascistra took cognizance ofthe particular regional style known in eastern India. The Natyascistra speaks ofregional varieties, one amongstthese is the eastern-southern style known as the Odhra Magadha style which can be identified as the earliest precursor of the present Orissi. The Udayagiri and the Khandagiri caves of Orissa are the first records in stone ofthe historic period. Although it is not certain thattheywere contemporarywith the compilation ofthe Natyascistra, there is no doubt that Orissa was the home of many kingdoms, Buddhist. Jaina and Shaivite and others, between the second century B. C. and the fifth century A. D. Recent excavations ofthe sites ofRatnagiri and Lalitagiri have brought forth valuable archaeological evidence which supports the view that dance or the dance image was as popular with the artists ofthe Buddhist monuments as it was with sculptors ofUdyagiri, the Rani Guinpha and the Hathi - Gumpha caves. In some door frames ofLalitagiri appear dance figures in movements and poses which certainly establish a continuity between the dance styles seen in Udayagiri and the later Orissan temples. Although no full dance scenes ofthe Udyagiri type have come to light from the finds of Ratnagiri and Lalitagiri, there are figures of Buddhist deities such as Marichi and Aparajita, etc. who are depicted in dance pose.

The style of dance, despite the difference ofthemes and cult exhibits a kinship with the sculpture of the dance styles or the sculptural styles found in Sanchi. Amravati and Nagarjunakonda. An affinity in regard to the treatment of the human body is evident. Along side is the evidence in historical chronicles which speak of the prevalence of the dance during this period. Travellers to India such as Huen Tsang referred to the Buddhist Viharas in Orissa. These references are of the general type. The archaeological evidence recently brought forth by Mrs. Debala Mitra reinforces the descriptions in the chronicles. The history of Orissa between the second century B. C. and the ninth century AD. is an interesting  and complex amalgam of the development of different schools of Buddhism, Jainism and what is today identified as Vajrayan Buddhism or Tantrie Buddhism. Eastern India and the Himalayan Kingdom developed or perfected many complex cults and sub-cults ofVajrayan. All these rubbed shoulders with each other before the establishment of major Brahmanical cults namely first Shaivism and then Vaishnavism. Although the Shaivite cults took strong roots in Orissa in the seventh century A.D., their beginnings have to be traced back to the fourth century A D. almost contemporary with the Gupta sculptures ofother regions of India. We encounter here some of the first dance reliefs of the Nataraja. One amongst these (recently recovered from a village ofAsanpat in the District of Keonjhar) is ofspecial importance. It is an inscribed image of Shiva with eight arms holding a veena, tiishulci and akshyamcila, a damruwith apataka and a varada hasta. The inscription in Brahmi characters is ascribed to Shatrubhanja, a king ofthe Bhanja dynasty who constructed shrines for Shiva. Perhaps this image and the famous Nataraja of Nachna are near contemporary. From the sixth and seventh century- onwards there is a massive evidence of dance as part ofworship and presumably7 this dance inspired the sculptors ofthe early7 medieval temples of Bhubaneswar. Within 300 years, nearly five hundred temples were constructed, each a jewel of architecture.

The sculptures are like inset gems adorning walls, lintels, portals, door jambs and ceilings. One of the oldest surviving temples is Bharatesvara belonging to the sixth century A D. Although now in ruins, this temple has a single relief which is of great importance for the history of dance in Orissa. As part of Shiva’s marriage there is an orchestra and a group ofwomen in a dance composition. A little later in the seventh century7 was built the beautiful and impressive temple of Parsuramesvara. In the door lintels ofthis temple appear many7 scenes of music and dance set vertically and horizontally7. Two ofthese show a group ofthree dancers, each in a very distinct movement and y7et interlocked with each other. The panels in the latticed windows are master compositions of movement arrested in stone. Soon after were built important temples namely the Vaitan Deul and the Sisiresvara. A perfectly balanced and harmoniously built piece of architecture, its walls and lintels are covered every- inch with sculptures. Here women peep out from windows, hide behind doors, are intertwined with trees, hold buds, dance on animals and above all there is Durga and Shiva dancing. Judging from the illustrations the sculptural reliefs ofthe temple ofVaital Deul and the image ofDurga as Mahishasurainardini, now discomiected but kept in the centre ofthe temple, it would appear that by- the eighth century-, dance had already- achieved a very- distinctive stylisation in Orissa. Both the panels of Parasuramesvara as also Vaital Deul exhibit Orissan school not only ofsculpture but also of dance. Although the ardhamandali is basic, it is not identical with the ardhamandali of the temples of South India or North India. The deflection of the hip and the tribhanga is basic to each ofthese figures. Although the sculpture reliefs ofthe salabhanjikas are similar to what we find in other parts ofIndia in terms oftheir themes and motifs, the sculptural style as also the movements captured is distinctively Orissan. These are masterpieces in stone, perfect like a beautifully composed poem. The Muktesvara temple, like the Parasurainesvara and the Vaital Deni temples, is a masterpiece for its balance and proportion.

Here also, there are a host of nayikas and nayikas on the walls ofthe temples. Outstanding amongst all their reliefs are two on the ceiling. In one, there is Ganesha in a dancing pose and in another a woman surrounded by a full orchestra The sculptor captiues a most dynamic movement of dance in limited physical space. The movement of perfectly balanced recital is impressive for its dance figures. The story continues in the other temples of Bhubaneswar especially the most exquisitely carved Raja-Rani temple and the impressive grand temple, the Lingaraj. In these, there is a refining of techniques of execution of the movements ofthe dance which had begun charmingly hi the first three temples mentioned. Here too, there is an abundance of dance sculpture. There are the gcincis of dance: there are the standing figures ofwomen, bursting out of stone, pulsating with rhythm. There are the flying figures—the gandharvas and the apsarcis. There are the full groups of dancers and there is the Tcindava of Lord Shiva. A full and systematic documentation of all this corpus of sculptural evidence in Orissa is clear proof ofnot only the permeation ofthe Shaivite cults including that ofLakulisa but also of a very self-conscious understanding ofthe movement of the dance. No matter where you look, there is a dancer or a group of dancers who attract, allure and charm you. "Hie wide variety of the dance image and the deities specially those of Ganesha, Devi and Nataraja, is impressive. Some of these compare favourably with the depiction of the Tandavci ofthe dance in Ellora and elsewhere. Far off in the Aurangabad caves and in Ellora, the concept of Siva’s Tandava had inspired sculptors to make massive reliefs. In Orissa, in the temples of Bhubaneswar subscribing to the Shaivite cult there is an equally impressive array of the deity in the movement ofthe dance. Equally important from the point ofview ofthe precise delineation ofmovement, specially the position (sthancis), the primary movement (chciris) and the cadences of movements (karccnas) described in the Natyasastra are those ofKama or Devi. Here we find a prolific use ofthe extended leg (alidha) or the uplifted leg ofthe cipakranta and of course the most popular ofthem all the urdhvajcinu. There are a few examples also of the bhujanga trasita.

