Odissi, a new experience to discover Indian culture

Oddissi

Dear Readers of R Magazine, this article will hopefully emphasize the interest in Indian culture! It is about Odissi dance, in the hopes of drawing a new representation of India outside its common association with Bollywood films.   

For that purpose, we let you read an interview with Annaya Kar, an Odissi dancer.

R Magazine: What is Odissi?

Annaya Kar: There are eight main classical dance forms in India, one of them being Odissi. It is the dance form that I have been practicing since I was five. It originates from the East Indian state, Odisha, which is also my home state where I was born. Under the British rule, this dance was forbidden by the British Crown, and had to wait until the Independence of India, on 15 August 1947, to be formalized again.

 

R Magazine:  Why did you choose Odissi?

AK: Ever since I was a toddler, I loved dancing, and my first teacher, Shrimati Guru Manasi Mishra, saw my first ever performance on stage for an organization called the Odisha Society of the Americas (OSA). It is a society that helps to preserve our culture even when we are abroad. Through Odissi, I was able to learn about and stay in touch with my culture and religion, Hinduism, and thus that drew me even closer to the art form. I have my gurus Guru Shri Manoranjan Pradhan, Shrimati Guru Minati Pradhan, Guru Shri Sachikant Pradhan, Shirimati Guru Sreyashi Dey, and Shrimati Guru Manasi Mishra to thank for training me in this dance form.

R Magazine: What is your definition of the term art?

AK: It is something that should be accessible to everybody because everybody has a right to express themselves, and art is the reflection of the ideas that can help humanity to conceive itself. It is a means for humanity to question the aims that we have and why we have them, and could be considered as a philosophy to understand the purpose of our being.

 

R Magazine: What advice would you give a Canadian or European person to discover Odissi?

AK: The first thing to do is to watch an Odissi performance, preferably live, however if that is not possible, there are many wonderful performances on YouTube by artists such as Shrimati Guru Sujata Mohapatra, Padma Shri Guru Sanjukta Panigrahi, and Padma Vibhushan Guru Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra. To learn more about Odissi’s origins, I would recommend reading the Natya Shastra, which is the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of performance arts. The English translation of this text is available online as well.

 

R Magazine:  Which picture does have Indian people of Odissi nowadays?

AK: One of the most influential teachers in the current day and age is Shirimati Guru Sujata Mohapatra. Her father-in-law was Padma Vibhushan Guru Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra, who is considered as one of the founding fathers of Odissi and helped give a new birth to this dance style after India gained its independence from Britain.

 

R Magazine: Who are some of the exponents who have had the most influence in developing Odissi after British rule?

AK: There are Adi Guru Padma Shri Pankaj Charan Das (considered the father of Odissi), Padma Vibhushan Guru Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra (one of the founding fathers of Odissi), Guru Shri Deba Prasad Das (one of the founding fathers of Odissi), Padma Shri Guru Mayadhar Raut (one of the founding fathers of Odissi), Guru Mahadev Raut, Guru Shri Raghu Dutta, and Padma Shri Guru Dr. Gangadhar Pradhan.

 

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