Odissi originated from Orissa. The sculptures in the temples of Brahmeswara, Sun Temple at Konark, depict the Odissi dance form. In 1950s with Abhinaya Chandrika’s perseverance, the dance form could be revived back to its original glory and fame.
Odissi is considered to be one of the oldest surviving dance forms based on archaeological evidence. Odissi has been mentioned in inscriptions, depicted on sculptures, in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun Temple at Konark. This is also based on the Natya Sashtra and it can be traced back to 2nd Century BC. Odissi as we know it today is the result of a long process of reconstruction from various dance traditions of Orissa – the Maharis, the Goti puas and the Bhandanritya traditions. Maharis are the counterparts of the Devadasis of the South. Goti puas are men who dressed as female dancers and danced like the Maharis. These artistes were not allowed to dance in temples after the age of 18.
After 17th century Odissi also declined to great levels, as at that time dancers were considered to be shameless. As a result of this there was no one ready to learn dance. The revival of Odissi can be credited to Kalicharan Pattanayaka who presented Odissi artists on the stage and encouraged others to follow suit. In the 1950s, the entire dance form was revitalised by Abhinaya Chandrika with the help of sculpted dance poses found in temples.
Odissi is similar to Bharatnatyam with respect to the mudras and expressions. The ‘Tribhang’ or the divison of the body into 3 parts, head, bust and torso is a striking feature of Odissi. Odissi performances are replete with lores of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, Lord Krishna. It is a soft, lyrical classical dance which depicts the ambience of Orissa and the philosophy of its most popular deity, Lord Jagannath.
Odissi is based on the popular devotion to Lord Krishna and the verses of the Sanskrit play Geet Govinda are used to depict the love and devotion to God. The Odissi dancers use their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements to express specific moods and emotions.
Kelucharan Mohapatra, an erstwhile Goti Pua, is the greatest exponent and guru of this ancient dance form. Some of the other exponents of this dance form are Indrani Rehman, Sonal Mansingh, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Protima Gauri Bedi, Madhavi Mudgal, Guru Mayadhar Raut, Guru Deva Prasad Das and Guru Durga Charan Das.