Boys dressing up as girls, putting on makeup, and the graceful dance, intrigue many people; but for us, it’s the way to connect with Lord Jagannath, says Jitendra Nayak, a trained Gotipua dancer. 19-year-old Jitendra and his father Guru Gangadhar Nayak were kind enough to invite me to their home, as I was watching their rehearsal from a distance, in Raghurajpur Village.
Raghurajpur is a heritage craft village known for its pattachitra paintings, but I never knew this village is also home to this beautifully unique ancient art form until I visited the village second time. It is also known as the birthplace of one of the finest Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
The humble surrounding and rawness of this family intrigued me even more while they happily shared the nuances of their craft. Jitendra’s father guru Gangadhar Nayak is an award-winning Odissi dancer, he runs his academy “Swasti Shree Gotipua & Odissi Nritya Parisad”, in Raghurajpur. Gotipua originated way back in 16th century, Devadasi or Mahari tradition was much prevalent in south and parts of west India, these devadasis were female dancers of temples, dedicated to Lord Jagannathan; but after the Mughal invasion in India, temple patrons lost their power and as a result, Devadasi tradition gradually declined. To revere Lord Jagannath, Gotipua dance came into existence, where young males were dressed up and transformed as graceful females and performed gotipua dance. Goti- means “single” and Pua-means “boy”, explains Guru Gangadhar Nayak. His troupe has performed around the world including countries like France, Russia.
Their faces exude passion while they explain about their craft: it takes a perfect balance of mind and body to perform this dance, in your mind, you are almost like in a meditative state, where you only think about lord Jagannath, but your body is displaying years of training and hard work that you put in to learn this dance. Mastering this dance takes years of penance and years of practice, chosen gotipua’s training starts as early as 6 years old, shares Guru Gangadhar.
Jitendra explains to me, why he has no remorse on dressing up as a girl for this dance “In this dance, we perform on sagas and stories of Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannath. Gotipua dancers are considered to be god’s own children, and we take pride in carrying forward our legacy.”
Despite gaining the heritage status the artists struggle due to lack of connectivity from urban world and involvement of middlemen. Their earning is seasonal and for the rest of the months, it gets difficult to upkeep. This family and many such artistic families in Raghrajpur hold on to their roots against all odds; and that’s how you define the word “Passion”.
Raghurajpur is a village situated 14 km away from the temple town of jagannath puri.
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Let us all pledge to do our bit to keep alive our heritage and encourage these heritage keepers of India, so that generations can witness our roots. Please forward this article. If you have business related to this beautiful art form like concerts, events, Guest lectures, etc, please contact – 8342811499/09776762221