Odissi, Kathak and Manipuri
Origin and History (Odissi)
In 2 century B. C, the statues depicting Odissi poses that were sculpted during the period of Jain King Kara vela are seen in the Udayagri Hatheegumpa caves. These sculptures are very old. The Kara vela himself was a dancer and musician. There is evidence that he was conducting Thandava and Abhinaya programs. In another cave of Udayagri called Rani Nahar, there is picture of his royal musician’s vadyavrinda.
Another historical evidence of 7 century originated from Bhuvaneshwar’s Brahmishwara temple talk about a king Rajakesari Udyotha. The evidence says that, the king’s mother Kolavathi Devi, got a temple built for lord Shiva and had gathered many deva dasis to dance in that temple
The Kesari Kingdom which was ruling Orissa for over 300 years had Kings Nrithya Kesari who excelled in dance and Gandharva Kesari who called in music.
After Kesari Varmsa, Ganga Varmsa was ruling Orissa.That time Orissa was part of Karnataka. The King Joda Ganga deva was ruling in 12 century and he was learned and was also a good art lover. He started constructing Puri Jagannatha Temple. This Temple from that time till today stands as a support to Orissa’s all art forms. This King also introduced Mahari dancers in the temple. King Bhima deva, in 12th century, constructed Natya mandira’s in all temple which was reserved for dance programs. In this century, Jaya deva, who was in the Kingdom of Ganga King Lakshmana sena, composed Geetha Govinda. During this time, Maheshwara Mahopathra writes a classical book on Odissi dance called “Abhinaya Chandrika “. Ganga dynasty’s last King Raja Deva had deployed 20 Maharis in Puri Temple.Kapilendra deva of 15th century was the first King of Surya Varmsa. He made the arrangement of Mahari’s dancing two times in the temple.
During Bhogh, i.e., lunch time and during Bharah-Shringar i.e., time in which adoration to God is done (prior to his bed time), he arranged for singing Geetha Govinda every day in Puri Temple.
Origin and History (Odissi)
There are two types of Mahari’s in Temples. Bheethargani are the Maharis who dance during lunch time or bhog and dance in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum during Shayanothsava. Bahargani Maharis dance on the general stage laid for the public to view. In 16th century, Orissa Kingdom shifted to many hands lost its independence and came under British rule. This had a severe impact on the culture, religion and daily life of people in that region. During the rule of Ram Chandra deva in 17th century, the Maharis, who were serving the temple, were made to dance in the King’s court.
In Ram Chandra deva’s court, Gothipuras (small boys) started performing dance. They wore costumes like girls and were performing in the temples as well as outside to entertain people. The schools Akhada or Vyayama were providing proficiency to these Gothipuras. They were performing the rare Acrobatics in the dance. Todays Odissi dance is derived from this Gothipuras dance.
Method of Practice (Odissi)
Odissi has a strong foundation of shasthra. The reference is from Bharatha’s Natyashasthra, Nandikeshwara’s Abhinaya Darpana and also from its own Abhinaya Chandrika. Many such works are written in Oriya language itself. The specialty of these works is that, they have drawings depicting different concepts. With all these, in Odissi dance, much importance is given to theoretical aspects (as per shasthra.)
The beginners first learn Pada Bhedas and Beli or sthanakas. The Bhangis or poses that have symmetries are very attractive. The popular and most used Bhangi is chowka Bhangi. Thribhangi is another attraction of Odissi.
The prime, adavus-like movement is called Thani or Karana. The combined Jathis of Karanas, bhangis, sthanakas are called Bandhas. The prime and important dance item of Odissi dance is Bandhas Nrithya .There are many compositions comprising Nriththa and Nrithya. The item comprising Nrithya and Abhinaya, which is the last one is very popular.
