Odisha

A veritable melting pot of art, tradition and religion, Orissa is a state rich in music, dance and festivals. Casaurina trees sway in the gentle breeze, the blue of the sky matches perfectly with that of the sea, and the sun plays hide and seek on Orissa's golden beaches. Over the centuries, the state has nurtured distinctive styles of folk art forms. Music and dance is integral to the lives of the people of the state. Let us now take you on a journey through the many and varied folk dances of Odisha.

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Gotipua Dance

The Gotipua Dance emerged from the ruins of the Devadasi tradition. From the 14th century onwards, political unrest and social changes took a toll on the Mahari or Devadasi tradition. During this time, attempts were made to keep alive the beautiful tradition of dance - thus was born the Gotipua tradition. The Gotipuas were young boys who were trained in singing, dancing and acrobatics in the village clubs or akhadas. They were dressed as girls and performed at temple festivals as well as various social and religious occasions. They also performed at special festive occasions relating to Radha and Krishna, like the Dol Utsav (or Spring Festival), the Chandan Yatra (or boat ride of Madan Mohan and Radhika on Chandan Pushkar) and the Jhulan Yatra (or Swing Festival). It is believed that the Gotipuas began their performance in the later medieval period, during the reign of the Bhoi King Ramachandradev. The present forms of Odissi dance have been derived to a great extent from the Gotipua tradition. Though the dances of the Gotipuas are in the Odissi style, crucial differences exist in technique, costume and presentation. Interestingly, the Gotipua dancers are the singers too.

The word Gotipua comes from the words 'goti' meaning one and 'pua' meaning boy. Gotipuas lead a life of rigorous training and exercise under the supervision of their gurus. Boys dedicated to the Lord by their parents are trained to become Gotipua dancers. Couples pray to Lord Balunakeswar Dev to be blessed with a male progeny. If the Lord answers their prayers, the child is dedicated to the Lord at the age of six years and becomes a Gotipua. He stays with the other Gotipuas till he is sixteen years old. When small children fall seriously ill, their parents offer prayers at the temple of Balunakeswar Dev. If the child is cured, he too is dedicated to the temple.

In its present form, the Gotipua Dance is more precise and systematic in its conception. Its repertoire includes Vandana (prayer to God, or a guru), Abhinaya (the enactment of a song) and Bandha Nritya (rhythms of acrobatic postures) which is a unique presentation in which gotipuas dance and compose themselves in various acrobatic yogic postures creating the forms of Radha and Krishna. Bandha Nritya is a demonstration of physical prowess requiring great agility and flexibility. Preferably performed in adolescence, with age, this dance form becomes increasingly difficult to execute. The dancers make extensive use of their hands and feet, and one cannot help admire the acrobatics involved in this dance. Musical accompaniment to the Gotipua Dance is provided by the mardala (a pakhawaj), gini (small cymbals), harmonium, violin and flute.

The philosophy of the Gotipuas is embedded in the Sakhibhava Culture where the devotees consider themselves to be consorts of Lord Krishna.

Sambalpuri Folk Dances

Western Orissa - a land of myths, which owe their origin to the legendary Goddess Sambleswari is known for its rich and colourful folk and tribal art forms. A wide range of percussion instruments is used as accompaniments to the Sambalpuri Dances. Hundreds of quaint musical instruments like the Sanchar, Samprada, Ghumra, Madal and Ghanta Vadya are also used. A variety of dance styles like the Dalkhai, Raserkeli, Nachnia, Bajnia, Maelajhara and Chutkachuta, explore the many moods and shades of human life.

Melodious songs and lilting music characterize the Dalkhai Dance. The dance is performed by the young unmarried girls of the village, who pray to goddess Dalkhai for the well being of their brothers. The daughters of the village fast the entire day and pray to the Folk Goddess in the evening. The songs describe the everyday life of the villagers and celebrate the beauty of the young girls. The traditional costumes and ornaments worn by the dancers, add aesthetic appeal to the dance. The Dalkhai Geet (song), Dalkhai Nacha (dance) and Dalkhai Baja (music) create an atmosphere of gaiety and merrymaking.The accompanying musical instruments include the Dhol, Nishan, Tasha & Muhuri. The dance is performed on the eighth day of the full moon night of Ashtami. "Dalkhai-re" is the oft-repeated word in the songs.

