- Nita Vidyarthi
August 5, 2017
Edited by Dr. Dinanath and Soubhagya Pathy
Published by Soubhagya Pathy
Editor, Angaraag, Bhubaneswar
Soft bound and Jacketed
In a world full of data in the internet, there is still a greater temptation to possess the exquisitely illustrated collection 'Dancing Ganjam' edited by Dr. Dinanath Pathy and Soubhagya Pathy, that opens many a forgotten and hitherto unknown artistic wonders of South Odisha. Heavily packed essays on the arts, history, folklore, folk traditions of principally South Odisha, embellished with high grade coloured and black and white photographs and stunning imprints of paintings, the volume brings to life the brilliant past and the vibrant present, appropriately redefining and reinterpreting it, at the same time illuminating a dream - the inviolable future. It documents the emergence of Ganjam Odissi and journeys through the rich cultural heritage of Ganjam, citing reasons for incorporating new dimensions to Odissi. The contributors to the volume, all experts in their respective fields, including the renowned editors, bring to focus the treasure trove, richness and vital facts of this geographical region that have been neglected during accounting the rise of modern Odisha. The late revered Dr. Dinanath Pathy belonged to Ganjam, and his involvement with Ganjam Odissi triggered off the idea of the anthology 'Dancing Ganjam' on the epistemology and semiotics of choreography in collaboration with his son Soubhagya.
Temptation even to flip through the pages begins from its cover. Before reaching the insightful foreword by Jatindra Kumar Nayak, the reader crosses the pictures of the panoramic view of green hilly South Odisha - nature, life and art, Saura wall paintings, life of semi-urbanised tribal women, floor designs with stone powder, wall paintings of Buguda and Dharakote, brilliant Ansara paintings of South Odisha, Nayika pata and others, painted wooden tablets of Radha and Krishna from Digapahandi, palm-leaf paintings of Amarusataka and photos of colonial arches of Dharakote palace. This is only the beginning. There are numerous plates of Kalamkari and Bomkai textiles, photographs of Ramayana paintings by Michha Pattajoshi on palm leaf by Eberhard Fischer, by John Emigh, a large number by Dinanath Pathy and paintings on canvas and mural paintings by Dilip Kumar Tripathy to cite a few, that pervade and fill the reader with awe.
The book has in total 25 essays complete with notes and references and a brief introduction of the highly qualified contributors. The preface, 'The glory of Ganjam glitters on stage' by the eminent critic Leela Venkataraman captures eloquently the details of the mega dance production after a brief introduction on the history of the area. Dinanath Pathy's four exhaustive articles in line, begins with "Introducing Dancing Ganjam" which lightly traces the history of dance revival through the geographical, social and cultural perspectives throwing light on the cultural boundaries and complexities mildly. He talks about the Bengali influence, the mind-set of 'founding fathers' of Odissi to push aside the "dakshini", and the change of nomenclature from Dakhininata to Odissi dance. This is intriguing. He comments that the term Odianata, which continued, would have been more appropriate. The making of Odissi is discussed with reference to styles and their Gurus and performance photographs of Ramli Ibrahim, Sutra dancers in 'Ganjam Odissi' side by side with Dandanata processions and horse dance of the Ganjam districts and many more as the main attractions.
In fact, this is a constant appeal and adorably true for the entire book. Regional traditions in South Odisha deal with the history, architecture, art, crafts and rituals. 'Prahalada Nataka,' the third discussion, is based on Shantanu Kumar Rath's thesis - Odia Lokanatya Parampara O Prahalada Nataka, 2002. Dinanath Pathy relooked at the theatre, concluding with a recommendation to the people of Paralakhemandi of the possibility of organising a weeklong Prahalada Nataka Festival in their own town involving the district administration, Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and Odisha.
