Odissi is the quintessential aesthetic relish that has its origin in a state in Eastern India. This classical dance, as practised in Orissa, is known as Odissi or Odissi.
Orissa is one of the most picturesque and historically rich regions in our country. The antiquity of this dance form can be traced back to the first century and second century B.C. Evidence of it is found in the Udayagiri hills near Bhubaneswar and in the Ranigumpha caves. The sculpted reliefs there depict dancers and musicians, who, as it were, are there today as silent sentinels of an ancient culture.
Odissi undoubtedly stands out from other dances on the basis of its lyrical quality. The danseuse transports us to a heightened state of rasasvadana (aesthetic experience) with her supple smoothness of movements, graceful amplitude of contours and symbolic codes of gestures and expressions. Further the dancer, with all the creative impulses within the dances fluid definition, at her command brings to the viewer an aesthetic relish that surpasses the surreal, touches on the sublime and finally affords a mystic experience. Odissi is almost like an allegorical motif laden with poetic metaphors, literary analogues and religious symbolism. Jayadevas Geeta Govinda the ?magnum opus often forms the musical base for Odissi. The dancer savours every word of the lyric since sahitya dharma is kept in mind and rasa projection is paramount.
Jayadeva?s use of soft consonance sets the idiom of the dance. Rati is the sthayi bhava, madhurya bhakti is its essence and Radha is the Uttama Nayika.
The sancharis in Odissi are very interesting. The cadence in these is immensely mesmerising. The very nature of the dance is such that one cannot just wantonly use the dance steps. The syntax has a spontaneity that is in-built.
The nuances of the compositions range from the languorous to a mood of gay abandon.
The divine delicacy of emotions, of love and bhakti (devotion) gain heightened manifestation in the rendition of Odissi. The dancer and the dance become one and take the rasika in their sway, to catch even if it were for a fleeting moment, the ethereal experience.
The temple of Jagannath at Purl, the citadel of Odissi, was built by kings of the Imperial Ganga dynasty who ruled for over four centuries and were great patrons of art, architecture and religion. They engaged expert beenkars and maddalas (instrumentalists), geet gaunis (singers) and nachunis (dancers) for the seva (service) of the Lord. A quaint association can be perceived between the basic posture in Odissi called the chowka and the quality of the dharma of Lord Jagannath.Chowka is a position wherein the hands and legs take on a squarish positioning, with the knees and elbows placed directly to the sides of the body. It is a manly posture and the weight of the body is distributed equally on both sides. The same is the posture of Lord Jagannath of Purl and perhaps it reflects the balanced all-encompassing and universal quality of the dharma of Lord Jagannath.
The tribhanga is represented in sculptures of female figures and is based, like sculpture, upon the Hindu concept of iconography. In most other classical dance forms deflection of body weight is taboo, but in Odissi this triple deflection is the core of the style.
Odissi dance is an aesthetic experience (rasavadana), where a cognoscente (rasika), can almost experience a spark, which is enough to suffuse her entire being. She is whisked away to an elevated state of direct perception. In Odissi, shringara, the erotic sentiment is predominant. An impassioned rendering of the dance form appears as if it has emerged from the fire, ?ía forge?, chastened and purified, uninhibited, abstracted yet concrete. There is as it were nothing anecdotal - only the essential remains.
Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra
One at the greatest Masters and architects of contemporary Odissi was Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, recipient at hundreds of awards, including the Padma Vibhushan. Born into a family at traditional painters, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra was fascinated by the regional theatre at Orissa. In an act at defiance to his family?s tradition, he became part at the regional theatre movement. Theatre then was a composite and comprehensive art - using dance, drama, music and dialogue.
The genius at Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra is such that he coalesced the impulses at all the arts he had been exposed to and kindled a unique flame of creativity. This flame was to leave its impress an the dance style and its repertoire. His most notable signature was the embellishment at dance with filigree strakes at movements, inspired by the ?patachitra? tradition of Raghurajpur - his village and home to the traditional artists. He also molded, like a patter, the largest body at dancers blazing a trail around the world.
(Dur. 28 mins. 23 secs.)
The heroes at stage space in the classical performing arts of India are normally the high and the noble born. Yet, going by their origin, the classical art at theatre and dance became, at sociological level, the democratising force making the secrets at the Vedas available in a doubly distilled manner, to all who watched.
