Odissi dance

Odissi is a beautiful classical dance which originates from Odisha in the eastern province of India. It is also the oldest Indian classical dance form, as shown in the Udaygiri temple. Originally it was called Odra Nrutya, then Orissi and then in 1948 named Odissi.


The distinct movements of Odissi are its sculptural movements, movement of torso, fluidity and grace, and the various Bhangis (bends) whilst dancing or posing.


The Chowk square position which represents Jagganath
The Tribhanga three bends. There are three main schools of Odissi taken after the names of the Gurus, and they are referred to as Gharana. Guru Pankaj Das Gharana, Kelucharan Mohapatra Gharana and Dev Prashad Das Gharana.


The movements, according to the schools, range from very stylised small and detailed movements as in Kelucharan Gurujis Gharana (school), to some Gharanas which are slightly less detailed but faster movements. Also some Gharana use and explore Sanskrit extensively and some explore Odia text.

Odissi repertoire

There are five items in the Odissi repertoire; Mangalacharan,Batu/Stayee,Pallavi, Abhinaya, Mokshya.

History of Odissi

Odissi is the oldest temple dance. Odissi, which was known as Udra Nrutya, originated in Odisha (Or Utkala, as it was known – a land of the Art) Udra Nrutya, Orissi Nrutya and Odissi Nrutya are the names of the dance form from the 2nd BC. Early images of Odissi were seen in the 2nd century BC at the Jain Udaygiri cave and temple. A rock cut inscription issued by King Kharvela states he organised dance, music and acrobatics for the entertainment of his subjects.

History of Odissi

Odissi is the oldest temple dance. Odissi, which was known as Udra Nrutya, originated in Odisha (Or Utkala, as it was known – a land of the Art) Udra Nrutya, Orissi Nrutya and Odissi Nrutya are the names of the dance form from the 2nd BC. Early images of Odissi were seen in the 2nd century BC at the Jain Udaygiri cave and temple. A rock cut inscription issued by King Kharvela states he organised dance, music and acrobatics for the entertainment of his subjects.

Then in the 6th Century the temples were built by the Sailodbhava Dynasty who were worshippers of Shiva. The main theme for them was the reunion of Shiv and Shakti. Dance as worship was part of the temples ornamentation.In the 7th Century there was the growing popularity of Shakti with the depiction of 7 Matrikas who were considered the forest Goddess. On the other hand there were the female motifs of the Alasakanyas, who were the languorous maidens, who inspired Odissa’s distinct character.

History of Odissi continued...

Also in the 7th Century there was Tantra worship within Hinduism. This was more of a theatrical experience with chanting, rhythm, gestures and movements. The acceptance of Shakti having more Matrikas added to the temples and is seen in the 10th century temples. The temple in Chaurasi is liberally ornamented with amorous couples indicating that ritual was sexual in nature.

Mukteswar temple had the Orissan patterns of a curvilinear main sanctum attached to a pyramid –roofed hall of worship. Alasakanya (as a way of depicting female beauty) in the temple, has become a major feature in the ornamentation and dominate the temple facades.

History of Odissi continued 2...

This was again seen in Raja Rani temple which was built in the same format as Mukteswar temple with added plinth and added size for the Alasakanyas so at eye level the body proportions of the Alasakanyas are now slender and developing their mood for heightened sensuality.Later temples Lingaraj in the 11th Century AD were more about of the worship of Vishnu and Shiva. And there were also pavilions built for dance ritual

The Jagannath temple, which was erected in 11th Century employed dancing girls and it brought the 3 gods together – Vishnu, Shakti and Hanuman. It was at that time that great poet Jaydev wrote the book Geeta Govinda and its used extensively for Abhinaya expressional pieces in Odissi now . Singing and dancing to Geet Govinda became an integral part of the daily worship of Jagannath. And it was unbroken till the 16th century. But it all came to life in a magnificent way through the 13th Century temple Konark.

