Music & Dance in Odisha

Music and Dance in Odisha (Orissa)

music-and-dance Odisha has a glorious tradition of music. The figures or dancers musicians Carved on ancient temple walls speak of Odisha's rich musical heritage. There were saint-poets of Odisha who composed lyrical poems to be sung. Bards usually went from place to place singing these songs which were meant to propagate religious ideas in various religious. instructions were usually given by the poet himself as to how the lyric was to be sung, i.e. the raga or tune to be employed and the tala or beat scheme to be followed.

By the 11th Century AD folk music or Odisha existing in the form of Triswari, Chatuhswari, and Panchaswari was modified into the classical style.

Odissi Music is a classical form consisting of all the necessary ingredients common to Hindustani and Karnatic Music, such as rags and tala Jayadeva' was the first Oriya poet who composed lyrics meant to be sung and thus the words of those Lyrics were musical to start with. In addition he indicated the classical ragas prevailing At the time in which these were to be sung. Prior to this there was the tradition Of chhandas which were simple in musical outline. From the 16th century onwards Treatises on music were written or compiled in Odisha. They were Sangitamava Chandrika, Gita Prakasha, Sangita Kalalata and Natya Manorama. Two treatises namely, Sangita Sarani and Sangita Narayana were also written in the early 19th century.

odissi-sangita Odissi sangita is a synthesis of four classes of music, i.e. dhruvapada, chitrapada, chitrakala and panchal, described in the above-mentioned texts. The dhruvapada is the first line or lines to be sung repeatedly. The use of art in music is called chitikala. Kavisurya Baladeva Rath, the renowned Oriya poet wrote lyrics which are the best examples of chitrakala. Chitrapada means the arrangement of words in an alliterative style. All these were combined to form the style peculiar to Odissi music. Chhanda (metrical section) contains the essence of Odissi music. The chhandas were composed combining bhava (theme), kala (time), and swara (tune) The chaurisha represents the originality of Odissi style. All the thirty-four letters of the Oriya alphabet from 'Ka' to 'Ksha' are used chronologically at the beginning of each line. A special feature of Odissi music is the padi which consists of words to be sung in druta tala (fast beat). Odissi music can be sung to different talas: navatala nine beats), dashatala(ten beats) or egar tala (eleven beats).

Odissi ragas are different from the ragas of Hindustani and Karnataki music. The chief Odissi ragas are Kalyana, Nata, Shree Gowda, Baradi, Panchama, Dhanashri, Karnata, Bhairavee and Shokabaradi.

Thus we see, that classical Odissi music lacks nothing in grammar, rhetoric or composition to compare with Hindustani or Karnataki styles. It owes much to Jayadev, the saint-poet, the great composer and illustrious master of classical music.

The greatest exponents of Odissi music in modern times are the late Singhari Shyamasundar Kar, Markeandeya Mahapatra, Kashinath Pujapanda, Balakirshan Das, Bhubaneswari Misra and Shymamani Devi. Who have achieved eminence in classical music include among others Sunanda Patnaik.

Odishi Dance

Odissi dance is the typical classical dance form of Odisha and has its origin in the temples. The rhythm, the bhangis and mudras used in Odissi dance have a distinctive quality of their own. Odissi dance deals largely with the love theme of Radha and Krishna.

This dance tradition was kept alive by the devadasis. Those who were attached to the Jagannath Temple were all Vaishnavitcs and those at Bhubaneswar were attached to Shaivite temples. Before the introduction of the Gitagovinda in temples, the devadasi used to dance to the recitation of hymns and bols of talas. But after Gitagovinda became part and parcel of the rituals, tile devadasis performed abhinaya with different bhavas and rasas.

The Gotipua system of dance was performed by young boys dressed as girls. In this tradition one can detect jerking movements in place of smooth translations from one posture to another. Ray Ramananda the Governor of Rajamahcndri as a musician dancer and dramatist who taught dancing to a group of boys selected to enact his dance drama, jagannath Vallabha Nataka. it was performed in the Gotipua style.