While, all could draw values and lessons from lives at the archetypal heroes, few could identity with them. The rare piece, which centres around ordinary human beings, therefore, succeeds easily in touching the heart. The paucity of dedicated symbols, compel the artiste to use signs evocatively. The openness of signs contrasts severely with the structured grammar of symbols. Thus only a master artiste is comfortable with this kind of freedom in expression. Who could be a better master in Odissi than Kelu Babu, whose manipulation, consisting of the constriction and release of emotional energies, brings to life the canvas of feelings that cross the mind of the boatman Kevat who ferried Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana across the River Ganga. This episode is a fine example of complete surrender to Rama. Initially Guha the boatman refuses to take Rama across the river as he recalls that by touch of Rama?s feet a stone was turned into a woman and he would not like his only source of living, his boat, to turn into a woman or anything else . All these innocent arguments are given by Guha only to seek permission to wash the feet of Rama, which is granted to him. After crossing the river Rama wants to give him something as token of love. Seeta takes her ring and offers it to Guha but Guha declines to accept it, as just to have a glimpse of Rama was his cherished dream and he would not accept any material gift for ferrying them. Rama overwhelmed by his love blesses him with gift of devotion.
(Dur 5mins. 10 secs.)
The penultimate ashtapadi from Jaideva?s immortal allegory ?Geet Govind catches a brief moment in the love play between Radha and Krishna, but encapsulates a deep philosophy, as the ashtapadi moves from the erotic and sensual, to the sublime. After spending a night of passion together, Radha asks Krishna to cool flaming fires with the application of sandal wood paste on her breasts, to reapply her collyrium to sharpen the line of her eyes, to rearrange her hair that was tousled the night before by his urgent hands. The imagery revives the memories of the passionate love play in which Radha lost her self, her distinctiveness and her identity, in the union with Krishna. In the larger perspective, what Radha is asking from Krishna, is a return of her Radhatva. The cycle of union and separation, the hallmark of Vaishnava thought, continues in this song of Radha, abhinaya to which is done by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra.
Every Guru seeks the perfect disciple, who would become his medium of expression and the benchmark of his creativity and contribution. Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra was to find this disciple in the late Sanjyukta Panigrahi. It was no ordinary umbilical cord, binding the creator and the created, which stretched between them. It was instead a seamless oneness, of breath, of heartbeat, of cerebral currents, that made Sanjyukta Panigrahi the embodiment of the Kelu Sir? style, and in her lifetime, the human reflection and face of Odissi.
The symbiotic relationship between Dance and Music came to the forefront in Sanjyukta Panigrahi?s dance. A passion for Odissi drove this dancer and her husband Raghunath Panigrahi, who would sing and compose of her. The fluency and seamless transference from music to dance- could be seen in their work. One of the most remarkable examples of this was that Sanjyukta, even in rehearsal, would translate simultaneously into kinetics, the swara and rhythmic patterns produced by Raghunath Panigrahi. Their joint contribution enriched the turf of Odissi for all times.
(Dur l5mins. 58secs.)
The maturity of Indian thought and myth is the product of the racial mind of a master-culture, with the thought process having crystallised over thousands of years. Thus in India, polarities do not appear antipodal, or conflicting, but complement each other. The best example of this is contained in the image of the Ardhanareshwara. The image evokes a vision of reconciliation and a world of coexistence. Today?s world continues to need to be reminded of this enduring truth through the image of the Ardhanareeshwara.
This piece by Sanjyukta Panigrahi draws its literary base from the composition of the Adi Shankaracharya. It describes the iconography of the image - a fusion of Shiva and Parvati. The right half adorned with ashes, snakes and flying dreadlocks - the left half with turmeric and sandal paste, champa flowers and dazzling Jewels. The coming together, of the essential male and female principles, make for the idealised form of a complete being.
(Dur 9 mins 28 secs.)
The Pallavi or the efflorescence is the flowering of the Raga in note, structure and mood. The notes correspond to specific hastas that denote definite images, so even the non narrative aesthetics of this dance item can be interpreted by a knowing viewer. The entire body, through an inter - play of anga and upanga interactions, reflects the beauty of the Raga.
Kelu Charan Mahapatra
? Kevat Prasang
? Ardhanareeshwara Stuti