Mahari Dance is one of the important dance forms of Orissa. Mahari dance of Orissa, originated in the temples of Orissa. History of Orissa provides evidence of the ‘Debadasi’ cult in Orissa. Debadasis were dancing girls who were
Mahari Dancer: Rupashree Mohapatra
dedicated to the temples of Orissa. The Debadasis in Orissa were known as ‘Maharis’ and the dance performed by them came to be known as Mahari Dance.Maharis were Orissan ‘Debadasi’ 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 nrittya (pure dance) and abhinaya (interpretation of poetry) based on mantras & slokas, later Maharis, especially, performed dance sequences based on the lyrics of Jayadeba’s Gita Gobinda. In Orissa, one can also come across another type of Mahari dancers, who are known as ‘Samarpada Niyoga’. The duty of the ‘Samarpada Niyoga’ is to dance during the ceremonial procession of the deities. These dancers perform during the Ratha Yatra, Jhulana Yatra, Dola Yatra etc.