Odissi, one of the rarest dance forms which has originated in the 1st century BC, hails from the state of Odisha, which is famous for its rich history and cultural values. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India based on archaeological evidence found in the caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha. The caves depict carvings of musicians and dancers. Reference of music and dance are also found in Hathigumpha Inscriptions that were inscribed by Kharavela, the Jaina king of Kalinga from the Mahameghavahana dynasty who ruled sometime around the 1st or 2nd century BCE.
Odissi’s theoretical base trace back to ‘Natya Shastra’, a detailed treatise and handbook on dramatic art that deals with all aspects of classical art forms. The age-old tradition of Odissi is manifested from Odisha Hindu temples and various sites of archaeological significance that are associated with Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, the sculptures of which adorn dance postures of this art form. The dancers emote and illustrate the mythological stories of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism with excellent body movements, expressions, impressive gestures and sign languages. Its performance repertoire includes invocation, Nritta, Nritya, Natya, and Moksha.
Traces of Odissi dance on the walls of Odisha Hindu Temples