Kelucharan Mohapatra

  • Published By: The Sruti Foundation
  • Issue: 237

Special Feature
Kelucharan Mohapatra

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra is no more. To think of Odissi without the one who has been its guiding light for the last half a century and more, is like thinking of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. The life of the boy from Raghurajpur village in Puri district, born to a humble Patachitra painter Chintamani Mohapatra and his wife Siri Nani, growing up to straddle the world of Odissi like a colossus, reads like a fairy story. Not born to any traditional dance family, Kelucharan did not aspire to gurudom. The mantle fell on him as an earned right with his immeasurable contribution to Odissi.

The turning point in Odissi history came in 1945 when Pankaj Charan Das engaged as the dance teacher by Annapurna B Theatre Group, came into contact with the young Kelucharan Mohapatra, hired as a percussionist by the same theatre group on a monthly salary of fifteen rupees. In an attempt to lure larger audiences, a dance sequence, Mohini Bhasmasura, was choreographed by Guru Pankaj Charan for the play Benami, with the guru himself in the role of the demon, young Laxmipriya the actress who was later on to become the wife of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra as Mohini and Kelucharan as Siva. This landmark event was to burgeon into an entire movement ushering in a whole new superstructure of Odissi erected on the very scanty remains of what had survived history, involving all the main players in the field like Pankaj Charan Das, Debaprasad Das, Raghunath Dutta, Mayadhar Raut, Kelucharan Mohapatra and Dhiren Patnaik.