Odissi is a sensual and lyrical dance that requires a lot of grace and elegance from the dancer. The steps are intricate and the attire brings out the details of every minuscule movement. The costume, jewellery, headgear and make up reflect the subtle nuances of the dance form. An ode to the dance rich in tradition and culture, beginning with the Costume.
The Odissi costume is draped in a unique way in comparison to the other Indian classical dances. The sarees worn by Odissi dancers are made from silk and characterized by traditional prints of the state of Odisha, featuring intricate designs, contrasting borders, and an overall shiny finish. Sambalpuri and Bomkai are the preferred saree types for Odissi – the former made from fabric woven on a hand loom, and the latter woven on a pit loom. The sarees are stitched to tell stories and could include motifs like temples, lotus flowers, conch shells, or wheels (symbolic of the Jagannath temple in Puri).
The brightly colored Odissi saree is nine yards long and also called as “patta“. A tailor specializing in the Odissi style cuts the nine yards into four pieces – 1) the embroidered blouse called “komchila“, 2) the dhoti or “nibibhanda” worn from the waist like pants, and tied with a cord, 3) the waistband known as the “jhobha“, and 4) the “kanchula” that is draped over the left shoulder, and is embellished with gold or silver threads. The sarees come in a variety of colors and patterns. Dancers are advised to select the brightest colors with the most contrasting borders, as these offer better visibility to the audience during stage performances.
That’s me in traditional Odissi attire. I will elaborate on the jewellery, headgear and make up in subsequent blog posts.