The Odissi dance is the Indian classical dance from the Eastern state of Odissa. It has a long, yet broken tradition. Although dance in Odissa may be traced back more than 2000 years, it was brought to near extinction during the colonial period. Therefore, modern Odissi dance is a reconstruction. Like other forms of Indian classical dance, the Odissi style traces its origins back to antiquity. Dancers are found depicted in bas-relief in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) dating back to the 1st century BC. The Natya Shastra speaks of the dance from this region and refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. Over the centuries three schools of Odissi dance developed: Mahari, Nartaki, and Gotipua. The Mahari tradition is the devadasi tradition; this is the use of women who are attached to deities in the temple. The Nartaki tradition is the school of Odissi dance which developed in the royal courts. Gotipua is a style characteristed by the use of young boys dressed up in female clothing to perform female roles. Odissi dance was held in high esteem before the 17th century. Nobility were known for their patronage of the arts, and it was not unheard of for royalty of both sexes to be accomplished dancers. However, after the 17th century, the social position of dancers began to decline. Dancing girls were considered to be little more than prostitutes, and the "Anti-Nautch" movement of the British brought Odissi dance to near extinction. Before Independence, the position of Odissi dance was very bad. The tradition of dancing girls at the temple at Puri was abolished. The royal patronage of nartaki had been severely eroded by the absorption of India under the crown. The only viable Odissi tradition was the Gotipua. This had weathered the British Anti-Nautch movement simply because it was danced by males. Yet even the Gotipua tradition was in a very bad state. Independence brought a major change in official attitudes toward Indian Dance. Like the other...
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