Odissi is not solely a "Classical Indian Dance" form, as proudly proclaims by its propagators. Neither it’s exclusively a "Temple Dance", as it sometimes referred to, nor wholly “ancient”. It is an imbricate of all of the above and more. It is modern too! It is complicated…
Odissi dance, or its earlier counterparts, Mahari, Gotipua, Nartaki, Odra-Magadhi and so on, has been cultivated and developed over millenniums as a mean to communicate and express the values of a monumental culture, which journeyed in time and space through incredibly complex and intertwined layers of spiritual views - Yogic, Tantric, Shamanic, Shaktism, Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Buddhism, Jainism, and more.
Dance in Odisha has a glorious history in conjunction with spiritual practice. Yet the court employed it for entertainment as well. Dance as worship in the temple culture had suffered greatly under the Muslim, and later British rule. It was only at the end of the colonial era; post India’s independence, due o the efforts of the revival movement (Jayantika), that Odissi gained its modern day name, format, and statues as a classical dance form. The revival movement carefully researched the ancient texts, archeological evidence, and fragments of indigenous movement art forms to reconstruct Odissi to reflect both its devotional core and its classically aligned format.
Despite the layers of tradition and ancient views embedded in this carefully structured classical dance form, it is alive and breathing with the movement of time. It is intricate and complex, yet inherently devotional and natural, as it is aiming to connect us with nature and the movement of the cosmos.