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Odissi Classical and

Sacred Temple Dance of India

Tradition

Maharis of Puri


The Maharis ( Maha- Great, Nari- Lady ) were the temple dancers (Deva Dasi) from the Jagannath temple in Puri, Odisha. The Maharis were married to the temple Diety (Lord Jagannath) and only performed the singing and dancing as daily ritual inside the inner sanctum of the temple for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath. According to the Mahari legend and oral tradition its origin dates back to the beginning of creation. In Satya Yuga (4,000,000 years ago) King Indradyumna, built a grand temple for Lord Jagannath. He went to Brahma Loka ( Heavenly planet ) to invite Lord Brahma for the installation ceremony. Brahma came accompanied by many demigods, great personalities , sages, and celestial dancers like the apsaras (Menaka, Urvasi , Rarnbha ) and Gandharvas (celestial musicians). When Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra (Baladev) and sister Subhadra were installed the heavenly singers sang while Urvasi and Rambha danced. It is said that Lord Shiva taught dance to his son Ganesh, who in turn taught it to the apsara Mani Rambha. She taught it to the sage Bharata. The tradition was carried on by Gargacharya, Bikatacharya, Kumaracarya, Rantidev and Attahasa who taught it to the Devadasis or Maharis of Odisha. 
Gotipuas
The gotipuas are boys who dress themselves as females and dance. They begin their training at the age of seven and continue until they are eighteen. They were also called Akhada pilla (Akhadagymnasium, pilla- boy). The gotipuas, performed at religious festivals and fairs (Jatras like candan (summer, sandal festival) yatra, Jhulan (swing) yatra and Rath (chariot yatra), social gatherings and occasionally in the temple courtyards. There are two reasons for origin of gotipua tradition, one is a cultural and political and another more spiritual and religious. The main reason for the rise of the gotipua tradition appears to be the influence Sakhi Bhava tradition, were the devotee considers themselves the consort of Lord Krsna. King Prataprudra (1497-1540) met Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in 1512-13 and was very receptive to the Sri Chaitanya's Gaudiya School of Vaisnavism. Ramananda Rai, the King's minister and Governor of Rajmundri, who also was a great poet, musician and dancer. He also trained the maharis in abhinayas from Geet Govinda of Sri Jaydev Goswami. He resinged his office to become the foremost devotee of Sri Chaitanya. He was attracted to the concept of Madhurya Rasa Upasana, were a devotee worships Lord Krishna in the form of the love of the Gopis (Milkmaids of Vrindavan). The Bhoi king, Ramachandra Deva, was the ruler during the time the temple of Jagannath had been attacked several times by invaders. Ramchandra Deva built Akhadas (gymnasium) in several parts of the town, were gurus trained young boys in dance and physical exercises.

Gotipuas


The gotipuas are boys who dress themselves as females and dance. They begin their training at the age of seven and continue until they are eighteen. They were also called Akhada pilla (Akhadagymnasium, pilla- boy). The gotipuas, performed at religious festivals and fairs (Jatras like candan (summer, sandal festival) yatra, Jhulan (swing) yatra and Rath (chariot yatra), social gatherings and occasionally in the temple courtyards. The main reason for the rise of the gotipua tradition appears to be the influence Sakhi Bhava tradition, were the devotee considers themselves the consort of Lord Krsna. King Prataprudra (1497-1540) met Sriman Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in 1512-13 and was very receptive to the Sri Chaitanya's Gaudiya School of Vaisnavism. Ramananda Rai, the King's minister and Governor of Rajmundri, who also was a great poet, musician and dancer. He also trained the maharis in abhinayas from Geet Govinda of Sri Jaydev Goswami. He resinged his office to become the foremost devotee of Sri Chaitanya. He was attracted to the concept of Madhurya Rasa Upasana, were a devotee worships Lord Krishna in the form of the love of the Gopis (Milkmaids of Vrindavan).