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Kristin Brown 11/27/12 Dance History to 1850 Odissi: Indian Classical Dance Odissi is an Indian classical dance form

that comes from the state of Orissa along the north and eastern part of India (Coorlawala 270). Orissa was a very artistically rich community and is known for its sculptures in various poses adorning the walls of the temples. Orissa is known world wide as a land of culture, and as being the home to several classic dance forms (Chaudhury 1). Odissi, a dance style from this region is known for its elegance, rhythms, and dramatic expression, and is one of Indias most exquisite and lyrical dance styles (Roy 26). Dance in India is very important, and has been a part of Indias culture for centuries; for many it is a way of life. The Indian classical dance style Odissi has been influenced by religion, society and other art forms, as one of the oldest surviving dance forms in India it is rich in Indian culture. The origin of Odissi is accepted as a mythological story, and while there is evidence of historical beginnings, the people of Orissa know it as a legend. We can find in the Natyashastra, which is the earliest surviving text on dance and drama, reference to the arts in four different regions. The Odra-Magadhi style was practiced in two regions known as Kalinga and Odhra; they are what we would refer to as present day Orissa. Much of the information on dance in these regions gives us information on the dance traditions in Orissa (Hejmadi and Patnaik 3). According to Ratna Roy, legendarily Odissi originated as a temple dance, however, the first evidence of the dance style from 2nd century BC is as a staged performance for the delectation of the Jaina King, Kharavela, and his two queens (26). The tradition of Odissi dance was preserved because of the sculptures and dance figures

found in the temple architecture. In Orissa, rock-cut cave temples at Khandagiri and Udayagiri are the earliest surviving edifices. These temples were made for the Jaina people. The inscriptions found in the temple of Udayagiri indicate that King Kharavela organized a show for entertainment purposes. This is the first evidence of dance found in the entire country of India (Hejmadi and Patnaik 3). King Kharavela was known for being a wealthy ruler and a patron for the arts. In the Queens Cave there are numerous panels and sculptures that show the artistic life of King Kharavela at that time. Found on these panels are musicians and dancers in different poses. The most famous sculpture of a dancer is found here and is known as the nartaki. Ranjana Guahar describes the nartaki, In its vigorous and proud stance, bears a remarkable resemblance to a posture from the contemporary dance form. For the Odissi dancers of today, the nartaki has become a landmark of ancient-in-contemporary continuum of Odissi (35). These sculptures give us insight to dance at this time. It is assumed that at this point in history dancing was more secular and was mainly for entertainment. Odissi dance has developed over time, and throughout the course of centuries it has been changed and modified for different reasons. As we move into the post-Kharavela era, in the 3rd century AD we can see how studying art and architecture allows us to gain insight during this period and that dance was an integral part of Orissan temples. We can see the shift from a more secular dance to a religious one. Dance in Orissa and in other parts of India are closely associated with religion. Hejmadi and Patnaik suggest that, Worship [in Orissa] is done through mime, gesture and the rhythm of dancing feet (5). At this time Buddhism was a thriving religion, specifically Mahayana Buddhism. It became prominent and was known for its

aesthetics, a religion that was sensitive to artistic expression, and that it was not merely a profession, but a path towards truth and self-realization (Guahar 38). They valued and encouraged architecture, music, and dance (Roy 26). Dance became a way to worship; dancers and musicians were called devadasis, they were devoted to the gods. However this school of Buddhism transformed into a more worldly form of Buddhism known as Vajrayana. The Vajrayana Buddhists still encouraged creative activities in Orissa. They constructed shrines, and in many of the door jambs there are dance figures of both men and women. By the 6th century the sculptures exude the tribhanga (thrice-bent) pose. These sculptures show the elegance of the female body, with beautiful curves that are distinctly proportioned. This pose is very specific to Odissi dance; it gives the dance a sensual nature and a feminine appeal. At this point in history, the dance is still very religious, but it is evident that the worldy aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism played a significant role in the dance form. In fact, with Vajrayana Buddhism emerging, the idea of multiple Buddhas became more prominent. Many of the gods and goddesses are represented in dance poses, which are found in sculptures in the temples (Hejmadi and Patnaik 5). During the 7th century AD Shaivism becomes a dominant religion in Orissa. It was a religion that worshipped Lord Shiva, who is also known as the Lord of the Dance. The Sailobdhava dynasty was prominent at this time and united Orissa. It became a time of tolerance of all religions, and art and culture became important. Temples were built all over Orissa under Buddhist and Shaivite influence (Roy 27). Many of the temples were constructed and dedicated to Lord Shiva. Sculptures found on the outer walls of the Parashurameshwara temple and others displayed sculptures of dancing Lord Shiva (also