This sculptural evidence of dance in the temples of Bhuvaneswar belonging to the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth centuries almost comes to a close around the eleventh and twelfth centuries when changes take place in Orissa. Now temples are dedicated to Vishnu. No matter how complex the beginning may have been, it is clear that by the eleventh century A.D., there was the emergence of a Vaishnavite cult distinctive to Orissa. Chodagandeva, a most illustrious ruler, began the construction of the temple ofJagannath some tune between the second half of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century. He was followed by Anangabhimadev. Between these two rulers was built the temple ofJagannath. a unique synthesis of all that had preceded in Orissa including the tribal cults. Cumulatively, Jagannath temple at Puri was not the only temple but it was the beginning of a new cultural movement in India. No part ofIndia remained unaffected by all that Jagannath temple stood for. The temple itself was outstanding in its architectural plan, its sculptural reliefs and its special hall ofthe dance called the Nat Mandir. Although no definite date can be conclusively ascribed regarding the practice of dance as an indispensable part ofthe ritual ofthe worship or the daily routine, it is clear from chronicle records ofthe temple called Mandal Panji that it was certainly co-terminus with the Jagannath cult. From the records it is learnt that Devadasis were attached to the temples as elsewhere in India especially in Kashmir, Bengal, Saurashtra, Rajasthan and, of course. Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Many inscriptions speak ofthe dancers who were dedicated to the deity Siva or Vishnu and their socio economic organisation. This wide prevalence of temple dancing and its technique, no doubt, inspired and influenced the carving of sculptural reliefs. All these temples between the seventh centuryA.D. and the twelfth century A.D. are evidence ofan innerunderstanding ofdance and an attemptto arrestmoments of dynamic movement rather than an execution of a static pose.

The temple of Ivonarak crystalises all these trends into a magnificent and stupendous edifice. Built round the middle of the thirteenth century, here was a masterpiece of architectural design and an excellence in sculptural relief. Conceived as a chariot or ratha on 24 wheels dedicated to Surya (Sim), the temple reverberateswith the movement of the dance whether in relief or around the main shrine or the Jagmohan or the Bhogmandap and most of all Nat Mandir. In the Vaital Deul women in beautiful poses of charis peep through doors or grills, in Raja Rani temple they pulsate with life emerging from stone almost like detached figures, in Konarak they command the horizon as free standing sculpture. Monumental figures ofmusicians and dancers, offlute and drum players dance as ifin the sky and overlook the space of the earth and reach the ocean. These massive free standing sculptures are in great contrast to the small and delicate wTork of the dancers who are carved on the pillars of the Nat Mandir. The free standing dancers on the roofofthe Jagmohan look atfree space; the carved dancers ofthe Nat Mandir look at space circumscribed as if either they or then* companions would come to life and commence a dance. The pillars punctuate the Nat Mandir, the dancers in stone cling to the pillars almost ready to emerge. The horizontal panels seem as they were marginal figures of a manuscript. Together hundreds or thousands ofthese dimunitive dancers make an orchestration wrhich leaves no spectator untouched or unmoved, with the silent harmony it vibrates. This then is the sculptural heritage of dance in Orissa writh massive and dimunitive dancers, some rough and bold, others delicate and intricate. All these complement each other presenting a world of movement unparallel even in Indian sculptural history. The movement ofthese dancers may or may not be the self-conscious delineation ofthe movement ofthe kamas as in the case of the three South Indian temples mentioned in the context ofthe Bharatanatyam i.e. Brihadesvara, Sarangapani and Chidambaram, but they are certainly a sensitive recreation in stone ofthemovementofdance. Also atno tune they canbe mistaken for anything but an Orissi style of dance.

The ParasurameswarTemple (eighth century), as has been mentioned above, has a number ofsculptures in postures ofthe Tcindava dance. Later temples, such as theVaital Deul, also have reliefs ofNataraja.The earlymedieval temples, especially the Raja Rani Temple, contain on their walls many dance figures; indeed, these figures can be classified into several categories. It has been suggested by some scholarsthat the sculptors ofthese medieval temples, from the eleventh century to the thirteenth century7, were merely trying to create an impression of the rhythms of dance and were not illustrating, the actual movements of dance. A close scrutiny, however, reveals that the sculptor was knowledgeable person illustrating chapters ofthe Natyasastra, even ifin a markedly local style. Without sacrificing the characteristic features of the region, the sculptor demonstrates exquisitely how accurately a dance pose or a chari can be wrought in stone. In these sculptures, we find portr ayed the charis w hich have been discussed in the Natyasastra (Chapter IX). We also find that these temple illustr ations of the most intricate movements are described in the chapter on the Karanas (Chapter IV). By the tune of the Konarak Temple, the style had been set and a very7 distinctive method of body manipulation is apparent . Manuscript Evidence Due to many momentous historical developments in Orissa, although the Jagannath Temple continued to be a great centre of many Vaislinavite Cults, there uras little architectural activity7 or certainly not at the level at w7hich wre find it either between the eighth and tenth century A D. or the eleventh and thirteenth century. It wrould appear that from the fifteenth century onwards, the artists canalised their energies into the wa iting ofmanuscripts, the illustrations of manuscripts and the paintings on the w7alls of temples. Here, as elsewhere, dance is a central preoccupation. It is fi om these earliest illustrated manuscripts of Orissa and the w7all paintings in some ofthese temples that w7e realise that a very special style of dance must have been the experience of the artist The ardhamandali, the tribhanga, the chauka are as popular here as theywrere in the sculptural reliefs. Alongside, of course, wre know7 that Chaitanya made Puri his home and pilgrims thronged to Puri from all parts of India. Dancers came from Andhra and Gujarat Devadasis called Maharis w7ere enlisted for the worship. Many texts of dance w7ere wTitten: all these w7ere profusely illustrated.

