The Odissi Repertoire is a series of Odissi dance items that is presented to an audience to its fullest potential. It was designed to take the audience through a journey of birth through life till death. Some may say that it also parallels a multicourse meal from the appetizer to the dessert.
Mangalacharan is the first item of the traditional Odissi repertoire. The devotee enters to a sloka or Sanskrit verse to Lord Jagannatha, the deity of Odissi, so to make their way to where He is traditionally placed on the stage. Upon offering flowers to the deity and taking His blessings, the devotee goes to the center to dance the Bhoomi Pranam, the Prayer to Mother Earth, to ask for forgiveness for stepping on her. Following the Bhoomi Pranam, the devotee dances a sloka to any higher being. This is the one segment of the item which makes it precisely different from other Mangalacharans. Following the sloka, the devotee then dances the Sabha Pranam, the Homage to the Auditorium, in Trikhanddi or three parts, which means the Gods, the Gurus, and the audience. The devotee then exits the stage upon saluting the spectators of the presentation.
BATTU NRUTYA or STHAAYEE NRUTYA
This piece is in honour of Battuka Bhairava, one of the 64 terryfying aspects of Lord Shiva, the God of Dance. It is set to a Sthaayee or single chorus which is composed of rhythmic syllables and repeated. In the choreography, the dancer elaborates the beautiful sculpturesque postures derived from the walls of the temples in Orissa such as Binadhaarini (the one who holds the six-string Bina), Bansibaadini (the one who plays the flute or Bansi), Mardaladhaarini (the one who holds the drum or Mardala), Manjiradhaarini (the one who holds the cymbals or Manjira), Darpani (she who admires herself in the mirror or Darpana), Kabari (she who binds her hair in a knot or Kabara), Abhimana (she who is in a sentimental mood or Abhimaan), and Alasaa (she in the pose of relaxation or Aalasa). The piece traditionally will end with a rhythmic composition or Bol before the dancer exists.
Pallavi literally means elaboration of the feet. This abstract piece is choreographed to a song composed to a specific Raga or melody and set to a Tala or time cycle. It differs from Battu in the sense that the sculpturesque postures or not a necessity to apply in the choreography but more the general abstract Odissi movements which have no meaning and convey Laalitya (the supple fluid movement which Odissi is popular for). The song must have a main chorus or a Sthaayee. Some Pallavis will have a Sthaayee (a chorus), an Asthaayee (2nd chorus), Antara (Verses), and Paddi (a pick-up). Just as Battu Nrutya, Pallavi will have Bols or rhythmic compositions played on the Mardala Drum and recited by the Mardala Player. The item gradually increases in tempo and climaxes with a Bol in the end.
Abhinaya means to act. In order for the dancer to act, lyrics must be provided to convey a story as a narrator or character from the tale. The Geeta Govinda is a Sanskrit Text written by 12th century poet Jayadeva, from Kenduvilva, Orissa. The book comprises of stanzas traditionally written in Ashttapadi (8 stanzas) with various meters. It is a Vaishnavic work which means it is solely dedicated to devotional songs to Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna. The Geeta Govinda was the most popular text used by Devadaasis or Maharis, literally the celibate female servants of the Gods. They would sing these stanzas and dance them with Hand Gestures and facial expression in the Jagannatha Temple, Puri, Orissa. The majority of the songs are about the love games of Lord Krishna with his beloved Radha, his milkmaids, and the despair they feel when he leaves one for another, arrives late, or not even show. This sentiment signifies the right that all the milkmaids, including Radha, have upon Lord Krishna.
One of the more popular pieces from the Geeta Govinda is Das Avatar which has received its own section in the current Odissi Repertoire. It is the very first song of the Geeta Govinda paying homage to the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Poet Jayadeva describes Das Avatar or ten incarnations as:
Meena, the Fish
Kachhapa, the Tortoise
Sukara, the Wild Boar
Narahari, the Man-Lion
Bamana, the Dwarf
Bhrugupati, the Furious Sage
Rama, the Golden Bowed One
Haladhara, the Tiller
Budha, the Peaceful One
Kalki, the ultimate destroyer yet to manifest
Only soon after India independence and the revival of the Odissi discipline, various Sanskrit texts from different cults started being utilized in compositions. Shaivic Slokas or Sanskrit stanzas to Lord Shiva were composed, as well as to other forms of Gods and Goddesses. Today, there are few but limited scholars who create Sanskrit verses upon request for Odissi composers and choreographers. It takes a great skill to generate such stanzas and even more skill to be able to do Sandhi or the analysis of the root meaning for every sound.
Odissi Dance, when in its rawest or most Oriya form, is presented to traditional Oriya songs whose tunings are pre-set from long ago. Lyrics and tunes were already established and related not only tales of Krishna and Radha, but the general hero and heroine who faced similar situations. Odissi music was born from these tunes and the one most significant element of the tune is the Paddi or pick-up. Many Oriya poets in the last few centuries had created new works and would give their last stanza of the piece an acknowledgment of the himself the lyricist. Some of them are Banamali Das, Gopal Krushna, and Upendra Bhanja. Lyrical games create an interesting concept such as Champu, a traditional song, where only one letter of the Oriya alphabet begins each line of the song.
Mokshya means salvation. This is the final item of the repertoire where the dancer reaches ecstasy and comes to the end of the journey. The dancer enters and presents a series of Bols or rhythmic compositions. These Bols are articulated from and played on the Mardal Drum. The dancer then comes to a halt. A sloka or Sanskrit verse is sung to the higher being, or for peace, very intensely with great emotion. Once the dancer has presented the sloka, they stay in a pose that symbolizes peace, traditionally with the eyes closed or in Milita Drushtti (half closed).The Odissi Repertoire is a symbol of the journey through life starting from Managalacharan as the birth to Mokshya which is the death. Upon completing the Mokshya Nata, the dancer attains salvation.