Lot of great! Guru’s created Odissi, Lot of scholars have made research, Lot of work has been done fo Odissi. We are very fortunate to be part of this journey. Here is a very small effort by me to compile Odissi Dance Theory for my students and others who have keen interst in learning this Odissi dance form. It is highly recommended to learn Odissi under the guidance of a Teacher (Guru) to be more effective and be a complete dancer.


      Dance is sequence of body movements following the rhythm, feeling the beats and connecting to a music. Dance is the body movement which is patterned, rhythmic, stylized telling a story or expressing the feelings or representing a theme. There are many definition of Dance.

As per Lord Bramha who created dance ‘Dance is a combination of Nritta (rhythmic movement of the body limbs Anga, Pratyanga and upanga) and Natya (Feelings, Expressions & Telling the meaning of the song to the audience).

Classical Dance

      Classical Dance is based on set of rules developed over a long period of time. The techniques are complex and takes long time to master. It requires years of training under the guidance of Guru (Teacher) to master.

The daily repetition of exercises, mastery over the body parts, surrender to the teacher sometime is painful but serve to conquer the technique and prepares the mind to face bigger challenges of life. It gives the necessary power to move the audience.

Indian Classical Dance

      India has a very rich tradition of classical dance. The Natya Shastra, which is the oldest surviving text on stagecraft in the world, spends a considerable time discussing it. In the old days of the theatre, the dancers would mime the story while the singers would sing the dialogue. The instrumentalists would accompany them all. The nature of the old theatre was such that the dancers occupied a central position.

For many centuries the dancers were attached to the temples. This maintained a strong religious flavor to dance. Even today many of the traditional themes are mythological in nature. Over the centuries different areas have given their own color to the ancient classical tradition.

Today the acknowledged classical styles are:

1. Bharatnatyam of Tamil Nadu
2. Kathakali of Kerala
3. Kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh
4. Mohiniattyam from Kerala
5. Manipuri of Northeast India, Manipur
6. Odissi from Odisha
7. Sattriya from Assam
8. Kathak from north India.

Each of these styles has a strong regional connection and none can claim to be representative of the entire Indian subcontinent.

Odissi Classical Dance

      Odissi is one of the eight Indian classical dance form that was originated at Jagannath temple, Odisha, India. It is claimed to be the oldest dance form of India. Odissi is one of the most graceful dance and is popular for

• Fluid torso body movements
• Tribhanga (Triangular Body posture) & temple sculpture like posture body Postures
• Powerful and intricate foot movements.
• Melodious music
• Beautiful Costume with unique silver jewellery and Tahia (Flower head band)

Bhumi Pranam

      Bhumi Pranam, Bow to the Earth is used at the start and finish of Odissi dance practice. Bhumi is the Mother Earth. Bhumi Pranam means Salutations to Mother Earth. Bhumi Pranam, Bow to the Earth is used at the start and finish of Odissi dance practice.

We salute the Mother earth at beginning of the dance seeking permission to stamp upon her in creating our dance. We once again do the Bhumi Pranam to thank her at the end of our practice, for allowing us to do so.

Guru Pranam

      The dancer/student take blessings of the Guru after Bhumi Pranam and at the end of the dance to pay respect to the knowledge/wisdom (Gurutva) of the teacher/Guru.


      The role of a teacher, mentor or guru is very crucial in all the cultures and philosophies around the world. The bond between the mentor and his disciple is universal. Even in today fast paced modern world we see this bond going strong not only in the field of dance and music but even in sports, science and academics. Everyone has some mentor in their life.

In Indian Classical dance and music tradition, Guru is the guide, teacher who takes the responsibility of passing the tradition of dance and music to the students of the next generation and the shishya/student has the complete trust on the teacher/Guru. So, it’s important for the student to find the right teacher.

Our scripture says that the teacher should be knowledgeable, self controlled, devoted for his/her work, cultured, disciplined, considerate, kind & caring towards all the students without discriminating between poor, rich, fast and slow learner, patient while teaching, well versed with Natyashastra and other relevant scriptures, stern and strict to ensure discipline, innovative, creative, update of new developments & inventions in the dance forms.

The teacher should not indulge himself in drinking, smoking, immoral activities, vengeance, laziness, theft, fooling and criticizing others and cheap behavior. The teacher should not be short tempered, overconfident of his disciples, boastful of himself and jealous of others. The teacher should set an ideal for his disciples.

