In a three-part series, Aloka Kanungo traces the history of the Gotipua tradition – the precursor to modern day Odissi.
The dance, which has survived the years of turmoil and political unrest, which saw the sunshine of the Independence, which is an eyewitness to the development in the art scene of Orissa- is the root of to-days Odissi dance. Odissi was very crude and short then. In post Independence era the dance gurus, the gotipuas and their gurus, scholars, dancers,
Patrons along with the Maharis put their head together under the banner Jayantika to give Odissi repertoire a definite shape and structure. Because the Mahari dance was in decline, they were not of much help. Besides the sculpture and the treatise, there was not much clue to tie the loose ends of Odissi dance. At this juncture the experience, training and knowledge of the gotipua gurus were of great help for the revival of Odissi dance. Thanks to these gurus, who have sustained and maintained akhadas through sever adverse circumstances; otherwise Odissi would not have possibly got its present charming structure for which it has received worldwide name and fame.
Odissi was recognised as a classical dance form and has spread its branches to the nooks and corners, to the length and breadth and practically to all the places in the globe. The most renowned gurus of present day were the gotipuas of yester years. The prominent names are Padma bibhushana Guru Sri Kelucharana Mohapatra, Guru Sri late Debaprasad Das, Guru Sri Mayadhar Rout, Guru Sri Gangadhar Pradhan, Guru Sri Muralidhar Majhi, Guru Sri Hare Krishna Behera, Guru Sri Natabara Moharana, Guru Sri Dhruba charana Biswal, Guru Sri Bichitrananda Sahoo and many others. Odissi will also definitely remain indebted to the Gotipua gurus, who trained these gurus and many of them at their ripe age are still busy in giving training to the future generation. Among the gotipua gurus who have trained these stars and starlets are Late Chandrasekhar Patnaik, Late Padmacharan Das, Lt. Mahadev Rout, Sri Birabara Sahoo and Sri Maguni Das.
Though the Gotipua dance has contributed immensely to the cause of Odissi dance, this dance is considered as indigenous folk art. Scholars belittle it as a crude form and mere circus. But I am happy that Gotipua dance is growing in parallel to Odissi dance. Gurus & scholars are busy in giving it a total new dimension.
The acrobatic limb of Odissi- Bandha Nritya is totally relegated from the Odissi repertoire. It would have been lost in the laps of history, but thanks again to the gurus and gotipuas it is still alive. Odissi gurus scarcely feel the need of reviving it. The reason may be because; Odissi in its present form is so full of exquisite items that nobody feels the need for remembering the forgotten member. The veterans have discarded it as a mere circus. Moreover, the training requires considerable knowledge of the art, patience and hard work and can only be performed up to a certain age (adolescent period) as long as the joints are supple. Some people opine it may look vulgar when girls perform Bandha. It also leads to biological complications and severe physical discomfort to few trainees. Soit was left for the boys to practice Bandha Nritya.
But in the modern age when the auditorium is getting bigger and bigger, the distance between the audience and the performers has increased considerably, more importance is given on the body language than the facial expression BANDHA DANCE is a boon for Odissi.
I have tried to experiment this in my production Sthapatya Satya, which received a production grant from the Department of Culture, New Delhi, on the occasion of Golden Jubilee Celebration of our Independence. This production has been embellished with Bandha in four performing arts namely Bandha Chitra, Bandha Kavya, Bandha Nritya and Prabandha Geeta. Bandha means ‘tie or bond’ – so in my choreographic work, I have tried to establish a Bandha (rapport) between the audience and the spectators using the bandhas.
It is now time for all the enlightened gurus, scholars and dancers to revive this ancient limb of Odissi and restore in its befitting place, also to help the gotipua and their gurus in all possible ways and means.
I humbly bow to those who have taken great pain, who have nurtured and practiced the art, guarded it from the outside influence and preserved it in its pure and pristine form. I salute to the gurus who have produced the veteran gurus of present days and salute those who are now busy in training future- Kelucharanas, Mayadharas and Gangadhars. (Concluded)
(Aloka Kanungo is a famous Odissi dancer and an outstanding exponent of the dance form)