Odissi is one of the six classical dance forms of India with a very distinct elegance and poise associated with its style. It finds mention in the Natya Shashtra of Bharata, as Odra-Magadhi style. Friezes in the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri and the sculptures of female dancers found in large numbers in temples attest to the popularity of dances in courts and places of worship as far back as the 2nd century BC. It was an integral part of the religious rituals performed in the nata mandapas by the maharis or devadasis in their elaborate costumes and jewellery.
The history of Odissi dance has a bearing with devadasis of Lord Jagannath. Devadasis were handed over by their parents at an early age and were symbolically married to presiding deity. Jayadev's Geet Govind, dealing largely with the depths of Krishna's love for Radha was part of the daily religious rituals, performed by devadasis with different bhavas and rasas. With the loss of independence of the Odisha by the end of the 16th century, the mahari tradition declined. The Ray Ramananda, a dramatist and musician introduced the dance in another form, Gotipua Nacha, where males dressed as girls danced outside the temple. Thus the tradition survived and it came out of the temple. Most of the earlier time gurus were Gotipua dancers. The 15th century manual, Abhinaya Chandeika, written by Maheswara Mahapatra contains information about the technique of Odissi dance and was also instrumental in reviving the old glory of Odissa's own regional style slong with temple sculptures.
Beautifully attired in pleated silk brocades, bejewelled and decked in jasmine flowers and bells, the dancers perform to the recitation of devotional poetry set to music, most inspired from the theme of eternal love of Radha-Krishna. The important parts of Odissi Dance are called padabhada, bumi, chari, biramani, bhangi and hasta etc. The most typical pose is tribhanga where the body is bent thrice, the fundamental posture is chawki and the dance is divided into nritta, nritya and natya. The different items of the Odissi dance style in the order in which they are performed are mangalacharana, batu mokshanat.In mangalacharana, the dancer dedicates herself to the Lord Ganesha or Lord Jagannath, begs forgiveness of the Mother Earth for stamping her feet upon her and of her audience for any shortcoming in the performance and offers salutations to the Guru.