Click here for all links
Social media links

Shringaar in Odissi dance: A recollection
- Translated from Odia by Malabika Patel:
- Edited, notes and pics by Ileana Citaristi:

August 14, 2019

(Translated from an Odia speech given by Harapriya Devadasi in the seminar on Odissi dance organised by Kendriya Sangeet Natak Akademi in July 1975 at Bhubaneswar)

Harapriya Devadasi
(photo taken
in 1981 by Ileana Citaristi)
I have been asked to say something about the getup and costume of Odissi dance. What shall I narrate; happy events, sad events or my own life experiences? I have no knowledge of scriptures. Whatever I have learnt is from my service and based on that, I have prepared something which I will now read out. Yesterday, Dhiren Babu said the fragrance has vanished, only the rag remains. I admit the scent has gone but the rag is still fresh. Because the piece of cloth is there, so much discussion is taking place and so many artists have gone and performed Odissi dance all over the world. What more can I say? Our service however remains the same. Service means giving happiness. Yesterday Rajguru-ji and Rathasharma-ji had said that we Devadasi were named 'Swamini'.

When Lord Jagannath returns from his journey on chariot, we close the door on him and say, "Go back to Gundicha temple." He offers so many gifts to open the door (1). What pastime the Lord of the Universe indulges in? Such an insignificant Devadasi closes the door on the Lord? Even the Gajapati king sweeps the floor for Him (2). When I see all these, I wonder what amazing pursuits the Lord has! Who is this playful Omniscient, what does he do? Thinking of it, I become clueless, I don't have an iota of knowledge whatsoever. That is why from Lord Jagannath, some people ask neither wealth, nor power but only his benevolence. I tell Lord Jagannath, I don't want anything, after I am gone, give me birth once again in Mahari caste. I will serve you again as a person from this caste. This service is my aim and my reward. I don't want anything, I only want to serve my husband, my Lord, give him happiness and get happiness. This is our domestic life. Lot of fun and frolic goes on between husband and wife within the closed doors. What happens inside, what dances go on inside, doesn't come out. The wife's dalliance with her husband is not known to the outsider. There is no reward for it. To get the Lord as husband and receive a drop of nectar of his love, we have remained in service by remaining celibate. For this, we have faced a lot of condemnation and reproach. But still we say, "O Lord! Let our entire life be spent in your service."

Today what we see as Odissi dance, I have not seen or known such a dance in that name from my childhood. Now I am 62 years old. When I was 9 years old, in the year 1923, I was initiated at the feet of Lord Jagannath. Then Mukund Deva was the king. Since then I have been dancing and giving various services to the Lord. Since my birth was in Mahari caste, whatever traditional knowledge I have learnt from my house about the getup and costumes of this dance, I shall say a few words based on my experience.

We Maharis, whatever dancing we were doing was known as 'mahari' dance by the common people. This dance was a part of our service to the Lord. We were married to Lord Jagannath and also worked in our service to Lord Jagannath as a servant. So our getup and dressing was like a wife as well as a servant. We used to take vegetarian food and were followers of Vaishnav sect. When Maharis became old, they did not give direct service but gave mental service till the last moment of their lives.

I cannot say what was the costume and dress of Maharis in various ages. I had heard that in earlier times, Maharis used to wear only ochre robes and were decked up in flowers. Besides, they used to draw pictures with sandalwood paste on their bodies, but during my times whatever was the practice, I shall describe now.

Sketches of ornaments which Harapriya herself did when Ileana interviewed her in 1981

One can divide the makeup into five parts; (a) hairdo (b) body painting (c) wearing sari (d) wearing ornaments (e) flower deck up. How all these were done and in what sequence, I shall narrate.

Firstly, the day we have service, we have to fast for full day and after the service was over, we used to take Mahaprasad. In the morning, we had to take a bath with haldi and kumkum and with hair scrub, wash our hair. Then after wearing silk sari and 'mukuta' (headgear) we wait for the makeup in which the hair-do is the first step.

(a) Hairstyle - The hair was combed well and tied up in a roll or bun. This roll was called 'lotoni juda' and the bun was called 'tabha phal khosha'. Out of these two hairstyles, the latter was done, when the service to the Lord was on his boat ride (3) and the former was done when the service to the Lord was after 'aarti' (4). When there was a Rohini Yashoda service (5), a different hairstyle called 'bankajuda' was done. However, mostly 'lotoni juda' was used. There was no practice of making plaits.

(b) Body paint - When the hairstyle was done, body paint was carried out. The sequence was like this: sindoor (vermillion) in the hair parting, below that, a sindoor line on the forehead and sometimes a black dot or else a sandal paste dot. Between the two eyebrows, 'gorachna aadi' and then on the nose a 'gurukali'. On the hands, kumkum was applied or conditioning of 'haragowra' (mehendi) colour was done. Then a black dot was put on the chin. The sideburns were neatly circled near the ears with gum known as 'makari.' Then on the cheeks and neck, sandal paste decoration was done. After the face decoration, 'chandan kasturi' was used to decorate the chest with drawings of flowers, creepers and leaves which was called 'patrabal'. The motifs in symmetrical lines were also done on hands and arms. The feet were intricately painted with 'alta' and betel leaves (paan) was chewed to make the lips red.

