Dances of Orissa
'Odissi', the traditional dance of Orissa, has been accepted as an important classical form of Indian dance for its exquisite beauty and charm. It has its origin in the temples. The rhythm, the bhangis and mudras used in Odissi dance have a distinctive quality of their own. Odissi dance deals largely with the love theme of Radha and Krishna. It is a lyrical form of dance with its subtlety as its keynote. The intimate relationship experienced between the poetry and music in Odissi is a feature on which the aesthetics of the style is built. Odissi bases itself on a wealth of systematized techniques which make this dance aesthetically appealing and visually delightful. It is a "sculpturesque" style of dance with a harmony of line and movement. What is interesting about Odissi is that body position is not merely a part of the vocabulary or frame-work. The posture by itself conveys a particular mood or message. The names of these postures too express the moods they represent.
Chhau is an ancient dance form. It originated in the mock fights of the Oriya paikas (warriors) who fought rhythmically to the accompaniment of indigenous music instruments The highly stylised Chhau dance of today follow the basic principle of the Natya Shastra of Bharat Muni and the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara. The Chhau dancers worship Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the two presiding deities of the Tandava and the Lasya styles respectively. The typical Chhau dance pose when the dancer at rest is the bent knee so that the legs form a square, right hand raised upward with the left hand hanging down, both forming right angles the elbow.
Mahari Dance comes from the Nata temple and has reached and has reached the stage and classical Odissi dance art. Guru Pankaja Charana Das is the foremost proponent of the Mahari dance.
Naga dance is a traditional folk dance of Orissa. The dancer has a heroic feature and wears a special dress. He dances with a heavy load of weapons to the sound of the battle drums. His bow bears the face of a tiger and looks awesome. He possesses a long crown with a big flower at he end decorated with glittering peacock feathers. He has a string of beads on the neck, feathers of 'ara' (a bird with brown feathers found in lake Chilka) on his arms, a mirror and a string of beads on his wrist, flags on the arrows, handkerchief tied to the hands, a small bell attached to the thigh. He smears his body with 'rama raja' (a powder of yellow colour) to save himself from the scorching heat of summer. He decorates his forehead with vermilion. He wears an artificial beard and moustache. Dressed up he looks very ferocious. This dance is not accompanied by any song.
The 'Ghumra' - a kind of drum of the size of a pitcher - produces a deep musical sound. The drummer ties the rope of the ghumra round his neck, makes it hang and plays on it, sings and dances to its tune at social functions.
The 'Jatra' or opera still attracts thousands of people. The Jatra is held in the open field. The rectangular stage is set in the centre of the audience with the orchestra sitting adjacent to the stage. Beginning with items on the 'harmonium', 'clarionet', 'bugle', 'mridanga', 'jhanja', 'dubi tabla', 'dholki' etc. by the experts of the party, the opera starts with a party of dancing and singing boys appearing in female garbs. The King generally appears in a stereotyped dress and the themes are often historical or mythological. The male actors are dressed up as females. The 'Duari' or 'Dagara' ( the messenger of the King) and the joker are the most interesting characters in the Jatra.
Pala is a popular cultural institution responsible for the popularisation of ancient Oriya literature. It consists of five or six persons. The drummer plays on the 'mridanga'. Others play on the cymbals, dance and help the chief singer - 'Gayaka', - to sing and explain the meaning to the audience. Depth of knowledge, sharpness of intelligence, oratory and keen memory power are put to a severe test when two well-matched groups challenge each other in a 'pala' competition. The drummer displays the skill of his fingers and relates humorous stories to please the audience. The dialogue between the singer and one of the attendants breaks the monotony of long speeches and jugglery of words in the song.
Patuas sing songs, composed by the village poets who pick up the subject matter from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the puranas and more recently from novels. Some of the songs are simple in thought and language, while others have a deeper meaning and are shrouded in a jumble of words. 'Patuas' are of four kinds though all of them worship the same deity under different names. The difference lies in religious rituals and not in the aims and objects of worship. The 'Ghata patua' dances, sings and performs physical exercises in different villages. The best of the devotees leads a party of Patuas to walk on a fire of burning charcoal.
'Daskathia', once a popular performance of Ganjam, has spread to all other districts of Orissa. 'Dasa' means a devotee. 'Katha' means two wooden pieces played in tune with the prayer of the devotee. The party consists of two persons. One is the chief singer, the other is the 'Palia' who helps him in all respects in singing and acting. The two persons stage a whole drama, act all the parts, change their tone hour after hour. They introduce humorous stories to break the monotony.