History of Odissi continued 3...

This was dedicated to the all-embracing form of the sun god Surya. The dancing hall is a freestanding structure on a high platform which was created to greet the arrival of the Sun king. Upon its walls and columns, dancers and musicians jostle for space and its gives the feeling the celebration is frozen in time.

There are images of Alasakanya which are even more defined and stylised. (From 1586 – 1936 there was no Odissi practised.) It’s like the Odissi dance brings the sculptures to life and they continue to inspire the creators of Odissi

Artistic Director

  • Sushmita is an international Odissi dancer and choreographer, working in the United Kingdom since 1986. She started her career in London with Bhavan Centre, Academy and later moved to Hampshire in 1994, where she has performanced at regional venues, including The Anvil. Her training was with the late Padmavibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra, one of the finest choreographers of Odissi.
  • Being one of the most renowned Odissi dancer artists in the U.K, Sushmita is also a pioneer in introducing, developing and sustaining a South Asian dance practice in Hampshire. She has been a consultant on Asian Folk dance series for BBC. She is an Odissi examiner for Bhavan Centre and Kathak Examiner for PRSSV.
  • Sushmita has created an Odissi youth company Prashanti and a professional performing company Lasya.In 2010 -2013 with Dr Cathy Seago a senior Contemporary dancer, she choreographed Beyond Boundaries and Nadanam both commissioned by Anvil Arts and Arts Council England.

Kala the Arts

Began in 1998

Sushmita Pati is a founding member of Kala the Arts, formed in 1998. We were very successful in reaching out to schools in those days because there were many schools wanting Indian dance, particularly in Basingstoke, and there was also a project called Thengapalli about deforestation in India which was inspired by teachers.

A group of teachers visited Orissa and they came here and wrote about the project. It was supported by the Arts Council and Sushmita Pati was approached to write the dance material.

Kala the Arts


Kala the Arts had audiences who were predominantly from the non-asian community and there was also interest from the ethnic communities in Southampton, Basingstoke and Eastleigh. The schools would book us for a whole day (sometimes several) or half a day and parents would see an Indian dance performance at the end of the sessions.

Kala the Arts

Training dancers

Kala The Arts, has with the support of HLF over the last 5 years has been able to produce two projects ‘Parampara’ and’ Odissi Journey’.

Kala The Arts, has been able to use the projects to continue training future Odissi dancer and teachers. As the number of Odissi dancers in the UK increases, so does the opportunity to see more performances.

What we do

The exhibition follows and celebrates Sushmita Pati, other artists, and Kala The Arts’ 20 Year Story and Heritage of introducing, promoting and developing Odissi Dance in the UK. Produced by Kala The Arts, the exhibition consists of 17 illustrated panels, including a documentary film which features the Executive Director of Bhavan, Odissi teachers/dancers, Contemporary artists, Festival Director Eckhard Thiemann, and costume. There will also be an accompanying website which is in progress. www.odissijourney.co.uk Supported by Heritage Lottery Fund. Aldershot Military Museum, Queen’s Ave, Aldershot, GU11 2LG. Monday – Tuesday: Closed. Wednesday – Friday: 10: 00am – 5: 00pm. Saturday – Sunday: 11: 00am – 4: 00pm. ADMISSION FREE.

Events and Training

Images from our recent events, see Gallery
Education and Training

Heritage skills

Oral history training

Collections and digitizing training

For more information contact



All enquiries should be submitted to Kala the arts


All enquiries should be submitted to Kala the arts

Video 1

Odissi Journey

‘Odissi Journey’ is a new exhibition which celebrates the beautiful art form of Odissi Dance, from Odisha in India to the UK, following its leading UK exponent Sushmita Pati. Odissi Dance dates as far back as the Hindu Temples of 2nd Century BC. It is a very beautiful, powerful and evocative dance form, which uses dance drama, graceful movements,