(c) Wearing of sari - It was of three types. (i) When service was after 'aarti' or during boat ride, the sari was worn with one side tucking and the pleats were tucked on the right side for display. On the body a decorated bodice ('kanchala') was worn. Then the waist was tightened with a silk 'chadar' which was tied up from the backside with the 'kachala' and used to hang on the front. (ii) When going for group service, the 'chadar', instead of being tied to the waist was used to cover the head. We used to call it 'odhni'. On such occasions side tucking of sari was not used. (iii) When going for Rohini Yashoda service, a sari was worn without bodice or 'odhni'. The sari was rounded up on the body three times and a part covered the head.

(d) Wearing of ornaments - After wearing of cloth, it was time for wearing of ornaments.
First on the head, one 'alaka' and one 'ketaki rekha'

On the hairdo, one 'chauribhundi', one 'jharakathi'

On the ears, 'dhedi', 'dahikhia mallikadhi', or 'chandra bauli', 'jhampabauli' as per choice

On the nose, 'desidandi', 'notha', 'mayurbasa guna'

On the neck, 'tulsi mali', 'chapsari', 'amla mali', 'champakadhi mali', 'meena mali', 'nakshatra mali',' mahuda' etc; of many types, whatever one got, one wore.

On the arms, 'taita', 'bajubandha', 'rasunia', 'kathi kaunriya', 'banka deunria' or whatever

On the hands, 'paincha khadu', 'atula khadu', 'gajra',' bahichadi', 'hastapadma' and 'mudi'

On the ankles, 'banki pahuda', 'pola godakhadu', 'paunji', 'chipuli' and ' padapadma'

All these ornaments were used for service in the boat ride. For the post 'aarti', not so much ornaments, but whatever one had, were worn.

(e) Flower Decoration - Flower garland was put on the bun, the flowers had to be necessarily white. We generally used jasmine and mogra flowers. In the hair, strings of champa, mogra or jasmine buds, amla beads with white flowers on top was put, which was called 'pura'. Mostly the flower decoration looked like a temple. On the top of the bun, 'kewda' flower with three spikes and a half crown of jasmine was fixed. All these decorations were for the dance during the Lord's boat ride. For the post 'aarti' dance, head gear was not prepared. During my time, these were the getup and costume. Now what is being done you people know.

(f) Costume - Makeup and getup are a very significant aspect of Devadasi dance. Getup attracts common people. By dressing up, the mind of the dancer remains cheerful. It gives pleasure to the audience. In every dance form, it is acknowledged that getup plays a very significant role. Its other name is 'shringaar'. Bharat Muni has praised 'shringaar' by giving importance to shining ornaments. 'Shringaar ujjual deshatmakaha'. Like Odissi, every dance has its special costumes. Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Kathak, Kathakali have all distinct costumes. The form of Udra dance is Devadasi dance style of Purushottam Kshetra. It is an ancient and proven classical dance form. Here we are giving the various costumes of Devadasi dance according to the services rendered at Jagannath temple, Puri. They are divided into four types. (A) Kania Kachha (B) Kuncha Puharuni (C) Aada Uturi (D) Natarangi.

The practice of these four types of 'besa' is very ancient. The tradition followed by Devadasis was of wearing yellow sari with blood red silk 'chadar' while doing various services.

(A) In 'mangal aarti', 'hera panchami vachanika' (6), the Devadasis, do services in this costume. During these services they do not wear the bodice, but hold the knot carefully on their left side (Kania Kachha).

(B) During Rukmini wedding celebration (7), when auspicious water is sprinkled on the altar and auspicious songs are sung, the main feature was to wear the sari with pleats and adorn a dotted 'chadar' on top, with full ornaments on the right hand. This 'besa' without bodice was for doing inside application of sandal paste and the 'seva' was to go to Kalaghat door (Kuncha Puharuni).

(C) While accompanying the main servitor who takes up the Nanda Raja 'besa' and when Lakshmi goes to Jagmohan, the Maharis girdle the silk saris twice on their breast and diagonally knot the pallu of the sari, as it was considered the basic dressing of Yadav women (Aada Uturi).

(D) The Natarangi besa is the one done on the boat ride, morning 'aarti, and Dusshara sari tying service. In such services, the hair is decorated with jasmine flowers, 'alaka' on the forehead, earrings on the ear, 'natha' on the right nostril, 'mayurbasa guna' on the left nostril, 'choker' and 'dasavatar' beads on the neck, 'banki deunriya', 'tada kachatika' on both the arms, gold 'pohala atula' and bangles on the wrist, 'ghaghudi laga bala', 'pahuda' and 'panjam' on the feet. The sari was worn with side pleats and knotted on the waist. This was called 'adaganthia.' While dancing, they wore deep red bodices. Sindoor on the head, 'asthagandha' on the chin and both the arms, 'alta' adorned their feet and kumkum was painted on the palms. They ate betel leaves mixed with clove and camphor. This was a major aspect of the service. While eating of betel leaves and wearing of sindoor was strictly forbidden on the boat ride, it was not applicable to the Devadasis. The only difference of dress between a 'gotipua' (8) and 'netakanya' (9) was that the former tie the sari in 'adaganthia puharuni.' The dressing up described in Abhinaya Chandrika and this dressing has little difference. The Dasi Nrutya text by Mukuta Mahari described it all.

Odissi dance has its origin in Devadasi dance which was rooted in the services rendered in Jagannath temple. It is matter of great regret, that since 1971, Devadasi dance has completely vanished. If Sangeet Natak Akademi grants a little funds and a bit of encouragement, the dance can be revived. The name and fame of Akademi in the country would remain supreme.

Death certificate (It says 'Guru Jagannath' in the space of Husband/father)

1- Called 'duara paka' this ritual is enacted on the 12th day of the 'ratha yatra' happening in the month of Asadha (June/July) when Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, after returning from the Gundicha temple, are not allowed to enter the temple by Laxmi, represented by the Devadasi. The verbal altercation between the Devadasi and the Panda (representing the deities) last for a couple of hours. Laxmi relents only after being allured with different gifts and after opening the door, she is offered 'rasagola' by Jagannath.

2 - It refers to the 'chera pahara' or sweeping the chariots by the Gajapati king at the onset of the journey of the deities towards Gundicha temple.

3 - It refers to the 'chandan jatra' ritual enacted in the month of Baisakha (April- May) when Jagannath, represented by the idol of Madhava Mohana and his consort Radha are brought for 21 days to the Narendra tank and after a ritualistic bath with sandalwood scented water they circumnavigate 3 times around the tank while being entertained by the dance of the Devadasi accompanied by a mardala player. On this occasion, the dances consisted of 'abhinaya' sung and danced by the Devadasi herself.

4 - It refers to the 'sakala dhupa' ritual enacted every day inside the temple after the 'arati' while Jagannath is eating his midday meal. The dance, purely rhythmical, lasts until the duration of the meal.

5 - It refers to the 'janmasthami' ritual or the birth ceremony of Lord Krishna celebrated on the 8th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadra (August-September). On this occasion two Devadasis, impersonating Yasodha and Rukmini, enact a ritual marriage with one of the Panda, Bitarcho Mohapatra who, after reaching the temple along with the two of them, milks a cow and offers the milk to a small kid representing little Krishna.

6 - It refers to the song called 'hera panchami gita' of 50 stanzas sung by the Devadasi starting from the 5th day of the 'ratha yatra' festival and ending on the day of the 'duara paka'. It is divided into three parts: the first 25 stanzas are sung during the night of 'hera panchami' when Devadasi, impersonating Laxmi, goes to the Gundicha temple where Jagannath is residing with his brother and sister and expresses her anger for not having been invited to accompany them on the journey. One more part is sung when on the 9th day the chariot of Jagannath is seen by Laxmi while returning towards the temple and the rest at the time of the altercation on the 12th day.

7 - It refers to the 'Rukmini bibaho ekadasi' celebrated 4 days before the full moon of the month of Jyestha (May-June). During the enactment of the marriage between Krishna and Rukmini, the Devadasis perform different seva: they sing the 'chittau lekha' or message to be delivered by the 'deula karana' to Krishna from Rukmini, they perform bath to the bride ('pani thola'), and the day after the marriage ('champaka duadasi') accompany the married couple to the Maharaja's palace and dance while the king performs puja to the idols.

8 - The term 'gotipua' refers to the boys ('pua') dressed as girls who used to dance during the ceremonies of Lord Jagannath outside the temple. Another name given to them is 'akhada pilla' because they used to be trained in the 'akhada' or gymnasiums situated in the 7 'sahi' around the temple. The system seems to have originated in the XVI century when, due to the Muslim invasion, the rituals of the Devadasi outside the temple started to be perceived as unsafe; a letter, still existent in the records of the temple, seems to have been written by Mahadeva Rajguru Mohapatra to the 'sahi nayaka' of each of the seven 'sahi' with the instruction of training boys to function as substitute of the Devadasi during the open air rituals.

9 - The term 'neta jhia' refers to an adolescent girl who is made to perform 'puja' during the month of Kartika (October-November) for obtaining a good husband. Her attire on this occasion is similar to the one of the Devadasi during the 'seva' of the 'chandana jatra.'

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.

Post your comments
Pl provide your name and email id along with your comment. All appropriate comments posted with name and email id in the blog will also be featured in the site.

Click here for all links
Prism | Home | About | Address Bank | News | Info Centre | Featured Columns