God’s Little Dancers

Cultural, Creative Industry

God’s Little Dancers: The Gotipua Tradition of Odisha

Ratnakar, Pooja

The God-fearing somber precincts of Raghurajpur, a palm tree-lined heritage village, ten kilometers from Puri in Orissa took me by surprise when, upon my arrival, I spotted pint-sized hair top knotted dynamites running riot across the village road with their pranks. Normally, such pranks would command instant punishment by the village elders, but there was an exception. These boys are I was told, ‘God’s children’ who perform the Gotipua dance. Hence, everyone puts up with them. These boys are exclusively chosen by the community to please the Gods. They powder their face, paint their eyes and forehead, grow their hair and dress them up as girls. They are presented as the female devotee dancers, consorts of Lord Krishna – the Gotipua dancers. Gotipua, in Oriya means goti, single and pua, boy. This is a dance tradition that is over 300 years old and origins from when a single boy danced for lord Krishna. It is the mainspring of the now famous classical Odissi dance form. Raghurajpur has given birth to not only the Gotipua tradition, but also legendry dancers like Guru Kellucharan Mahapatra and Guru Maguni Charan Das. The dance continues to be practiced in the village in Guru Maguni Das’s gurukul ashram, Dasabhuja Gotipua Odishi Nrutya Parishad. Here boys are recruited at the age of about six and perform till their voice begins to crack and the first glimpse of facial fuzz appears. The boys live in the ashram and follow a very strictly disciplined day which starts at four a.m. every morning with oil massage, stretching, bending and twisting the limbs, fo...
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