Raghurajpur, the first heritage village of Odisha situated on the
banks of river Bhargabi, is known worldwide for its Pattachitra. Bylanes
of this quaint little village, where every house is a canvas, are also
home to another beautiful art form—Gotipua. At the far end of the
village, stand two organisations that have been nurturing Gotipua with
all its pristine flavour and glory—Dasabhuja Gotipua Odissi Nrutya
Parishad and Abhinna Sundar Gotipua Nrutya Parishad.
Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was a Gotipua dancer in his early
days. To continue the tradition, the organisations have given the dance
form a new lease of life amidst cultural apathy within the state. The
Dasabhuja Gotipua Odissi Nrutya Parishad was established by late Guru
Maguni Charan Das, the pioneer of Gotipua dance, almost four decades
ago. Sebendra Das, brother of Guru Maguni Das, currently runs the
Dasabhuja Parishad. He explains the relevance of the dance form.
“Gotipua is an amalgamation of two Odia words; Goti means single and Pua
means boy. When the dance of the Maharis and the Devadasis of the
Jagannath Temple at Puri disintegrated due to various reasons, young
boys from various ‘akhadas’ were trained to take the tradition forward.
Earlier, Gotipua used to be performed by a single boy, but over the
years it evolved as a group dance.”
The Abhinna Sundar Gotipua
Nrutya Parishad has been working for the promotion and popularisation of
the ancient dance form for 11 years. It was set up by late Guru Laxman
Maharana. “A boy who masters all the three skills of singing, playing
folk musical instruments and dancing is considered a true Gotipua. In
Odissi, a dancer is restricted to dance,” says Priyabrat Pallai, the
guru at Dasabhuja Parishad. He feels that Gotipua is a poor man’s
dance. “Such is the plight of Gotipua that not many cultural
organisations in Odisha provide a platform for the artistes during their
annual festivals. In fact, our boys perform more outside Odisha. Even
the Culture Department has stopped organising its annual Gotipua
Festival that was started in 2011,” rues Pallai. It is believed
that most of the grammar and material of the present day Odissi
repertoire were distilled from Gotipua that originated as a temple
ritual for Lord Jagannath. Movements in the two dance forms are same.
The style and approach is different. The uniqueness of Gotipua is its
combination of song and dance by boys between five and 15 years, who
dress up as girls. They perform to verses on Radha and Krishna written
by the Vaishnavite poets of Odisha.
Gotipua is gaining global
recognition for its rawness and exuberance. “Though Odissi got the
classical status due to proper documentation and promotion by
connoisseurs, no such effort has ever been made for Gotipua. It is
mainly practised in villages by boys mostly coming from BPL families,”
says Abhinna Parishad’s Basanta Kumar Moharana, who recently took a
batch of students on a dance tour to Paris.
Both the organisations
follow the traditional ‘gurukul’ form of teaching and practise the
Raghurajpur ‘gharana’ of Gotipua. Dasabhuja Parishad and Abhinna
Parishad have trained more than 300 Gotipua dancers from Puri district.
Currently, 35 boys are undergoing training at Dasabhuja Parishad and 15
in Abhinna Parishad. For both the parishads, finance has been a concern.
The future is uncertain. “There have been years when we have done 100
shows across the world at a stretch and at times, we get to do just 20
to 30 shows in a year. Stage shows abroad fetch good money. Besides, we
earn by performing at all festivals related to Lord Jagannath like Rath
Yatra, Chandan Yatra, Jhulana, Dola Yatra,” Basanta adds.