called Nataraja). Shaivism became such a big part of the culture of Orissa at this time, and was a factor in shaping the regions history. Dancing became a very integral part of society and artistic excellence in architecture, sculpture and dance were very important at this time in Orissa (Guaher 42). The temple at Parasurameswara plays an important role in the development of Odissi dance. The many sculptures found here display some of the basic poses in Odissi dance. One specifically is the chauka, a pose that has four right angles, the shoulder, elbow, thigh and knee (Hejmadi and Patnaik 6). In other temples there are similar poses on the outer walls. There are many sculptures showing very intricate movements, which are described in the Natyashastra. Sharon Lowen says, By the time of the Konarak temple, the style had been set and a very distinctive method of body manipulation is apparent (16). During the 8th and 9th century AD came the period of Bhaumas. The Bhaumakara dynasty returned to Mahayana Buddhism, and there became a struggle between the two religions, Buddhism and Shaivism. Ending with a triumph of Shaivism, Orissa was affected in many ways. The territory changed, and religious traditions were influenced. Tantrism, which was a practice of the Buddhists, became a lasting part of Shaivism. Aspects of tantrism, Mahayana Buddhism and Shaivism all influenced and were integrated into all parts of Oriya culture. This can be found in the temples that were built at this time. The Vaital, Markandeswar, and Sisireswar temples integrated Buddhist stupas, and were adorned with sculptures of Lord Shiva. The combination of these three religions also resulted in the formation of Lord Jagannath. He is viewed as Buddha, Shiva

and Bhairava (Lowen 17-18). The blending of religious beliefs was apparent in the temples, religious ideals, sculptures and in dance (Gauhar 42). In the 10th century AD the Kesari dynasty made Shaivism the religion of Orissa. Worshiping Lord Shiva and constructing temples were the primary importance at this time. The temples built during this century have some of the most interesting dance sculptures. One in particular is the Mukteswara, which has been described as a poem in stone (Hejmadi and Patnaik 8). There are many beautiful sculptures and carvings of Nataraja, all indicating the continuation of the Shaivite religion and dancing traditions. A lot of the dance postures and poses in this temple are very similar to modern-day Odissi dance poses. Hejmadi and Patnaik describe some of the sculptures, The sculptor has captured exquisite facial expressions, detailed hairstyles, jewelry and clothings in his carvings. In a panel is an eight-armed dancing Ganesha, with a snake held above his head, and his mouse in the front. Two seated musicians are shown, one with drums and the other with cymbals, and there are two dancing gana attendants. The four corners of the ceiling are filled with figures of dancers. (8). It is apparent that dance played a role in religion at this time by showing worship and respect to Lord Shiva. This era is famous as having established many of the fundamental aspects of dance in Orissa. During the Kesari era there are records of devadasis, who were temple servants whose responsibility was to dance at rituals and ceremonies associated with the temples. The religious dancers called devadasis are also known as maharis in Orissa. Dating back to the 11th century there is evidence that the devadasis were employed in the

temples (Hejmadi and Patnaik 22). Beautiful girls were dedicated to Lord Jagannath. They were divided into groups depending on what their services were. There were dancing girls, singers of the inner apartment, singers who sang outside the temple, and those who would fan the lord. They were married to the Lord and it meant that they could never be widowed, so to society they were considered lucky. The maharis were educated and cultured, and were honored by all. With their high status they were encouraged in their art (Gauhar 65). The maharis danced in the temples at certain times of the day, and were to perform in special performance areas in the temple. Often they would perform in the Natamandapa, and would dance in the audience hall. Musicians accompanied the dance. Besides the daily ritual dances they would perform, they were to perform in 10 annual festivals. Part of their responsibility was to entertain Lord Jagannath during the festivals. These rituals were performed in many temples in Orissa (Lowen 22). After the decline of the Kesari dynasty the Ganga dynasty takes over in the early 11th century. At this time Orissa underwent some major changes in society. A new religious creed was brought about called Vaishnavism, celebrating devotions to Lord Vishnu (Guahar 43). This increase of worship to Lord Vishnu was reflected in the building of temples all throughout Orissa (Lowen 17). Some monumental temples at this time are Jagannath at Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark. They continued with the tradition of the devadasi dancers, but the Ganga dynasty really changed the cultural norms of Orissa. The Gangas rule continued over into the 12 century. For most of Odissis history dance has proven to be an integral part of religious worship. It was very much a part of

