Odissi Dance History

Odissi Dance History

The Orissan Classical Dance is one of the earliest Classical Dance form in Indian History. The various sources of Odissi Dance form of Orissa are :

  1. Archaeological Evidences of Odissi Dance History
  2. Manuscripts of Orissa
  3. Textual Evidences
  4. Historical Chronicles
  5. Creative Literature as a source of Odissi Dance History

A. History of Odissi Dance : Archaeological Evidences

Orissi may well claim to be the earliest classical Indian dance style on the basis of archaeological evident, the most outstanding being the Rani Gupta caves of the second century B.C. in Orissa. Scholars have dated these caves and their carvings to be earlier than the writing of the Natyasastra. While there are may be some questions about the date of the caves, certainly the reliefs include the first finished example of a dance scene with full orchestration.

Whatever may have been the dance style prevalent at that time, it is obvious that the traditions codified in the Natyasastra took cognizance of the particular regional style known in eastern India.

Udayagiri and the Khandagiri caves

The Udayagiri and the Khandagiri caves of Orissa are the first records in stone of the historic period.  The dance image was as popular with the artists of the Buddhist monuments as it was with sculptors of Udaygiri, the Rani Gumpha and the Hathi-Gumpha caves.

The beginning of Shaivite Cult can be traced back to the fourth century A D. almost contemporary with the Gupta sculptures of other regions of India. We find some dance reliefs of the Nataraja. One amongst these, recently recovered from a village of Asanpat in the District of Keonjhar is of special importance. It is an inscribed image of Shiva with eight arms holding a trishula, veena and akshyamala, a damru with a pataka and a varada hasta. The inscription in Brahmi characters is ascribed to Shatrubhanja, a king of the Bhanja dynasty who constructed shrines for Shiva. Perhaps this image and the famous Nataraja of Nachna are near contemporary.

From the sixth and seventh century onwards, Odissi dance became a part of worship and sculptors were highly inspired by this art. The sculptures are like inset gems adorning walls, lintels, portals, door jambs and ceilings. One of the oldest surviving temples is Bharatesvara belonging to the sixth century A D. Although now in ruins, this temple has a single relief which is of great importance for the history of dance in Orissa. As part of Shiva’s marriage there is an orchestra and a group of women in a dance composition.

Parsurames­wara Temple

A little later in the seventh century was built the beautiful and impressive temple of Parsurames­wara. In the door lintels of this temple appear many scenes of music and dance set vertically and horizontally. Two of these show a group of three dancers, each in a very distinct movement and yet interlocked with each other. The panels in the latticed windows are master compositions of movement arrested in stone. Soon after were built important temples namely the Vaitan Deul and the Sisiresvara. A perfectly balanced and harmoniously built piece of architecture, its walls and lintels are covered every inch with sculptures. Here women peep out from windows, hide behind doors, are intertwined with trees, hold birds, dance on animals and above all there is Durga and Shiva dancing. Judging from the illustrations the sculptural reliefs of the temple of Vaital Deul and the image of Durga as Mahishasuramardini, now disconnected but kept in the centre of the temple, it would appear that by the eighth century, dance had already achieved a very distinctive stylization in Orissa. Both the panels of Parasuramesvara as also Vaital Deul exhibit Orissan school not only of sculpture but also of dance.

Although the ardhamandali is basic, it is not identical with the ardhamandali of the temples of South India or North India. The deflection of the hip and the tribhanga is basic to each of these figures. Although the sculpture reliefs of the salabhanjikas are similar to what we find in other parts of India in terms of their themes and motifs, the sculptural style as also the movements captured is distinctively Orissan. These are masterpieces in stone, perfect like a beautifully composed poem.

The Muktesvara temple

The Muktesvara temple, like the Parasuramesvara and the Vaital Deul temples, is a masterpiece for its balance and proportion. Here also, there are a host of nayikas and nayikas on the walls of the temples. Outstanding amongst all their reliefs are two on the ceiling. In one, there is Ganesha in a dancing pose and in another a woman surrounded by a full orchestra. The sculptor captures a most dynamic movement of dance in limited physical space. The movement of perfectly balanced recital is impressive for its dance figures.

The story continues in the other temples of Bhubaneswar especially the most exquisitely carved Raja-Rani temple and the impressive grand temple, the Lingaraj. In these, there is a refining of techniques of execution of the movements of the dance which had begun charmingly in the first three temples mentioned. Here too, there is an abundance of dance sculpture.

