Odissi or Orissi dance originated from the eastern Indian state of Odissa and is the oldest form of the 8 classical dance forms of India. The oldest archaeological evidence for Oddisi dance are the carvings found at the Manchapuri cave in Udayagiri dating back to more than 2,000 years ago. Many of the poses or positions found in modern day Odissi dance reflect the carvings found at Manchapuri and many other Hindu and Buddhist temples. Three separate Odissi dance traditions developed over the millennia: Maharis, Gotipua, and Nartaki.
The dance was popular in the royal courts until the 17th century, but as feudal courts lost their power during the British colonization, the dance and dancers' reputation suffered so much so that by the 1940s there were very few gurus (teachers) of this dance. After India's independence from Britain, scholars poured over ancient texts, and with help from the remaining dancers of Odissi, they revived the dance to an adapted stage form.
Today the dance is performed in devotion to the Hindu god Krishna. The abhinaya part of the dance tells the love story of Radha and Lord Krishna from the Sanskrit poet Jayadeva's Gita Govindam. Both the adhinara and the non-acting part of the dancing called nritta has the characteristic feature, tribhangi, which is a posture where the body is bent in three places with mudras (special hand positions). During the adhinara part of the Odissi dancing, the dancer also uses additional hand positions and eye movements to relate the emotions and context of the story.
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