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Bengaluru’s Kala-dhi Festival Celebrates the Legacy of Odissi Legend Kelucharan Mohapatra

The ancient dance form of Odissi, known for its fluid grace and sensuality, mainly draws from the spiritual verses of Gita Govinda. This classical style has its roots in the traditional Gotipua dance of Odisha and has been brought to the global stage through the works of the great dancer-teacher, the late Kelucharan Mohapatra. His artistic contributions have created a profound legacy for the Odissi dance community.

Sonalika Padhi Purohit, an accomplished Bengaluru-based dancer, aims to honor the heritage of ‘Kelu Babu’, as Mohapatra was endearingly called, through a carefully curated dance festival named Kala-dhi. Returning for its second edition, the festival is poised to be staged on April 26 and 27.

The upcoming event will showcase performances by esteemed Odissi artists such as Sikata Das, Pranati Mohanty, and Ratikanth Mohapatra, along with his acclaimed dance troupe, Srjan, on the introductory night. Following their lead, the second evening will spotlight the talented students from Sonalika’s own dance school, Ekaagra Svarasa Academy based in Bengaluru.

In conversation from her institution in Whitefield, Sonalika highlights the festival’s ambition to present Odissi in its traditional avatar. She emphasizes their commitment to uphold the purity of the form, as it can risk dilution through generational transmission of the dance’s intricacies. The involvement of seasoned dancers, all disciples of Kelucharan Mohapatra, fortifies this objective, as they represent the authentic lineage of the dance form.

Ratikanth Mohapatra, the son of Kelucharan, has shown an active interest in the evolution of Odissi. He views innovation within the traditional framework as a continuation of the art form’s narrative. Ratikanth will pay homage to his father’s work by performing a piece choreographed by Kelu Babu himself, while his ensemble will later present modern adaptations that resonate with contemporary themes.

Sonalika’s journey with Odissi began in her childhood, leading her to earn numerous accolades, including the Aekalavya Award and the Nrita Ratna Award, along with distinguished titles such as Odissi Pratibha, Nritya Suvarna Shree, and Nritya Shiromani. She initiated her training under the tutelage of Rabindra Swain and Sundar Lal Patel and currently refines her artistry under the guidance of Sikata Das and Pranati Mohanty.

Taking a courageous leap from her career in biotechnology, 41-year-old Sonalika forsook her position as a scientist in Lucknow to wholeheartedly pursue Odissi. Her passion not only took form in performance but also led to the founding of the Ekaagra Svarasa Academy in Whitefield in 2017. Further contributing to the discipline, she is currently in the process of compiling Odissi textbooks in English.

In the duration of her decade-long stay in Bengaluru, Sonalika has played a key role in imparting the knowledge of Odissi to students at the Siddapura Government School. Her teaching philosophy extends beyond dance; it encompasses the rich historical and theoretical background of Odissi, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the art form.

Today, Sonalika mentors over 100 pupils, instilling in them the depth and beauty of Odissi dance. The upcoming Kala-dhi event, which she points out is open to the public, is a testimony to her mission to promote Odissi. The festival aims to attract new learners and to sustain the dance form’s authenticity and aesthetic for future generations.

Kala-dhi is all set to unfold its splendor on April 26 and 27 from 5:30 PM at ADA Rangamandira, JC Road. It stands as an open invitation for anyone interested in the world of classical Indian dance, particularly Odissi, and those who wish to witness a cultural legacy being carried forward with fervor and dedication.