About the Art Form
The sculptures in the temples of Brahmeswara, Sun Temple at Konark, may not be living, but indeed they have kept alive one of the oldest surviving dance forms of India, Odissi . This Indian classical dance is based on the Natya Sashtra, a classical work in Sanskrit about dramaturgy, and can be traced back to 2nd Century BC. But it was as late as in the 1950s that the dance form could be revived back to its original glory and fame.No longer does it grace the temple walls alone. Today Odissi is one the most widely performed and practiced Indian classical dance in the entire world.
Traditionally Odissi was a form of worship performed as Mahari and Devdasi dances dedicated to Lord Jagannath in the temples of Puri and Konarak. Odissi as we know it today is the result of a long process of reconstruction from various dance traditions of Orissa -- the Mahari or the temple dance tradition, the Gotipua or the tradition of the young male dancers, and the Bandha Nritya or the acrobatic wing of the art form.
The classical dance form of Odissi is a dance form made up of its own vocabulary. Odissi is defined by the unique postures of tribhangi, the three bends and Chouka, the square. The most graceful feature of Odissi dance is the soft circular movement of the hand, head and torso, depicting the roundness of the Konark wheel or Sri Jagannath Deva's eyes. It is performed to the lilting melodies of the tradional Orissi raagas, stylistically different from the Hindusthani or the Carnatic genres.
Odissi is a dramatic dance of love, delight, and intense passion; lyrical, pure, divine and human, all woven into one. Based on exquisite Sanskrit and Oriya poetry, a typical Odissi dance recital, when performed with subtle facial expressions (Abhinaya), and replete with emotions, casts a spell on the spectators and leads to a rich, aesthetic, and spiritual experience.