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The rise and fall of Jayantika
- Ileana Citaristi
Photos courtesy: Ileana Citaristi

November 4, 2018

The word 'Jayantika' rings a bell in the mind of each and every Odissi dancer, old or new, upcoming or established, professional to amateur. All of us know that towards the end of the 50's an association was formed among the gurus, intellectuals, dance researchers and practitioners with the intent to systematize the practice and teaching of the Odissi style as it was known till then. Repertoire and technique was discussed, dress code was decided and fixed and guidelines were laid down for the future generation of Odissi dancers. In few words, if we are existing today and dancing Odissi in the four corners of the globe, it is largely thanks to Jayantika and the people who took part in it.

A chance meeting a couple of years ago, in a social function, with Vijayalaxmi Das, elder daughter of guru Dayanidhi Das, prompted me to ask her if she happened to have any documents from her father's time related to Jayantika. My question it seems, sparked some curiosity in her and made her go back and unearth from an old almirah, a bunch of hand written loose papers which were lying there since her father's death and to which until then she had not given much importance. The discovery and my enquiries made her aware of the importance of those documents which contain detailed proceedings of all the meetings of Jayantika which took place from June 1958 onwards, mostly hand written by her father but also by Gora Chand Misra (a journalist), guru Raghunath Dutta and few others.

Aims and Motivations
From the introductory speech given by the president Biranchi Narayan Routray (a journalist who was working for the Prajatantra newspaper) during the first meeting of the association (which was known at first as Nikhila Utkala Nrutya Silpi Sangha) at 3pm on the 22nd of June 1958 at Banka Bazaar, we come to know that the need of the moment was to do research on different aspects of classical and folk dances, to establish rules in the teaching system to assure uniformity in the execution of bhangi and mudra, to aim at a broader publicity for Odissi dance, and to secure cooperation among the different gurus and institutions. The agenda of the meeting was: to discuss difference of opinions among the practitioners, to know the difficulties encountered by the teachers, to establish the required qualifications for becoming members and to choose a name for the new association. At this regard the names proposed were Chhanda o Kala by Mayadhar Raut, Sanja Akhada by Deba Prasad Das, Jayantika by Biranchi Routray (because all the new births are celebrated as jayantis), Nada Nupura by Dayanidhi Das and Nrutya Srusti by Gora Chand Misra. The governing body at this stage was formed by Biranchi Routray as president (he remained president for about one year until he moved to Rourkhela), Dayanidhi Das as general secretary (he will retain this post all through), Deba Prasad Das as joint secretary and Batakrishna Sena as treasurer.

In spite of all the good intentions of the founding members, it took almost one year for the new association to consolidate and start producing some results. By July 1959 the need to become more united and to safeguard the purity of the style became more and more urgent. During a meeting held on the 3rd of July 1959, Deba Babu refers to the case of a certain Vinod Chopra who had approached him for learning Odissi in a couple of days. In spite of all the pressure put on him and also the possibility to earn good money, he refused. These and other similar episodes made the members more and more convinced of the necessity of establishing a research wing for research on Odissi and folk dances (it is interesting to notice the interest and stress put each time on the study and research of the folk dances along with Odissi which indicates that the dichotomy between the two had not reached the proportion that it has nowadays) under the banner of Jayantika, to assign to each research scholar a particular topic and to ask each of them to present their report every fortnight to Jayantika. The deliberation at this regard was taken in the meeting of the 11th of July (held in the open space of Kala Vikash Kendra's new building) during which it was also decided to ask Orissa Sangeet Akademi assistance for the project.

The next meeting held on the 19th of July at Raghunathji Mandir in Telenga Bazaar at 1pm was going to be a crucial one. The 9 members present, Dayanidhi Das, Raghunath Dutta, Mayadhar Raut, Balaram Misra, Kartik Kumar Ghosh, Batakrishna Sena, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Chakradhar Kunwar, signed in blood and ink (the signatures are still visible at the bottom of the paper) the following declaration: "In today's meeting we promise that we will abide by the decisions and course of action deliberated by Jayantika and we will not allow any action which will negatively affect Jayantika."

