Odisha is located in the eastern Indian state along the Bay of Bengal. This area is famous for its tribal cultures and ancient Hindu temples. During the cooler winter months, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa) comes alive with festivals devoted to traditional music and dance.
Odissi Traditional Dance
The state is home to Odissi, one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It also has many forms of folk and tribal dances such as Bharat Natyam and Chhau. Odissi is the oldest surviving dance form in India, according to archaeological evidence. It dates back to 2,000 years as stated by literature from 200 BC. Travelers can attend these popular festivals in Odisha to witness the mesmerizing music and dance performances held among some of the state's most well-known temples.
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The official Konark Festival, organized by Odisha Tourism, features a range of Indian classical dance performances including Odissi, Bharatnatyam, and Kathak.
Added attractions are an exhibition of Odia temple sculptures, sand art exhibition, and crafts fair. This iconic festival has been taking place since 1989 at India's grandest sun temple in Konark, near Puri. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and unlike other temples in Odisha, it has a distinctive chariot shape.
There are intricate engravings all over its stone walls, including erotic sculptures similar to the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh.
- Where: Open air auditorium, Natamandir, at the Konark Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha.
- When: December 1-5 every year.
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Mukteshwar Dance Festival
The Mukteshwar Dance Festival concentrates exclusively on Odissi dance. It features solo, duet and group Odissi performances by young and senior artists.
Reputed troupes from Odisha and elsewhere in India perform at the festival. It takes place in the courtyard of one of Bhubaneswar's most prominent and well-preserved temple complexes that's more than 1,100 years old. The Mukteshwar temple is one of the smallest and most compact temples in Bhubaneshwar. However, it's famous for its distinctive stone archway and ceiling with an eight-petal lotus.
- Where: Mukteshwar Temple Complex, Bhubaneswar.
- When: The dance festival is usually held on January 14-16, annually.
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Rajarani Music Festival
The Rajarani Music Festival promotes the major classical music traditions of India. Performances by well-known Odissi and Hindustani vocal and music maestros bring the architectural beauty of the Rajarani temple alive.
This unusual temple is located on immaculately kept grounds and doesn't have a deity associated with it. According to legend, it received its name from being a pleasure resort of an Odia king and queen (Raja and Rani). It is true that the temple has erotic sculptured figurines inside.
- Where: Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneswar.
- When: The music festival is usually held between January 18-20 each year.
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The Dhauli-Kalinga Mahotsav is hosted by the Odisha Dance Academy (ODA) and Art Vision. It combines martial dance, which celebrates the victory of peace over war, with classical and folk dances of the state.
The festival's location is evocative. It's held in the hills alongside the historic Daya River, at the place where Emperor Ashok is believed to have fought the last battle of the Kalinga war before surrendering the sword and embracing Buddhism.
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- Where: Shanti Stupa/Peace Pagoda, Dhauli Hill, on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar.
- When: This event usually takes place on February 6-8 every year. Attendees should check event updates on the website.
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Konark Music and Dance Festival
Similar to the Konark Festival, the Konark Music and Dance Festival showcase classical dance and music. The event is organized by the Konak Natya Mandap, a people's center for Odia culture founded by renowned Odissi dance guru Gangadhar Pradhan.
This event has been running for a few years longer than the Konark Festival. The venue is a very ambient replica of the famous Sun Temple. It is a tradition every year for the festival to open up with an Odissi dance recital presented by Guru Gangadhar Pradhan's Dance Academy.
- Where: Konark Natya Mandap, Arka Vihar, Konark.
- When: Every year, this festival is usually held from February 19-23. Event-goers are encouraged to stay updated with the latest information from the website.