elaborate expressions and costumes, to tell the fascinating stories and traditional stories from Sanskrit and Odia texts. And it is this narrative element that helps make Odissi Dance accessible to everyone, whatever their background. This exhibition is the first of its kind in the UK and celebrates, Kala The Arts’ twenty year journey promoting and developing Odissi Dance. It has been researched and produced by Kala The Arts. It consists of illustrated panels, a documentary film, an archive and a dedicated website, www.odissijourney.co.uk Odissi Dance is one of the seven classical Indian Dance forms, but it is not yet as well recognized in the UK as other forms. We hope the exhibition and this accompaning dvd will introduce everyone to this beautiful and accessible art form.

Produced for KALA THE ARTS by Talking Pictures Ltd

Video 2


Parampara (meaning ‘traditions’) is an exciting new project looking at the heritage of Odissi Dance within Hampshire. Kala The Arts has worked, and
will continue to work, with a number of community and school groups accross Hampshire sharing the classicism of Odissi. Odissi is one of eight classical
dance forms to originate from India and comes from the state of Orissa in Eastern India. It is thought to be one of the oldest surviving dance forms in

Participants are invited to perform at Parampara events, giving them the opportunity to share what they have learnt and achieved with their family, friends and members of the public. This develops performance and communication skills as well as increasing self esteem and confidence through dance.

‘It was a completely new experience for the children. They saw how much fun it was and how controlled they had to be to work together to create the right effect.’ – Jo Binmore, Fort Hill Community School

Produced for KALA THE ARTS by Talking Pictures Ltd

"Thanks for inviting, we really enjoyed the programme. It is all your efforts to make it successful. Wishing Kala The Arts all the best for future endeavours."

Mr Mahapatra 2nd Secretary Indian High Commission, London

"I love the film, clearly tells the story and lots of beautiful images, I’m looking forward to working together."

Kirsty Hoyle Community Manager Aldershot Military Museum Hampshire Cultural Trust

"I had a wonderful time listening to all of the amazing singers and watching the wonderful dancers and the music was just so beautiful and mesmerising...Such a meaningful day.” ."

Cllr Elaine Still Chair of Hampshire County.

"The exhibition on the “Journey of Odissi” in Basingstoke was a food for my eye. Being Odia myself I take pride in seeing the representation of this classical form and its spread in the western world. The exhibition was well organised beautifully laid out and most of all represented the art in its full bloom with live performances and detailed timeline of its growth in the U.K. "

Dr Parhi

"Amazing performances so beautiful and complex thank you so much for all you do."

Cllr Terri Reid Deputy Leader B&DBC (Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council)

"A very informative exhibition especially for those who were unaware of the dance form of Odissi. There was a lovely variety to experience today and a great awareness of this beautiful culture was raised. It was amazing to witness such diversity in the audience and interest by the people of all different ages too. There was a marvellous sense of friendliness within the venue by the audience, volunteers and performers alike. The only helpful item would have been a sequence of events to be given out or displayed so people would know what to expect in their time of visit ."

Dr Anusha Singh

"It was nice to see people celebrating their culture and keeping traditions alive."

Steve Rich Headteacher Oakley Junior school Basingstoke

"Sushmita’s efforts to transplant Odissi form which grew out of the temples in East India into the English home counties in not a walk in the park"

Sanjeevini Dutta Editor Pulse.

"Mindblowing exhibition, the journey was absolutely lovely. So impressed on seeing what Sushmitaji has achieved lovely performances."

Barkha Kaur student volunteer

"Once in a lifetime opportunity to come across an intense exhibition on Odissi dance and the artifacts. I would largely appreciate the hard work put into the whole idea of enlarging the knowledge in this country. Look forward to many more new initiatives by Kala The Arts ."

Volunteer who has helped in archiving

"Odissi exhibition was excellent."

Cllr Roy Perry trustee of Hampshire Cultural Trust and Leader of Hampshire County Council


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