News & Notes

Dhauli-Kalinga mahotsav 2022

The Dhauli-Kalinga mahotsav reached its 18th edition this year. The festival, which is usually held during the first week of February, was held a month later, between 22 and 24March, owing to the pandemic.

The festival in its present format is the result of combining two separate festivals—the Kalinga and the Dhauli. The first one, which started in February 2003 was exclusively dedicated to martial dances both in their traditional and contemporary version and ran uninterrupted for nine years at the base of the Shanti Stupa on the top of the Dhauli hill. It was listed under the recurrent festivals of the Department of Tourism, Government of Odisha.

The second one, which started in the latter part of 2003, was a private festival organised and conceived by guru Gangadhar Pradhan on land purchased by the guru at the foothill of Dhauli. From its inception, it was meant to present classical forms of dance.

Since 2011 the two festivals merged into a single one, and continued to be organised by Orissa Dance Academy, the institution founded by guru Gangadhar Pradhan, the Department of Tourism and Art Vision on the Shanti Vihar stage at the foothill of Dhauli. The festival runs for three days and presents a combination of classical and martial forms each day.

Every day after the lighting of the lamp, the guests of the evening were asked to offer a salutation to the Shanti stupa—which appears as if floating in the sky from the top of the hill—by holding aloft a burning torch as a symbol of light and peace. On the first and last day at this junction, two awards were also distributed to distinguished personalities in the field of culture.

This year the Guru Gangadhar Smruti Samman, which carries a citation, angavastra and cash award of Rs. 25,000, was conferred on guru Durga Charan Ranbir, in the field of dance, Lakshmi Kanta Palit in the field of music, Nityananda Mishra, eminent Sanskrit scholar, and Somdutt Behura, promoter of Odisha culture in the USA. The Buddha Samman, comprising one lakh rupees, was presented on the last day of the festival to Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi for her lifetime contribution in the field of Odissi, by S. Muralidhar, the Chief Justice Odisha High Court, in the presence of R. Balakrishnan, Chief Advisor, Chief Minister’s office.

The classical segment of the festival on the first day opened with a dance presentation in Manipuri style by Bimbavati Devi, daughter of the legendary maestros of Manipuri dance—guru Bipin Singh and guru Kalavati Devi. Along with her team, she presented two thematic items that she had choreographed— Bhoomi, drawn from a hymn in the 12th section of Atharva Veda devoted to Mother Earth, and Purna Purushottama, a celebration of Vishnu in the form of Narasimha. Besides dancing and choreographing, Bimbavati was also involved in the music composition with R.K. Upendra Singh and N. Romila Devi, drawing from the traditional tunes used during the Holi celebrations in Manipur.

The second performance of the evening was by Nrutya Naivedya, led by Pravat Kumar Swain, a young emerging choreographer in the field of Odissi who has already proved his mettle by being selected along with his troupe to participate in prestigious reality shows. Prabhat is a product of the Orissa Dance Academy who, after receiving training from guru Gangadhar Pradhan and mentorship from guru Aruna Mohanty, decided to thread his own path as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. He presented a group choreography of a pallavi in raga Vakulabharanam and in Ektali, and a thematic presentation on the topic of the Shadaripu or the six forms of attachments,which are causes of bondage to the human mind. The music was composed and sung by Matru Prasad Das, a young and promising music composer; guru Mahendra Acharya penned the script.

The martial item of the first day was perhaps the evening’s most interesting and vibrant presentation. Santosh Nair, with the welltrained dancers of his Sadhya group performed his latest choreography, The Mystical Forest, a contemporary production drawn from the dance vocabulary of Mayurbhanj Chhau. Santosh, trained in his childhood in Kathakali and later years in Mayurbhanj Chhau and modern dance, has created his own unique style and has established himself as a leading contemporary choreographer in the country. The production had a powerful musical score by Upamayu Bhanot and excellent lighting by Milind Srivastava.

The second day of the festival opened with a Bharatanatyam recital by Praveen Kumar and his students from the Chithkala School of Dance, Bengaluru. He presented three of his choreographies—pushpanjali, in honour of the three Gods Ganesa, Lakshmi and Siva; Krishnanjali, depicting two stories related to Krishna based on Purandaradasa’s composition; and a tillana in raga Kuntalavarali with music by maestro Balamuralikrishna.

This was followed by an elaborate presentation by Rekha Mehra and her group Urvashi Dance and Cultural Society from New Delhi. Titled Kaal Shakti, the 45-minute dance-drama depicted various stages of mythological stories related to Siva and Parvati, culminating with the sublimation of the female energy symbolised by Shakti. Although based on the Kathak style of dance, the production included some elements of martial and Chhau dance movements in the composition.

The most energetic item of the evening was once again the martial one performed by Gajendra Panda and his Tridhara group. The ensemble presented a choreographed version of Prahalad Nataka, the folk theatre of Ganjam, which deals with the story of Hiranyakasipu, a devotee of Lord Siva and his futile attempts to convert his Vaishnavite son Prahalad. The traditional vigorous movements of this folk style of dance were effectively utilised to depict the martial actions of the plot, accompanied by the thunderous sounds provided by the live orchestra—a good attempt to revitalise a dying form of theatre by re-interpreting it for an urban audience.

On the concluding day, the opening item was provided by an orchestra of twelve tabla players directed by guru Pramod Kumar Sahoo with musical support provided by K. Bhubaneswari (violin) and Srinivas Satapathy (flute). It was perhaps for the first time that a concert of solo tabla by players belonging to Odisha took centrestage in a festival of this nature. While the mardala or pakhawaj, in the last decade, has assumed the status of an independent instrument—apart from being an accompanying one to be played either solo or in ensemble on a concert stage—until now one had not heard about the same emerging possibility for the instrument of the tabla in Odisha.

The item which stole the show on the concluding evening was the one presented by the large ensemble of the Orissa Dance Academy, directed and choreographed by guru Aruna Mohanty. With the support of a cast of more than 70 artists, the group presented in a dancedrama format the story of the Sri Ram Chandra Bhanja Medical College of Cuttack, one of the oldest centres of medical teaching and training in India. The presentation availed of a well-researched audiovisual which was projected as a backdrop to the dance and used props, frequent changes of costumes and a mix of dance styles, including Odissi, gotipua, modern and martial movements. The music score was composed by Agnimitra Behera, rhythm by Dhaneswar Swain and script by Kedar Mishra.

A traditional presentation of Thang-Ta, the martial form of art from Manipur, brought the curtain down on the festival. The Huyen Lallong Manipur Thang-Ta Cultural Association was directed by Gurumayum Gourakishor Sharma and had in its ensemble boys and girls. They presented a series of short items with various weapons such as swords, spears, sticks and daggers. Although performed in the traditional format as attack and defence combat, the players’ movements had all the ingredients of a very sophisticated dance style, including elegance, precision, rhythm and control: a sort of meditation in motion.

The festival was well compered in Odia by Srinivas Ghatuary and in English by Anuja Tarini Mishra. It was telecast live by DD Bharati, and livestreamed on the digital handles of the Orissa Dance Academy. Besides the numerous public who came from Bhubaneswar to attend the show, it was heartening that students from different cultural institutions were brought by their respective teachers to witness the show every evening.