Gotipuas - The Boy Dancers of Odisha
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Gotipuas - The Boy Dancers of Odisha

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Item Code: NAP370
Author: Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi
Publisher: Aryan Books International
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788173055058
Pages: 95 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch x 9.5 inch
Weight 650 gm
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About the Book

An event immensely significant for the evolution of Odissi dance was the establishment of qotipua system where boys of tender age were trained in the art of dancing and singing and started performing for general public. In course of time, they started participating in many ritualistic festivals connected with Lord Jagannath.

Goti in Oriya means 'single' and pua means a 'boy'. This is a tradition exclusively to Odisha where tender-aged good looking boys are dressed as girls who sing and dance. This singing while dancing, known as bachika abhincuja, is an essential feature of the qotipuas. In addition, they also exhibit some extremely difficult bandhas (acrobatics).

Gotipua dance appears to haw originated during the reign of Prataparudra Deva in the 15th century. It is believed to be introduced by his minister Ramananda Ray, who was a devout Vaishnavite. The Vaishnavites, who did not approve dancing by women practiced sakhibhava or offering one's own self to Krishna as a female attendant; promoted dance of the boys a." girls. One of the important contribution of the qotipua system was the spread of the devotional songs based on Radha-Krishna throughout Odisha.

The revival of Odissi dance owes a lot to this tradition. As a matter of fact, the contents and the repertoire were totally from this system. After a lean period, the qotipuas have come back in a big way. With the growing popularity, many troupes have C0111e up around their previous hubs mainly in Puri district. With their spectacular bandhus, they have carved out a niche for themselves in the field of dance in India. They are in great demand and are a huge attraction in most of the festivals. The revival and development of the qotipua system has now added a fresh dimension to the overall scenario in the field of traditional dance.

About the Author

Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi is the pioneer Odissi dancer, whose performance in the First Inter-University Youth Festival at Talkatora Gardens, New Delhi in 1954, led to the discovery of Odissi dance and drew national attention to this art form. She is the first person to give a full evening Odissi dance performance at Sapru House, New Delhi in 1961 to establish Odissi as a self-sufficient and classical dance form.

Trained by all the leading gurus, namely Late Singhari Shyama Sunder Kar, Late Pankaj Charan Das, Late Kelucharan Mahapatra, and Late Debaprasad Das, she has played a significant role in the revival and popularization of Odissi both in India and abroad.

For her contributions. in the field, she has received two highest awards from the State, namely Kabisamrat Upendra Bhanja Samman, Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi and Governor's Plaque for lifetime achievement in the field of Odissi Dance. Recipient of the titles Nrutya Vidushi, Nrutya Saraswati and Nrutya Bharati, she continues to be a leading figure in the present cultural scene. As an authority on Odissi dance, she has contributed many articles and has given many lecture demonstrations in India and abroad. Her books on Odissi Dance are used by dancers and scholars alike.

A zoologist by profession, an exceptional achiever, the first lady Vice-Chancellor of Orissa; she has received prestigious National Awards in both Science (Padma Shri) and Culture (Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award). She writes on a broad range of subjects from arts to sciences.


It was during the Annual Gotipua Festival in 2012 that Shri Ashok Kumar Tripathy, LA.S, Principal Secretary of Tourism and Culture, Govt of Odisha suggested that I write a book on the gotipuas. He even extended all help from his department for the purpose. Since very little information is available on this unique tradition of Odisha, I readily agreed to his suggestion. I thank him profusely for his faith in me as well as for his generosity.

Gotipua tradition is a rich part of our cultural heritage. As I put together this book I realised for the first time that from the late 1940'S to early 1950'S, I not only danced items of the gotipuas but also dressed like them! It was only after this period that a margi Odissi was developed based on this tradition.

The collection of materials was not an easy task as only fragmentary information is available on the subject in the public domain. However, help came from many sources to articulate this book.

With the active co-operation of the Department of Culture, Government of Odisha; Shri Ramahari Das, Chief Executive of Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra Research Centre, not only provided me with facilities to go through the archives of the Annual Gotipua Festivals but also arranged for a special photo shoot for the bandhas in the premises. In addition, he provided me with an amazing set of photographs ofthe make-up and attire process that transforms a boy into a gotipua we see on stage, from his Ramahari Das Gurukul collection. I record my thanks for all his help.

In a rare gesture of generosity, Shri Chittaranjan Mallia, Secretary, Odisha Sangeet N atak Akademi, handed over his report titled "Gotipua Dance Tradition in Orissa" prepared with a fellowship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India during 2002-06; for my use. It is an impressive documentation of the tradition from the history to the present day scenario. It has been of immense help in the preparation of the book as would be obvious from my frequent reference to his report on different aspects of gotipuas. In addition he has provided many photographs including the rare black and white photographs of gurukuls of yesteryears. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to him. Shri Debadutta Samantasinghar is almost encyclopaedic in his knowledge of the cultural activities in Puri including the rituals associated with Jagannath temple. In addition to some rare insights, he has also provided me with the photographs of the Jhoolan Mandaps of Mathas as well as the Chandanajatra. I record my special thanks to him.

