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The state of Orissa has a great cultural history. The Odissi dance of Orissa is one of the six classical dance forms of India. It is a highly inspired, sensuous, passionate and blissful dance form with a history of around two thousand years. The Odissi dance originated in the Devadasi tradition, where it was initially performed in the temples. The Mudras, rhythm and Bhangis used in this dance have a discrete style of its own. The dance is mainly performed with the theme of endless love of Lord Krishna and Radha. Behind such graceful dance, the movements are challenging and hard to execute with precision and control.

The Odissi dance is a well- known and codified classical dance form of India. It is considered as a dance of joy, love, passion, human and divine. Three schools of Odissi dance developed the following systems:

  1. Nartaki: It’s an Odissi dance form that developed in royal courts
  2. Mahari: This system dashes its roots to the Devadasi tradition
  3. Gotipau: In this tradition, young boys dress up in female outfits and enact female roles

Some of the renowned Odissi dancers are Kumkum Mohanty, Illena, Guru Pankajcharan, Guru Ranbir, Indrani Rehema, Guru Nabakishore etc.

Theme of Odissi

The Odissi themes are mostly religious in nature. They mainly revolve around Lord Krishna. The Ashtapadi of Jayadev is a very common theme. The composers fixed the raga and tala of each song and most of them are the romantic compositions that are set in a slow rhythm. This enables the dancer to fully express the emotions by gestures and movements. The dance while representing the bhava brings out the many tones of the Shrinagar rasa. Odissi dance portrays devotion and spirituality.

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Costume, Style ,and Jewellery

Odissi dance is not only famous for its unique dance style but also for the costumes. The costumes are intricate and are similar to that of the Bharatnatyam costume. This dance is not recommended to be performed without the makeup and attire. Thallaippu, the beautiful pallu is made in the front that makes the costume colorful and rich.


The women Odissi dancers wear nine yards long, brightly colored patta sari along with a black or red blouse known as the Kanchula. These days, saree is stitched in the form of a pyjama that helps in changing the costume quickly during a performance involving multiple outfits. The costumes of Odissi dance aptly compliment the steps and composure of the dancer. The costumes bright combo create a remarkable sight of the performance on the stage.


Odissi dance is accompanied by rich silver jewellery pieces. The decorative headpiece of the dancer, made from Styrofoam is given flower like shape. The ornaments are made of “thin wire” known as Tarchasi. The jewellery pieces play a vital role and is comprised of the tikka, exclusive ear covers in intricate shapes, allaka, jhumkis, two necklaces: longer one with a hanging pendant and a smaller one worn close to the neck, and two sets of bangles.


The three different hairstyles in Odissi dance are:

  1. Kati Beni: It’s a single plait down the back
  2. Pushpa-Chanda: Hair coiled into the shape of a flower
  3. Ardh-bathaka: Also, known as semi -circular bun


Kajal is applied around the eyes with a broad outline in order to give an elongated look. Face makeup is done to highlight facial features of a dancer. An elegant design is made on the forehead with a vermilion mark in the center. A bindi with a pattern made of sandalwood around it is applied on the forehead. The lip color is bright and dark, mainly maroon or red.

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Thus, Odissi dance is an essence of fluid grace and has a unique appealing lyrical quality.

 Featured Photo by Dance Photographer – Brendan Lally

Odissi Dance: Incredible Indian Classical Dance

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