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Music Of : Orissa

A Unique Sense Of Rhythm
The systematised and developed form of music, which has been sung in the world famous temple of the Lord Jagannath (also spelt as Jagannatha) at the sacred 'Puri-Dhama' in its different festive occasions as a part of the temple services, and cultured in the 'Jaga-Akhadas' of Puri and 16 'Sasanas', 36 'Karavada' (Brahmin villages) as well as other rural areas in the district, is known as Traditional Odissi Music.

Odissi Dancer, OrissaThis tradition is also having a long and glorious history of its own for more then 2,500 years. It is performed deftly in the shape of "Raga-Ksydrageeta-Prabandha-Gana", a form of Indian classical music by the illustrious and celebrated poet Sri Jayadeva in Orissa.

Like Hindustani and Carnatic systems, Odissi music is a separate system of Indian classical music and is having all the essential as well as potential ingredients of Indian Classical form. But it has not come to limelight due to apathy from the time of British rule in Orissa, want of its proper study, revival, propagation, etc. Despite the fact, the traditional music form could be saved and maintained in its pristine form. Thanks to the musicians particularly of Jaga Akhadas of Puri district, who could develop and maintain the music.

Types Of Music

Like other aspects of her culture, music of the sacred land of Orissa is charming, colourful, variegated encompassing various types of tunes. The existing musical tradition of Orissa, the cumulative experience of the last two thousand five hundred years if not more, can broadly be grouped under five categories:

Tribal Music: The tribal music as the title signifies is confined to the tribals living mainly in the hilly and jungle regions and sparsely in the coastal belt of Orissa. It is interesting to note that Orissa has the third largest concentration of tribes constituting about 1 ¼ of the total population. They are distributed over 62 tribal communities.

Folk Music: Orissa is the treasure house of Folk Songs, which are sung on different festivals and specific occasions in their own enjoyment. Folk music in general is the expression of the ethos and mores of the folk communities. Of the bewildering variety of folk music of Orissa, mention may be made of 'Geeta', 'Balipuja Geeta', 'Kela Keluni Geeta', 'Dalkhai Geeta', 'Kendra Geeta', 'Jaiphula Geeta', 'Ghumura Geeta', 'Ghoda Nacha' and 'Danda Nacha Geeta', 'Gopal Ugala' and 'Osa-Parva-Geeta' etc.

Light Music: The light music category of Orissa include 'Sri Geetagovinda', 'Anirjukta Pravadha', 'Divya Manusi Prabandha', 'Chautisa', 'Chhanda', 'Chaupadi' (now known as 'Odissi'), 'Champu', 'Malasri', 'Sariman', 'Vyanjani, and Chaturang.

Light-Classical Music: 'Bhajan', 'Janan', Oriya songs based on ragas, 'Rangila Chaupadi' etc are grouped under Light classical music, which forms an important segment of Orissan music.

Classical Music: 'Tribhang', 'Kuduka Geeta', 'Laxana' and 'Swaramalika' are the various sub-forms, which individually or collectively constitute the traditional Odissi music. These sub-forms of the traditional Odissi music can be categorised under the classical music of Orissa too.


The present form of traditional Odissi music is no doubt the outcome of the continuous evolution of the earliest Indian classical music. Orissa could imbibe all the waves of classical music beginning from 'Sama-Gana' to Raga 'Prabandha Gana', but finally it assumed the present form of "Ragaksyudra-Geeta-Pravandha-Gana". This system is popularly styled as traditional Odissi music.

Since, there is the dearth of recorded evidence to prove the exact time of the advent of the earliest form of the Indian Classical Music into this land, one may reasonably believe its inflow during the period of Aryanisation of this land. Possibly Aryan culture crept into this land during the Age of Brahmans when bulk of Indian peninsula came under the Aryan influence.

Ritualistic Influence

The Sovaneswara inscription and the Brahmeswara inscription and also the inscription from Madhukeswar temple reveal that dance and music was introduced in the temples as a part of daily rituals. Music tinged with religion, attained mass appeal and royal patronage. As such the royal patronization of Art and Culture made the Orissan music so developed and enchanting for enjoyment of both Gods and Goddesses and human beings as well. This tradition is still continuous in its different manifestations.

Style Of Music

The Odissi 'Sangeeta' (music) was composed following the styles ('Riti') of four classes of music such as 'Dhrubapada', 'Chitrapada', 'Chitrakala' and 'Panchali':

Dhrupada: The Dhrupada or "Ghosha" meaning the first line or lines to be cited repeatedly has importance in Odissi music.

Chitrakala: The use of art in music is called "Chitrakala".

Chitrapada: Chitrapada means the arrangement of words.

Panchali: Panchali means multi-lined lyric ('Bahupadayukta Gita'). It is divided into two types - 'Adhruva' and 'Sadhruva'. In 'Sadhruva Panchali' there is a Ghosha (The first line or lines to be cited repeatedly). Odissi 'Choupadis' (Quadrants) are the best examples of Sadhruva Panchali. 'Choutisha' belongs to the category of Adhruva Panchali.


According to tuning the "Melaragas" were composed and their names are completely different from the Ragas of "Hindustani" and "Carnatac" music. The centres for physical education and music were called "Jagas".

In all the festivals the members of a "Jaga" arrange feasts. "Hazura", the chief member of the "Jaga" arranges the competitions of gymnasiums ('Kushti Pratiyogita') and Music concert or Sangeet Asara. Among the singers one group was meant for singing in high pitch and the other group in low pitch.

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