Nuances of the Odissi dance form

Odissi and Manipuri are considered classical East Indian dance forms. These two forms are considered to be the oldest classical dance forms of East India. They were born, developed in and around temples and temple surroundings.

Both of these dance forms cherished Vaishnava worship and were influenced by Vaishnavism, although Saivaism also influenced the dance forms to a considerable extent. Both of these dance forms take their names from their place of origin.

The dance poses of Odissi resemble the sculptural poses of the temple, Odissi originates from the dance poses of the temple sculptures. The Odissi dance maintains the thiripanga position. It means the three anga positions of the body. This is the particularity of classical Odissi dance. Even the Nirtha in Odissi dance is divided into three main categories.

Hindu philosophy

Odissi is another classical dance form that originated in the state of Orissa and like all other classical dance forms, it has been influenced by Hindu philosophy. Like Bharatha Natyam, Devadasis temple dancers played an important role in the early development of this art form. The female dancers were called Maharis and the male dancers were called Gothipuas. Odissi drew the sources for Odissi dance poses from temple carvings. This is why the dance poses of Odissi resemble the sculptural poses of the temple. The particularity of Odissi is that it maintains the position of thiripanga. It means the three anga positions of the body.

One is Beaten Nirtha, which includes pure poses, depicting holding a variety of musical instruments. The variety of musical instruments refers to string instruments, (veena) leather instruments (drum), metal instruments (cymbals) and wind instruments (flute). Another important category is Pallavi. This means that within a prescribed time (thala) the dancer dances to the swaras or musical notes of the chosen ragas, the pure Nirtha dance.

Another category of Nirtha is Moksha Artha. Moksha Artha is a dance before the end of the dance. In Moksha, the dancer dances many sequences of pure dance units. Like all other classical dance forms, Nirtha and Nirthya are intertwined in the dance. The meaning of the songs is interpreted through graceful movements, subtle expressions, abinayas, bavas and rasas. More importance is given to the moods of the song than to the meaning of the song.

Sanskrit compositions

The main source of Nirthya is taken from the songs of Geetha Govindam of Jayadeva from the 12th century. Even the same songs are used by Bharatha Natyam for Astapathi, which contains eight saranams. In Odissi, these Sanskrit compositions provide greater opportunity for the Odissi dancer to intertwine with sculptural poses in the dance. Apart from the compositions of Jayadeva, various compositions of Oriya Poets are adopted in the Odissi dance forms.

In Odissi, the traditional repertoire begins with Bhaumi Pranam. This is followed by a dance dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Beautiful graceful objects are often seen in this dance form. Among them is Swara Pallavi, melodious and touching elements of Banamurali Das and Upendra Bhanja are used for this. Beautiful ragas are used in Pallavi such as Sangarabaranam and Kambothi. Another important element found in Odissi is Geetha Govintam of Jega Deva adopted for Thasa-Avatharam. The last element of Odissi is called Moksha Nirtya.

Odissi uses many hand mudras or hastas. Also, these hand mudras are largely taken from Abinaya Dharpana. It also takes from Abinaya Chandrika. Like Bharatha Natyam and Kathakali, Odissi also uses the maximum number of hand hastas. Although the pattern of the costumes and ornaments resembles the costumes of Bharatha Natyam, the ornaments used in Odissi are plain and silver without stone studs.

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