Just at the mention of Odissi, lyrical and flowing movements and statueque poses come to one’s mind.
Odissi, the Indian classical dance form is from Orissa and like any other Indian classical dance ,was initially performed in the temples as a religious offering by the ‘Maharis’ who dedicated their lives in the services of God. It has the most closer resemblance with sculptures of the Indian Temples.
It is rightly said that ‘whether the dance is inspired by the chiselled beauty of the temple sculptures or the sculptures depict the dance is a conundrum’.
Although initially , Odissi was not considered as one of the main classical dances of India, its antiquity has been traced to an early sculpture found in the Ranigumpha caves at Udaygiri(Orissa). dating to the 2nd century BC. Thus Odissi appears to be the oldest classical dance rooted in rituals and tradition. Infact the NătyaShăstra refers to Odra Magadhi as one of the vrittis and Odra refers to Orissa. But since the exact tradition of the dance could not be found, the Maharis and the Achariyas adapted the existing format of BharatNătyam along with the sculpures on the walls of the temples to the present form of new Odissi.
Odissi gives the impression of a soft lyrical style, highly sensuous in form but infact it is rigorous and challenging to execute with control and precision. The balance of stasis and dynamics is at the core of this style as others.
Most of the abhinaya compositions are based on the Radha-Krishna theme. The Astapadis of the kăvya ‘Gita Govinda’ written by the Saint Jayadev are an integral part of its repertoire .The beginning pieces are dedicated to God of Orissa, Lord Jagannatha – an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.