There are the ganas of dance: there are the standing figures of women, bursting out of stone, pulsating with rhythm. There are the flying figures—the gandharvas and the apsaras. There are the full groups of dancers and there is the Tandava of Lord Shiva. A full and systematic documentation of all this corpus of sculptural evidence in Orissa is clear proof of not only the permeation of the Shaivite cults including that of Lakulisa but also of a very self-conscious understanding of the movement of the dance.

The wide variety of the dance image and the deities specially those of Ganesha, Devi and Nataraja, is impressive. Some of these compare favorably with the depiction of the Tandava of the dance in Ellora and elsewhere. Far off in the Aurangabad caves and in Ellora, the concept of Siva’s Tandava had inspired sculptors to make massive reliefs.

In Orissa, in the temples of Bhubaneswar subscribing to the Shaivite cult there is an equally impressive array of the deity in the movement of the dance. Equally important from the point of view of the precise delineation of movement, specially the position (sthanas), the primary movement (charis) and the cadences of movements (karanas) described in the Natyasastra are those of Kama or Devi. Here we find a prolific use of the extended leg (alidha) or the uplifted leg of the apakranta and of course the most popular of them all the urdhvajanu. There are a few examples also of the bhujanga trasita. This sculptural evidence of dance in the temples of Bhuvaneswar belonging to the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth centuries almost comes to a close around the eleventh and twelfth centuries when changes take place in Orissa.

Now temples are dedicated to Vishnu. No matter how complex the beginning may have been, it is clear that by the eleventh century A.D., there was the emergence of a Vaishnavite cult distinctive to Orissa. Chodagandeva, a most illustrious ruler, began the construction of the temple of Jagannath sometime between the second half of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century. He was followed by Anangabhimadev. Between these two rulers was built the temple of Jagannath, a unique synthesis of all that had preceded in Orissa including the tribal cults. Cumulatively, Jagannath temple at Puri was not the only temple but it was the beginning of a new cultural movement in India. No part of India remained unaffected by all that Jagannath temple stood for. The temple itself was outstanding in its architectural plan, its sculptural reliefs and its special hall of the dance called the Nat Mandir.

Although no definite date can be conclusively ascribed regarding the practice of dance as an indispensable part of the ritual of the worship or the daily routine, it is clear from chronicle records of the temple called Mandal Panji that it was certainly co-terminus with the Jagannath cult. From the records it is learnt that Devadasis were attached to the temples as elsewhere in India especially in Kashmir, Bengal, Saurashtra, Rajasthan and, of course, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

All these temples between the seventh century A.D. and the twelfth century A.D. are evidence of an inner understanding of dance and an attempt to arrest moments of dynamic movement rather than an execution of a static pose.

The temple of Konark

The temple of Konarak crystallizes all these trends into a magnificent and stupendous edifice. Built round the middle of the thirteenth century, here was a masterpiece of architectural design and an excellence in sculptural relief. Conceived as a chariot or ratha on 24 wheels dedicated to Surya (Sun), the temple reverberates with the movement of the dance whether in relief or around the main shrine or the Jagmohan or the Bhogmandap and most of all Nat Mandir. In the Vaital Deul women in beautiful poses of charis peep through doors or grills, in Raja Rani temple they pulsate with life emerging from stone almost like detached figures, in Konarak they command the horizon as free standing sculpture. Monumental figures of musicians and dancers, of flute and drum players dance as if in the sky and overlook the space of the earth and reach the ocean. These massive free standing sculptures are in great contrast to the small and delicate work of the dancers who are carved on the pillars of the Nat Mandir. The free standing dancers on the roof of the Jagmohan look at free space; the carved dancers of the Nat Mandir look at space circumscribed as if either they or their companions would come to life and commence a dance. The pillars punctuate the Nat Mandir, the dancers in stone cling to the pillars almost ready to emerge. The horizontal panels seem as they were marginal figures of a manuscript. Together hundreds or thousands of these diminutive dancers make an orchestration which leaves no spectator untouched or unmoved, with the silent harmony it vibrates.

This then is the sculptural heritage of dance in Orissa with massive and diminutive dancers, some rough and bold, others delicate and intricate. All these complement each other presenting a world of movement unparallel even in Indian sculptural history. The movement of these dancers may or may not be the self-conscious delineation of the movement of the karnas as in the case of the three South Indian temples mentioned in the context of the Bharatanatyam i.e. Brihadesvara, Sarangapani and Chidambaram, but they are certainly a sensitive recreation in stone of the movement of dance. Also at no time they can be mistaken for anything but an Orissi style of dance.

