The 108 basic dance units outlined in Natyashastra are identical to those presented in Odissi. Historical sites including caves and temple sculptures at Bhubaneswar and Puri provide more concrete historical evidence of dance and music as an old performing art. Konark Dance festival held every year is an ensemble of the maestros of Odissi dance with various groups and Shilpis performing their items.
The following forms of Odissi became the most extensively practised among Odissi dancers from the 1960s onwards-
- Sthhai or Batu,
- Abhinaya, and
These dance compositions, which range in length from 5 to 15 minutes, include elements of Odissi’s diverse heritage.
Mangalacharan, an expressive composition expressing supplication to Lord Jagannath, Lord Ganesh, and other deities. Traditionally, it is performed at the start of an Odissi performance.
In this piece, the dancer seeks the blessings of the Gods, Gurus, and the audience’s best wishes for a prosperous start. Check out this beautiful Mangalacharan performance, here.
The Mangalacharan includes the following parts in the dance:
- Mancha pravesha- In this part, the dancer enters the stage in the rhythm of the tala/bol (beats). He/she carries the flower offerings with both palms joined together.
- Pushpanjali- The dancer offers flowers to the deity, as a mark of devotion and surrender to the deity.
- Bhumi pranama- Paying respect to the holy mother earth, for letting us step on her and perform the dances. It involves slowly going down sitting on the tows, with both knees to the respective sides and touching the earth and taking the blessings following slowly rising up while making a namaskara simultaneously.
- Vandana- Prayer to the deity
- Sabha pranam- comprising the jagran nritya along with trikhandi pranam. Here, the sabha involves the god, teachers and rasika. In the last part, we pay our pranam to this Sabha.
Batu nritta, or the abstract form of pure dance, is known for its durability, permanence, and steadiness. With bhangis i.e. postures, belis i.e. motion, arasas i.e. short dance phrases, ukutas i.e. rhythmic phrases, and a repetitive melodic refrain, it provides the basic physical grammar of the dance drawn from sculptures and gotipua movements.
This is a pure gift of dance to Lord Batuka Bhairava, one of Lord Shiva’s numerous incarnations. The sculptural stances of Batu Nrutya are well-known. There are thorough unusual rhythmic patterns in various portions of this dance. It requires being in the position of Chauka throughout, apart from Pallavis which requires the posture of Tribhanga. Endurance is the main key to Battu nritta with the steps to be sharp, clear, and precise.
Pallavi begins with slow, graceful, lyrical eye, neck, body, and foot movement, gradually building to a crescendo. It culminates in a quick speed at the finale. The dance item’s name is always based on the Raga of the accompanying song. Desh Pallavi, for example, is performed with Desh Raag. Basanta Pallavi, which is the most basic Pallavi taught first in the line of Pallavis, is from the Basanta Raaga, and Hansadhwani Pallavi with Hamsadhwani Raga.
The word ‘pallav’ means elaboration. Hence, Pallavi is another pure dance piece with lyrical grace moves. It builds around a smooth, lyrical, and beautiful tune (Raga). Beautiful dance passages run parallel to sung music’s rhythmic syllables. Pallavi is also pure dance and suggests elaboration. For instance, it is an exhibition of both the dance and the music that accompanies it.
A fast-paced pure dance routine accompanied by a recital of rhythmic phrases played on the Mardala (the main percussion instrument in Odissi). In other words, Pallavi is a pure dance item in which a raga elaborates itself through eye movements, body postures, and intricate footwork.
Abhinaya is an expressive dance that enacts a song or poem. Therefore, it tells a tale to the audience using mudras, bhavas, eye motions, and body movements.
The choreography is flowing, beautiful, as well as seductive. While performing an Abhinaya, the artist connects with the flow of the devotion and emotion depicted through the song. The artists perform Abhinaya on verses written in Sanskrit or Odia. Abhinayas on Sanskrit Ashtapadi or Sanskrit Stutis like Dasavatara or Ardhanari stotram are the most prevalent.
Abhinaya is the most important component of an Odissi performance, and it usually consists of longer dance pieces with complex theatrical emotions. Sanskrit and Odia literatures are interpreted through dance in abhinaya, which means to carry forward the dramatic portrayal for the stage. For example, Gitagovinda, and the poetries by Odia Bhakti poets like Upendra Bhanja, Banamali Das, Baladev Rath, belonging to the 16th century which are performed as dance-dramas through expressions in abhinayas.
Hence, unlike battu and Pallavi where it is mostly the bol, abhinaya tells you a story involving musical songs and lyrics. The story-telling evolves through various scenes from the epics. For instance, the Mahabharata, Lord Jagannath, Ramayan, and a lot more.
All human efforts, according to Indian philosophy, tend toward ‘Moksha,’ which means salvation (liberation). Moksha is a pure ecstatic dance that liberates the dancer towards this aim. This is a fast-paced rhythmic dance that brings the show to a close. The final piece of a recital is moksha. Moksha is the Sanskrit word for spiritual emancipation. For the dancer, who soars into the region of pure aesthetic joy, the dance signifies a spiritual conclusion.
Firstly, movements and stances combine to form a constantly changing pattern and design in space and time. Secondly, the dance builds to an exciting peak for both the eyes and ears. Lastly, it melts into nothingness with the cosmic sound of the ‘OM,’. Therefore, it depicts Moksha, or soul release.
The Moksha, thereafter ends with enactment of the universal prayers/ peace mantras like sarve bhavantu sukhinaha or sarva mangala mangalye.
Therefore, we believe that after reading this article, you would have emerged more knowledgable and awed about this lovely Indian Classical dance form. Team Podium thanks you heartily for hanging on to the very last word of this article on Odissi.
We also encourage you to check out our other blog posts on Classical Dances, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, and more. Do look out for our interactive Kathak lessons where our experienced faculty guides you through this journey of devotional terpsichore.