Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Odissi Mean?

Odissi, also known as Orissi, is an ancient traditional Indian dance, originating more than 2,000 years ago. In Hinduism, it is believed that this dance was invented by the god, Shiva, the supreme yogi, who taught it to a dancer named Manirambha.

Initially, it was danced in yogic temples as a ritual and the practice of this dance is very similar to yoga and meditation. Some even consider it to be a form of yoga because both help to connect the physical body with spiritual energy. Both practices calm and focus the mind while strengthening the body. Odissi dance involves flowing movements of the hands, eyes and torso together with rhytmic movements of the feet. It uses mudras, or hand gestures, expressing a particular act, and includes moments of stillness in particular poses that originate from asanas.


Yogapedia Explains Odissi

Odissi is one of the most ancient classical Indian dances and one of the eight traditional dance forms described in the “Natya Shastra,” the ancient text on Indian performing arts. It comes from the state of Orissa in India; therefore, it is known as Orissi dance as well. This dance was highly supressed during the colonial period as its sensuality made the British colonists uncomfortable.

Odissi combines powerful and masculine footwork called tandava, with beautiful smooth and feminine poses and motions called lasya. It is almost always religious, most often dedicated to a deity. One of the strongest features of this dance is tribhanga, or three body bends in the neck, waist and knees. Odissi dance includes many elements and poses from Natya yoga: the yoga of dance.

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