The Parasurameswar Temple (eighth century), as has been mentioned above, has a number of sculptures in postures of the Tandava dance. Later temples, such as the Vaital Deul, also have reliefs of Nataraja. The early medieval temples, especially the Raja Rani Temple, contain on their walls many dance figures; indeed, these figures can be classified into several categories. It has been suggested by some scholars that the sculptors of these medieval temples, from the eleventh century to the thirteenth century, were merely trying to create an impression of the rhythms of dance and were not illustrating, the actual movements of dance. A close scrutiny, however, reveals that the sculptor was knowledgeable person illustrating chapters of the Natyasastra, even if in a markedly local style. Without sacrificing the characteristic features of the region, the sculptor demonstrates exquisitely how accurately a dance pose or a chari can be wrought in stone. In these sculptures, we find portrayed the charis which have been discussed in the Natyasastra (Chapter IX). We also find that these temple illustrations of the most intricate movements are described in the chapter on the Karanas (Chapter IV). By the time of the Konarak Temple, the style had been set and a very distinctive method of body manipulation is apparent.

B.  History of Odissi Dance : Manuscript Evidence

It is from the earliest illustrated manuscripts of Orissa and the wall paintings in some of these temples that we realise that a very special style of dance must have been the experience of the artist. The ardhamandali, the tribhanga, the chauka are as popular here as they were in the sculptural reliefs. Alongside, of course, we know that Chaitanya made Puri his home and pilgrims thronged to Puri from all parts of India. Dancers came from Andhra and Gujarat Devadasis called Maharis were enlisted for the worship. Many texts of dance were written: all these were profusely illustrated. An examination of the illustrations of the manuscripts of Orissa whether these deal with architecture or sculpture or music or dance or are based on the poetic composition of Jayadeva such as the Gita Govinda or are illustrations of the Amru Shatak or Usha Parinayam, shows that these are rich in the motif of the dance. A comprehensive study of the illustrations of dance in Orissan manuscripts reveals the great fascination of the art for both the writer and the painter.

Some of these manuscripts deal distinctively only with dance. Chief amongst these is the Abhinaya Chandrika of Maheshvara Mahapatra. This is a detailed study of the various movements of the feet, hands, the standing postures, the movement and the dance repertoire. Included in these illustrations is the clear depictions of some of the Karanas which can be grouped together as acrobatic karanas especially such as the saktasya, chakramandala, gangavataran. Also among these is the depiction of the movements described in the Natyasastra as the Vishnu Kranta, Vrichika Kutila. In these illustrations, there is a continuation of the style of dancing which we observed in the dance reliefs of the Nat Mandir of Konarak. The illustrated manuscripts of Orissan which deal with Orissan architecture and sculpture are also filled with figures of dance. Most important amongst these texts is the illustrated manuscript Shilpaprakasha. Although the present manuscript may be a copy or a recent reconstruction, its contents certainly point at an earlier tradition. Here a full analysis is made of the manner in which the salabhanjikas or the feminine figures called the alasa kanyas are to be carved in the temple. Many subdivisions are made, the architecture design is indicated both for the single female figures as also of the Nataraja called the Natambar. The illustrations of the Shilpaprakasha reinforce the evidence of sculptures in the temple. Quite obviously, there was a very close interaction between the designers, the executors, the theoreticians of dance and sculpture, the creative artists, poets, sculptors, painters and dancers.

One other major source of evidence of the prevalence of Orissi dance or the precursors of the style which we may call Orissi, comes from a rather very unexpected source. These are the marginal figures of dancers in the Jain manuscripts especially the Kalpasutra and Kalkacharya Kathas. Although executed in Gujarat, these marginal figures show women in poses and movements which are distinctive to Orissi and are not seen in other styles of Indian dancing. In a famous illustrated manuscript of the Kalpasutra belonging to the fifteenth century i.e. the Devasanpada Kalpasutra as also in another belonging to Jamnagar dated 1501, there is a prolific depiction of the samapada, the tribhangi and the chauka. i.e. the outspread grand plie position of Orissi dance. It is interesting to note that these manuscripts from Gujarat in western India should have captured a style of dance, which was obviously practiced and popular in the easternmost part of India. However, when evidence of these manuscripts is correlated with the other chronicler evidence especially trade and pilgrimage routes, both from the Jagannath Temple as also the temples of Western India, the phenomenon is not strange. From all these, one gathers that there was a great deal of mobility between the west and the east. Many migrations took place and according to some historians, there were groups of dancers who were brought to Puri from Gujarat as also from Andhra.

