Tracing its origin to the ritual dances performed in temples of ancient Northern India, Odissi dance is a classical dance form from the eastern part of India, Orissa. Using their head, bust and torso in soft flowing movements to express specific moods and emotions, the temple dancers or devdasis were known to perform this dance form with extreme grace.
Temples and performers began losing their patronage of feudal rulers and the decline of princely states in the 1930s and 40s left very few practitioners of the art. Initially seen as a dance performed only in temples by specific performers, the Odissi dance form saw a major change of official attitude post independence, and there was an increase in Governmental and non-Governmental patronage. A massive job of reconstruction of this beautiful art began which included going through ancient texts. The result is that today Odissi is a well established and codified dance form of India.
Odissi, complete with aesthetic and technical details, like any other dance form, has its own costumes or jewellery. Locally made Sambalpuri or Kotki saree is draped to create a fan-shaped structure in the front and white metal jewellery including earrings that cover the entire ear resembling a peacock feather, completes the attire. Music of Orissa accompanies the dance. The highlighting feature of Odissi is the unique postures created by the head, bust and torso and performances are replete with tales of the eighth incarnation of Vishnu and his avatar of Lord Krishna.
Odissi dance is an epitome of fluid grace and has a distinctively appealing lyrical quality.
Dating back to the time of the Rig Veda, the Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated once in twelve years. Celebrated on the banks of India’s most sacred rivers, the Ganga, Yamuna, and Godavari, it is the world’s oldest and largest religious gathering. This year the Maha Kumbh began on the day of maker sankranti, with tens of thousands of devotees, ascetics and leaders of various orders taking the holy dip at the sangam – the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. The main ritual is the holy bath which starts as early as 3 a.m. and is believed by Hindus to absolve them of sins. As dawn approaches, different groups of sadhus, often accompanied by elephants, camels and drummers move towards the river to bathe, usually led by the nagas (naked sadhus with bodies covered with ash and matted hair).
If official reports are to be believed, as many as a hundred million pilgrims are expected to pass through the city over the next two months, making it larger than any previous festivals.
The festival has its roots in a Hindu tradition that says Lord Vishnu wrested from demons a golden pot containing the nectar of immortality. As mesmerizing as it is spiritual, this religious gathering is a meeting of mystical minds, where holy men gather together to discuss their faith. Pilgrims who attend the Kumbh mela come to see and listen to these men, in order to gain spiritual enlightenment. It also is a great opportunity for the westerners to learn the Hindi language and for Indian parents probably away from the country to acquaint their kids with the Indian culture.
Authorities have constructed a vast tented city at the festival ground for masses of pilgrims, with millions being spent to provide everything from sanitation to security.
The grand festival which has in previous years broken the world record for the biggest human gathering will end on the 30th of March.