The different items of the Odissi dance style are Managlacharna, Batunrya or Sthayi Nata, Pallavi, Abhinaya and Moksha. In mangalacharana the dancer dedicates herself to the Lord and begs forgiveness of the Mother Earth for stamping her feet upon her; she apologises to her audience for any shortcomings and offers salutations to the Guru. Batu Nrytya is pure dance. It begins with a series of sculpturesque poses symbolising the playing of the veena, drum, flute or cymbals. Pallivi is extremely graceful and lyrical. The tune is in some raga and is sung to the accompaniment of Sargam and Bols. Through facial expressions abhinaya depicts rasa and bhava to bring out the meaning and mood of songs. Generally the songs written by poets, Banamali, Upendra Bhanja, Baladeva Rath, Gopala and Jayadeva are sung. Moksha Nrutya is the last item, performed to the accompaniment of rhythmic syllables. It has a fast tempo. The soul of the dancer is supi to merge with the Divine as the dancer becomes ecstatic. Odissi dance is an effort to come near God and experience true bliss. Commendable efforts were made in recent times by many enthusiasts to promote Odissi among whom stands out the name of late Kavichandra Kalicharan Patnaik. The gurus who raised the dance form to the level of international eminence are padmabhusan Kelu Charan Mahapatra, winner of Kalidas Samman, Padmashree Pankaj Charan Das and Deba Prasad Das. Renowned artists of Odissi Dance include Priyambada Hejmadi, Padmashree Sanjukta Panigrahi, Minati Mishra, Kumkum Mohanty, Oopalie Oparajita, Sangeeta Das, etc.


Chhau is an ancient dance form. It originated in the mock fights of the Oriya paikas (warriors) who fought rhythmically to the accompaniment of indigenous music instruments The highly Stylised Chhau dance of today follow the basic principle of the Natya Shastra of Bharat Muni and the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara This dance form became closely associated with religion. The Chhau dancers worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the two presiding deities of the Tandava and the Lasya styles respectively. The typical Chhau dance pose when the dancer at rest is the bent knee so that the legs form a Square, the raising of the, right hand upward with the left hand handing downward both forming right angles the elbow. The Chhau dancers have to practices difficult modes of walk-in, striking difficult postures and moving in a way peculiar to this style. It is a virile dance form and was in the past undertaken by male dancers who performed in female roles, as and when required. Today there are also female dancers who have master this art. The face is generally covered with .the mask of the character who being depicted by the dancer in the Saraikala School of Chhau dance. But in the Mayurbhanj school, the face is left uncovered: Emotions and passions are not depicted by facial expression but by intricate footwork, whirls and jumps. Hence, the wait the feet and the legs are used to depict bhavas. The dance is usually performed in the open air on a raised platform, the musicians stand, on one side of the platform and play on big kettle drums and other musical instruments. In villages, Chhau dance is usually performed during Chaitra parva festival in the days concluding the month of Chaitra. Popular story from the Ramavyna and Mahabharata are staged. The costumes, the headgear and other ornamental requisites are carefully selected., The dance programme consists of solo, duet or Group, performances. Today, the subject matter of Chhau dance is borrowed From the whole gamut of animate and inanimate nature. The female peacock, swan and deer dances depict the wild beauty and grace of the form and are excellently choreographed. The hilly region of north - eastern Odisha will a rich folk and tribal culture has influenced Chhau dance.

Folk Dance

Jatra corresponds to folk theatre. It is the enactment of a play with a cast and comprises music, dance, acting, singing and dramatic conflict. Earlier, religious values were communicated to the masses through the powerful medium of Jatra. Today, the style of writing plays for jatras has undergone changes. Jatra plays now no longer limited to the mythological, historical or fantastical subjects include social themes to suit modern taste.

Jatra is performed on a simple stage with the spectators surrounding it on all sides. The chorus and the musicians take their position off stage. There no stage properties except a single seat meant to serve various functions, as a throne, a bed or a way-side bench.

The actors move in a very theatrical manner. They deliver their speeches in high-sounding .words and have to be loud enough to catch the attention of the spectators seated on all sides. Consequently they adopt an exaggerated style are heavily made up. Their costumes glitter, their swords flash and their words thunder to the accompaniment of the crashing cymbals. Sometimes the actors are able to depict subtle emotional moods like, love, sorrow, pathos, but the element of exaggeration is always present as they have to project themselves as larger than life figures. Jatra becomes a great source of entertainment because of its tuneful traditional music with simple melodic lines, dance sequences, songs, action and humour. Taken as a whole, the jatra of Odisha has always remained essentially an institution of learning for the people in general


The Pala is a long musical narrative punctuated with explanations, rendered By a singer (gayaka) accompanied by a band of lour to five persons, one cymbals plays on a drum (mridanga) and the others playing musical instruments like cymbals. The pala singer describes episodes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana or other Puranic Texts. The musicians who accompany him join at appropriate moments in a chorus Or semblance of rudimentary dialogue. The tale is interspersed with loud music of drums and cymbals. The singer and his accompanists dance using very simple rythmic stepping as they sing.

