Odissi is regarded as one of the oldest surviving classical dance forms based on the archaeological evidences. This traditional dance was performed in the temples of Orissa as a religious rite and offering by the temple dancers known as ‘Maharis’. It finds a mention in the inscriptions, depicted on sculptures, in temples like the Brahmeswara and the dancing hall of the Sun Temple at Konark. It is with the assistance of these inscriptions and the text of the book ‘Abhinaya Chandrika’ that Odissi was revived and revitalised in the 1950s in India.
Odissi is a soft, lyrical classical dance, which is based on the theme of love and devotion to God, especially the adaptation of the Sanskrit play ‘Geet Govinda’. A typical Odissi performance begins with an elaborate prayer routine called ‘Mangalacharan’ and concludes with ‘Moksha’, or the surrender of the dancer to the divine. It presents a fine synthesis of ‘Lasya’ (femininity) and ‘Tandava’ (masculinity) aspects of the Indian Classical Dance. The dance numbers are either in Sanskrit or Oriya and the music is a combination of Hindustani and Carnatic classical styles.
Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Protima Bedi, Musiri Subramani Iyer, Sangeeta Dash, Priyambata Mohanty, Kiran Sehgal, Aluka Kanungo, Surupa Sen, Bijoyini Satpathy and various others like Sonal Mansingh and Malavika Sarukhai, who practise more than one style of dance.