Tribhanga pose,” explains Datuk Ramli and proceeds to replicate the pose, his neck, waist and knees curving into the same gentle ‘S’ form. “It is a posture used often in Odissi and I find it absolutely charming. When I first encountered the dance, it was this pose that called out to me. I couldn’t help but admire the softness and sensuousness of this pose.”
Delving into the history of the dance, Odissi is believed to have evolved from the Natya Shastra, an ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of performance arts dated between 200 BCE and 200 CE, with some estimates varying to between 500 BCE and 500CE. One of the earliest known forms of the dance was performed at temples by maharis, who danced in adulation at ornate dance halls that stood on the same grounds as the ancient Hindu temples. In Bhubaneswar, evidence of these temple dancers is abundantly clear at the Lingaraja Temple.
Deemed the epitome of Kalinga architecture, the temple, built by the kings from the Somavamsi dynasty, towers over the city with a 180ft tall deul. Surrounding this imposing structure are the jagmohan, bhoga-mandapa (hall of offerings) and natamandira, a festival hall which welcomed the twirling maharis.
This welcome would not last long, however, as foreign invaders in the form of the Mughal Empire and subsequent British Raj reduced these dancing worshippers to nothing more than concubines and prostitutes. Temples were invaded, dancing statues defaced, dance halls destroyed and