An examination ofthe illustrations ofthe manuscripts ofOrissa wThether these deal writh architecture or sculpture or music or dance or are based on the poetic composition ofJayadeva such asthe Gita Govinda or are illustrations oftheAmru Shatak or Usha Parinayam, show's that these are rich in the motifofthe dance. A comprehensive study of the illustrations of dance in Orissan manuscripts reveals the great fascination of the art for both the writer and the painter. Some of these manuscripts deal distinctively only with dance. Chief amongst these is the Ahhinaya Chandrika of Maheshvara Mahapatra. This is a detailed study of the various movements of the feet, hands, the standing postures, the movement and the dance repertoire. Included in these illustrations is the clear depictions ofsome of the Karanas which can be grouped together as acrobatic karcinas especially such as the sciktasya, chakramandala, gangavataran. Also among these is the depiction of the movements described in the Natyasastra as the Vishnu Kranta, Vrichika Kutila. In these illustrations, there is a continuation of the style of dancing which we observed in the dance reliefs oi the Nat Mandir of Konarak. The illustrated manuscripts of Orissan which deal With Orissan architecture and sculpture are also filled with figures of dance. Most important amongst these texts isthe illustrated manuscript Shilpaprakasha. Although the present manuscript may be a copy or a recent reconstruction, its contents certainly point at an earlier tradition. Here a full analysis is made of the manner in which the salabhanjikas or the feminine figures called the alasa kanyas are to be carved in the temple. Many subdivisions are made, the architecture design is indicated both for the single female figures as also ofthe Nataraja called the Natambar. The illustrations ofthe Shilpaprakasha reinforce the evidence ofsculptures in the temple. Quite obviously, there was a very close interaction between the designers, the executors, the theoreticians of dance and sculpture, the creative artists, poets, sculptors, painters and dancers. One other major source of evidence of the prevalence of Orissi dance or the precursors of the style which we may call Orissi, comes from a rather very unexpected soruce. These are the marginal figures of dancers in the Jain manuscripts especially the Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya Kathas. Although executed in Gurajat, these marginal figures showwomen hi poses and movements which are distinctive to Orissi and are not seen in other styles of Indian dancing.

In a famous illustrated manuscript of the Kalpasutra belonging to the fifteenth century i.e. the Devasanpada Kalpasutra as also in another belonging to Jamnagar dated 1501, there is a prolific depiction of the samapada, the tribhangi and the chauka. i.e. the outspread grand plie position ofOrissi dance. It is interesting to note that these manuscripts from Gujarat in western India should have captured a style of dance, which was obviously practised and popular in the easternmost part of India. However, when evidence of these manuscripts is correlated with the other chronicler evidence especially trade and pilgrimage routes, both from the Jagannath Temple as also the temples of Western India, the phenomenon is not strange. From all these, one gathers that there was a great deal of mobility between the west and the east. Many migrations took place and according to some historians, there were groups of dancers who wrere brought to Puri from Gujarat as also from Andhra. In Orissa itself, there continued to be the depiction of the dance in Orissan  manuscripts both in respect ofthe technique of the dance as also illustrations of kavya and nataka until the nineteenth century. Textual Evidence The evidence of dance through sculptural reliefs and illustrated manuscripts (i.e. the pictorial evidence) is further supported by evidence which is available in texts on music and dance which were written in Orissa. We have already referred to the manuscript ofAbhinaya Chandrika. In addition, there are other texts (some published and some unpublished) which were written in Orissa and which are convincing proof of the dialogue and interdependence of theory and practice. An important text of uncertain date is the Sangitanarayan by Narayan Dev Gajapati. One section of the text called nritya khand deals with the dance. It follows the tradition ofSangitaratncikara It analyses the different angas and upangcis: it first delineates the movements and then then* usage. It speaks of the different types of eye and face movements and includes a list of positions in place i. e. sthanci, the primary movement ofthe lower limbs i. e. the charis; the cadence of movements i.e. the karcinas and longer cadences of movement called the mandalas and the angaharas.

The writer finally also attempts a notation of some Sanskrit and Oriya poems and indicates the raga and tala. A close analysis ofthis nritya khand i. e. the chapter on dance in the Sangitanarayan again convinces us of an intra-regional dialogue. The tradition of Sangitaratnakara must undoubtedly have travelled to Orissa so as to enable the writer ofSangitanarayan to base his wrork on the Sangitaratnakara. There is little evidence in this text, howrever, of a clear identification of a style ofdance wdiich wre can call Orissi. There are other texts, such as the Nritya Kaumudi and the Natya Manorama by Raghunath Rath attributed to the eighteenth century". This text describes a variety of dance; it also lists the macro and the micro movements such as the angas and the upangas. The text although interesting, is not very significant. It is important for its detailed list and references to other textual material, despite the fact that it throwrs very little light on the actual practice ofthe dance. More important isthe manuscript oftheAbhinaya Darpana of Yadunath Sinha, perhaps written some time again in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Here many more technicalities are mentioned. A reading of the text reveals that the wTiter wus acquainted with Bharata’s Natycisastra and wras also acquainted writh the practice of the dance in Orissa. There is another source of evidence in regard to dance in the manuscripts of Orissa; these are the manuscripts which deal with the dance ofShiva. Many manuscripts describe in detail the Tandava ofSiva, speaking not only ofthe theme ofthe Tandava i.e. Ananda Sandhya etc. but also describing in detail the manner in which the Tandava is to be executed. Some of these manuscripts do not follow" the Natyasastra; instead they adhere to the tradition ofthe Saudhikagamas. Again it is evident that there wras an interchange between Orissa and South India because many of the descriptions of the Tandavas are reminiscent of the descriptions which wre come across in the South Indian agamas.  Historical Chronicles Although we have made passing references to the rich body of the historical chronicles available in Orissa, it is necessary to add that the Madal Panji i. e. the drum chronicles ofthe temple ofPuri is the richest storehouse for reconstruct¬ ing the socio economic status ofthe temple dancers, the different categories of men and women dancers.

