Odishi dance - Oldest dance form & its features

Odishi dance - Oldest dance form & its features

Question:-Based on the archaeological evidences, which is the oldest dance form of India? What are its important features?

Antiquity: The classical dance form of the state of Odisha in the Eastern part of India, called Odishi, is, archaeologically, the oldest form of classical dance in India. The first evidences can be found in the bas-relief of Udaygiri hills near Bhubaneswar which has caves for Jain ascetics excavated by King Kharavela. They date back to the 1st century B.C. The Natya Shastra also speaks of the dance form from this region and refers to it as Odra-Magadha which must have been the precursor of Odishi.

Evolution and Types: This dance basically represented dharma and faith to Lord Jagannatha. Initially, for centuries, Maharis, the temple dancers, were the main representatives of this dance. They were a part of the custom of Devadasi. Gradually they were employed in the royal courts and came to be known as Nartakis. The degeneration of their reputation started from here. Women were kept from learning this dance. Then the Gotipua form started where very young boys dressed as the female Odishi dancers would perform the same steps.

Decline and Revival: Before the 17th century Odishi was highly esteemed and many royalties were also known to have been adept in it. Later, though, they were considered not more than prostitutes. But under the Anti-Nautch movement by the British this dance was ruthlessly suppressed. The Maharis and Nartakis were abolished, only Gotipua survived a little being danced by boys.
After Independence, however, many artists tried reviving it. Most notable are Guru Deba Prasad Das, Guru Mayadhar Raut, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Mahadev Rout, Guru Raghu Dutta, and Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra.

Accompaniments: The dance is accompanied by Odishi classical music and instruments like Madal, Tabla, Flute, Manjura (metal cymbals), Sitar and Tanpura.
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