Today’s Odissi programs start with Bhoomi pranama and continue with Shloka “ vighna raja pooja “.The dance form ‘Bhatu’ is about Bhatu Bhairava or Shiva. After this Ishta Devatha vandana is performed. In swara pallavi, importance is given to Nritha, Nrithya, Raga and Thala. Typical programs contain swara pallavi as an important item, which starts with swara and sokattus and end with the Bhava abhinaya. Other than this in items with abhinaya, importance is given to Jaya deva’s Geetha Govinda. The performance may also include dance forms for the works in Oriya, composed by Chaithanya Mahaprabhu, Banamalidas and Vidyapathi. Last item may have a fast rhythmic piece, similar to Thillana, called Tharijham. The very last piece will be a dance form called Mocha. This ends a program with the dancer dedicating herself totally to God with Adhyathamika Bhava.
History of Manipuri
Initially, this dance was inspired by nature. But gradually there were dance forms in praise of Shiva and parvathi and later Vaishnava Gods were also depicted. This way of practice is common to all forms of dance in India. Mathis and Vishnu Priyas are two sets of people who have composed many dance forms based on Bhakthi.
During the Ashwamedhayaga of Mahabharata, when Arjuna is killed by his son Babhruvahana, his life is saved by a Mani Sanjeevini from Nagaloka. Based on this episode, this place got its name as Manipur as per an old story.
Another story says, when Radha & Krishna were performing Rasaleela, Lord Shiva was asked to keep a vigil as no one else sees it. But parvathi sees this Rasaleela and expresses her longing for the same to Shiva, who with his Thrishul, creates a water body there, where for 7 days Shiva and Parvathi performed Rasaleela. For this, Gandharva performed music, and Nagaraja lit the place with his ShiroMani. Due to this, the name Manipur was given to this place. These Puranic stories are generally depicted in this dance form. As per an old Puranic story Moyi Ranga Prabha, Shiva and Parvathi were born Ias Kamba and Thoyibi. They were caught in pralaya and died. This is still depicted in a dance called Laiharoba.
During king Jaisinga’s (Bhagya Chandra’s) rule, Vaishnava compositions became common. Bhagyachandra constructed Govindji temple in Imphal and composed a dance form depicting Rasaleela of Radhakrishna. He created the costumes of Manipuri’s Raas dance and in 1769, staged the Raas dance for the first time in the Govindji temple. He built a separate Radha Krishna Mantapa for staging this dance. Bhagya Chandra had composed Raas in 3 parts called Maha Raas, Vasantha Raas and Kunj Raas. His son Keerthi Singha, composed Nartha Raas and yet another 64 types of dance sequences. The period of their rule was a golden era for Manipuri dance.
Method of Practice (Manipuri)
The practice of Manipuri is very systematic. In the absence of facial expressions, the expressions are brought out by the way they bend their body. Hasitha Mudras are used while dancing for Govinda leela composed by Bhagyachandra. The Nriththa part of Rasa leela is called chali. The dancers practice 5 types of bhangis called Pareng, other movements and postures. Out of these 5 bhangis, 3 are in Lasya and 2 are in thandava. The practice is so strict that there is perfection in all bhangis and Pareng and in a group performance, there is absolutely no variation or difference in individual performance.
Rasa Nrithya is danced for many nights. The program starts with a prayer to the accompaniment of Thala and Mridanga during evening. Rasa Nrithya is performed throughout the night till dawn. The program starts with Krishna’s dance, his disappearing, Gopikas viraha, Krishna’s reappearance, pushpanjali and Aarathi.
Manipuri, philosophically follows Vaishnava sharanagathi and the dancers, with their mind and body, dedicate themselves to this experience. Hence this dance does not have abhinaya separately.
Other than Laiharoba and Rasa Nrithya, a third type of dance called Sankeerthana is popular in Manipur. In this all dancers sing and dance in praise of God to the accompaniment of Thala and Maddhala. During festivals, marriages, naming ceremony or any other happy occasions, people perform this Sankeerthana. This comprises of two important parts: Poong Chola and Karathala Chola. The Mridanga (Poong) is hung around one’s neck, and maintaining the rhythm, the dancers perform acrobatic tricks. This dance is very thrilling. This dance is performed by either a small group or at times by hundreds of people.
In Karathala Chola, the dancers hold Thala tied with red thread, which they play while dancing. They dance for different rhythmic patterns. The great poet Rabindranath Tagore struggled for the popularity of Manipuri.