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Music Of : Orissa

Sangeet Asara
In the Sangeet Asara singers were presenting different "Prabahdhas" (compositions) of Odissi music such as "Shri Geeta Govinda"; Odissi with and without Padi; champu, Chhanda, Malasri, Sarimama, Chaturanga, Tribhanga, Bhajana, Janana. The singers were well conversant with "Raga" and "Tala" the techniques of "Kala-Amsa-Mana Proyoga", "Vasti-Proyoga" and "Saudha-Proyoga" in Odissi Sangeet were known to the singers and drummers ('Gayaka' and 'Bayaka') of these "Jagas and Akhadas" very well. The seasonal songs were also sung during the different seasons.

Music Of OrissaJaga Akhada - The Heart Of Odissi Music

The "Jaga Akhada" system, the core of Odissi music promoted the music and was responsible for maintaining the tradition for centuries. The culture of music in all the Jagas continued till the independence.

But unfortunately these centres were shrouded in oblivion for the reasons such as: Spread of mass media of communication, cheap and commercial music; lack of knowledge in theory and practice of traditional Odissi music; want of practice, want of textbooks and proper schooling, apathy towards this art and its artists, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the original form, apathy in recognition of this art as a discipline in academic level, and lack of patronization.

The Original Tune: Raga-Pravandha-Gana

In Orissa, Sri Jayadeva, the great composer, illustrious musician, and a saint poet of Orissa as well as great devotee of Lord Jagannath, transformed original Indian classical music in the form of "Raga-Pravandha-Gana" to "Raga-Ksyudra-Geeta Pravandha Gana". He was born in the first half of the 13th century AD in the village Kenduli on the sacred river Prachi in the district of Puri and rejuvenated the Indian Classical music through his ever glittering and uncomparable compositions of Sri Geeta Govinda.

Ingredients of classical music like Raga-Tala-Geeta-Chhandas etc of Sri Geeta Govinda were introduced in the services of the temple of the Lord Jagannath and were accepted as the temple music of Orissa. The musical and poetic potentialities of the compositions of Sri Geeta Govinda were so rich and superb that it had a perpetual influence on the composers of Orissa of the medieval and the modern periods.

In this regard the Sanskrit compositions of Abhinaba Geeta Govinda of Jayadeva ushered a new era in the history of Indian music, which can be rightly identified as "Jayadevic-Music". This 'Jayadevic' music had paved the way for development and establishment of separate system of Indian classical music in Orissa in the form of Raga Khurda-Geeta-Pravandha-Gana.

This music from its beginning had been in practice in the temple of Lord Jagannath as the part of the temple services but it is not the fact, that only the compositions of Sri Geeta Govinda were sung in the Jagannath temple.

The Sanskrit compositions of the above composers including the compositions of Sri Geeta Govinda were also sung in the said temple and this practice continued till the beginning of the rule of Pratap Rudra Deva (1497 to 1541 A.D.). From the period of Pratap Rudra Deva only 'Jayadevic' music was resumed in the Jagannath Temple. It is clearly mentioned that no compositions except Geeta Govinda would be sung in the temple.


Similar to Hindustani and Carnatic music, traditional Odissi music has its own 'Melas', Ragas, 'Talas', 'Aravandhas', which are rendered in a different style. Some characteristic features:

Saras and the Shuddha-Swara-Saptaka: The tonal arrangement of the 'Nishada-Murchhana' of the 'Saraj-Grama' is accepted the "Sudha-Swara-Saptak" or the natural scale comprising 22 'Srutis' (microtones) set in ascending form. Among these 22 Srutis the seven "Suddha Swaras" are practically used.

Besides the seven 'Suddha Swaras' there are also five 'Vikrita Swaras'. The 7 notes in ascending form are known as 'Saptak' (octave). Three 'Saptakas-Mandra', Madhya, Tara (Lower Octave, middle Octave and Higher Octave) are generally used in this system for practical purpose.

Melas: Thirty-two Melas have been introduced in this system for classification of the Ragas.

Ragas: The Ragas of this system are divided into five groups such as:

Group 'A'
The Ragas of this group are not found either in their names or in their melodic structures in Hindustani and Carnatic Paddhatis, such as; 'Kumbha Kamodi', 'Kedara kamodi', 'Karanata Abhirika', etc.

Group 'B'
The Ragas of this group have certain similarities with those of Hindustani and Carnatic Padhatis not in names, but in their tonal arrangements.

Group 'C'
The ragas of this group are having certain similarities with those of Hindustani and Carnatic Paddhati but not in total structures just in their names.

Group 'D'
The tonal arrangements of some Ragas of this system are found only in Carnatic system but with different names.

Group 'E'
The tonal arrangements of some ragas of this system are found only in Hindustani system, but in different names.

Nearly 150 Ragas are found to be in vogue in this system. But one can expect more Ragas, which can be explored from various traditional compositions of this system.

Already twenty Talas are found to be in vogue in this system and most of them are having similarities in their Matras with those of Hindustani and Carnatic Talas, but having difference in their rhythmic structures or compositions and names.

Pravandhas: Compositions used in classical music particularly in vocal music are known as 'Pravandhas'. The compositions of 'Shree Geeta Govinda' and other Sanskrit works are categorised under two types of Pravandhas such as: (i) Divya Alikrama-Chitrapada-Ksyudrageeta Pravandha.

The Music Composition

Though, like Carnatic and Hindustani systems, the establishment of Ragas and Talas through their improvisations are also done in traditional Odissi music but due importance is given in this system to the text of the song composition in the 'Nivadha' portion while improving Ragas and the Talas.

Many types of rhythmic improvisations, which are done in the Nivadha portion of the compositions of Hindustani and Carnatic systems, are totally absent in the traditional Odissi system. The performers enjoy only those rhythmic improvisations, whose implementations in the Nivadha portion never affect the theme of the song, text of the compositions of traditional Odissi music.

Besides these aforesaid difference, the process of phonation of 'Jamak' and 'Tana', which are the practical techniques of Odissi music are also different form those of Carnatic and Hindustani music. The particular style of Jamak and Tana adds distinctive melodic structure to the musical entity of this system.


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