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What is Odissi Dance?


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Traditional Dance Form of State of Orissa (Odisha), India - Odissi


What is Odissi?
Odissi is considered to be the oldest traditional dance form of India. It has its origins in the state of Orissa, Odisha, India.

Origin of Odissi Dance It is believed that the Odissi dance was first performed at temples by Devadasis, also known as Maharis. These devadasis or tempe dancers were beautiful, graceful and very talented in the fields of dance and music. Their dance was a religious offering to Lord Vishnu's incarnation, Lord Krishna.

Theme of Odissi Dance Odissi dances are primarily based on the devotion to Orissa's most loved diety, Lord Jagannath. The essence of Odissi dance form are the verses of Geet Govind, a well know Sanskrit play that depicts the beautiful devotion and love for Lord Krishna. Dancers use body movements, mudras and expressions to depict various forms of passion and emotion. Odissi dance is a beautiful combination of pure dance, acting and expressions. It is soft and lyrical in nature.

Odissi Dance Techniques The most distinguishing factor of the Odissi dance is its curvaceous nature. Under this classical dance form, the concept of the "Tribhangi" or 3 parts comes into play. What this means is that the dancer's body is divided into three main parts, namely the Head, the Bust and the Torso. In order to perform the mudras and bring out the expressions and moods, the Odissi dancer uses the Tribhanga or the 3 body parts, usually in a slow, soft and flowing movement. Usually, the postures, poses and movements of the Odissi dance are quite unique in their complexity. The dancer must maintain the twists of the tribhanga while performing the dance movements.

Similarity of Odissi Dance with Bharatanatyam Dance There are quite a few similiarities between the Odissi dance and the Bharatanatyam Dance form such as the moods, expressions, temple dance elements, and mudras. Owing to their similarity, many dancers gain excellence in both these dance forms. However, when they perform either of the dances, they excel in expressing the nuances of each individual dance form without any mixup.


Odissi Dance Costumes Just like all other classical dances of India, the Odissi dance also has its own specific dance costume. An Odissi dancer looks best when dressed in the traditional Odissi dance costume, along with the necessary ornaments.

Odissi dancers are seen wearing an array of colourful costumes which are stitched to perfection and included the blouse, pyjama and the angrakha. The costume reminds us of the beautiful, traditional prints which are specific to the state of Orissa.

Traditional Silver jewellery is an essential part of the Odissi dancer's look. Items include jewellery for the head, ear, neck, hands, fingers, waist ornaments, etc. Flowers in the bun and ghungroos on the feet are just as important.

Famous Odissi Dancers

Some of the well known masters of Odissi Dance include
Odissi Performance - Dr. Sonal Mansingh
  • Sonal Mansingh
  • Aruna Mohanty
  • Aadya Kaktikar
  • Anita Babu
  • Aditi Bandyopadhyay
  • Arpita Venkatesh
  • Guru Deba Prasad Das
  • Guru Raghu Dutta, etc.

Contributions are Invited Are you an Odissi Dancer? To add greater value to this page, we invite you to contribute your picture in your traditional Odissi dance costume for inclusion on this webpage. We'll surely add your name under the picture as a token of thanks (Courtesy:) Email us at [email protected]

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