religion, but things start to take shift somewhat during the 12th century AD. Religion is still important and dancing is still used as a means of worship, but at the time of the Ganga rule there becomes a greater emphasis placed on the performance aspect of music and dance in religious shrines. A Natamandapa was built at this time, which is a separate hall for music and dance performances, which leads us to believe that dance takes on a different role. It is not just about dancing maharis or devadasis, it can be a form of entertainment, and more about performance again, there is not a separation between dance and religion, but changes are taking place. The temples at this time are lavishly decorated, sculptures of females are shown in acrobatic poses, many of which are found today in Odissi dance (Hejmadi and Patnaik 8-10). At this point in history it is said that Odissi reached its peak in aesthetics as well as being accepted by society (Roy 27). Odissi dance continued to move forward, but the country and this specific region of India went through some troubling times. In 1568 they lost independence when Afghans came to power. The Afghan Muslims destroyed all that was sacred to the Hindu people. In the temples all of their rights were ceased, and this included dancing. The maharai traditions were disrupted and these rituals were temporarily discontinued. By the 1600s male dancers dressed as females and were known as gotipuas. They were quite prominent and gained popularity at this time. Many believe this was a result of the foreign invasions (Roy 28). With the discontinuance of temple rituals it was feared that the purity of the maharis would be degraded. Social pressures built, and an alternate class of dancers came to being. Gauhar further explains a need for them, For the pleasure of the Yabana kings, male dancers should be sent. Because if the female dancer is touched by such a king, she would lose her religion and would be despised (71). These boys

were young, ages 6-14, and dressed up as girls and were trained in the art of dance (Roy 28). They were not allowed to dance in the temples, but participated in festivals (Hejmadi and Patnaik 42). During the first thousand years of Odissi dance, the dance traditions go hand in hand with the political and religious events happening in Orissa at that time. Gauhar says, From the tolerance and aesthetic awareness of Buddhists to the yogini dancers of tantric cults to the glory of Shaivite temple dancing girls, the dance traditions metamorphosed in its physical technique and religious association during each stage of Orissas early history (43). It is interesting how the political and religious issues really affected the dance of Orissa at the time. After the Kharavela period dance played a specific role in temples and in the worship of Gods. It did not matter what religion it was, whether it was Buddhism, Shaivism or Vaishnavism, Odissi dance evolved and was used as a form of worship in each of these religions. Guahar says, The encouraging influence of all these religions gave the tradition of dance a distinct sacred character-blending sanctity with beauty, and art with religion, in a humble search for the path to moksha or salvation (43). Odissi dance has been influenced by religion and society, and it continued to change and morph throughout the following centuries. The characteristics of Odissi found today are a result of what happened thousands of years ago. Indian classical dance and specifically Odissi dance Can be defined as Visual sculptural poetry enacted to enliven the mens innermost latent spiritual emotions (Das 1). It is truly an art form rich in Indian religion and culture. Pplo;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Works Cited Choudhury, Dr. (Smt.) Bidut Kumari. 1st ed. Bhubaneswar: Sri Chandra Sekhar Mohapatra, 1999. 1-164. Print. Coorlawala, Uttara Asha. "Dance Chronicle." Dance Chronicle. Vol. 16. Issue 2 (1993): 269-276. Print. Das, Maya. Abhinaya-Candrika and Odissi Dance. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Delhi: Eastern Book Linkers, 2001. 1-183. Print. Guahar, Ranjana. Odissi: The Dance Divine. New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2007. 10-143. Print. Hejmadi, Priyambada Mohanty, and Ahalya Hejmadi Patnaik. Odissi: An Indian Classical Dance Form. New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2007. 2-139. Print. Lowen, Sharon. Odissi. New Delhi: Wisdom Tree, 2004. 7-101. Print. Roy, Ratna. Neo Classical Odissi Dance. New Delhi: Harman Publishing House, 2007. 1-240. Print.