There are vivid descriptions ofthe occasion, time, and the ritual practices of the temple where dance was an essential part of the worship. Apart from the Madal Panji there are other historical records and chronicles which enable us to know that dance was an important activity both of the temple milieu as also the cotut milieu Orissa. From this material two things are clear; one thattherewere the temple dancers called the maharis who danced inside the centre and outside the shrine; the fust group was known as the Bheetar Gaonis and the other Bahar Gaonis. Besides, there were the Gopipuas or theboy dancersinwomen’s garb who danced outsid e the temple. Thistradition continued until the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. Creative Literature The evidence ofsculpture, painting, chronicles, textual writing i. e. the manuals and the treatises of technique has to be supplemented with a brief mention of Orissan literature especially poetry and drama. Creative works allude to dance in many ways. These references range from the descriptions ofthe dance in early works ofOrissan literature such astheRamayana and Mahabharata, particularly the Oriya Mahabharata of Saral Das written in the fifteenth century, the Dandi Ramayana, written by Balaram Das in the sixteenth century and the Niladn Mahodaya of Lokanath Vidyadhara ofthe seventeenth century. Many festivals and dramatic recitals are mentioned here. More important than the series of plays are the lyrics which are composed by great writers of Orissa ranging from Ramanand Rai to Upendra Bhanjadev, Kavi Surya, Baladev Rath and others. Most of this writing i.e. the dramatic w'orks, the narrative epic, the Chautisa couplets, ofstanzas which begin with one of 84 consonants in consecutive order belonging to the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, refer to dance. One may well ask the question what was the situation of both poetry and literature as also the position ofthe dance prior to this. Not many literary w-orks survive ofthe Shaivite tradition ofOrissa thatbelong to the eighth to the eleventh centuries. The real history begins with the composition ofthe greatest work of Sanskrit poetry, namely the Gita Govinda. Although scholars will continue to debate whetherJayadeva came from Orissa or Bengal, there is no doubt that the impact ofthe Gita Govinda wras not only instantaneous but deep and powerful in Orissa.

It is significant to remember that the composition ofthe Gita Govinda was almost contemporary with the construction of the Jagannath temple. Wherever it was written, soon after its composition, there appeared commen¬ taries, transcriptions, translations and imitations ofthe Gita Govinda in Orissa. Some ofthe first commentaries on this great poem were written in Orissa. Most importantwasthe acceptance ofthis poem as a text for worship in the Jagannath temple. The kings of Orissa enjoined that the worship to the Lord will be done through the singing ofthe Gita Govincla. Many stories and legends are prevalent about the attempt made by some kings to replace the. singing of the Gita Govinda by an imitation. The legends go on to narrate how the Lord refused to accept the imitation and how the singing of the Gita Govinda was once again firmly established as pail oftemple worship. An important Oriya inscription of 1499 A D. of Pratap Rudradev clearly mentions that the Gita Govinda alone would be sung at the tune ofthe Bhoga ceremony. Some scholars have questioned the use ofthe word Bada Thakur. While one may not go into the details ofthis controversy, it is clear that no controversies could have arisen unless the original was popular. About the same tune the great saint Shri Chaitanya made Puri his home. It was perhaps through him that this poem received another lease oflife. He identified himself with Radha or the Sakhi and the Gita Govinda was transformed from a pure love poem or a devotional poem to a theological text. The disciples of Chaitanya were zealous missionaries who travelled to all parts of India and gave a new doctrinal turn to the Gita Govinda. Many lungs and nobles, warriors and ministers were converted to this cult, gave up their affluent life and became devotees and missionaries. One amongst these was Ramananda Rai. who became a devout worshipper ofJagannath. According to the Chaitanya Charitamrita, he even taught abhinaya to the devadosis or the maharis. He was also an author of an important play called Jagannath Vallabh Nataka. This Nataka or drama was presented in the precincts of the temple. There were others who followed, such as the writer who called himself Jayadeva-II. He wrote a work called the Piyush Lahari. This was patterned on the Gita Govinda but did not restrict itself to three characters—Krishna, Radha and the Sakhi. The drama was presented outside the temple.

The tradition of the singing of the Gita Govinda, the abhinaya to the Gita Govinda, the dramatic version to the Gita Govinda continued in Orissa for many centuries. Alongside was the writing of plays such as the Parsuram Vijaya by the King Kapilendra Deva of the fourteenth century. All these were also performed in and around the temple. Other poets and lyrical writersfollowed Outstanding amongst thesewas Upendra Bhanjadeo. His songs were popular throughout the countryside and his songs wrere sung by all. It is not known wdiether abhinaya wras performed to them but it is known thatUpendra Bhanjadev’s lyrical creations permeated Orissan society at all levels. Other composers appeared on the scene; these wrere Kavi Surya Baladev Rath Gopal Krishna Pattanayak and Banmalidas. While Kavi Surya’s verses are full ofmusical melody lilting rhythms, Gopal Krishna’s diction is as delicate as effective and Banmali’s poems are full of devotion. Kavi Surya Baldev Rath like the poet musicians of South India of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, adorned the courts ofthe kings, wrote poetry wdiich wras sometimes heroic, at other tunes delicately sensuous and colourful but always full of technical excellence. A real human experience bursts out in his poems where at one level, it is the love ofRadha and Krishna, on other it is the human  love ofman and woman. His champu songs were also equally popular. They had vigour, a touch ofwit and humour and he transformed the divine story ofthe love ofRadha and Krishna into a more human level. The poems can be compared to the Padams and Jcwcdies ofSouth India where also double and triple meanings are inherent Also like the composition ofthe South Indian poets, each ofthese songs can be set to a musical melody and can be danced. The verbal imagery has immense potential for being rendered kinetically. Gopal Krishna Pattanayak had greater poetic sensitivity and as a devout Vaishnav, he composed his lyrics as offeringsto the Lord. He describesthe entire life ofLord Krishna from childhood to adolescence.