The repertoire
Towards the end of July of the same year another crucial meeting took place. By this time Lokanath Misra (publisher of Ganatantra) had taken the place of Biranchi Routray as president and Dhirendranath Pattnaik had become vice-president (he will become the president when, in the beginning of 1960 Lokanath Misra becomes Member of Parliament and shifts to Delhi). The venue for the meeting had also changed to Lokanath Misra's office room in Dargha bazaar. In this meeting the course of an Odissi program was discussed and the gurus presented the following proposals: Kelu Babu proposed 5 items (bhumi pranam, batu, pallavi, abhinaya, pahapata), Deba Babu 7 items (bhumi pranam, bandana, batu, ista deva bandana, nartana, ragarupa, pallavi), Dayanidhi Das 5 items (mangalacharan, batu, pallavi, abhinaya, ananda nrutya), Dhiren Pattnaik 7 items (jagarana, bandana, pallavi, abhinaya, jhantari, batu, sabdam). At the end they decided for mangalacharan, batu, pallavi, abhinaya, mokshya nata.

In the proceedings of a meeting held on the 29th of August of the same year we find a detailed description of batu nritya, passed and signed by Batakrishna Sena, Dayanidhi Das, Raghunath Dutta, Balaram Misra and Dhirendranath Pattnaik. The main points are: the item is dedicated to Shiva in the form of Batukaishwara Bhairava, it should start by showing the musicians playing the veena, flute, mardala and manjira, it should contain the sthai ukuta (in one of his articles, Dayanidhi Das declares that to chose the opening bols for the batu both he and Kelu Babu went to Shyam Sunder Singhari and it was he who suggested the by now famous ta kadataka dhi kadataka ta dhi kadataka jhe) and a variety of khandi, arasa and muktai, it should contain the following bhangi accompanied by movements of eyes and neck, akunchana, nikunchana, darpana, biraja, kari hasta, kati china, abhimana, parsua mardala, and it should strictly not contain the chakra bhramari. The declaration ends with the sentence that everybody should follow this pattern.

It is well known that Deba Babu and Pankaj Babu did not agree with this version of batu which came to be known as Kelu gharana. It is interesting to read the version of batu described by Mohan Khokar in the article 'Technique and Repertoire' published in the Marg magazine in 1960. This batu which starts with ritualistic actions in honor of Shiva and proceeds almost like a varnam alternating passages of nritta with passages of sahitya could very well be the version which Deba Babu had in mind at that point of time, since also the rest of the repertoire described by Khokar is very similar to the one proposed by Deba Babu in the meeting of July 1959. This could also be the reason why the batu, which is an item of pure dance, is often referred to as batu nritya instead of batu nritta.

The meetings between July and December 1959 were held almost daily as one can make out by the number of proceedings maintained, many of which are reports of what had been taught that particular day by each guru in the class at Kala Vikash Kendra. It is evident that the get together were happening late at night after all the gurus came back from classes and tuitions. Many of these reports contain detailed description of technical aspects such as charis, banghis, mudras and tala patterns with their proper names and way of execution (in one of these reports, signed by Raghunath Dutta, we find that among the teachings imparted to the first year students, there were also six types of bandhas, something which nowadays has been totally discontinued).

Most of the proceedings of the month of August 1959 deal with the organization of the first official dance demonstration curated by Jayantika. Discussions delve around content, dates and who will perform what. The date of the 14th of September was finally decided after Chief Minister Hare Krishna Mahatab gave his consent to be the Chief Guest (it is heartening to see how at this juncture people from all walks of life, politicians, lawyers, writers, journalists, intellectuals, were sincerely involved and active in the reconstruction of the Odissi dance, something that would be unthinkable nowadays!). During the program, which was held at the Nari Seva Sangh in Cuttack, Deba Babu gave demonstration of bhangi and pada bheda, Mayadhar Raut of hasta mudra and Jayanti Ghose and Sanjukta Misra (not yet Panigrahi at that point) danced for about 25 minutes presenting mangalacharan, batu, basanta pallavi, odia abhinaya and mokshya as separate items.

One should take note that by this time some important events had already taken place in the history of Odissi dance; in January 1958 Kelu Babu had accompanied Kalicharan Patnaik to Madras on the occasion of the All India Dance Seminar held during the 31st Conference of the Music Academy. On behalf of the Kala Vikash Kendra, Sanjukta danced lalita lavanga lata accompanied by Kelucharan on the mardala and Balakrishna Das as vocalist while Kalicharan Patnaik read a paper on the historical and practical aspects of Odissi. On the 5th of April of the same year, Jayanti Ghose and Deba Babu presented a demonstration in New Delhi during the All India Dance Seminar organised by the Sangeet Natak Akademi at Vigyan Bhawan. On this occasion too Kalicharan Patnaik read a paper on the classical aspects of the dance and Jayanti danced mangalacharan, batu, dekhiba para asare and mokshya although still presented as one single item of about 15 minutes.

Both these two programs were presented on behalf of Kala Vikash Kendra (as was also the Odissi presented in March 1959 at the All India Dance Festival in Calcutta organised by Nritya Bharati where Kumkum Das and Krishnapriya Nanda danced a Radha-Krishna duet accompanied by Kelucharan on the mardala). It is known that the relationship between Jayantika and Kala Vikash Kendra, although both were working towards the same goal and for more than one year the meetings of the first were held in the premises of the second, were not too friendly, or perhaps they became such once Babulal Doshi started to fear that Jayantika would take away attention and credit from the achievements of the Kendra, to the establishment of which he had dedicated his entire life. Whatever it is, there is no doubt that both these institutions and the people involved in it, have been vital for the reconstruction and perpetuation of the Odissi dance.

Another important program organised on behalf of Jayantika, the preparation for which started in December itself, was the one put up at Cuttack in June 1960. While on 6th of October 1959 the program put up at Puri involved not only Odissi dance but also folk dance and classical music, the one planned for June 1960 (the date for this was changed several times) was to be a comparative demonstration between Odissi, Kathak and Bharatanatyam. From December 1959 onwards, the meetings devoted to the planning of this important demonstration, were attended not only by the gurus, but also by the dancers involved, Krishnapriya Nanda, Priyambada Mohanty, Jayanti Ghose and Sanjukta Misra. On 30th of June in the program 'Comparative study-Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Odissi', Raghunath Dutta presented Kathak dance, Mayadhar Raut danced the ashtapadi hari riha mugdha in Bharatanatyam style and in Odissi the following items were demonstrated: mangalacharan in group by all the 4 dancers, batu by Jayanti and Krishnapriya, pallavi and abhinaya by Sanjukta and Priyambada and mokshya by all the 4 dancers. Accompanying on the mardala was Dayanidhi Das instead of Kelu Babu (he had not yet recovered from tuberculosis by then. We know from the proceedings of a meeting held on the 24th of May 1960 that a collection of Rs. 200 had been raised among the members and donated to him for his therapy).

A felicitation meeting in honour of Deba Babu, who had returned from a successful tour to Australia and Indonesia accompanying Indrani Rehman, was held on the 3rd of December 1959. The speech read in his honour, highlights the great sense of pride felt by all the members at the successful tour of the guru which helped in spreading the fame of Odissi dance outside India. On the occasion the other accompanying musicians were also felicitated.

It is difficult to establish when exactly Jayantika ceased to exist. There are proceedings dated until 1963/ beginning of '64. In a meeting dated 8th August 1963, held at 2pm, the members present expressed their happiness at the establishment of the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalay at Bhubaneswar (which would start the activity from April 1964) but at the same time passed a resolution to invite the Sangeet Natak Akademi (under which the Mahavidyalay was going to function) to make sure that the syllabus and curriculum of the Odissi dance course would follow the rules established by Jayantika.

Perhaps it was too much of a dream to think that a body of this kind could maintain the control and dictate rules on a discipline like dance which relies so much on the individual talent and creativity of its exponents. Disagreements and private assignments surfaced perhaps too soon and did not allow the initial intentions to get fulfilled. Until today the Odissi masters don't have a common book as a guideline to follow while teaching the theoretic aspects of the dance and have to rely on their individual knowledge and interpretation of the classic texts. I am sure the documents left behind by the Jayantika members, especially the ones concerning the technical aspects and definitions, would be useful in this regard.

Dr. Ileana Citaristi is an Italian born dancer, who trained under Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in Odissi and under Guru Hari Nayak in Mayurbhanj Chhau. She founded Art Vision in 1995 in Bhubaneswar. Ileana took the initiative to coordinate with Vijayalaxmi Das, the daughter of Guru Dayanidhi Das, and her tireless efforts to sort the papers from Vijayalaxmi Das's collection and work on the translations of the papers in Odiya with Malabika Patel, resulted in a special issue of dance journal Nartanam on the Jayantika Papers (July - Sept 2018).

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