In ancient period, the great sages used to be the Gurus, who lived in their ‘Ashram’ or hermitages, called ‘Gurukula’ located in beautiful forests or mountains, away from the social life and its luxuries. These Gurus were master in every aspect of life and had complete knowledge of all the branches of education.

The disciples, irrespective of their family backgrounds, used to go to Guru’s Ashram in early childhood, live with him like a family member of his Guru, serve him like their own parents with dedication and are trained in every aspect of life and philosophy, literature, finance, economics, politics, mathematics, science, administration, fine arts, martial arts etc. It had been a unique system of transformation of knowledge and wisdom.

During course of time, the disciples become well versed in all the branches of knowledge. The disciples, with permission and blessings of his Guru, display their talent and expertise in front of the family members of Kings, Ministers, experts of various streams of education, great scholars, connoisseurs of fine arts along with the public. After succeeding the tests, the disciples offer ‘Guru Dakshina’ to the Guru as a token of their gratitude toward his guru. On acquiring full knowledge, the disciple used to go back to their social life and family to practice their knowledge in their life. Since the disciples acquire their complete knowledge from one Guru only, it is acknowledged as a tradition. Some of the disciples used to opt to be teachers like their Guru, and they pursue their career as teachers to hand over the knowledge, they had acquired from their Guru, to the next generation.

Thus, it became a tradition. ‘Guru Shishya’ parampara is the ancient Indian system of mentor/teacher and disciple/student lineage in India.

The modern mentor/teacher and disciple/student phenomenon is nice blend of traditional Gurukul and modern institutionalized system. The concept of Guru-Shishya Parampara is still alive.

Body Limbs

Anga: Our body is divided into three major parts Anga (Major Limbs), Pratyanga (Minor Limbs), Upanga (Parts of Limbs). When Major limbs moves, Minor limbs and it’s parts moves along with it.

      • Anga : This includes Shiras (Head), Hastas(two palms), Vakshas (chest), Parshwa (the two sides), Kati (two sides of the waist) , Padas (legs) & Griva (Neck)
      • Pratyanga : This includes Skanda (Shoulders), Bahu (Arms), Prshtam (back), Udaram (stomach),Uru ( thighs) and Jangha (shanks). Some consider Manibandha (wrist), Kurpara (elbows), Janu (knees) also as Pratyanga.
      • Upanga : This includes the Drishti (Eyes), Bhru (Eye brows), Puta (Eye lids), Tara (Eye balls), Kapola (Cheeks), Nasi (Nose), Hanu (Jaws), Adhara (Lower lip), Dasana (Teeth), Jithva (Tongue), Chubukam (Chin) and Vadanam (Face)

Odissi Bhangi’s (Basic Body Postures)

In Arts and Craft there are  4 types of Bhangas (postures). These four Bhangas are: Abhanga, Samabhanga, Atibhanga and Tribhanga. Abhanga signifies “off-center”, an iconographic term for a slightly askew standing position. Samabhanga is the equal distribution of the body limbs on a central line, whether standing or sitting. Atibhanga is the great bend with the torso diagonally inclined and the knees bent. Tribhanga is the triple bend with one hip raised, the torso curved to the opposite side and the head tilted at an angle.


Odissi has 4 distinct postures and some includes the fifth one as Ati Bhanga

  • Samabhanga (Equal pose)     The dancer stands straight with Jugma Pada/Sama Paada and head and eyes are in ‘Sama’  and the hands are on the waste resting both sides.
  • Abhanga(Slight Flexion)        The dancer stays with Anukunchita pada with both knee bended slightly to one side and both hands resting on one side of the waste.
  • Tribhangi (Three Flexions)   The dancer stands with Three bends, one is the knee point, second waste line and the third is the kneck point. The foot position is Tribhanga paada, both knee bended and out. The head is Paribahita (tilted to one side).
  • Chowka (Square pose)          The dancer is in Chowka pada, both knee bended and out. Both arms bend from elbow, palm facing down. Both elbow should remain straight in the line of the shoulder. The arms should be 90o angle from the elbow. The head, kneck and the body should be straight as Samabhanga.
  • Atibhanga (Excessive Flexion)         The dancer’s head, torso and limbs move in directions opposed to each other. Atibhanga is concerned with the dramatic dance forms called Tandava i.e., the Nataraja poses of the dancing Shiva, the delighted dance of Krishna and others.

