The history of Odissi dance has been traced to an early sculpture found in the Ranigumpha caves at Udaygiri(Orissa). dating to the 2nd century BC. Thus Odissi appears to be the oldest classical dance rooted in rituals and tradition. Infact the NãtyaShãstra refers to Odra Magadhi as one of the vrittis and Odra refers to Orissa. The three style of Odissi is Mahari, Gotipua & Nartaki. Mahari is the devdasi style, Nartaki is the royal courts & odissi dance schools. Gotipua is derived from Mahari dance and performed by boys.
Odissi dance was held in high esteem before the 17th century. Nobility were known for their patronage of the arts, and it was not unheard of for royalty of both sexes to be accomplished dancers. However, after the 17th century, the social position of dancers began to decline. The “Anti-Nautch” movement of the British brought Odissi dance to near extinction.
Independence brought a major change in official attitudes toward Indian Dance. Like the other classical arts, dance was seen as a way to define India’s national identity. Governmental and non-governmental patronage increased. The few remaining Odissi dancers were given employment, and a massive job of reconstructing the Odissi dance began. This reconstruction involved combing through ancient texts, and more importantly, the close examination of dance posses represented in bas-relief in the various temples.
There were a number of people who were responsible for the reconstruction, revival and popularisation of Odissi dance. Most notable are Guru Deba Prasad Das, Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Mahadev Rout and Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra. Today Odissi dance is once again deemed a viable and “classical” dance from 1955.
Odissi at current times has become extremely popular and a craze through out the world.