Odissi Classical and
Sacred Temple Dance of India
An Odissi journey starts with exercises and basic steps in Chouk and Tribhangi. Pada Sadhana: "Sadhana" means practice. Pada Sadhana is the practice of Odissi steps. Steppings in Chowk and Tribhangi are an important part of learning Odissi. By dedication and sincerely practicing these steps under the guidance of a teacher, the student purifies the body and strives to attain "Anga Shuddhi" or perfection of form. There are 10 steps in Chowk and Tribhangi each. These steps form the basis for all chreography.
Mangalacharan is an invocatory dance item in which the dancer starts with "Pushpanjali" flower offering to Lord Jagannath (The Lord of the Universe) who is the presiding deity of Odissi dance and ask for his blessing for an auspicious start. This is followed by "Bhumi- Pranam" salutations to Mother earth to seek her forgiveness and blessings to commence the dance. The dance is than followed by a verse or song in praise of a particular God or Goddess. The dancer than concludes the mangalacharan with "Trikhandi Pranam" or the three fold salutations. 1) above the head to the Gods in heaven, 2) in front of the forehead to the Guru and 3) in front of the chest to the respected audience.
Batu is a pure dance item which is dedicated to Lord Siva in his form of "Batukeshwar Bhairav" the Lord of the Dance. The dancer depicts different instruments which accompanies the dance like: Vina, Mardala, Bansuri and Manjira. Many poses from the temple sculpture like Darpana and Alasya are also shown with beautiful and graceful movements.
An Astapadi is an Abhinaya, an example of Nritya or expressional dance. The dancer uses hand gestures, facial expression and body movements to narrate a story or a song. Most abhinayas in Odissi are based on the Sringara Rasa or mood of Love between Lord Krsna and his favorite consort Sri Radha. For centuries, Odissi's repertoire solely consisted of astapadis (eight-versed song) from the famous poem Gita-Govinda which describes the loving pastimes of the Divine couple Sri Sri Radha and Krishna . The Geet Govinda was written in 12th century by great Vaisnava poet Sri Jaydev a devotee of Lord Jagannath and his wife Padmavati a Deva dasi at the temple in Puri. The Devadasis would sing and dance to these Astapadis daily as rituals for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath inside the temple.
Oriya abhinays consist of songs written in Oriya language by Vaishnav poets from Odisha. These songs in local dialect become dance numbers in Gotipua tradition which they performed for religious festivals and fairs.
In Odissi as in most of the other Indian Classical dance forms, dance is split into 2 categories: Nritta and Nritya. Nritta is the technical, pure dance with no meaning as such. Nritya is expressional dance. Pallavi is an example of pure dance. Pallavi literally means blossoming. This is applicable not only to the dance , but also to the music, which accompanies it. Pallavi starts with slow, graceful and lyrical movements of the eyes, neck, torso and feet and slowly bluids in a crescendo to climax in a fast tempo at the end. Pallavi is named after the raga it is seat to, like Vasant Pallavi, Billahari Pallavi, Saveri pallavi, Kirwani Pallavi, Aravi Pallavi, Bihag Pallavi, etc.
Moksha is the concluding piece of the Odissi dance reportoire. It means Liberation. Liberation from material existence and physical bondage to spiritual awareness. The dancer elevates himself to the state of ecstacy, fulfilment and bliss. A fast paced dance of ecstacy is followed by an invocatory prayer in Sanskrit for universal peace and harmony.