Single Hand Gestures (Asamyukta Hasta)

The hand gestures are divided as Asamyuta Hasta – Single hand gestures and Samyuta Hasta – Double hand gestures. There are 28 asamyuta hastas & 24 Samyuta hastas. Each hasta has a defined usage called Viniyoga. These viniyogas are again sanskrit shlokas written in Abhinaya Darpana.

  • PATAKA                                 FLAG
  • TRIPATAKA                          TRI FOLDED FLAG
  • ARDHAPATAKA                    HALF FLAG
  • KARTARIMUKHA                 SCISSORS
  • MAYURA                                PEACOCK
  • ARDHACHANDRA                HALF MOON
  • ARALA                                   A CLASP
  • SUKATUNDA                         NECK OF A BIRD
  • MUSTHI                                 FIST
  • SIKHARA                               HIGHEST POINT OF TOP
  • KAPITHA                               BEAK OF A BIRD
  • KATAKAMUKHA                  FACE OF A BIRD
  • SUCHI                         NEEDLE
  • CHANDRAKALA                   CRESCENT MOON
  • PADMAKOSHA                      HALF BLOOMED LOTUS
  • MRUGASIRSHA                     HEAD OF A DEER
  • SINGHAMUKHA                    HEAD OF A LION
  • KANGULA                              SEMI-OPENED FLOWER
  • ALAPADMA                           LOTUS
  • CHATURA                              CLEVER WOOLF
  • BHRAMARA                          BUMBLEBEE
  • HANSASYA                            SWAN
  • SANDNSA                               HEART BEAT
  • MUKULA                                FLOWER BUD
  • TAMRACHULA                     HEAD OF A BIRD
  • TRISHULA                             TRIDENT



Double Hand Gestures (Samyukta Hasta)

Anjali Hasta : Hold Pataka in both the hands & join the palms to show Anjali Hasta.Devataguru Vipranaam Namaskarepyanukramaat
To salute God, Teacher & the Learned hold the Anjali HastaKaryasshiromukhorassu Viniyojyonjalikaraha
above the head, in front of the face &
in front of chest respectively.
 Kapota Hasta:In Anjali Hasta, only the borders of the hands are joined(Palm should not touch one another) to show Kapota Hasta.Pramaana Gurusambhasha Viniyogeekrutishwayam
To make promise, Speak to the teacher, To be Polite,
To Agree this hasta is used.

 Karkata Hasta:Bring the fingers of both the hands between one another to show Karkata Hasta.

Samoohadarshane Tundadarshane Shankhapoorane
To show Crowd, Thick articles, Blowing of Shankha
Angaanaam Motane Shakhonnamanecha Niyujyate
Stretching Limbs, Bending the branches of a tree this hasta is used.

Swastika Hasta :Hold Pataka Hands & cross the hands at the wrist so that the hands are opposite to each other to shoe Swastika Hasta.

Samyogena Swastikakhyo Makararthe Niyujyate
This hasta is used to show Aligater
Bhayavade Vivadecha Keertane Swastikobhavet

To Talk in fear, to Argument and to praise this hasta is used.

Dola Hasta:Hold Pataka Hasta, stretch the arms & keep the hasta upside down along the hip line to show Dola Hasta.

Naatyarambhe Prayoktavya Iti Natyavidovidhuhu
This hasta is used in the beginning of a dance.

Pushpaputa Hasta:Hold Sarpasheersha in both the hands & join them at the wrist to show Pushpaputa Hasta.

Neerajanavidhou Baala Phaladigrahane tatha
To show Lamp Offering, Children, Accept Fruits
Sandhyayaamarghyadanecha Mantrapushpe Niyojayet

Offering to the Sun in the evenings, Chant Holy prayers
This hasta is used.

Utsanga Hasta:Hold Mrugasheersha Hasta in boh the hands, cross the hands, touch opposite shoulders to show Utsanga Hasta.

Aalinganecha Lajjayaam Angadaadipradarshane
To Embrace, To show shyness, To show one’s body
Baalaanaamshikshanechaayam Utsango Yujyatekaraha

To deciplinne children Utsanga hasta is used.

Shivalinga Hasta: Hold Ardhachandra Hasta in the left hand(palm up), keep shikhara Hasta in right hand & place it on the left hand to show Shivalinga Hasta.

