• Odissi Classical Dance is a dance of love and passion touching on the divine and the human, the sublime and the mundane. The Natya Shastra mentions many regional varieties, such as the southeastern style known as the Odhra Magadha which can be identified as the earliest precursor of present day Odissi.
  • Archaeological evidence of this dance form dating back to the 2nd century BCE is found in the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri near Bhubaneshwar.
  • Odissi, in its history, was performed predominantly by women, and expressed religious stories and spiritual ideas, particularly of Vaishnavism through songs written and composed according to the ragas & talas of Odissi music by ancient poets of the state.
  • Odissi performances have also expressed ideas of other traditions such as those related to Hindu deities Shiva and Surya, as well as Hindu goddesses Shaktism.
  • For centuries Maharis were the chief repositories of this dance. The maharis, who were originally temple dancers, came to be employed in royal courts which resulted in the degeneration of the art form. Around this time, a class of boys called gotipuas were trained in the art, they danced in the temples and also for general entertainment.
  • 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.
Odissi Classical Dance
Odissi Classical Dance

Elements of Odissi Classical Dance

  • Mangalacharan: It is the opening item where the dancer slowly enters the stage with flowers in her hands and makes an offering to mother earth.
  • Batu: Here 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.
  • Pallavi: There is 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 structure.
  • Tharijham: It is pure nritta like the Thillana of Bharatnatyam or Tarana of Kathak
  • The dance can be concluded in two ways. Moksha is dance of liberation through joyous movements. The Trikhanda Majura is another way of concluding, indicating leave taking from the gods, the audience and the stage.

Salient Features of Odissi Dance

  • Odissi derives its theme from Geeta Govinda mostly. The themes of Odissi revolve around Lord Krishna. The Ashtapadi of Jayadeva is a very common theme. Odissi centers on spirituality and devotion.
  • Odissi dancing follows the basic rules of the Natyashastra and the Silpasastra in its techniques. It has similar foot movements as Bharatnatyam. The essence of Odissi dance lies in its sculpturesque quality. Its beautiful poses resemble the sculptures of the famous temples, which once nourished this art.
  • The techniques of movement are built around the two basic postures of the Chowk and the Tribhanga. The chowk is 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.
  • Odissi presents a fine synthesis of Lasya and Tandava aspects of the Indian Classical Dance. The dancer very efficiently changes from one to the other according to the need of the expressional number, rhythmic syllables and abhinaya.
  • Hand gestures play an important role both in nritta where they are used only as decorative embellishments and in nritya where they are used for communication.
  • The music is a combination of Hindustani (predominantly) and Carnatic classical styles.
  • Odissi dance attire has a stitched costume in pyjama style made out of the special Odisha handloom silk sarees, draped in a comfortable style. Odissi dance uses silver jewellery.
  • This art form denotes the element of water.


  • Traditional Odissi repertoire sequence starts with an invocation called Mangalacharana
  • shloka (hymn) in praise of a god or goddess is sung, such as to Jagannath (an avatar of Vishnu), the meaning of which is expressed through dance. 
  • Mangalacharana is followed by Pushpanjali (offering of flowers) and Bhumi Pranam (salutation to mother earth). 
  • The invocation also includes Trikhandi Pranam or the three-fold salutation – to the devas (gods), to the gurus (teachers) and to the lokas or rasikas (fellow dancers and audience).
  • The next sequential step in an Odissi performance is Batu, also known as Battu Nrutya or Sthayee Nrutya or Batuka Bhairava
  • It is a fast pace, pure dance (nritta) performed in the honor of Shiva. There is no song or recitation accompanying this part of the dance, just rhythmic music. This pure dance sequence in Odissi builds up to a Pallavi which is often slow, graceful & lyrical movements of the eyes, neck, torso & feet & slowly builds in a crescendo to climax in a fast tempo at the end.

Famous Proponents

  • Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Madhavi Mudgal, Rekha Tandon, Sreyashi Dey and many more.

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