In Orissa itself, there continued to be the depiction of the dance in Orissan manuscripts both in respect of the technique of the dance as also illustrations of kavya and nataka until the nineteenth century.

C. History of Odissi Dance : Textual Evidence

The evidence of dance for of Orissa,  through sculptural reliefs and illustrated manuscripts (i.e. the pictorial evidence) is further supported by evidence which is available in texts on music and dance which were written in Orissa. We have already referred to the manuscript of Abhinaya Chandrika. In addition, there are other texts (some published and some unpublished) which were written in Orissa and which are convincing proof of the dialogue and interdependence of theory and practice. An important text of uncertain date is the Sangitanarayan by Narayan Dev Gajapati. One section of the text called nritya khand deals with the dance. It follows the tradition of Sangitaratnakara. It analyses the different angas and upangas: it first delineates the movements and then their usage. It speaks of the different types of eye and face movements and includes a list of positions in place i. e. sthana, the primary movement of the lower limbs i. e. the charis; the cadence of movements i.e. the karanas and longer cadences of movement called the mandalas and the angaharas. The writer finally also attempts a notation of some Sanskrit and Oriya poems and indicates the raga and tala. A close analysis of this nritya khand  i. e. the chapter on dance in the Sangitanarayan again convinces us of an intra-regional dialogue. The tradition of Sangitaratnakara must undoubtedly have travelled to Orissa so as to enable the writer of Sangitanarayan to base his work on the Sangitaratnakara. There is little evidence in this text, however, of a clear identification of a style of dance which we can call Orissi. There are other texts, such as the Nritya Kaumudi and the Natya Manorama by Raghunath Rath attributed to the eighteenth century This text describes a variety of dance; it also lists the macro and the micro movements such as the angas and the upangas. The text although interesting, is not very significant. It is important for its detailed list and references to other textual material, despite the fact that it throws very little light on the actual practice of the dance. More important is the manuscript of the Abhinaya Darpana of Yadunath Sinha, perhaps written some time again in the seventeenth or eighteenth century.  Here many more technicalities are mentioned. A reading of the text reveals that the writer was acquainted with Bharata’s Natyasastra and was also acquainted with the practice of the dance in Orissa. There is another source of evidence in regard to dance in the manuscripts of Orissa; these are the manuscripts which deal with the dance of Shiva. Many manuscripts describe in detail the Tandava of Siva, speaking not only of the theme of the Tandava i.e. Ananda Sandhya etc. but also describing in detail the manner in which the Tandava is to be executed. Some of these manuscripts do not follow the Nat yasastra; instead they adhere to the tradition of the Saudhikagamas. Again it is evident that there was an interchange between Orissa and South India because many of the descriptions of the Tandavas are reminiscent of the descriptions which we come across in the South Indian agamas.

D. History of Odissi Dance : Historical Chronicles

Although we have made passing references to the rich body of the historical chronicles available in Orissa, it is necessary to add that the Madal Panji i. e. the drum chronicles of the temple of Puri is the richest storehouse for reconstruct­ing the socio economic status of the temple dancers, the different categories of men and women dancers. There are vivid descriptions of the occasion, time, and the ritual practices of the temple where dance was an essential part of the worship. Apart from the Madal Panji there are other historical records and chronicles which enable us to know that dance was an important activity both of the temple milieu as also the court milieu Orissa. From this material two things are clear; one that there were the temple dancers called the maharis who danced inside the centre and outside the shrine; the first group was known as the Bheetar Gaonis and the other Bahar Gaonis. Besides, there were the Gopipuas or the boy dancers in women’s garb who danced outside the temple. This tradition continued until the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

E. History of Odissi Dance : Creative Literature

The evidence of sculpture, painting, chronicles, textual writing i. e. the manuals and the treatises of technique has to be supplemented with a brief mention of Orissan literature especially poetry and drama. Creative works allude to dance in many ways. These references range from the descriptions of the dance in early works of Orissan literature such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, particularly the Oriya Mahabharata of Saral Das written in the fifteenth century, the Dandi Ramayana, written by Balararm Das in the sixteenth century and the Niladri Mahodaya of Lokanath Vidyadhara of the seventeenth century. Many festivals and dramatic recitals are mentioned here. More important than the series of plays are the lyrics which are composed by great writers of Orissa ranging from Ramanand Rai to Upendra Bhanjadev, Kavi Surya, Baladev Rath and others. Most of this writing i.e. the dramatic works, the narrative epic, the Chautisa couplets, of stanzas which begin with one of 34 consonants in consecutive order belonging to the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, refer to dance.

