Natya Kala Conference 2010
Dec 27: Odissi
Text & pics: Lalitha Venkat

December 30, 2010

Day two was devoted to Odissi and the lec-dem was presented by Guru Mayadhar Raut and his daughter / disciple Madhumita Raut on natya training and its subsequent development. The visit of the Jayantika group from Delhi was supported by the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Guru Mayadhar Raut, one of the pioneering members of the Jayantika movement, witnessed the growth of Odissi in Orissa from the 1930s and 1940s. The teaching tradition was very different then as Odissi was called Aanchalik Nritya at that time. He had to stay in gurukul and trained in Mahari nacha, gotipua nacha, Dakhini nacha, Dasinatyam, Sakhi nacha and Rasleela.

Kala Vikas Kendra in Cuttack was the first to start teaching Odissi according to a syllabus. In early days, mudras were present but their use was limited. Mudras used in Kala Vikas Kendra were based on the Abhinaya Chandrika. Mayadhar Raut joined in 1952 as a teacher and taught whatever he had learnt in gurukul. In 1955, he joined Kalakshetra and trained there till 1959. His stay in Kalakshetra led to Abhinaya Darpana and Natya Sastra also being introduced in the study of Odissi dance. Guruji himself demonstrated some mudras that he formulated that are typical of Odissi.

Guru Mayadhar Raut
Developing on the gotipua and mahari tradition and whatever survived history, the Jayantika association that was formed in 1959 with the sole purpose of codifying and redefining Odissi dance, developed the margam format that year and it became the teaching pattern that all gurus followed. The teaching was and is still based on Abhinaya Chandrika, Abhinaya Darpana and Natya Sastra. Unfortunately, the main gurus split over differences but the margam format is still being followed. In no other dance form did so many gurus, scholars, musicians, poets and eminent personalities come together to resurrect a classical dance form from oblivion. The contribution of Mayadhar Raut and Sanjukta Panigrahi, after their training in Kalakshetra was to add a lot of gestures and elaborations, especially abhinaya.

Stances were demonstrated from the gotipua and mahari tradition that were in use those days. Lord Jagannath at Puri is seated in a chowka position, hence this has special place in Odissi. Maharis used very little mudras. The entire Odissi repertoire used to be capsuled in one 20 minute item ending in a joyful dance that Guruji used to perform in 1952 in the Gotipua style, as demonstrated by the dancers. The Jayantika association broke this down into Mangalacharan, Batu, Pallavi, Abhinaya and Moksha. The musical instruments originally used were manjira and mardala. The singer sang only supporting lines while the gotipua danced and sang. Slowly violinists started accompanying the dancer. Flute and sitar were introduced by musicians from Bengal and even veena came to be a part of the Odissi orchestra. In 1950s, the famous Odissi belt and flowers were not in use. Aharya also underwent a change after the scholars delved into ancient texts.

What Odissi was then and what it is now are so different. Unbelievable progress has been made and Odissi is now popular on a global scale. Guruji firmly believes that methodical training must be executed in a disciplined and rigorous manner, and abhyasa sampradaya should be in strict adherence to the sastras, only then can the Odissi tradition be maintained.

Sumina, Sudha, Aadya
Madhumita Raut
The second half of the morning program saw Odissi items presented, the original margam of 1961-62, starting with Guruji's abhinaya for the ashtapadi "nindati chandana." The audience was thoroughly enchanted and honored to watch the 80 year old Guru perform for them. The traditional mangalacharan, batu nritya with typical Odissi karanas, Basant Pallavi, a new piece Karaharapriya Pallavi choreographed by Madhumita Raut were presented by dancers Sumina Das, Aadya Kaktikar and Sudha Narayan. Batu nritya is not performed now in general but it is part of the dance training at Jayantika. In 1964, Basant Pallavi was part of a dance presentation in the presence of scholars when Odissi was declared a classical form. Madhumita Raut emoted for the ashtapadi "Pashyati dishi dishi" and the final item was an Oriya song "Nachanti Krishna." The wonderful accompanying orchestra comprised of Harinarayan Mangaldas on vocal, Prafulla Mangaraj on pakhawaj and Afzal Zahur on violin.