Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav

Odisha Tourism, in association of Odisha Dance Academy and Art Vision organizes a 3-day Dhauli-Kalinga Festival of classical and martial dance in winter every year on the foothills of a hill at Dhauli near Bhubaneswar. The famous Odissi danseuse Guru Aruna Mohanty is the Secretary of Odisha Dance Academy. Art Vision is an Odissi dance training centre set up by Illeana Citaristi, who is an Italian national and an accomplished Odissi and Chhau danseuse and who has made Bhubaneswar her home. The Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav has been able to create an identity for itself in the cultural map of India. The Festival is a confluence of artistes of diverse art forms of dance traditions of India and abroad.

There is a Buddhist peace pagoda on top of the hill. This dazzlingly white peace pagoda was built by Japan Buddha Sangha and Kalinga Nippon Buddha Sangha in 1972. The Dance Festival is organized to commemorate transformation of King Ashoka from ‘Chandashoka’ (Ashoka, the furious) to ‘Dharmashoka’ (Ashoka, the religious soul) after the Kalinga War. This war was fought and lost by the army of ancient Kalinga (present-day Odisha) when Ashoka invaded Kalinga. This war was fought near Dhauli and it is said that the nearby Daya river became red with the blood of the slain soldiers. The sight of so much bloodshed touched the heart of Ashoka and transformed him. He embraced Buddhism with the help of saint Upagupta. The hill has major edicts of Ashoka engraved on a mass of rock.

Peace pagodas were first built in Japanese cities including Hiroshima and Nagsaki which were devastated by dropping atomic bombs during World War II. At present there are 80 such peace pagodas all over the world.

The Peace Pagoda at Bhubaneswar 
Source: Wikipedia (Debashis Pradhan)

 To represent war and peace, the Festival presents a mixture of classical and martial dance forms.

This year, the Festival was held from the 6th to the 8th February. Like every year, i attended the programme this year and enjoyed the mesmerizing dance numbers presented there.

The first evening started with ‘Bibidha Varna’, a fusion of folk dance forms from different parts of Odisha. This was followed by Kathak dance by Aditi Mangaldas and Party of Dristikon Dance Foundation, New Delhi. The last item was Kamsale Dance, a martial art of Karnataka, choreographed by Karthik Upamanyu.

The second evening started with a splendid presentation of Gotipua Dance, with all its acrobatic splendor, by Odisha Dance Academy and Aradhana Dance Academy, Bhubaneswar. Gotipua dance is the early form of Odissi dance. Boys from a very young age start training for it. The training involves yoga to make their bodies flexible and supple as this dance involves skilful and intricate acrobatics. Boys up to the age of 12, dressed up as girls, perform this dance. This was followed by an exquisite presentation by dancers from Srjan, Bhubaneswar, an Odissi dance centre set up by Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra, who has inherited the dance skill from his late father, the legendary Odissi dance Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. The last item of the evening was a marital dance of South East Asia by Dewandaru Dance Company set up by Rianto and Miray Kawashima. The Company’s aim is to spread traditional Javanese dance.

Here is a view of the Gotipua dance item during Dhauli Kalinga Mahotsav of last year. Source YouTube

The first presentation of the third evening was perhaps the best among all the presentations. It was ‘Charishnu’, an extravaganza of Indian classical dances conceived and directed by the famous Bharatanatyam exponent Leela Samson.  It was a spectacular dance and music presentation capturing the diversity and richness of India’s performing arts. Charishnu showed how seamlessly these dance forms can be knit together. Each is so different from the other, in style, movements and music, yet they were weaved, symbolising the bonding of people from different corners of the country.  It was a wonderful fusion of Bharatanatyam choreographed by Leela Samson, Kathak dance by Aditi Mangaldas and Group, Manipuri dance by Priti Patel and Group, Kathakali and Mohini yattam by Sadanam Balakrishnan and Group, Odissi by Guru Aruna Mohanty and Group, Thang ta by Imocha Singh, ending with Music ensemble by Dhaneswar Swain, Mahesh Vinayakam and Group. The strength and beauty of each of these dance styles was captured individually so that the viewers could savour each while appreciating the difference between them as they unfolded and blended with grace.

The last item of the evening and of the Festival was a Mayurbhanj Chhau Dance presentation by Mayur Art Centre, Bhubaneswar. The ‘Kalinga War’ presented in it summed up the theme of the Festival. The story-line was this: Ashoka, the young king of Magadha, notorious as ‘Chandashoka’ attacked Kalinga, with a huge army. In the fierce war that ensued, the bank of the river Daya was littered with corpses and soil was soaked with blood. The sight of so much bloodshed and death of millions tormented him with remorse and deep repentance. At this crucial moment, a Buddhist monk named Upagupta arrived on the scene and brought peace to Ashoka’s mind and burning heart by initiating him to Buddhism. The entire area resonated with ‘Buddham Sharanam Gachhaami, Dharmam Sharanam Gachhami Sangham Sharanam Gachhaami…’

Mayurbhanj is one of a few tribal Districts of Odisha. 

Here is a glimpse into Mayurbhanj Chhau by Gurukul Chhau Dance Sangam (GCDS):

Chhau Dance of Purulia, a tribal district of West Bengal, is another form of this dance. Here is a sample:

I have to wait for another year to be a part of this carnival.