One may well ask the question what was the situation of both poetry and literature as also the position of the dance prior to this. Not many literary works survive of the Shaivite tradition of Orissa that belong to the eighth to the eleventh centuries. The real history begins with the composition of the greatest work of Sanskrit poetry, namely the Gita Govinda. Although scholars will continue to debate whether Jayadeva came from Orissa or Bengal, there is no doubt that the impact of the Gita Govinda was not only instantaneous but deep and powerful in Orissa. It is significant to remember that the composition of the Gita Govinda was almost contemporary with the construction of the Jagannath temple. Wherever it was written, soon after its composition, there appeared commen­taries, transcriptions, translations and imitations of the Gita Govinda in Orissa.

Some of the first commentaries on this great poem were written in Orissa. Most important was the acceptance of this poem as a text for worship in the Jagannath temple. The kings of Orissa enjoined that the worship to the Lord will be done through the singing of the Gita Govinda. Many stories and legends are prevalent about the attempt made by some kings to replace the singing of the Gita Govinda by an imitation. The legends go on to narrate how the Lord refused to accept the imitation and how the singing of the Gita Govinda was once again firmly established as part of temple worship. An important Oriya inscription of 1499 A.D of Pratap Rudradev clearly mentions that the Gita Govinda along would be sung at the time of Bhoga ceremony. Some scholars have questioned the use opf the word Bada Thakur. While one may not go into the details of this controversy, it is clear that no controversies could have arisen unless the original was popular. About the same time thje great saint Shri Chaitanya made Puri his home. It was perhaps through him that this poem received another lease of life. He identified himself with Radha or the Sakhi and the Gita Govinda was transformed from a pure love poem or a devotional poem to a theological text. The disciples of Chaitanya were zealous missionaries who travelled to all parts of India and gave a new doctrinal turn to the Gita Govinda. Many kings and nobles, warriors and minister were converted to this cult, gave up their affluent life and became devotees and missionaries. One amongst these was Ramananda Rai, who became a devout worshipper of Jagannath. According to the Chaitanya Charitamrita, he even taught abhinaya to the devadasis or Maharis. He was also an author of an important play called Jagannath Vallabh Nataka. This Nataka or drama was presented in the precincts of the temps. There were others who followed, such as the writer who called himself Jayadeva-II. He wrote a work called the Pijush Lahari. This was patterned on the Gita Govinda but did not restrict itself to three character – Krishna, Radha and the Sakhi. The drama was presented outside the temple. The tradition of the singing of the Gita Govinda, the abhinaya to the Gita Govinda, the dramatic version to the Gita Govinda continued in Orissa for many centuries. Alongside was the writing of play such as the Parasuram Vijaya by the King Kalipendra Deva of the fourteenth century. All these were also performed in and around the temple. Other poets and lyrical writers followed outstanding amongst these was Upendra Bhanjadeo. His songs were popular throughout the countryside and his songs were sung by all. It is not known whether abhinaya was performed to them but it is known that Upendra Bhanjadev’s lyrical creations permeated Orissan society at all levels. Other composers appeared on the scene; these were Kavi Surya Ballav Rath, Gopal Krishna Pattanayak and Banmalidas. While Kavi Surya’s verses are full of musical melody lilting rhythms, Gopal Krishna’s diction is as delicat as effective and Banamali’s poems are full of devotion. Kavi Surya Baldev Rath like the poet musicians of South India of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, adorned the courts of the kings, wrote poetry which was sometimes heroic, at other times delicately sensuous and colorful but always full of technical excellance. A real human experience bursts out in his poems where at one level, it is the love of Radha and Krishna, on other it is the human love of man and woman. His champu songs were also equally popular. They had vigour, a touch of wit arid humour and he transformed the divine story of the love of Radha and Krishna into a more human level. The poems can be compared to the Padams and Javalies of South India where also double and triple meanings are inherent Also like the composition of the South Indian poets, each of these songs can be set to a musical melody and can be danced. The verbal imagery has immense potential for being rendered kinetically. Gopal krishna Pattanayak had greater poetic sensitivity and as a devout Vaishnav, he composed his lyrics as offerings to the Lord. He describes the entire life of Lord Krishna from childhood to adolescence. He is as enchanted with the image of the mother Yashodha as the poets of South India, Dikshitar, Kshetrayya and others. Unlike Upendra Bhanjadev, he always remains at a high spiritual level because the love of Radha and Krishna for him is the love of the primordial sakhi, the woman of the Lord. His imagery, his diction, his simple spontaneous manner endeared him to the dancers once again. This became a rich source of the poetic material for the presentation of Orissi dance. Banamali was like his predecessors but even more of a devotee. He is known to have become a sanyasi and many legends are prevalent about his visions, the experiences he had with the Lord. Banamali’s songs are tight, compact almost like aphorism. They too are both sung and danced. This tradition of the compositions of the lyrical poetry of the stanzic words called the chautisa, the dramatic works and the singing of the Gita Govinda, both in the original Sanskrit and in its several Oriya translations continued well into the nineteenth century.