The Pala singer begins by invoking the blessings of a deity, usually Sarala, the muse of poetry, and briefly states the theme of his song. As he continues his performance another singer asks him questions or requests him to elucidate a point. This the pala singer does with great elan: Generally, the pala songs are Taken from the rich repertoire of Oriya poetry and literature with appropriate references To relevant Sanskrit poetry. The pala singer not only sings out the narrative song. But has to be highly innovative to establish rapport with his audience. He is dressed In glittering robes and wears an ornate headgear. He holds a chamara (whisk) in his hand, which he wields with extreme flourish, now as a weapon, now as a fan, and now as a pen according to the needs of his song and waves it as a of divine blessing. Thus he has to combine drama, song and dance and as a narrator, detached from the main events of his dramatic song.

Pala resembles a jatra but is not as elaborate. For instance, the Pala does a full-fledged cast nor does it have scene-wise divisions. The Pala is end with lines, repeated again and again, propitiating a deity and giving romance an air of sanctity. The singer also uses prose now and then to lines of verse in order to make the narrative simpler. It is generally a show.

The Daskathia

The Daskathia is also a very interesting folk art form in Odisha. It is performed usually by two men, the singer and his assistant and is simpler than a Pala. The Daskathia singer gives an exposition of a narrative poem of mythological or religious intent. The performance owes its name to Daskathia (a musical instrument which is made of two small pieces of thick wood). The singers hold these instruments in their left hand with the index finger in between the pieces of wood. With his should he plays upon tile two ends of this instrument to produce a rhythmic sound. Like the Pala Singer he begins with an introduction in which he seeks the blessings of a deity. The entire narrative is interspersed with lines dedicated to the deity. The Daslrathia performance is of a shorter duration than the Pala. There dressed simply and appear as ascetics.

Thus the Jatra. Pala and Daskarhia represent important aspects of Odisha folk culture form an integral part of the lives of the rural folk. Today television s these programmes, thus making the city people conversant with these folk art forms.

Gotipua Dance

Gotipua is a fascinating folk dance of Puri Where boys below14 years clad in female dress dance to the tune at the music.The acrobatic poses attached to the dance enthralls the audience.This dance is becoming very popular.The Gotipua team of Raghurajpur has earned much reputation.

Naga and Medha dance

Here the dancer put a mask on his head and dance to the rhythm of the enchanting music.The medhas of Ravan,Trisira,Navasira etc and Naga dance one very popular in Puri town.during Rama Navami days this dance is enacted at the streets of Puri town for seven days.

Other Folk Dances

Other folk dances those are significant in Odisha are Ghoda Nacha, Bhalu Nacha , Mankada Nacha and Dhuduki Nacha.

Mahari Dance

Limb linking service of the Lord Jagannath, Who is very much fanned of music And song is the action and pride of 'Mahari' tradition. What is today words and dialogue had made tomorrow living to the culture of the nations at the touch of Bashachandan. Mahari Tradition of the Sri Mandira is the beautiful Parijata flower of art an history of Utkal. It also makes living by its fragrance and the touch of nationl. It has been doing so far from the time immoral. It has made the art of Utkala glorious Mahari tradition is the same and one union of Lord Jagannath and great Nari Mahari. Mahari Dance coming from the Nata temple of the temple has reached and extended to the stage and shastriya Odissi dance art. Now a days common man having seen the round eye of Lord Jagannath l has become wholeness of Karatali under thisremains purity action whollyness of Mahari. It is a prensial emotion of life and heart and sloving. Amongst all who made this mahari dance living and has given to the people in general for publicity and its pride Guru Pankaja Charana Das comes to the foremost rank. He has made the dream 'fruitful.

This Mahari awarded is opened for all who take it as a tradi;tion witrh whole heartedness. Now Odissi has climbed the pick lof culture everelst of the world but the proponents of this art , that is the Mahari are numbered and along with them will go this age old tradition of Odisha. We all specially the Oriyas should not forget the contributions made by this great lordies,. We have introduced this awarded in memory of the Mahari and with a view to bring up more and more oriya girls as dancers in the national and international level. This awarded certainly will help them to promote this rich heritage. It will act as an impetus and help them to dedicate their lives to promote, prolduct and preserve the traditional style, originality and classical future of Odissi dance.


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