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First Presidential address by Biranchi Narayan Rautray in the first meeting of Jayantika established on June 22, 1958
(Translated from Odia by Malabika Patel, edited by Ileana Citaristi)

May 9, 2019


Human beings have an important and vital aspect to their lives which is of great significance besides their economic and social life. This is their cultural life. The evolution and development of cultural life bestows inner happiness in human beings. The gamut of culture is vast, it encompasses dance, music etc which is an integral part of life. If this part is deformed, it distorts the entire society. The equipoise is disturbed. Hence, all of you working in your respective field of dance should realize its importance in the society and understand your duties and responsibilities. Like all other forms of education, this also calls for tenacity and grit. Without hard work, indomitable courage, patience and perseverance, it is difficult to achieve excellence in dance. So, those of you, who have achieved this or have been striving for it, should not feel inferior but consider yourselves equal to other well educated elite class.

Once upon a time, Odissi dance may have gone beyond the pinnacle of excellence. But the apathy and neglect of many centuries has only reduced it to the silent frozen stone sculptures found in temple crevices. The indifference on the part of the descendants is responsible for it.  Thankfully, for the past few years, a great avant-garde movement has been initiated for its revival and rehabilitation. The slow and sweet melody of the movementís trumpet has not remained restricted to Orissa but is resonating in the whole world.

Amidst this fanfare and exhilaration, every dance expert and dancer should get inspired with nationalist feelings and dedicate themselves to achieve the great objective of reviving the nationís glory. This should be taken as a challenge.  However, to move forward in this direction, some structured processes and procedures are required. The goal is one, so unity is highly desirable. Many hurdles, obstacles, highs and lows may come up behind this movement. However, the only antidote is cooperation. Without cooperation, not an iota of progress is possible.

First of all what is required is an independent, impartial strong organization under whose banner all the dancers and dance experts can come together. The basis of this unity will be cooperation, friendship and camaraderie. We all have to come together in one voice to recognize and accept Odissi dance as the national dance, but then to establish this fact, what we may lack is the requisite strength.

Many differences exist in hand movements, gestures, costumes and hairstyles across places. The irritability of parents is also to be reckoned with. At times some difference in payment terms between a dance teacher and the parents results in the latter withdrawing their ward from the particular teacher and shifting to another teacher. By fostering unity amongst the fraternity, such obstacles and hardships can be mitigated.

To establish Odissi dance as a classical dance, the following things are required:
1.    In depth research in Odissi dance
2.    Setting up standards of training
3.    Standardization of mudras, gestures and steps in the dance
4.    Spread of Odissi dance 
5.    Cooperation and collaboration between different organizations

If such an Association is formed, the dance directors will benefit in manifold ways. Those who want to teach the students privately can inform the Association directly. What type of dance is required by the students and what fees they could offer can be ascertained from the Association and such teachers can be arranged. This way both the guardians and the dance teachers can be benefitted.  If any organization faces shortage of teachers or if someone wants to impart teaching, such arrangements can be organized by the Association.

The Association has a library. It should facilitate research.  At least every week, the entire dance community should get together and express their complaints and concerns. In case of difference of opinion, all efforts should be made to resolve the issues. Apart from this, exchange of views can take place; efforts to collect facts on folk dances besides Odissi dance can be made.

The Chhau dance of Seraikella is today in a moribund state. After Seraikella and Kharasuan became part of Bihar, it has lost its fervor. Those who had dedicated their lives to this art form are now leading a helpless and impoverished life. Though we do not have resources to uplift their financial condition, we can patronise Chhau dance for which I feel, they will be greatly reassured. I hope you all will actively progress towards finding solutions to such problems.

Biranchi Narayan Rautray was a journalist in the leading Odia newspaper Prajatantra.

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