The 'Tamasa' is a form of opera which reminds us of the Mughal administration prevalent in Orissa and is a symbol of their culture. The songs are composed in both Persian and Oriya.
The Karma dancers and singers have their professional party. They deal with puranic events or events in folk tales. Love songs are sung in the form of questions and answers between parties of young men and women.
Crafts of Orissa
Playing Cards of Orissa
Ganjifa cards are painted on a canvas of three layers of gum pasted cloth which is then coated with liquid chalk and polished with stone. The backs of the circular shaped cards are laquered for stifness. the delicately painted cards include a 120 pack set of 'dasavatara' cards and 'hukmi' cards featuring paintings from Hindu mythology. The best of Ganjifa playing cards display fine lines and a pleasing delineation of features in the micro figures along with harmonised pleasing colours.
Applique Craft of Orissa
A temple based craft which embellishes Lord Jagannath's umbrella, fan, etc. as well as the auspicious temple 'tombais' the applique craft of Pipli near Bhuvaneshwar uses materials of various colours which are cut and stitched on a single colour base to form vibrant patterns. The applique work is done with great dexterity and the charming motifs include flowers, birds, animals at play and vignettes from every day life. The best of Orissa's applique work is distinguished by a dextrous juxtapositioning of figures, forms, flora and fauna and the use of vivid colours. Softer pastel shades are used for garden umbrellas, accessories, etc.
Orissa is a centre of pure silver filigree work. In this craft pure silver ingots are pu through a wire drawing machine and the hair like wires are twisted and flattened. The thin wires are pleated and flattened again to get them as thin as the original wire and then bent into various shapes to form the required shape of the designs. The space within the frame is filled with creepers, flowers, etc. The effect is incredibly delicate, almost lace like. Orissa craftsmen make beautiful silver filigree jewellery, kumkum boxes, spoons, etc.
Orissa is famous for its "ikat" weave which is the equivalent of the Indian art of "bandhini" or tying and dyeing the yarn before it is put on the loom. In Orissa the weaving is done in single ikat. In other words only the warp is tied and dyed and then fixed on the loom. The single ikat designs are diffused and very attractive. they are generally floral patterns, birds, animals and fish.
Patachitra has a history going back to the 5th century BC. It is done on cloth prepared with coating made from a mixture of chalk and gum. On this surface paintings are done with earth and stone colours. Apart from stories drawn from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata popular patachitra themes are figures of Lord Jagannath, Balaram, Lord Krishna and his exploits with the Gopikas, Krishna holding up Govardhana, etc. All this is executed in a riot of exuberant colours: dark green, lapis lazuli, parrot green, rose madder, bright oranges, yellows. the paintings are touched by a hint of gold and silver.
Soap stone and granite figures and icons are the speciality of Puri craftspersons. Many of the figures are those of gods and goddesses, apsaras and temple figurines. Different dance poses are beautifully executed on both granite and soapstone and brilliant craftsmenship and detailing go into the sculpting of jewellery on the figures, the fine depiction of stone trees laden with leaves, fruit, etc.
Golden Grass Artifacts
Oriya craftspersons fashion delicate golden hued boxes and mats out of golden grass which is the stem of the "khus khus" plant. Very delicate looking, the gentle and soft looking products span boxes and trinket cases, place mats and ethereally beautiful floor and wall mats.
Wooden figures are made in the Puri region of Orissa. These figures are annually carved and worshipped during the rath yatra festival and then destroyed.
Naurangpur has a distinct type of laquering with its own designs and colour schemes. many decorative items and toys are made but their speciality is a box made generally of bamboo, sometimes of papier mache, brightly laquered and highly decorated with folk motifs, animals, flowers, birds, etc and these boxes are traditionally used for exchanging gifts. It is very attractive and greatly fancied in many foreign countries as it is an inexpensive, roomy, light and colourful gift wrapper.
In Orissa, brightly painted masks are carved out of wood, shola pith and other indigenous materials, for use in the sahi jatra, a professional form of theatre, which takes place at the time of Ramlila, but seems to particularly highlight the death of ravana. Some of these masks are made in papier mache. The form is taken out on a a mould but the actual face, specially the expression appropriately related to each character is carefully painted in pleasing combinations of colours.
The iron beams of Korarak Sun temple is a living testimony to the durability of old iron works of the state. Orissa has production establishments making a large variety of exquisite vessels in various shapes. The workers are mostly drawn from the kansari community.
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