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Odissi Dance

Odissi may claim to be the earliest classical dance style of India on the basis of archeological evidence; the most outstanding being the Rani Gumpha caves (Udaygiri, Orissa) of the 2nd Century,BC. Some scholars have dated these caves to be earlier than the writings of Bharata's Natyashastra, in which Odissi is mentioned as the peculiar style from north eastern India called Odra Magadha. Odissi dance was performed as a daily ritual by the Maharis (Temple dancers) before the image of Gods but the foreign invasion in Orissa sparked off its decline. However, a tradition of Gotipuas (young boys dressed as girls) nevertheless continued. Elements were culled from the mahari and gotipua traditions, temple sculpture and painstakingly recreated and refined. It was only in the last century that the dance got a fresh infusion of life and that too at the hands of three supporters who have comprehensively dedicated their entire lives and all their energies to the strenuous task of reviving Odissi dance. They were Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Debaprasad Das and the most universally appreciated Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

The two main postures used in Odissi are the Tribhanga and Chauka. Tribhangi (thrice deflected) position and is very feminine in nature. The Chauka of Odissi is comparable with the araimandalam used in Bharatnatyam, except that chuaka is essentially wider than araimandalam. It is the masculine aspect of Odissi and it is said to be derived from Lord Jaganath's idol at the temple in the Puri.