The eastern Indian state, Odisha is a home to various ancient folk dances and music. Odia culture, traditions, heritage are reflected in its dances and songs. In ancient civilization, dancing before God was a ritual that Odisha has been able to maintain to this day. There are many dance forms in Odisha such as Odissi, Chhau, Gotipua, etc. Odisha is a great place for art and music lovers.
Here is a list of 9 most famous dance forms of Odisha. Your cultural tour to Odisha is incomplete without experiencing these famous dance forms.
Odissi- the ancient dance of Odisha
Odissi is one of the ancient Indian classical dance forms that originated in the Hindu temples of Odisha. The Odissi dance, performed since ancient times, reflects the religious and spiritual stories of Vaishnavism. Its theoretical foundation traces back to an ancient Sanskrit text called Natya Shastra. Glimpses of Odissi dance is found in Hindu temples and can also be seen in various religious sites related to Buddhism and Jainism. Odissi is a fascinating dance in which the artists depict mythological and religious stories, devotional poems, and spiritual messages through excellent gestures, expressions, and body movements that make the dance aesthetically appealing and captivating. Mangalacharan, Batu nrutya, Pallavi, Abhinaya, and Moksha are some of the forms of Odissi dance.
Odissi music was shaped during the time of Odia poet Jaydev who composed the lyrics meant to be sung. Other than him, other Odia poets such as Banamali, Upendra Bhanj, Baldev Rath, and Gopal have also composed many Odissi songs. Odissi songs were written even before the development of the Odia language. The legacy of Odissi music can be traced back to the 2nd century BC when King Kharavel was the king of Kalinga. Odissi is the only Indian dance to feature in Michael Jackson’s 1991 hit singles black and white.
The Sambalpuri folk dance is one of the most popular dance forms of Western Odisha. Its dance and performance are a reflection of pure tribal and rural culture. Dusserah is the major occasion of Sambalpuri folk dance Dalkhai. It is also performed in various festivals in Odisha such as Bhaijiuntia, Phagun Puni, Nuakhai, etc. Young women of Binjhal, Kuda, Mirdha, Sama, and some other tribes of Sambalpur, Balangir, Sundargarh, and Nuapada districts mainly perform this beautiful dance. The male dancers join the female artists as drummers and musicians. The dance is accompanied by several folk instruments like Dhol, Nisan, Tamki, Tasa, and Mahuri. It is known as Dalkhai because at the beginning and end of every stanza the word is used as an address to a girlfriend.
This song represents the love story of Radha and Krishna, the chapter in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the natural beauty. The song associated with this dance is sung in the Kosli Odia. Due to the immense popularity of Sambalpuri dance and song, it has become a major part of the Odia film industry (Ollywood) and has earned a place in Bollywood also.
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Chhau is an ancient Indian dance. It is a semi-classical dance with martial, tribal, and folk traditions. In Sanskrit, Chhau means Chhaya or shadow. The dance form has three subtypes; namely Purulia Chhau from West Bengal, Mayurbanj Chhau from Odisha, and Seraikella Chhau from Jharkhand. Among them, the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha was the native place of Chhau. It was originated in the mock fights of the Odia Paikas (warriors), rhythmically to the accompaniment of indigenous music instruments. This dance form of Odisha is famous all over the world. The dance enacts famous mythological stories such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Vira rasa and Rudra rasa are two main rasas that dominate the dance. Several indigenous musical instruments like Mohuri, Chad-Chadi, Dhol, Dhumsa accompanied the songs. The villagers mainly perform the Chhau dance during the Chaitra festival.
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Gotipua dance is a traditional dance of Odisha that reflects Odia culture and heritage. This dance form is the precursor of the classical and the most popular Odissi dance of Odisha. By dressing up as females, young boys of 6-14 years old perform the Gotipua dance to praise Lord Jagannath and Lord Krishna. Inspired by the life of Radha & Krishna, a group of boys performs the actual dance in the form of acrobatic figures. The boys start to learn the dance at an early age until adolescence when their androgynous look is fading. Raghurajpur, a historic village in Odisha, is famous for its Gotipua dance troupes.
Ghumura Dance is a famous folk dance of the Kalahandi district of Odisha. It is classified as folk dance as the costume of Ghumura resembles more like a tribal dance, but there are arguments about mudra and dance forms of Ghumura bearing more resemblance with other classical dance forms of India. There is no clear picture of the origin of the Ghumura dance. The depiction of Ghumura dance at the Sun Temple in Konark proves that this dance form dates back to the medieval period.
It is believed that it was a war dance that was used to provoke the warriors. The dance is almost extinct today, but the Kalahandi district still holds its significance. So Kalahandi district is the land of Ghumura dance. This ancient dance form represents the nation at several international events. Ghumura dance is the most researched folk dance of Odisha.
Chaiti Ghoda Dance
Tribal fishermen called Keot (Kaibarta) mainly perform this popular folk dance of Odisha. Chaiti represents the month of Chaitra of the year i.e., from March to April to the full moon in Baisakh i.e., from April to May, and in Odia, Ghoda means horse. There is a story behind this dance. When Lord Ramachandra crossed the river with the help of a tribal fisherman during his exile, and in return, he gave him a horse as a gift.
Dummy wooden horses with beautiful paintings and colorful dresses are the main props in this dance. There are two major characters in this dance one is the main dancer played by fishermen called Rauta and the other one is the co-dancer/singer played by their wives called Rautani. The dancers use two black and white horses in this dance. They celebrate this festival for eight days in honor of Vasuli Devi. Vasuli Devi is the main deity of this tribe.
Bagha Nacha (Tiger dance)
As Odisha is a cultural state of India, it is the destination of various dances and songs. Bagha Nacha is another major folk dance of Southern Odisha. The people of Binka and Sonepur of Subarnapur district perform this dance during the month of Chaitra. It has gained popularity thanks to its uniqueness. In this, men paint their bare bodies with yellow and black stripes just like a tiger skin and attach a tail at their back to look like a tiger. This dance is only the acrobatic movement with the rhythm of drum and bell, which provides the music. People also perform Bagha Nacha in the Berhampur district of Odisha during the Thakurani Jatra.
Paika Nrutya- the war dance of Odisha
Paika dance is a war dance that is famous in the Khordha district of Odisha. The young boys and men perform this energetic dance form to enhance the physical excitement and to develop inner courage. The dancers dance with a sword and shield in hand accompanied by a dhol as a musical instrument. They used to practice the Paika dance in addition to the traditional physical exercises in a particular place called Paika akhada. Apart from Odisha, Jharkhand also performs the Paika dance.
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Danda Nata is one of the most popular dance forms of western Odisha, particularly in the Ganjam district. The Danda Nata is a major festival in the month of Chaitra of every year. The participants of this festival called Danduas worship Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva during this period. This ancient dance form belongs to the Kalinga kingdom. In the past, Danduas used to perform the Danda Nata at Taratarini Shakti Peetha, but nowadays they are culminating this old tradition in their villages or localities.
These are some of the popular dance forms of Odisha which depict the culture and heritage of the state. The melody, performance, costume designs, history, and origin of each dance form have their own significance, and every other dance form is different and unique in its own way. So, without exploring the traditional dance forms of Odisha, your cultural tour of Odisha would stay incomplete.
I hope this blog will help you to know about some of the famous and important dance forms of Odisha. If you find this blog interesting and helpful, then don’t forget to share your experience by commenting below.