The Art Form: Odissi


Odissi, one of the eight classical dances of India, hails from the state of Odisha in Eastern India and is mentioned in the Natya Shastra, the ancient treatise of Indian dance as "Odra-Magadhi." Though held in high esteem until the turn of the 18th century, the status of the dance and dancers began to decline during the British colonial rule of India.  It was not until about 60 years ago that Odissi, in the form it is seen today, was reconstructed and revitalized. Today's Odissi is the revival of existing traditions, embellished further by the incorporation of dance poses inspired by the archeological sculptures and carved motifs from the temple walls of Odisha.


Odissi originated as a religious ritual of the young and beautiful temple dancers, or Maharis. To this day, it maintains connection to its origins by being deeply devotional in its theme. According to the Natya Shastra, Odissi is the inspired embodiment of the elemental nature of water. With its fluid gestures and delicate torso movements, Odissi effortlessly creates the illusion of a sculpture waking to life, awash with grace.

The Odissi musical tradition is a unique amalgam of both Hindustani and Carnatic styles of classical Indian music. Thus, Odissi is a synthesis of the ancient and the modern, the aesthetic, and the intellectual.