I am grateful to the eminent poet, playwright and writer, Dr. J. P. Das for enlightening me about the background of the use of the unique motif Kandarpa Ratha in Odishan art, architecture and literature. I would also like to thank Dr. Bhagyalipi MalIa, Curator, Palm Leaf Manuscripts, Odisha State Museum for providing me with a rare photograph of Kandarpa Ratha in palm leaf manuscript. Special thanks are due to Guru Bijoy Kumar Sahu of Nakshyatra Gurukul and his troupe for readily agreeing for the photo shoot of the bandhas during practice. His group also features in the photographs of make-up and costume. I thank my nephew Shri Siddhartha Mohanty and his wife Leena for providing me with all the help as and when necessary during the preparation of the manuscript. Last but not the least, a special thanks to Shri Vikas Arya of Aryan Books International, for his personal interest in publishing the book.


An event immensely significant for the evolution of Odissi dance was the establishment of the gotipua system where boys of tender age were trained in the art of dancing and singing like the maharis (devadasis of Jagannath temple in Odisha) and started performing in festivals. Initially, they were not allowed to dance inside the temple but gradually participated in many ritualistic festivals connected with Lord Jagannath.

Goti in Oriya means 'single' andpua means a 'boy'. In the absence of any historical document, speculations abound about the origin of this system. Out of these, only the leading views will be discussed here. According to Panigrahi (1960), the gotipua dance appears to have originated during the reign of Pratap Rudradeva (AD 1497-1540) and gained popularity in the subsequent Muslim period on account of the rigidity of the purda system, which led to the seclusion of women and made their presence scarce on festive occasions.

However, an interesting view is observed in the introduction to Kabisurya Granthiibali and Jibanacharita by Gopal Chandra Praharaj (1928). These are perhaps the best documents so far as the gotipua system is concerned. Shri Praharaj writes that 'Kishore Chandrananda Champu' (popularly known as Kishori Champu) is well known throughout Orissa. The gotipua troupes who cannot sing the 'Kishori Champu' in appropriate raga-ragini and parijas (mudras) do not find favour with the public. He further states that after the 'Chhanda' (a style of singing in sthai only without any antara) period of Upendra Bhanja, Gopalkrushna, Banamali and others composed Odissi music. At that time, Ganjam was in Madras (now Chennai) and the music was influenced considerably by the Telugu people of Andhra. Also, the vulgar dance of the prostitutes used to be prevalent during music and dance performances. According to Praharaj, the Odias created the gotipua troupes as an alternative to the vulgar dance so prevalent in Andhra Pradesh.

An interesting definition of the gotipua appears in the Purnachandra Oriya Bhashakosha, Part II (1932) and Part IV (1934), compiled by Shri Gopal Chandra Praharaj. According to him, in the sangita dala (music group) one boy sings and dances. In Utkala, tender-aged good looking boys are dressed up as girls who sing, dance and do abhinaya on Pauranika (mythological) themes. If these Pauranika abhinetiis are more than one, they are known as sakhipila. The boy who sings while dancing is called a gotipua. Gotipuas also exhibit some extremely difficult Bandhas (acrobatics) and Byayam (exercises). The natapilas dance and sing, and through angabhangis and hand movements (karadees), express the meaning of the songs they sing.

Many favour the view that Ramananda Ray, the minister of Pratapa Rudradeva nee Prataprudra Deva, who was a devout Vaishnavite and an expert in both music and dance, probably encouraged worship according to Sakhi Bhava and introduced the custom of temple dances being performed by boys dressed as girls and not by women, as was the custom elsewhere (Kothari, 1965). However, there is no mention of this in the Chaitanya Charitamruta, which details Ramananda teaching abhinaya to maharis. Pattnaik (2006), an undisputed authority on Odissi dance, who went around Odisha, visited all the practicing gurus in the late fiftees; standardized the unorganized form into Odissi dance in every detail from repertoire to costumes, etc,. and put forth strong arguments against the common belief about Raya Ramananda’s contributions to the establishment of the gotipua system. He supplements his view with several examples from the critical literature in favour of his conclusions.

He also disagrees with panigrah’s view that gotipua dance probably originated during the reign of Prataprudra Deva and gained popularity during the Muslim rule on account of the rigidity of the purda system. Pattnaik refers to the inscription regarding the reorientation of devadasi dancing in the Jagannath temple during Prataprudra’s period but there is no such reference to the gotipua further, he says that even the assumption that Ramananda Ray, the Vaishnavite minister during his tenture, is the originator of this class of boy dancers (Kothari, 1965), is improbably. He argues that elaborate descriptions in texts are available about the activities of ramananda in the field of dance, drama and music. It is clearly mentioned that Ramanda had trained the devadasis of the Jagannath Temple (Devi, 1963). However, nowhwere there is evidence of his training boy-dancers. He further opines that according to Jagannath Charitamrita, Ramanda introduced the Gopi bhava in putting forth madhura Rasa Upasana or the mode of devotion to Krishna through conjugal love. According the him, gotipua system was probably introduced later by the vaishnavites who did not approve dancing b women but practiced Sakhi Bhava or offering one’s self to Krishna as a female attendant, for this, they introduced the dance of the boys dress up as girls.


Preface 7
1. Introduction 11
2. The Parampara 31
3. Music and Repertoire 53
4. Gotipua Gurus 79
References 91
Index 93

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