The book is the first one dealing with the historical background, evolution and emergence of Odissi as a classical dance form in India. It traces the development of Odissi from a local ritual of temple dancers (Maharis) in the Jagannath temple and the performance of Gotipuas outside the temple in the 1940's, to the modern day sophisticated internationally acclaimed Odissi dance. The pioneer Odissi dancer Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi has been directly associated with the revival and evolution of Odissi. In this book with the help of her daughter Ahalya, she narrates the meticulous process by which Odissi was reconstructed and established as a self sufficient dance form in spite of the opposition to its recognition as a classical dance at the national level.
The book is a well-researched documentation of the historical background of Odissi and its association with the temple sculptures dating back to 2nd century BC. The establishment of the rich Mahari and Gotipua traditions, which has a direct bearing on the development of the dance form, has been dealt with some rare historical documents from the Jagannath temple and other archives. The role of eminent gurus, namely, Singhari
Shyamasunder Kar, Durlav Chandra Singh, the trinity of modern-day Odissi-Pankaj Charan Das, Kelucharan Mahapatra and Debaprasad Das; in the establishment and standardization of the dance form is described. The authors have also given a rare insight into the musical and literary tradition starting from Shri Jayadeva in 12th century to the poets of the medieval period, namely, Kabisurya Beladev Ratha, Banamali and Gopalkrushna who contributed to the enrichment of interpretive abhinaya of the dance form. The book has rare photographs depicting the evolution of Odissi costume, jewellery and other accessories through different periods. In addition, the book has some rare documents pertinent to the emergence of Odissi in the national scenario.
Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi
Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi is the pioneer Odissi dancer whose performance in the First Inter-University Youth Festival in 1954, New Delhi, led to the discovery of Odissi dance and drew national attention to this art form. She gave the first full evening Odissi performance in New Delhi in 1961 to establish Odissi as a self sufficient classical dance form.
Trained by all the leading gurus, she has received several national recognition including the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as one of the finest exponents of Odissi. Recipient of titles Nrutya saraswati and Nrutya Bharati, she has played a significant role in the revival and popularization of Odissi both in India and abroad. Her primer on Odissi Dance (Netic, New Delhi) is widely used by dancers and scholars alike.
A zoologist by profession she has received Padmashri from the President of India for her contribution in Science and Technology. She is the former Vice-Chancellor of Sambalpur University.
Ahalya Hejmadi Patnaik
Ahalya Hejmadi Patnaik, daughter of Priyambada, is the youngest disciple of the doyen of Odissi, Guru Pankaj Charan Das. She is the first Odissi dancer to have been awarded the title Padma Keshariin 1984 by Chinta-O-Chetana, Bhubaneswar for adding a new dimension in Odissi repertoire and for reviving the Thali Dance in Odissi after 25 years.
A psychologist by profession, she is a specialist on cross-cultural emotions and has given lecture demonstrations on the subject in many Universities in USA, Europe and Asia. At present she is teaching in the Universities of Maryland and Pennsylvania, USA.
It has been a long journey to publish this book covering events, happenings and experiences spanning over almost 60 years. Being born to a family who had a great deal of involvement in art and culture, I learnt music and dance as part of my upbringing. Since, my parents were actively involved in the cultural scene unfolding in Cuttack in 1940's, I had the opportunity to attend theatre, music performances even before I understood what they meant. But, slowly the exposure imbibed a cultural temper, which has been of enormous personal enrichment throughout my life. I learnt music in the Utkal Sngeet Samaj established in 1933 which was the center for all the practicing musicians of the time, Dance was not taught those days, but happened to me as a rehabilitation exercise for a dance teacher arriving in Cuttack to make a living. I can say the teacher Sri Banabehari Maity became very much a part of the development of dance as an art in Cuttack. Having mastered the footwork under his training, I could take up a special dance, which was taught by the Doyen of Odissi music Singhari Shyamasunder Kar. This dance manifested itself into the modern day Odissi. Being part of the process I thought that it will be proper to document and share my experience for posterity. Actually, it has been the encouragement and help of my family, well wishers and friends that I have put together what I feel is an important aspect of the emergence of Odissi.
During what can be referred to as the struggling period, I was encouraged to perform by several eminent people who are no more. I am grateful to Dr. Charles fabri whose generous comments in 1954, on my dance at the first Inter-University Youth Festival was so critical for the revival of Odissi. He encouraged me to take it up and arranged the full evening programme in Sapru House and invited Madam Indira Gandhi to see the new form of dance. His association with Dr. Mayadhar Mansingh, the well-known poet form Orissa led the latter to take a keen interest in the endeavor. Dr. Mansingh was a contemporary and friend of my father, and took personal interest in my dance and Odissi as a whole. I remember him coming to our house, supervising the compositions with the help of Pandit Banambar Acharya for Geeta Govinda astapadis. Dr. Mansingh was keen that everyone should understand the lyrics used and translated many songs into English, which I have included in this book.
It was the generosity of many well-wishers that I could collect some rare materials. I express my gratitude to poet and litterateur Dr. J.P. Das for providing me with copies of Record of Rights, rare articles and other documents related to mahari seva in the Jagannath Temple. My friend Shyamali Bardhan has been a source of strength from accompanying me to Delhi for the first ever full evening performance in New Delhi in 1961 to providing me with a copy of the rare article on maharis dated 1912; my special thanks to her.
The nomenclature of mahari has been of interest and my thanks to Professor K.S. Behera for sharing his thoughts and providing me with important documents. It was not easy to get a drawing of the Kandarpa Ratha from the Jagannath Temple. I thank Dedadutta Samantasinghar for his help. Thanks are due to Shri Ramahari Das for providing important information on Odissi music.
This book would not have seen the day without the constant encouragement of my family specially my sister Shrimati Annapurna Devi and brother Srhi Prakash Chandra Mohanty. I feel privileged to have them as my siblings. It is for the record that Ahalya, my co-author generously decided that I should write the preface on our behalf. I am grateful to Dr. Sadasiba Pradhan for his help in the preparation of the index, bibliography and other help in publication. Last but not the least, a special thanks to Mr. Vikas Arya of Aryan Books International, for his personal interest in publishing the book.
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