The Odissi is one of the six acknowledged classical dance forms of India. Like all other Indian Classical dances, for that matter like all India art forms, it has its initiation in religion and philosophy. It has its origin in the temples of Orissa. The rhythm, Bhangis and Mudras used in Odissi dance have a distinct style of its own. Odissi dance is performed mainly with the theme of Infinite love of Radha and Krishna.
The allied art of dance and music, which is more popularly known as the Panchama Veda was cultivated with success form a very ancient period in Orissa. It was King Mahameghavahan Kharvela, who himself was a proficient master in the art of dance and music provided a strong footing for further development of this art through his royal patronage. The Hathi Gumpha inscription states that in his third regal year King Kharvela entertained the people of capital city by organizing programmmes of dance and musical performance. This noble tradtion created by Kharvela came to be followed by the later rulers of Orissa and this art made further strides of pogress under the patronage of the Bhaumakara and Somavansi monarchs. However the community which palyed the greatest role in popularizing this art, by giving it a news sprit, a new hope and horizon, was the community of the temple maidens or Devadasis. Devadasis or Maharis used to practise this dance form and used to perform before the Lord as a form of prayer or ritual. At first they used to dance only the Nrutya accompanied by some Mnatras. But after Jaydev composed the Geeta Govindam thus incorporating abhinaya in dance form.
Odissi dance would have closest inside th temple but for Ray Ramananda, a dramtist and musician, who introduced it in another form. He taught Odissi to some boys and presented the dance form as Gotipua Nacha. He convinced Chaityna Dev that singing and ancing were also form of prayer. Thus Odissi dance form was enriched by the encouragement of various kings and a sweeping Vaishnava cult. Subsequently Odissi was further refined and it became a higher form of dance than Gotipua Nacha. Odissi includes both Tandava and Lasya elements. It has Navatala system. But the element that distiguinshes Odissi form other dance forms is the grace.
In Odissia the torso movement is consider important. The Odissi movement is soft, lyrical and graceful. The basic body position is chowka which is supposed to be replica of Lord Jagnnath body position. The dance evolved from devdais or Mahari Nritya and Goitipa. It has it mention in Bharat Natya Shastra as ‘Odramagadhi’ are of the ancient name of Orissa other than Kalinga, Tosali, Utkal. The five department of Odissi are Mangalacharan, Sthai or Batu. Pallavi, Abhinaya and Moksha. Odissi has its own style and music.
Late Debprasad, Guru Pankajcharan, Guru Kelucharna, late Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kumkum Mohanty, Indrani Rehema etc. are the persons who gave Odissi its life and charm. Other namis attach to odissi dance are Guru Nabakishore, Guru Gangadhar, Guru Ranbir, Guru Subrat Pattaniak, Illena etc.
As in every classical dance form, in Odissi too Guru Shisya tradition prevalent. It takes fine to seven year to get trained in this style but as Guru says a whole life dedication also seems to be less to master the form completely.