Nachnia, a dance usually performed by male artistes only, originated from the Sonepur district of Orissa. The dance is associated with the ceremony of marriage. The leader of the group of dancers is known as 'gahar' while his companions are called 'palia'. The music, which accompanies this dance, is usually restricted to drums, and is played to a particular rhythm called Kaharba.

Bajnia is a traditional folk dance of Western Orissa. Music is an important element of this fast paced and cheerful dance form. The men use an array of musical instruments to provide accompaniment to the women dancers. Often the men too join in the dancing. The dancers wear colourful local hand-woven Sambalpuri sarees and dhotis.

Raserkeli is another folk dance of Western Orissa. In this dance too, the women are the dancers and the men provide the musical accompaniment. This dance is performed mainly during marriage ceremonies. The item begins with a musical piece called 'Dulduli'. The player of the Dhol during this dance is called the Dhulia. The Dhulia and the dancers spread goodwill through their movements and their smiling faces.

Maelajhoda is another dance form of Western Orissa, which is performed by young unmarried girls. The technique of the dance and the musical accompaniments used are similar to the Dalkhai dance. Differences exist in the movements of the hands and feet.

The Chutkichuta Dance is also from Sambalpur in Western Orissa. This dance is dedicated to Goddess Sambleswari. Based on the various ragas of the Sambalpuri folk tradition and accompanied by melodious songs, this dance form reflects the rich culture of indigenous art forms in this part of Orissa.

Durla Nacha is another traditional folk dance of Western Orissa. The dance is an integral part of the marriage festivities of the tribal communities. On the morning of the marriage, oil and turmeric paste are first offered to the family deity and then to the groom and bride. Singing and dancing accompany the ceremony.

Dhap Dance

An ancient Adivasi tribe of Western Orissa, the Kandhas, performs the Dhap Dance. The dance is an integral part of all major festivals, especially the Nirakhai festival. The villagers gather together, as one united family, to worship the village deity. An elaborate village feast and merry making follow this. The 'Mukhia' or village senior also joins the dance, carrying an axe on his shoulder. Through this gesture, he symbolically promises to protect the dignity of the women of the village.

Jhoomar Dance

The Jhoomar is another popular group dance of Western Orissa performed by both girls and boys. Typical Jhoomar songs accompany the fast-paced dance. Characteristic movements of the hips and waist mark this dance form. It is performed during Chaitra Parva, Karam Puja and Kali Puja.

Karma Dance

The ritualistic Karma Dance is performed in honour of goddess 'Karma Sani' or 'Karma Rani', literally meaning 'Queen of Fate'. The dance is popular in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Sundergarh, Bolangir and Dhenkenal. In the month of Bhadra, a branch of the Karam tree is cut and carried to the dancing arena in a ceremonial procession. The branch is planted and the boys and girls dance around it, to the beat of drums. Different tribal groups perform the Karma Dance differently. The dance presents a fusion of colour and elegance. The women wear bright sarees with jewellery made from shells and the men wear coloured turbans adorned with a shimmering blue peacock feathers. The women dance in concentric circles and the men move with characteristic steps. The indigenous instruments used are rhythmic and melodious.

Ghumra Dance

Ghumra is a folk dance of the Kalahandi district of Orissa. It is named after the main musical instrument, a pitcher-shaped drum called the ghumra, which is tied around each dancer's neck. The dancers play on the drum while dancing. It is performed to the accompaniment of songs, the content of which is varied, ranging from stories of hunting to everyday joys and sorrows of the people. The dancers execute intricate movements, jumps and pirouettes in a fast tempo. The Ghumra is popular in Bolangir, Sambalpur and Cuttack. With love as its main theme, the ghumra is a common dance at social functions such as marriages. The Saora tribes and other aboriginal tribes mostly perform this dance.

Bamsarani

The Bamsarani, literally meaning 'Bamboo Queen', is a popular folk dance from Puri. In this dance, little girls exhibit acrobatic movements on a crossed bamboo bar as well as on the floor with admirable accuracy.

Naga Dance

The Naga dancers of Puri perform with a heavy load of weapons, to the accompaniment of battle drums. The dancer carries, among other things, a sword, a kukri, a whistle made of horn, an iron shield and bows and arrows. The dancer's body is covered with rama raja (a yellow paste). The vermillion tika on his forehead and the artificial moustache and beard, imparts a look of valour to the dancer. This highly energetic dance displays the strength and skills of a warrior.

