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Updated: December 28, 2010 21:33 IST

Reviving Odissi with a focus on the classical

Tulsi Badrinath
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Odisi dancers at the lec-dem by Madhumita Raut.
Special Arrangement Odisi dancers at the lec-dem by Madhumita Raut.

On 27 December 2010, convenor Shanta Dhananjayan focussed on Odissi during the 30th Natyakala Conference.

Mayadhar Raut is uniquely placed to describe the training methods in Odissi as he was part of the historic Jayantika association of gurus who revived and created a basic ‘margam’ or sequence of performance pieces for Odissi. In his 80’s, a living example of the guru-shishya abhyaasa parampara, he performed the ashtapadi Nindati Chandana seated on stage. He also provided a glimpse of a gotipua piece he had learnt while young.

His daughter Madhumita Raut, who conducted the lecture demonstration, took the audience on a tour of the different type of pada-bheda, pada chari, bhramari, bhangi starting with the very basic of Odissi positions, the chowka and tribhangi. While the Abhinaya Chandrika forms the foundation of Odissi, Guru Mayadhar Raut was inspired by his stay at Kalakshetra to use the Abhinaya Darpana as well and to highlight the classical elements in the extant dance that had survived to the present. The demonstration touched upon the mudras used by the gotipuas which do not find a place in the shastras, the mudras from the Abhinaya Darpana which are named differently and the fact that the maharis used the pataka mudra extensively.

A pure-dance piece called Khandi gleaned from the gotipua tradition and certain tihai-s were incorporated into the evolving Odissi performance repertoire. The main difference was in presentation as the maharis used to present a long piece of dance, which included abhinaya and ended with ananda nrityam. This was then separated into the current framework of mangalacharan, batu, pallavi, abhinaya and moksha. The gotipuas would sing as they danced and the singer only provided backup in terms of repeating the lines sung. There was only the pakhawaj and manjira for accompaniment, even though sculptures show the traditional importance of the veena and venu. Slowly, from the fifties onwards, the violin, flute, veena, and other instruments were introduced. The costume, especially for the female dancer, was also defined with the now-famous silver waist belt and hair ornaments.

Sumina Das, Aadya Kaktikar and Sudha Sasikumar performed the complete Odissi ‘margam’ with an emphasis on Batu. They were accompanied by Harinarayan Dash, vocal, Afzal Zahoor on the violin and Prafulla Mangraj on the pakhawaj.

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