Viniyogastutatsyva Shivalingapradarshane
This Hasta is used to show Shivalinga (Lord Shiva).

Katakavardhana Hasta:Hold Katakamukha Hasta in both hands, cross the hands at the wrist to show Katakavardhana Hasta.

Pattabhisheke Poojayam Vivahadishu Yujyate
To show Coronation, To worship and to show weddings
this hasta is used.

Kartareeswastika Hasta Hold Kartareemukha Hasta in both the hands & cross the hands at the wrist to show Kartareeswastika Hasta.

Shakhaasucha Adri Shikhare Vruksheshucha Niyujyate
To show the branches of a tree, tip of Mountains, Trees
This hasta is used.

Shakata Hasta:Leave the thumb & the middle fingers in Bhramara Hasta. Hold like this in both the hands & cross at the wrist to show Shakata Hasta. Another way of showing Shakata Hasta is to cross the Arala Hastas at the wrist.

Raakshasaabhinayechaayam Niyukto Bharatadibhihi
This hasta is used to show Demons.

Shankha Hasta:Hold the Left thumb with the last three fingers of the right hand, stretch the other fingers of the left hand, stretch & touch the thumb & index fingers of the right hand with the stretched fingers of the left hand to show Shankha Hasta.

Shankhaadishuniyujyoya Mityevam Bharataadayaha
This hasta is used to show Conch.

Chakra Hasta : Hold Ardhachandra hasta in both the hands, place them one above the other like a Plus(+) mark to show Chakra Hasta.

Chakrahastassa vigneya chakrarthe viniyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Chakra, the weapon of Lord Vishnu.

Samputa Hasta :Hold Chakra Hasta, fold the thumb & little fingers in both the hands to show Samputa Hasta.

Vastvaacchchade Samputecha Samputahkara Eeritaha
To cover things and to show the sacred box in which the
idols are placed this Samputa Hasta is used.

Paasha Hasta: Hold Suchi Hasta in both hands, bend the index finger a little & join these fingers like a chain to show Paasha Hasta.

Anyonyakalahe Paashe Shynkhalaayaam Niyujyate
To show Playful Quarrel, Rope, Chains this hasta is used.

Keelaka Hasta:Hold Mrugasheersha Hasta in both hands, bend the little finger a little & join these fingers like a chain to show Keelaka Hasta.

Snehecha Narmalaapecha Viniyogosya Sammataha
To show friendly talk this hasta is used.

Matsya Hasta:Hold Pataka hasta in both the hands, place them one above the other, stretch the thumb a bit (like fins of fish) to show Matsya Hasta.

Etasya Viniyogastu Matsyarthe Sammatobhavet
This hasta is used to show Fish.

Koorma Hasta:Opposite of Chakra Hasta is Koorma Hasta i.e Stretch the thumb & little fingers & fold the other fingers in Chakra Hasta to show Koorma Hasta.

Koormahastasyavigneyaha Koormarthe Viniyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Turtle, Tortoise

Varaha Hasta:Hold Mrugasheersha hasta in both hands, place them one above the other to show Varaha Hasta.

Etasyaviniyogastu Varaharthe tu Yujyate
This Hasta is used to Show Boar (Wild Pig)

Garuda Hasta:Hold Ardhachandra in both the hands, turn them & hold them with the thumbs to show Garuda Hasta.

Garudo Garudarthe cha Yujyate Baratagame
This Hasta is used to show a bird called Garuda.

Nagabandha Hasta:Hold Sarpasheersha in both the hands & cross them at the wrist to show Nagabandha Hasta.

Bhujagadampatee Bhaave Nikunchanaamcha darshane
To show Snakes, Creeper Chamber
Athrvanasya mantreshu Yojyo Bharatakovidhihi

Atharvana Veda Shlokas this hasta is used.

Khatva Hasta:Hold Chatura Hasta in both hands, place the hands one above the other, stretch the index fingers down to show Khatva Hasta.

Khatvahastobhavedeshaha Khatvaadishu Niyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Bed.

Bherundha Hasta :Hold Kapitha Hasta & cross them at the wrist to show Bherundha Hasta.

Bherundhapakshi Dampatyorbherundhaka Eteeritaha
To show a bird couple called Bherundha this hasta is used.