Paika Dance

The Paika Dance is a martial art form of ancient Orissa, which has withstood the test of time. Paika Akhadas thrive in several villages of the state till today. As early as the 15th century A.D., Gajapati Raja was believed to have raised an army of Paika warriors. The brave Paikas raise their voice of rebellion against the British rulers as early as 1817, four decades before the Sepoy Mutiny broke out. Buxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar Mahapatra Bhramarabar Roy led the Paika Bidroha. The Paiks of Khorda did not allow the British to enter the region and that is why Khorda is known as the last freedom fort of India. The heroism of these warriors influenced the art, architecture and literature of Orissa. The carvings that adorn the Konark Temple depict the martial prowess of the Paikas. Many of the performing art froms of Orissa, namely the Mayurbhanj Chhau, Ghumura and Ranapa Dances have been influenced by this glorious martial tradition. The Paikas have found pride in place in Oriya literature too. Sarala Dasa's Mahabharat written in the 15th century describes this martial tradition of Orissa. Poet Balaram Dash narrates the institution of war fare education in his literary work Jagamohan Ramayan. The dance involves acrobactic movement with swords (talwars), sticks (lathis) and shields (dhalis). Not surprisingly, the dance demands of it performers an extraordinary level of physical fitness. Only through years of dedicated practice do these dancers master the precision and agility that is the hallmark of the Paika Dance. The dance is often an integral part of Dushera and Kalipuja celebrations. The Chagi, Nagar, Dhamsa, Mahuri and large cymbals provide the musical accompaniment.

Karma Dance

The ritualistic Karma Dance is performed in honour of goddess 'Karma Sani' or 'Karma Rani', literally meaning 'Queen of Fate'. The dance is popular in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Sundergarh, Bolangir and Dhenkenal. In the month of Bhadra, a branch of the Karam tree is cut and carried to the dancing arena in a ceremonial procession. The branch is planted and the boys and girls dance around it, to the beat of drums. Different tribal groups perform the Karma Dance differently. The dance presents a fusion of colour and elegance. The women wear bright sarees with jewellery made from shells and the men wear coloured turbans adorned with a shimmering blue peacock feathers. The women dance in concentric circles and the men move with characteristic steps. The indigenous instruments used are rhythmic and melodious.

Ranapa

The Ranapa dance, which has its roots in martial arts, is popular in the coastal areas of the Ganjam district of Orissa. In this dance, the artistes walk and dance on the Ranapas or stilts. Mock fights choreographed to the rhythm of drums make this dance form unique. All through the dance, the dancers exhibit their skills in balancing on stilts.

Ruk Mar Nacha

Ruk Mar Nacha is another martial dance form of Orissa. Ruk means to defend and Mar means to attack. Thus the dance is a highly stylised mock fight. It is prevalent in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa and is believed to be the rudimentary form of the evolved 'Chhau' Dance of the region. Each dancer holds a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left. The group of dancers is usually divided into two and alternately one group attacks while the other defends. The effortless leg extensions of the dancers belie the complex nature of the dance. The Ruk Mar Nacha stands out for its rhythmic intricacies. While the melodic base for the dance is provided by a double-reeded wind instrument called 'Mahuri', powerful percussion is provided by a 'Dhola' (a barrel-shaped two-faced drum), a 'Dhuma' (a cone-shaped hemispherical drum with one face) and 'Chad chadi' (a short cylindrical drum with two faces but played on only one face with two lean sticks.)

Mayurbhanj Chhau

The Mayurbhanj Chhau is one of the three styles of Chhau Dance prevalent in the Eastern region of the country. While the other two styles, Seraikella Chhau of Jharkhand and Purulia Chhau of West Bengal, are performed with masks, the Mayurbhanj style does not use masks. Chhau dance has a very distinctive character of its own. For its evolution and growth, it has freely imbibed techniques and movements from the prevalent folk and tribal dances of the region, creating a harmonious blend of classical, traditional, folk and tribal styles. The theme of the dance centres round tales from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and legends relating to Lord Krishna. The choreography of this ancient rhythmic dance is highly stylized. This dance form flourished under the patronage of the Maharajas of Mayurbharj for over a century. It evolved out of the martial art forms of the area and its ceremonial presentation formed an essential part of the annual 'Chaitra Parva' festival, which is held for three consecutive nights. The dancers were divided into two competing groups, each trying to outdo the other. It has a wide range of intricate movements with acrobatic displays. The dance presents an amalgam of dynamism, precision and elegance, which is at times indistinguishable from visual poetry.