Odissi or Orissi is one of the pre-eminent classical dance forms of India which originated in the Hindu temples of the eastern coastal state of Odisha in India. Its theoretical base trace back to ‘Natya Shastra’ of Bharatamuni.

  • History and Evolution
  • Its roots can be traced back to Natya Shastra. The Natya Shastramentions many regional varieties, such as the south-eastern style known as the Odhra Magadha which can be identified as the earliest precursor of present-day Odisha.
  • Odra-Magadhi style of dance, which many scholars consider a precursor of twentieth-century Odissi.
  • Sites of archaeological and historical significance like caves and temples in Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar bear carvings that are historical manifestations of ancient art forms like music and dance.
  • Udayagiri, the largest Buddhist complex in Odisha depicts carvings of musicians and dance believed to be of the Odissi dance form
  • Reference of music and dance are also found in Udayagiri’s Hathigumpha Inscriptions that were inscribed by Kharavela.
  • Odissi is a highly stylised dance and to some extent is based on the classical Natya Shastraand the Abhinaya Darpana. In fact, it has derived a great deal from the Abhinaya Darpana Prakasha by Jadunatha Sinha, the Abhinaya Chandrika by Rajmani Patra, and the Abhinaya Chandrika by Maheshwara Mahapatra.
Odissi dance

Salient features of the dance form

  • This dance form includes themes from Vaishnavism and others associated with Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Surya and Shakti.
  • It is based on themes of Gita Govinda of Jayadeva. It is a profound example of the nayaka-nayikabhava and surpasses other poems in its poetic and stylistic content. The devotion of the poet for Krishna permeates through the work.
  • Its performance collection includes an invocation, nrita, nritya, natya, and moksha.
  • Odissi closely follows the tenets laid down by the Natya Shastra. Facial expressions, hand gestures and body movements are used to suggest a certain feeling, an emotion or one of the nine rasas.
  • The techniques of movement are built around the two basic postures of the Chowk and the Tribhanga.

Angika Abhinaya






Hasta Mudra

Hasta Mudra
  • The chowkis a position imitating a square – a very masculine stance with the weight of the body equally balanced. The tribhanga is a very feminine stance where the body is deflected at the neck, torso and the knees.
  • Hand gestures play an important role both in nrittawhere they are used only as decorative embellishments and in nritya where they are used for communication.
  • The torso movement is very important and is a unique feature of the Odissi style.
  • The opening item is Mangalacharanwhere the dancer slowly enters the stage with flowers in her hands and makes an offering to mother earth. This is followed by an invocation to the deity of the dancer’s choice. Generally, Ganesha is called upon to grant an auspicious beginning. The item ends with a nritta sequence with salutations to God, the Guru and the audience.
  • The next item is called Batuwhere the basic concepts of the Odissi nritta technique are highlighted bringing out the duality of the masculine and the feminine through the basic stance of the chauk and tribhanga. This is danced in praise of Batukeshwar Bhairav or Shiva. The accompanying music is very simple -only a refrain of dance syllables.
  • After the very basic exposition of nritta in Batu, comes the flowering and ornamentation of music and movements in Pallavi. A musical composition in a particular raga is visually represented by the dancer with slow and subtle movements, building up into complex patterns highlighting rhythmic variations within the tala
  • For centuries Maharis /Devadasiswere the chief repositories of this dance. However, they were employed in the royal courts. This led to general decline in the quality of the art form
  • Gotipuas, a class of boys were trained in the art, they danced in the temples and also for general entertainment
  • Odissi dance pays great importance to Lord Jagannath who is considered to be the god of the universe and is worshipped by the people of Orissa.


  • An Odissi orchestra essentially consists of a pakhawaj(Drums) player (usually the Guru himself), a singer, a flutist, a sitar or violin player and a manjira player(Cymbals).
  • It is accompanied by Hindustani classical Music.


  • The two most commonly used sarees for this dance are Sambalpuri saree and Bomkaisaree
  • The dancer is adorned in elaborate Odiya silver jewellery and a special hair-do. The sari, usually stitched nowadays, is unique to the style.
  • Famous exponents
  • The Odissi maestros who revived the art form in the late 1940s include Kelucharan Mohapatra, Raghunath Dutta, Deba Prasad Das, Pankaj Charan Das, Gangadhar Pradhan. Other famous personalities include Jhelum Paranjape, Mayadhar Raut, and Leana Citaristi.
  • Other famous exponents include disciples of Kelucharan Mohapatra namely Sanjukta Panigrahi, Sonal Mansingh and Kumkum Mohanty; Aruna Mohanty, Anita Babu and Aadya Kaktikar to mention a few.