Odissi is one of the eight classical dance forms of India. It originates from the state of Odisha, in eastern India. It is the oldest surviving dance form of India on the basis of archaeological evidences. The classic treatise of Indian dance, Natya Shastra, refers to it as Odra-Magadhi. 1st century BCE bas-reliefs in the hills of Udaygiri (near Bhubaneshwar) testify to its antiquity. It was suppressed under the British but has been reconstructed since India gained independence.
It is particularly distinguished from other classical Indian dance forms by the importance it places upon the tribhangi (literally: three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis, and upon the basic square stance known as chauka.
The Odissi tradition existed in three schools; Mahari, Nartaki, and Gotipua. Maharis were Odia devadasis or temple girls (their name deriving from Maha (great) and ‘Nari’ or ‘Mahri’ (chosen) particularly those at the temple of Jagganath at Puri. Early Maharis performed mainly nritta (pure dance) and abhinaya (interpretation of poetry) based on mantras & slokas, later Maharis, especially, performed dance sequences based on the lyrics of Jayadev's Gita Govinda.
Nartaki dance took place in the royal courts, where it was much cultivated before the British period. At that time the misuse of devadasis came under strong attack, so that Odissi dance withered in the temples and became unfashionable at court.
Costume: The women wear silk sari with a 'Lang' whose spread hangs in the front. They wear a waistband of silver, most of the ornaments are made of silver the hair are arranged in a round knot and adorned with buds of pearls.