From Odissi to Self-Discovery: My Dance of Life | Padma Shri Aruna Mohanty | TEDxSCBMCH | Summary and Q&A

September 25, 2023
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From Odissi to Self-Discovery: My Dance of Life | Padma Shri Aruna Mohanty | TEDxSCBMCH

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In this video, the speaker discusses the concept of samsara, the life cycle that begins with childhood, moves through youth and old age, and ends with death. The speaker explores why people are so afraid of death and why it is viewed with apprehension. Additionally, the speaker discusses Odissi, a classical dance form from the state of Odisha in India, and its distinctive features that make it recognizable.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the concept of samsara?

Samsara refers to the life cycle that starts with childhood, progresses through youth and old age, and ultimately ends in death. This cycle represents the continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that occurs in Hinduism and other Indian religions.

Q: Why are people scared of death?

People are scared of death because it is the unknown, the ultimate end of life as we know it. It represents a complete cessation of consciousness and the fear of what lies beyond. Additionally, death often entails leaving loved ones behind and facing the uncertainty of what happens after death.

Q: What is Odissi?

Odissi is a classical dance form that originated in the state of Odisha in India. It is known for its graceful and lyrical movements, intricate hand gestures, and storytelling through dance. Odissi has a rich history and is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of Odisha.

Q: How can one recognize Odissi?

Odissi can be recognized through various visual elements. One key aspect is the attire, such as the Odisha saree, which is a distinct style and symbol of Odissi. Additionally, the use of silver jewelry and filigree jewelry is another characteristic feature of Odissi. The dance form also incorporates unique poses and stances called "bhangis," with the "trivanga" posture being a signature element.

Q: What makes Odissi different from other classical dance forms?

One of the main differences lies in the aesthetics and movement style. Odissi is characterized by its flowing and curvilinear movements, while other classical dance forms may have more linear movements. Additionally, Odissi often incorporates unique poses and gestures that are specific to the dance form.

Q: How does Odissi reflect the history and culture of Odisha?

Odissi portrays a vivid picture of Odisha through its various elements. The dance form incorporates themes from Odisha's geography, history, literature, archaeology, sculpture, and way of life. For example, the distinctive bhangi poses and the trivanga posture are derived from Odisha's sculpture and temple art. Odissi also showcases the values, norms, and mannerisms prevalent in Odisha's culture.

Q: Can you explain the storytelling aspect of Odissi?

Odissi uses dance as a medium to tell stories. These stories can be drawn from mythology, folklore, or real-life experiences. The dancers use the grammar of dance to express various emotions and the different rasas (aesthetic paths) in human life. Each dance posture and gesture carries meaning and contributes to the narrative, allowing the audience to connect with the story being portrayed.

Q: How old is Odissi as a dance form?

The documented history of Odissi dates back to the second century BC. The China caves contain the earliest inscriptions and references to dance. There is evidence of dancers' figures being engraved on temple walls during the Buddhist period. Over time, Odissi evolved and was reconstructed during the post-independence era, merging elements from devadasi, gotipua, and other folk forms to establish it as a classical dance form.

Q: Can anyone learn and practice Odissi?

Absolutely! The speaker emphasizes that everyone has the potential to be a dancer. Odissi, like any other dance form, can be learned by anyone willing to put in the time and effort. While certain cultural and stylistic elements are distinctive to Odissi, the core grammar of dance is universal and can be utilized by dancers of all backgrounds.

Q: How has Odissi been preserved and passed down through generations?

Odissi's preservation and transmission have been facilitated through various means throughout history. Initially, temples played a significant role in nurturing and promoting the dance form. The involvement of devadasis (temple dancers) and their dedication to serving the gods helped preserve Odissi. Additionally, other folk forms and allied art forms, such as gotipua, contributed to the reconstruction and establishment of Odissi as a classical dance form.


This video highlights the concept of samsara, the cycle of life that includes childhood, youth, old age, and death. It prompts us to question why we fear death and why it is viewed with apprehension. Furthermore, the video provides insights into Odissi, a classical dance form that showcases the art, culture, and history of Odisha. The distinct features of Odissi, such as its graceful movements, unique poses, and storytelling through dance, make it a captivating and significant art form. It reminds us that dance is a universal language, and anyone can learn and appreciate the beauty of Odissi and other dance forms.

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