Avahittha Hasta:Hold Alapadma in both the hands, cross them at the wrist, place them near chest to show Avahitha Hasta.

Sira Bheda (Head Movements)

Sama udvahitam adhomukha-lolitam Dhutam
kampitam cha paravrittam ukshiptam parivahitam
navdhakathitam shirasa natyashastra visharadaihi.

  • Sama : Straight Position
  • Udvita : Face lifted upward
  • Adhomukha : Face tilted downward
  • Alolita: Head circle completely either clockwise or anti-clockwise
  • Dhuta: Head faces directly side and  moves in the level to the otherside.
  • Kampita: Head hits up and down.
  • Parabruta: Head turns backward directly without tilt.
  • Utkhipta: Face moves diagonally up to both sides.
  • Paribahita: Head tips to both sides without turning the face.

Greeva Bheda (Neck Movements)

Sundareecha tirashcheena

tathivaparivartita prakampitachabhavagny

gneyagreeva chaturvidha 

  • Sundari = Neck movement on both sides
  • Tirashcheena = Above movement with increase in speed
  • Parivartita = Movement to the corners
  • Prakampita = Moving the neck like a rooster

Drishti Bheda (Eye Movements)

Samam Alolitam

sachi pralokita

nimeelite Ullokita



  • Samam = Looking Straight
  • Alolitam = Turing eye balls clockwise & anti-clockwise
  • sachi = Looking to the sides without turning the head
  • Pralokana = Looking to the sides alternatively without turning the head
  • Nimeelana = Looking down
  • Ullokana = Looking Up
  • Anuvrutta = Looking Up & Down
  • Avalokana = Looking deep down.

Padastiti(Foot Positions)

  • Bhumi Stital Lina pada
  • Adi Pada
  • Sama/Jugma Pada
  • Biparita Mukha Pada
  • Kumbha Pada
  • Dhanu Pada
  • Prushta Dhanu Pada
  • Maha Pada
  • Prusta Maha Pada
  • Eka Pada
  • Meena Pucha Pada
  • Ashrita Pada
  • Lolita Pada
  • Uttolita Pada
  • Ullolita Pada
  • Janghashrita Pada
  • Nandyabritta pada
  • Januashrita Pada
  • Nupura Pada
  • Suchi Pada
  • Kunchita Pada
  • Anukunchita Pada
  • Gharshita Pada
  • Alida Pada
  • Pratyalida Pada
  • Paschyat Urdha Mukhi Pada
  • Bilangaparsini Pada
  • Tribhangi/Trasya Pada
  • Swastika Pada
  • Mandala Pada
  • Chauka Pada
  • Ardhachauka Pada
  • Bandhani Pada
  • Utparshani
  • Ardhaswastika Pada
  • Rekha Pada

Odissi Nachara Atha Beli (Eight Beli’s of Odissi Dance)

Kali Charan Pattnaik had prescribed Odissi exercises through his colloquial Odia verse given below.

            Uthaa  Baithhaa          Thiyaa        Chaali

            Budaa   Bhasaa           Bhaunri     Paali

            Odissi  Nata Re Atha Beli

This means Odissi dance has eight types of tricks for specific actions as seen during performances.

  1. Uthaa (To standup from sitting posture and then to sit which is repeated)
  2. Baithha (Means to sit. Dancer bends knees in equal measure. Toes of the feet are bent and firm over the ground. Heels are joined over which one sits. Hand can res on the waist. When you sit on your heel on a kumbha paada)
  3. Thiya (Standing in one of the four basic Bhangis, mostly in Sama bhanga. Hands are on the waist and legs can be crossed. This is Stanaka)
  4. Chali (Walking in Odissi style. Walk on heels making a semicircular movement alternately on left and right foot. This is Chalana )
  5. Budaa (Dip in Water. Making body movments similar to ones during taking bath in a river, lifting hands avove the head. This is also to express how immersed is the dancer in feelings)
  6. Bhasa (Float. Side movement thumping one foot on ground. Body bent alternately to right and left with floating Torso movements.)
  7. Bhaunri(Circular movement. To stand in Chowka and rotate.The turns of Odissi dance. Eka paada,Biparita bhramari and Chakra Bhramari)
  8. Pali (A colourful cloth mat for playing dice. Dancer move to four directions over four corners of the pali. This is the backward and forward steppings.When you walk in a pali(square) )

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