Gotipua is a traditional dance form in the state of Odisha, India and the precursor of Odissi classical dance. It has been performed in Odisha for centuries by young boys, who dress as women to praise Jagannath and Krishna. The dance is executed by a group of boys who perform acrobatic figures inspired by the life of Radha and Krishna. The boys begin to learn the dance at an early age until adolescence, when their androgynous appearance changes. In the Odia language Gotipua, means "single boy" (goti-pua). Raghurajpur, Odisha (near Puri) is an historic village known for its Gotipua dance troupes.
In ancient times, the temples of Odisha had female dancers called "Devadasi or Mahari" who were devoted to Lord Jagannath. The sculptures of the dancers on the bas-reliefs of the famous temples of Odisha (the Sun Temple in Konark and the Jagannath temple in Puri), show the evidence of this very ancient tradition.
Around the 16th century, with the decline of the Mahari dancers, the class of these boy dancers came into existence in Odisha, to carry out the tradition. This was during the time of Bhoi king Rama Chandra Dev, founder of Bhoi dynasty.
The Gotipua dance is in Odissi style, but their technique, costumes and presentation differ from those of the Mahari. The singing is done by the dancers themselves.
To transform into graceful feminine dancers, the boys do not cut their hair to make an elaborate hair-do in a knot. Garlands of flowers are woven into the hair. They apply make-up on their face with white and red powder mixed together. Kajal (black eyeliner) is applied around the eyes with a broad outline to give them an elongated look. The Bindi (red dot) is applied on the forehead with a pattern made from sandalwood around it. Traditional paintings adorn the face and are the identity of every dance school.
The costume has evolved over time. The traditional dress is a Kanchula, a brightly coloured blouse with shiny decorations. An apron-like, embroidered silk cloth (nibibandha) is tied around the waist like a ruffle and worn around the legs. Some dancers still adhere to tradition by wearing a pattasari: a piece of thin fabric about 4 metres (13 ft 1 in) long, worn tightly with equal lengths of material on both sides and a knot on the navel. However, this traditional dress is often replaced by a newly designed cloth which is easier to put on.
Dancers wear specially designed, beaded jewelery: necklaces, bracelets, armbands and ear ornaments. Nose-piercing jewelery has been replaced with a painted motif. Ankle bells are worn, to accentuate the beats tapped out by the feet. The palms of the hands and soles of the feet are painted with a red liquid known as alata. The costume, jewelery and bells are considered sacred.
The dance typically begins with a vandana prayer (an invocation, with prayers of gratitude to Mother Earth, Jagannath and one's guru and welcoming the audience). The dancers perform a three-step salutation: the first above their heads towards God, the second in front of their faces for the guru and the third in front of their chests for the audience. The Sa ri ga ma is a dance celebrating beauty, and highlighting the mastery of technique; it is portrayed by dancers and musicians carved into the outer walls of ancient temples.
The Abhinaya is the enactment of a song and interpretation of ancient poetry. This dance depicts Radha Krishna-oriented poems, such as the 12th-century Gita Govinda. The verses used for narration are extremely ornate in content and suggestion. Graceful, fluid, and sensual, the Abhinaya resembles a moving love poem with its facial expressions, eye movement and mudra gestures:
"Come and see, my love
Here comes Krishna, the flute player, the Supreme Performer
Come and see, my love
He dances wearing ankles bells
So lovely rhythmic patterns he makes
Listen to his melodies, the mardala beats
Listen to his flute and clappings."
An interesting part of Gotipua is Bandha Nrutya, the presentation of acrobatic yogic postures (referring to mythological scenes from the life of Krishna) similar to visual presentations by the pattachitra artists of Odisha. The difficult and intricate poses (requiring suppleness of limb) are known as Bandha ("acrobatic" in the Odia language). To perform this dance, boys need to start learning it at the age of five or six. Musical accompaniment is provided by the Mardala (a two-headed drum, a percussion instrument in Odisha), Gini (small cymbals), Harmonium, Violin, Bansuri and one or two vocalists.
Some Bandhas are found in oral tradition; these include:
Maa Santoshi Gotipua Kalakendra is a promising cultural institution absolutely dedicated on the promotion of Gotipua Dance, a dance through it is continuity has given a real life to the present Odissi Dance.
This institution under the able guidance of Guru Sri Budhanath Pradhan as big imparting training on Gotipua Dance since last 5 years, is still very active in imparting training to the young boys in gotipua dance for which Mr. Naveen Pattnaik, The Chief Minister of Odisha was of high opinion on him.
It is perhaps at present one of the few institution of its kind which not only doing research and training on Gotipua Dance but takes part in most of the religious cultural and social festivals to preserve this rate and declining art form particularly Bandha Nrutya in some of the religious festivals like Chandana Yatra, Jhulana Yatra etc of Lord Jagannath, the Gotipua Dance performance has became inseparable.
The Artists of this institution have been performing in different places outside and inside the country with tremendous applause from the audience the troop consists of 25 persons including dancers and accompanists and a troop Leader at present, the some more Gotipua boys are being trained under the able guidance of Guru Sri Budhanath Pradhan his institution Maa Santoshi Gotipua Kalakendra. The institution has in a number of National and International level festivals.
For visitors to the village Balipokhari, the institution organises the dance program within half an hour on the village. Maa Santoshi Gotipua Kalakendra in a rural setting, if visitors like.
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