By Sura Bharati Arati Misra

temple in Orissa


Indian Classical Music has 5 significant branches - Avanti, Panchali, Udramagadhi, Hindustani and Karnataki. Of these, Udramagadhi exists in the form of Odissi music, primarily practiced in he state of Orissa.

The major works in the Odissi style are - "Geeta Prakash" by Krushnadas Badajena Mohapatra, "Sangeeta Muktavali" by Sri Harichandana and "Sangeeta Narayana" by Pandit Purusottama. These works establish the basic fundamentals of the Odissi style of music. There are several other treatises that further delineate the style in detail. Some examples are - "panchanama Sarasamhita", "Sangeeta Ratnamala", Sangeets Kalpalatika", Ragabije", "Jagamohana", "Chhanda" etc.

Krushnadas Badajena Mohapatra (1559 - 1578) was an Oriya singer in Akbar's court, and was exposed to the Hindustani classical style of music. Therefore, his description of the Odissi style draws heavily from the Hindustani style of classical music. According to him, a good Odissi composition should have:

a. Variation of beat and pause.
b. Use of "gamak" or "Andolan".
c. "Matu" meaning lucid presentation of the composition.
d. Efficient and pleasing expansion of the "Raaga" and "Geeta".
e. Lucid and melodious rendering of "Taan".
f. Singing of special words and notes with novelty.
g. Avoiding repetition of the same notes or composition.
h. Every sentence rendered with its unique quality, beautification and melody.

Odissi music gives great importance to the lyric where words are required to be sung without fragmentation or distortion. All songs are required to be sung in specific 'raagas' and 'Taalas'. Typical Odissi taalas have a different distribution of beat and pause from north or south Indian taalas with the same number of beats. Odissi style of singing lays great stress on 'Prabandha' or 'text of the song'. All Odissi lyricists are reknowned poets - Jayadev, Kavisamrat Upendra Bhanja, Deenkrushna, Kavisurya Baladev Ratha, Gopalkrushna, Banamali etc. Odissi songs traditionally depict the love and frolicks of Radha and Krishna. Odissi dance is usually performed to the accompaniment of Odissi music. Originally Odissi was sung to the dance of the 'Maharis' (Devadasis) at the Jagannath Temple, and was later sung to dances by young boys, 'Gotipuas' performing Odissi dance. The Odissi music of today has evolved from the style of 'Gotipua' music.

Odissi style of classical music has some similarity with Hindustani 'Dhrupad' style. 'Gamak' is common to both, though Odissi also adopts the 'Tom Nom' sounds. The percussion instrument played with Odissi music is the 'Mardal', which is similar to 'pakhawaj'. Temple sculptures in Orissa abound in statues of 'Mardal' players.

Odissi has certain similarities with the Karnataki style of music also. At one time the Kalinga Empire extended all the way up to the river Kaveri and incorporated major parts of Karnataka. King Purosottam Deva of Orissa conquered Kanchi and married the princess. There were many singers from South India in the courts of Orissa. The main singer of the compositions of Kavisurya was Rajamani, a Telugu weaver. Therefore, a strong influence of Karnataki style of music is prevalent in Odissi music. Many renowned Odissi lyricists like Upendra Bhanja, Kavisurya, Gopakrushna, Gaurahari etc. are from South Orissa where Karnataka had a strong influence. It is this interaction between Orissa and South India that led to the widespread singing of Jayadeva's 'Astapadis' in South Orissa in typical karnataki style of music.

Some raagas specific to Orissa are "Desakhya", "Dhanasri", "Belabali", "Kamodi", "Baradi" etc. However, compositions are also sung in Odissi style in Karnataki and Hindustani raagas. Some examples of Karnataki raagas used in Odissi music are - "Saberi", "Mohana", "Maya Malab Gauda", "Kamavardhini", "Sankarabharan" etc. Some examples of Hindustani raagas used in Odissi music are - "Bageshri", "Malhar", "Rageshri", "Bhupali", "Khambaj", "Desh", "Bhairavi" etc. Additionally, some Odissi raagas bear the same names as Hindustani or Karnataki raagas, but have different note combinations. Furthermore, there are many raagas that have the same note combinations in Hindustani, Karnataki and Odissi styles, but are called by different names. Some examples are - Raaga "Durga" in Hindustani is the same as raaga "Sudha Saveri" in Karnataki style is the same as raaga "Kamodi" in Odissi style. In fact, the Hindustani raaga "Chandrakauns" could have developed from the Odissi raaga "Lalita".

The typical Odissi style of singing starts with a short 'Aalap' with typical Odissi 'Andolan' followed by the main song 'Prabandha' where the use of 'Boltan' elaborates the raaga. 'Boltan' is also used to demonstrate various 'Abhinayas' during dances performed to these songs. 'Taan' is usually in the form of 'Sargam' and is usually at the end of the song. It is set to the beats and pauses of the taal. 'Padi' (lyrics sung to a different division of beats of the same taal) is typical to the Odissi style although all songs may not have 'Padi'. Usually, 'Padi' is sung at a faster speed than the main song.

'Taal' is the heart of Odissi music. Some taals in Odissi music that are similar to Hindustani classical music are "Jhampa" and "Jhaptaal", "Atta" and "Chautaal", "Aditaal" and "Tritaal". Typical Odissi taals, however, are different from that of Hindustani music in division of beats and bols. Some examples are - "Ektali" with 4 matras is different from "Kaharva" of Hindustani style, "Khemta" with 6 matras is different from "Dadra" of Hindustani music, and "Tripata" of 7 matras is different from "Rupak" of Hindustani music.

Odissi is a very old classical style of music with specific raagas, taals, and its own special style of rendering of lyrics and melody.