'Sakhinata,' the prominent dance style of the 18th-19th century Odisha, is Pathy's most engrossing, informative, and significant piece to evolve exploration of techniques and methodology of this ignored style, as the Sakhinata groups survive under neglect and lack of Government support and need attention. An equally important follower to Dinanath Pathy's Sakhinata is Shantanu Kumar Rath's 'Radhapremlila.' 'Dancers and Spirits: Osakothi Rituals' by Soubhagya Pathy is an exposure to the act being an interface between dance, trance, poetry, music and painting which is not widely discussed or known. Dilip Kumar Tripathy's 'Lilas of South Odisha' and 'Kalaghoda dance' are interesting studies of play on epical narration and the dance of the mechanized horse, a sort of folk dance (Kalaghoda) respectively.
A brief account of 'Dasakathia,' the most popular item and form of ballad-singing in Odisha, resembling Pala, by Sitakant Mohapatra, earlier published in Imaging Odisha, Prafulla, 2013, has been included. Bijoy Kumar Rath in his essay on the 'Music Traditions of South Odisha' delineates the influence of Carnatic style of music in the then South Odisha with reference of his personal experience and its use in Sakhinata, Radhapremalila and Prahalada Nataka. It is a brief but an argumentative writing on projecting the findings properly before conclusion or being biased by regional fervour. He recommends further research and coordination to trace the history and authentic origin.
Guru Gajendra Panda discusses his work step-by-step from initiation, processing and modification of the dance project 'Dancing Ganjam' and accepting the challenge to collaborate with Ramli Ibrahim in his interesting account 'Ganjam: Polishing an Unhewn Diamond.' His plight of the selection of the music and formatting of the slokas using Sabda-punctuating syllables, a tradition of the Debaprasad Gharana, setting "Thainata" with appropriate music, to enriching the slokas with Ganjam flavour and search for "ukkuta" among others in choreographing the production, made for fascinating reading. Alex Dea writes on 'What does Sutra Dance Theatre mean' and reviews the production and remarks that "there is only enjoyment" and describes the production as "assemblage" of elements. Supporting this idea is a number of brilliant photographs of the performance.
Divya Nair writes of her experience as an assistant to the artistic director of the production while Sivarajah Natarajan talks about his lighting concept. A. Pratap gives his responses in photographing the production. Then there is an interesting interview of Ramli Ibrahim by Soubhagya Pathy. Gaganendra Nath Dash's insightful analysis of philology, history and linguistic traits and influence on the Odia language and its evolution in 'The Centre was out there in the South, in Ghumsar' brings to light many important facts about the linguistic and literary centre of the Odia-speaking tracts and the emergence of an Odia identity. It also discusses the literature of Upendra Bhanja and the making of this poet into an icon. A very interesting article indeed!
Ramesh P. Panigrahi's historical report on Kalingan Culture refers to 'Space, Cultural Politics and the Ganjam ingrained in Dharakote.' Basant Kumar Panda discusses the 'Role of Ganjam in the formation of New Odisha' with chronological and historical details. An article on music and dance personalities by Sangita Gosain Mahapatra and Soubhagya Pathy features Gopalakrushna, Bhubaneswar Mishra and Sanjukta Panigrahi. It is heartening to know about 'Lord Rama, the Cultural Icon of South Odisha' in Sudarshan Acharya's article and the origin, the quality, the material, the colours and the thematic content of Kalamkari textiles in Eberhard Fischer and Dinanath Pathy's essay entitled 'The Ramayana. Two Kalamkari Textiles.' 'Kapdagonda Dongria Kondha Textiles' by Pankaja Sethi talks about the identity of Kondha textiles which illustrates cultural and social context of Kapdagonda particularly the role of gender in relation to material culture and narratives. And Rebanto Goswami discusses the motifs, making weaves of all time favourite 'Bomakei: Jewel of Traditional Odishan Textile' in the concluding essay.
The elegant and worthy collection gives the reader an opportunity to discover the vitality and vibrancy of Ganjam Odissi and its journey through Ganjam through this vivid documentation which can well serve as an important research material. The collection is an asset and a collector's item. If only the binding could be sturdier to withstand frequent handling to prevent such glossy pages and rare photographs from loosening!
Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.
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