It will be clear from the above, that Orissi or what we recognise as Orissi has a rich sustained history. We have not mentioned here the annual seasonal cycle of festivities in and around the Jagannath Temple which also provided the opportunity for the performance of music and dance. As elsewhere in India, but of universal popularity, were the festivals of the Dol Jatra, the Rath Jatra, the Janmashtami and many others. Each provided an occasion for a different type of presentation of music and dance. One last but most enduring stream needs to be mentioned in this context. This is the rich and vibrant tradition of tribal dancing in many parts of Orissa. The tribes, particularly the Savaras, had an important role to play in the Jagannath cult. They were not great musicians or dancers but dance was very much part of their life style. These constituted the substratum on which all else was built. In rural Orissa were many dance forms known to many communities. Both currents were strong. At no time was the link between these and dance associate with the temples lost. There was finally yet another stream which is relevant for tracing the evolution of Orissi. This was the tradition of the martial dancers, the pikes, the chadiya dancers. As in the case of Kerala and as we shall see in the case of Manipur, the techniques of attack and defence assumed an artistic stylisation which at certain moments did not distinguish it from dance. The pike and the other martial dances of the militia crystallized into what we recognise as mayurabhanja today. And last, there was the strong tradition of Orissa as in Kerala of acrobatics. Artistic acrobatic movements of gymnastics were executed by young boys and girls. In fact, this was the continuation of the tradition described in the Natyasastra under the category of the Karnas such as Chakramandala, Gangavatarana and Saktasya etc. Had this tradition not been there, we would not have found the illustrations of these in movements in temple sculpture and manuscript illustrations relating to Orissi dance. All these multiple streams and the interaction of literature, sculpture, painting and music, religious and tribal, rural and temple milieu were determining factors. From these many strands presumably emerged a dance style, a style which could be distinguished from any other but a style which was not restricted only to the temples or what one may call a sophisticated milieu of the courts. It was connected to the world outside, the country life, to tribal forms, to martial techniques, to dramatic performances, to operas, and perhaps even the puppet plays. It was also equally strongly inspired by the rich body of poetry and literature. Altogether, it was both worship within the temple and art and entertainment immediately outside the temple.

What we recognize the Orissi dance today, is an attempt at reconstruction of a dance form from all these fragments of the Maharis tradition of the Gotipoua tradition, of the Bandhanritya tradition of the martial arts and Chhau tradition known to Orissa, and the inspiration drawn from the sculptural relief and pictorial image. Thus on one level, Orissi is perhaps the oldest because of the sculptural evidence, on another level, it is the youngest, because its revival or its neoclassical format emerged only in the 1950s of this century. After lying dormant or being fragmented or certainly underground for sixty years or maybe a hundred, it arose again as a new whole. The story of the reconstruction of Orissi in Independent India is parallel to the story of the reconstruction of the Bharatanatyam or the revival of the Bharatanatyam in the 30s of this century. It is also parallel to the new lease of life which was given to Kathakali by the efforts of Poet Vallathol in Kerala. In what is recognized as the art dance of Orissi, cognizance must be taken of this historical background. Often people mistake the full recital on the stage as an authentic unbroken continuation of an ancient past. In fact, it is the reconstruction of the fragments available from different periods and milieus as also the immediate and remote past.

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