Taking forward from our previous blog on the eight Indian classical dances, where we covered Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali and Kuchipudi, in this blog we take you through the next four – Odissi, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam

Odissi – This dance form has its origin in Odisha, India. It is traditionally a dance-drama genre of performance art, where the artists and musicians perform a mythical story, a spiritual message or devotional poem from the Hindu texts. The use of symbolic costumes, different body movements, abhinaya (expressions) and mudras (gestures and sign language) set out in ancient Sanskrit literature make this dance form unique. Beginning with an invocation, an Odissi performance goes through nritta (pure dance), nritya (expressive dance), natya (dance drama) and finally moksha (dance climax connoting freedom of the soul and spiritual release).

From Kelucharan Mohapatra and Sujatha Mohapatra to Ramli Ibrahim, Parwati Dutta and Sonal Mansingh, each of these artists have not only dedicated their lives to this art form, but have furthered its reach across borders and have a huge fan following globally.

Sattriya – Also known as Sattriya Nritya, originated in the eastern state of Assam. It is a dance-drama performance art with origins in the monasteries of Assam. One-act plays of Sattriya called Ankiya Nat, combine the aesthetic and the religious through a ballad, dance and drama. The Sattriya dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahapurusha Sankaradeva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaishnava faith. Its roots can be traced to ancient drama and music texts of India, particularly the Natya Shastra by Bharat Muni.
From the great Guru Rasheswar Saikia and his daughters Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni Saikia to Indira P P Bora, Sattriya has become a much sought after dance form from global audiences and researchers.

Manipuri – Manipuri dance is native to the state of Manipur in Northeast India. It is known for its exquisite performances of love-inspired dance drama of Radha-Krishna called Raslila. The Manipuri dance is a team performance, with its own unique costumes, aesthetics, conventions and repertoire. The Manipuri dance drama is, for most part, marked by a performance that is graceful, fluid, sinuous with greater emphasis on hand and upper body gestures. Aspects of this performance art is celebrated during Hindu festivals and major rites of passage such as weddings among the Manipuri people.

Guru Bipin Singh also referred to as the ‘Father of Manipuri Dance’ leads the list of famous artists in this area. Other big names include Nilmadhab Mukherjee, Bibhaboti Devi and Kalabati Devi.

Mohiniyattam – Mohiniyattam literally interpreted as the dance of ‘Mohini’, the celestial enchantress of the Hindu mythology, is the classical solo dance form of Kerala, India. The delicate body movements and subtle facial expressions are more feminine in nature and therefore are ideally suited for performance by women. It traces its origin to the temples of Kerala. The repertoire of Mohiniyattam includes music in the Carnatic style, singing and acting a play through the dance, where the recitation may be either by a separate vocalist or the dancer herself.

Smitha Rajan is a Mohiniyattam performer from Kerala and granddaughter of the legendary Indian classical dancer couple of Padma Shri Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma. Her mother Sreedevi Rajan is a noted Mohiniyattam Guru and Smitha’s teacher.