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Konark Dance Festival

Dance in Konark
Image courtesy: ©Sobhan Mohanty/Lonely Planet

Where: Konark (near Puri), Orissa

When: December 1 to 5

As the last month of the year rolls in and the weather turns pleasantly nippy, dance enthusiasts converge in the picturesque town of Konark, to witness the magic of the floodlit Sun Temple come alive with mellifluous strains of music and the tinkling of ghungroos. Yes, this is the time for the Konark dance festival that, since the year 1986, has been providing a platform for classical artistes to showcase the country’s varied dance forms such as Odissi, Bharatanatyam, