Orissa News

Mahari Dance

mahari dance form oF Orissa

Mahari Dance is one of the important dance forms of Orissa. In fact; it can be safely termed as the dance form which gave birth to the present day classical dance of Odissi. Mahari Dance originated in the temples of Orissa. History provides ample evidence of the 'Devadasi' cult in Orissa. The dance form that was being practiced by these Devdasis in the ancient times was called Mahari. The word “Mahari” in fact is formed by combining two words Maha and Nari that literally means great women. These Devadasis were considered sacred and were to perform only for the Lord Jagganath. They were the dancing girls who were dedicated to the temples of Orissa. Initially the dance was performed on mantras and shlokas. It included both nritya and abhinaya. The inclusion of Geeta Gobinda of Jayadev in the temple was instrumental in bringing changes to the dance form as performances based on poetries that included abhinaya or performances also got inculcated into the dance.

It was during the reign of Chodagangadeva, that Maharis were employed in the temples of Puri. After Chodagangadeva's death, Ananabhimadeva built Natyamandapa in the Jagannath temple for the dance performances inside the temple. Moreover, in those days, the Mahari dancers belonged to different categories namely, the 'Nachunis' (dancers), the Bahara Gauni, the Bhitara Gauni and the Gaudasanis.

The Maharis were married to the Lord at the age of nine. The Mahari dancers pay their obeisance to the Lord Jagannath before every dance. Campaigns led against the dance form by the Britishers in the seventeenth century led to extinction of the dance form. However this has been revived in the post independence era by many Gurus.