He is as enchanted with the image ofthe motherYashodha asthe poets ofSouth India, Dikshitar, Kshetrayya and others. UnlikeUpendraBhanjadev, he alwaysremains at a high spiritual level because the love ofRadha and Krishna for him is the love ofthe primordial sakhi, the woman ofthe Lord. His imagery, his diction, his simple spontaneous manner endeared him to the dancers once again. This became a rich source of the poetic material for the presentation of Orissi dance. Banamali was like his predecessors but even more ofa devotee. He is known to have become a sanycisi and many legends are prevalent about his visions, the experiences he hadwith theLord. Banamali’ssongs are tight, compact, almost like aphorism. They too are both stmg and danced. This tradition ofthe compositions ofthe lyrical poetry of the stanzic words called the chciutisa, the dramaticworks and the singing ofthe Gita Govinda, both in the original Sanskrit and in its several Oriya translations continued well into the nineteenth century. It will be clear from the above, that Orissi or what we recognise as Orissi has a rich sustained history. We have not mentioned here the annual seasonal cycle of festivities in and aroimd the Jagannath Temple which also provided the opportunity for the performance of music and dance. As elsewhere in India, but of universal popularity, were the festivals of the Dol Jatra, the Rath Jatra, the Janmashtami and many others. Each provided an occasion for a different type of presentation of music and dance. One last but most enduring stream needs to be mentioned in this context. This is the rich and vibrant tradition of tribal dancing in many parts of Orissa. The tribes, particularly the Savaras, had an important role to play in the Jagannath cult. They were not great musicians or dancers but dance was very much part of their life style. These constituted the substratum on which all else was built. In rural Orissa were many dance forms known to many communities. Both currents were strong. At no tune was the link between these and dance associated with the temples lost.

There was finally yet another stream which is relevant for tracing the evolution of Orissi. This was the tradition of the martial dancers, the pikes, the chadiya dancers. As in the case of Kerala and as we shall see in the case of Manipur, the techniques of attack and defence assumed an artistic stylisation which at certain moments did not distinguish it from dance. The pike and the other martial dances of the militia crystallized into what we recognise as mayurabhanja today. And last, there was the strong tradition of Orissa as in Kerala of acrobatics. Artistic acrobatic  movements ofgymnastics were executed byyoung boys and girls. In fact, thiswas the continuation ofthe tradition described in the Natyasastra under the category ofthe Karnas such as Chakramandala, Gangavatarana and Saktasya etc. Had this tradition not been there, we would not have found the illustrations ofthese in movements in temple sculpture and manuscript illustrations relating to Orissi dance. All these multiple streams and the interaction of literature, sculpture, painting andmusic, religious and tribal, rural and templemilieuwere determining factors. From these many strands presumably emerged a dance style, a style which could be distinguished from any other but a style which was not restricted only to the temples or what one may call a sophisticated milieu ofthe courts. It was connected to the world outside, the country life, to tribal forms, to martial techniques, to dramatic performances, to operas, and perhaps even the puppet plays. Itwas also equallystrongly inspiredbythe rich bodyofpoetryand literature. Altogether, it was both worship within the temple and art and entertainment immediately outside the temple. What we recognise the Orissi dance today, is an attempt at reconstruction of a dance form from all these fragments of the Maharis tradition of the Gotipoun tradition, ofthe Bandhanritya tradition ofthe martial arts and Chhau tradition known to Orissa, and the inspiration drawn fLom the sculptural reliefand pictorial image. Thus on one level, Orissi is perhaps the oldest because ofthe sculptural evidence, on anotherlevel, it isthe youngest, because itsrevival or its neoclassical format emerged only in the 1950s of this century. After lying dormant or being fragmented or certainly underground for sixty years or maybe a hundred, it arose again as a new7 whole.

The story of the reconstruction of Orissi in Independent India is parallel to the story of the reconstruction of the Bharatanatyam or the revival ofthe Bharatanatyam in the 30s ofthis century. It is also parallel to the new7 lease oflife which was given to Kathakali by the efforts ofPoet Vallathol in Kerala. Inwhat is recognised asthe art dance ofOrissi, cognizance must be taken ofthis historical background. Often people mistake the full recital on the stage as an authentic unbroken continuation of an ancient past. In fact, it is the reconstruction ofthe fragments available from different periods and millieus as also the immediate and remote past. file Technique Despite all these knotty questions relating to Orissi, there is no doubt whatsoever of its clearly defined technique. In technique, Orissi dance follows the basic principles of the Natyasastra tradition and the methodologies of movement delineation described in the Silpasastras of Orissa such as the Silpaprakasha and the Silpasarani. Ittreatsthe humanbody in terms ofthe three bhangas along which deflections ofthe head, torso and hips can take place. The body is divided into two equal halves and the technique is built up on the principle of an imequal division ofweight and the shift ofweight from one foot to the other. Unite; ofmovement ofthe head, the torso, or the hips and the knees, are as important here as in the other classical styles of Indian dancing. The characteristic feature of this dance style is a hip deflection which is almost a taboo to other classical forms. The dvibhanga which is seen occasionally in Bharatanatyam, is greatly emphasized here. The tribhanga which is rarely seen in other classical forms, is one ofthe most typical poses of Orissi dancing. The tribhanga ofthe Nataraja figure in South India is evolved by one halfoflower body remaining static along the central plumb line while the other leg usually crosses the first asin the karanas ofthe bhujangati'asita variety. The halfofthe body form the torsoupwards deflectsinthe opposite directionwith thehead orneckproviding the third deflection. In Orissi, the tnbhanga,a is achieved by a sharp deflection ofthe hip from the horizontal Kati sutra, an opposite deflection ofthe torso, and the head deflecting to the same side as the hip. What is known as the natavara bhangi inOrissi dancing isthe familiar tribhanga ofthe Indian sculptured tradition. Foot contacts are simdar to those in Bharatanatyam employing both the flat and the toe-heel contacts. The toe touching the ground (kunchita) and the heel stamping the ground (anchita) foot positions of the Natyasastra are used repeatedly.

There is, however, a rare use of the combined toe-heel movement characteristic of Bharatanatyam in the kuditta mitta sequences. Rather, there are extremely complex rhythmic sequences based on the use only of the heel. These movements ofthe anchita foot known as gothi in Orissa, are distinctive to thatstyle. Apart from these differences in the manner offoot contact i. e. the use of the toe, the use of both heel and a comparative absence of the toe heel movement, there is also a difference in the methodology ofusing knees in Orissi dances. On account ofthe deflection of hip in tribhanga position ofthe knees is not in a complete outtumed symmetry. The lower limbs are not identical to the ardhamandali or ukkarmandali of Bharatanatyam. While one knee bends somewhat to the front and the toe ofthe foot faces the front, the other knee is outtumed and die toes point. This is closest to the Vaisakha sthana of the Natyasastra. The heels ofboth feet, however, meet. In contrast to Bharatanaty¬ am, the torso is bent to the other side, so that whde there is a terseness ofthe lower half, there is a liquid lyrical flow ofthe upper body. The torso is used in two sections, the upper and the lower. It is not used as one unit as in Bharatanatyam. It is also not used completely as a figure of 8 as in Manipuri. This manner ofusing the torso gives Orissi a distinctive kinetic style. The three main positions from which movement emerges in Orissi are first the Samapada i.e. the standing equibalanced equivated erect position without any kind of a suggestion ofa frontal bend as seen in South Indian sculpture or Bharatanatyam, the second is the tribhanga which we have described. The third and the most important in a way is the chauka equivalent to the mandalasthana of the Natyasastra terminology. Here the heels face the centre, the toes point outwards and there is a distance of about two feet between the two heels. The knees are out-turned, the thighs are bent. This is akin to the perfect grand plie ofWestern ballet This chanka can be distinguished from the mandalasthana which is the ORISSI 61 beginning position of a Kathakali dance on account of the maimer of the foot contact. The Kathakali dancer rests hisweight on the sides ofthe sole ofthe feet: the Orissi dancer places the feet flat with the entire sole in contct with the ground. The square is the basic geometrical motif here, and from the square emerge other movements whether they are half-circles, semi-circles or partial figures of8. Movement Patterns From these basic positions, the movement technique is developed.

There can be the possibility ofwalking in space, in different directions, in different manner and at different levels. A set of terms in the Orissan text which are only partially followed in practice referto themaimer ofcovering space. The most characteristic amongst these is the semicircular walk or the covering ofspace by one leg more specifically the calfin semicircles, returning back to centre. The other halfofthe body is static. The same is repeated by other foot or leg. This is known as the Minadandi i. e. covering space like a fish. There is then the manner of covering space in circles, half-circles,semi-circles, and concentric circles. Thisis known.as ghera. Theghera is somewhat akin to the chakra ofKathakbut not quite identical. From the tribhanga positions emerge another group ofmovement. Again, one half ofthe body is keptstatic along the vertical median, one knee continues to be bent and the other leg is either extended to the side or to the front or to the back. It can cross the static foot, at the back or the front: it can be elevated at different levels and it can be totally extended at the backwith the knee bending or calfand thigh in a straight line. Through a sitting or a kneeling position, another group of movements emerge. The most characteristic amongst these is the extension of one leg to the side or to the back, wrhile one foot and knee are in contact with the ground. These movements arise out of the sitting position known by the generic term baitha. Another group ofmovements emerge out ofbasic position ofthe chauka or the mandalasthana. Here either movement can be in place i. e. the feet can be static and only the torso can move or a complete pirouette can be executed holding the chauka position. Weight rests on the bent leg and the free leg executes a pirouette. . The Orissa texts specially the Abhinaga Chandrika mention other types of movements . Some are seen and practised, others have become obsolete. One group amongst these is the group ofmovements called the charis. Perhaps the charis of the Natyasastra tradition and the charis described in the Silpasastras are nowtiere seen so clearly and concretely as in Orissi technique. The Orissi technique has developed many single leg movements called the ek pada chari or using both legs or the feet called the dvipada charis and innumerable other ways of depicting the pose wdiich can be seen in the sculptural reliefs in the Orissan temples.

The Silpaprakasha mentions 16 types ofthe alasa kanyas, those that are indolent, those who hold lotuses, those who hold mirrors in their hands, those wTeaing ketki Howlers, those playing on the  drums, those who hold drums, those holding a child, or a fly whisk. In the contemporary Orissi technique, many ofthese sculptural poses are repeated or recreated. The dancer controls her body in the manner in which the sculpture pose is held for a splitsecond only to get back into a series ofmovements termed (as the bhramais are equally important). The sculpturesque quality of Orissi dance is dependent on perfect execution of these charis. Another group of movements termed as bhramaris are equally important. These are the spins or the pirouettes. Pirouettes canbe executed in the tribhanga position, orthe chauka, both clockwise, and anti-clockwise and of course they can certainly be executed in the standing position. In short, pirouettes also emerge from the three basic positions ofthe samapada, the tribhangi and the chauka. There are manybeautiful names for the pirouettes depending upon the foot contact in the initial position or the final movement or the level at which the knee is elevated or the direction which the pirouette is made. There is the simple bhramari, a bhramari with a jump therefore called an ut-pluta bhramari or an anti-clockwise pirouette called viparita bhramari. There is also the bhramari called the antarbhramari. Here one foot touches the knee ofthe other leg and a pirouette is executed. The movement patterns of Orissi dance emerges from the positions, the manner of covering space and the method of executing the bhramaris. . Tliere are then the group of movements which may be called elevations, jtunps or utpluta. There is whole group ofmovements in Orissi dance wherejumps and hops are suggested and there is a lack of contact with the ground. . Besides, these categories of primary movements and the manner of executing them, there are the sculptural poses which are contained within the dance techniques. From the tiibhanga can emerge many sculptural poses which have been given different names some suggesting the types of heroines i.e. nagikas others suggesting the type of movement i.e, half-bent, full-bent, etc. and yet others suggesting an approach or mood such as nivedana. None ofthese can be identified as with the Karanas of the Natyasastra because they are largely descriptions of positions of place and direction of space.

These sequences of movement in Orissi dancing are called bhangis or sometimes the thais. . Hcistas: While Orissi dance like Bharatanatyam and Kathakali uses a variety of hand gestures both in its technique of pure dance (nritya) as also abhinaya, there are many significant departures from the tradition ofthe Natyasastra and the Abhinaya Darpana. Many new names have been given to the same hand gesturessuch asthepataka oftheAbhinaya Daipana, the tripataka in Kathakali and dhvaja in Orissi. The ardha pataka with two fingers extended and two infolded is called the danda. The kataka i. e. where the index finger is held over the thumb and other fingers are extended, is called the ankush: many more departures can be identified. However, most ofthe hastas despite the difference in names, belong to Natyasastra, the Sangitciratnakara and the Abhinaya Darpana. A rich vocabulary of technique emerges from this highly codified ORISSI 63 system of the movement of feet, knees, torso, neck, head, arms, wrists and hands. Further complexity is added into the dance style by exploring quick change of levels which is not known normally either in Bharatanatyain or in Kathakali. The smallest unit of movement in Orissi is the khcindi’. The khandi is the beginning of movement from either the standing position in the samapada or the tribhangi or the chauka. Normally it is from the samapada or the tribhangi. LLs in the case of Bharatanatyam here also the dancer begins her practice by executing foot contacts right and left and through the manipulation of equally distributed wreight as also tmequal wTeight. These very small clusters of movements invariably begin with a static position and return back to the static position. Normally, movements are executed first to the right and then to the left. The dancer is taught to hold one half of her body static and to move the other half either through the leg extension or leg contractions or through crossing front or back. Later each movement is practised by relating to rhythm effort, strong or soft. They are first executed in place always bearing in mind the central axis (the vertical median) and distribution ofwreight. Next the space is explored.

The khandhs are primary movements beginning with categories, place, exploring space in all directions. Some are based only on the samapada and tribhanga. Others combine samapada, tribhanga and the chauka. All are executed to the accompaniment of mnemonics called ukkattci comparable to the bols of Kathak and solukatta ofBharatanatyam. Later they are executed in a given metrical cycle of four, five, six, seven, eight or nine beats. Further refinement is brought into it by dividing say an eight beat cycle into different segments. There can be 4, 2 and 2; or 3, 3 and 2; or 3,4 and 1. Each tune a newT movement unit emerges. Arasas is the next unit comprising khandis comparable to the formation of simple sentences through a combination of wnrds. The student finally learns howr to use the phrases in a full line of composition in varying permutations and combinations. The arasas can be enlarged like the Ashtakalasam of Kathakali or the tirmanam of the Bharatanatyam. The principle is the same, beginning wuth the smallest unit, combinations are made ofwords and phrases and then sentences: all is contained within the periphery or parameters of the metrical cycle. . The nritta technique ofOrissa rests for its strength on a complete mastery over the full gamut ofthe khandis and arasas which can then be used in sequences ofthe dance called the belis and the palis. The belis are longer sections ofmitta and the palis are the finale sequences also in triplets as in the case ofthe other dance styles. The dancer has to master various aspects ofthe nritta technique comprising the static positions, the sculptural poses, the manner of covering space and has knowm how to manipulate the metrical cycle through the articulation ofthe neck, torso and the movement ofthe lowrer limbs and to cover space in different directions and to move along straight lines, diagonals, figures of eight and spirals and to shift wreight and play with levels. Later she is also taught to control energy and to play with movement which flows out ofbody and at other timesflows into the body. Thejuxtaposition ofstrong and softmovements expanding and contracting, enlarging and dwarfing is characteristic. LikeManipuri, Orissi gives the impression of a soft lyrical style, highly sensuous in form but in fact it isrigorous and challenging for anyone who wishesto execute itwith control and precision.

The balance ofstasis and dynamics is at the core ofthis style as others. The Repertoire The repertoire ofOrissi can also be divided into the two broad categories ofnritta and abhinaya and tandava and lasya. In fact, this is the standard pan-Indian format for the dance especially those which we call the classical forms. In one group ofnumbers, the dancer executes movements either only to the mnemonics i. e. the bols or the ukuttas, recited by the mridangist or to a melodic line as in the case ofSouth Indianjatisvara or to a more complex solfa passage or melodic composition like the tarana of Hindustani music or tillcina ofSouth India or can render through mime (abhinaya) a piece of poetry set. to music in a special metrical cycle. In Orissi, the melodic compositions are the pallavis sung in a typical orissi style: the poetry is drawn from Sanskrit and Oriya. . Whatever mayr have been the beginnings ofthe Orissi dance or the nature ofthe repertoire for dance performance within or without the temple, it is clear that the number called bhumipranama wasfirstnumber. The presentformat ofOrissi may be attributed to the pioneers ofthe reconstruction of oddem. The sequences of niunbers of Orissi dance may- not have been in vogue earlier. At the present moment, the beginning of all Orissi dance recitals is with the bhumipranama obeisance to one’s chosen deity. Often this deity is the Vighnaraja or Ganesha. A line ofpoetry is set to music, some pails ofits are in pure dance and others are in mime and interpreted through gestures. Both the bhumipranama or the Vighnaraja number are essential because without them there may notbe success ofthe performance. The Vighnaraja puja or the Vighnaraja sloka is followed by another number; this time of a ptue mitta number called batu. The batu is mentioned in the Abhinaya Chandrika and is perhaps a dance number ofsome antiquity. In some wrayrs, this is the most difficult number of this style as it introduces the full gamut of the nritta technique. The dancer begins in the chauka position in a slowr tempo: gradually sheworksthrough a series ofintricate charis, bhangis, khandis or arasas to larger cadences of movements. The batu nritya also wreaves kinetic pattern to a given metrical cycle. The sequences or the phases ofthis number, or a combination ofvarious khandis or arasas resembling the paranas of Kathak and the tirmanams of Bharatanatyam. . Leg extensions in the kneeling position are characteristic so also are the movements only on the heels, each movement, phase and it is normallyr in a triplet This number if followed by an invocatory composition usually dedicated ORISSI 65 to a particular deity of the dancer’s choice and is known as the Ishta devata vandcina. Here the dancer can choose either a sloka from Sanskrit or Oriya poetry.

This number is akin to the shcihdam of Bharatanatyam. It is largely in line although there are short pieces of pure dance or nritya. . From rhythm and pure sahitya, the dancer moves on to the swara pallavi, where for the first time, a melody is introduced, which the dancer illustrates through movement These may be combinations ofsound patterns in a raga, just an illustration of the various notes of the musical scale. The swara pallavi is a pure nritta number with an emphasis on hand gestures (hastabhinaya). When it is executed in a very slow tempo it is called the illustration of the alap, but it may also be executed in a medium or fast tempo. . This is followed by numbers which are known as either the gitabhinaya or the sa-abhinaya nritta. In these numbers, words are introduced and the poetic line is sung in a particular musical mode. The songs are generally well-known compositions of poets like Jayadeva, Upendrabhanjadev or Bamnali Das. The dancer attempts to interpret, in a variety ofways, the meaning ofthe words and to communicate the sthayibhava of the song. Each word, with its particular nuance, is interpreted through the combined language of the hands, body and face. This number gives a dancer full scope to present sancharibhava and is analogous to the abhinaya and padams of Bharatanatyam, the padans of Kathakali, and the bhajan or even a thumri of Kathak. Asthapadis of Gita Govinda are a must in an Orissi recital. This is real test of a dancer’s capabilities of abhinaya. Many heroine types (nayikas) are presented in this portion of the recital and the measure of the dancer’s competence can be judged from his or her ability to present successfully the many shades of meaning contained in the words of the padas. . The subject-matter ofthe literary composition (sahitya) to which the dance is performed is mostly Vaishnavite, depicting man’s yearning for God. The sakhibhava of the later bhakti cult is once again seen here. While the great dancer lifts the apparentiy sensuous theme to mystical heights of dedication, the average dancer can do no more than present the sensuous aspects. As in the other dance styles, an Orissi recital ends on a note of pure abstract design. Here it is the tarajan, a parallel to the tillana of Bharatanatyam. and the Kathak tarana. The bols are sung and into them many intricate rhythm patterns in pure nritta are woven. In recent years the repertoire ofOrissi has been greatly enlarged and many new compositions have been added, both in the nritta and the abhinaya portions. A variety ofswara pallavis have been composed in the nritta portion, and the final number is often the moksha or moksha nritya comparable to a tillana or tarana. In the abhinaya section, compositions of Hindi poets such as Tulsidas have been added.

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You will remain with yourself for the whole life Treat yourself as you treat other people. Do not be so hard on yourself. Chances are you wouldnot tell others that theyare fat, ugly, lazy, dense, un-needed, and so forth Know More

On Some Difficulties of the Inner Life

EVERY one who sets himself in earnest to the living of the Inner Life encounters certain obstacles at the very beginning of the pathway thereto, obstacles which repeat themselves in the experience of each, having their basis in the common nature of men. Know More

Enjoy Exercise

The advantages of exercise are undeniable. It step-ups circulation, flexibility and staying power. Exercise helps to determine mood, weight and sleep and is a central component to living a lively life. A few individuals are lucky enough to have a natural joy for exercise. For everybody else, exercise is a joy worth cultivating. Know More

Spiritual Life for the Man of the World

THE Rev. R. J. Campbell, M.A., who presided, said : In introducing the lecturer to a City Temple audience it is not my desire to indulge in personalities which might be embanassing to her, but I feel it is due to ourselves to say that we recognise in Mrs. Besant one of the greatest moral forces of the day. Know More

Spiritual Thinkings

When youre able to have positive thoughts regardless what is going on – when you are able to see the higher power in all individuals and in all situations – you are well on your way to spiritual health. Know More


Lord Shiva is to all men all things. His universality and adaptability have preserved His place in the hearts of men for millennia. The elemental Lord of the Wind, He personified the cataclysmic forces of nature and was the Lord of Destruction. Know More


The origin of Shiva Ratri, the night of Lord Shiva, is related in a fable. In ancient times near the City of Light, Varanasi, there lived a violent and cruel hunter. Whilst hunting in the woods one day, he killed so many birds that he had trouble carrying them all home. He grew tired from the weight of his catch and was frequently forced to stop and rest. Know More

Get Rid Of Your Bad Habits

Your health and weight is decided by your eating habits.If you ask individuals what's the significance of habit, many will give bad habits the difficult press, and say they're negative processes that individuals do again and again, like smoking, gambling, over eating, and procrastination. Know More


Yoga means union of man with his Higher Self. It is an ancient discipline that can be traced back as far as the third century B.C., when the forest dwelling ascetics broke away from the traditional material values of society, and sought to free them selves from the chains of karma. Know More

Towards Mental Purity

There are a number of simple rites the performance of which will free you from inner impurities. From generation to generation our forefathers performed them and earned happiness and contentment. We must follow in their footsteps. We do not have to go in search of any new way of life, any new doctrine or belief. Know More

Making all Creatures Happy

In the past, apart from these, our ancestors did puja to the gods, fed guests and performed vaisvadeva which rite is meant for all creatures. You must have some idea of these rites even if you do not perform them. I will speak to you about vaisvadeva. Know More


Every family must perform puja to Isvara. Those who find it convenient to do so may conduct elaborate types of puja after receiving proper initiation into them. Others need perform only a brief puja, not lasting more than ten minutes or so. Office goers must offer at least this brief worship. The sacred bell must ring in every home. Know More


Truthfulness means mind and speech being well integrated. The wise say that speech being at variance with the mind is untruthfulness. Know More


A MILK-MAID used to supply milk to a Brahmin priest living on the other side of a river. Owing to the irregularities of the boat service, she could not supply him milk punctually every day. Once, being rebuked for her coming late, the poor woman said, "What can I do ? I start early from my house, but have to wait for a long time at the riverbank for the boatman and the passengers. Know More


The River Ganges, more than all other rivers, has inspired the hearts of the Indian population through the Ages. The uncounted millions who have prayed on her banks and bathed in her waters from the source to the sea, tell the colourful story of India’s spiritual quest. Know More

How to Control the Mind

What is the obstacle to one-pointed meditation.The answer is the unstill mind. All problems are caused by the mind, by the desires arising in it. It is not easy to control the mind and keep it away effectively from desire. If we ask the mind to think of an object, it seems to obey us for a moment, but soon it takes its own course, wandering off. When I speak to you about meditation and tranquillity, for a moment your mind will perhaps become still and you will be happy. Know More

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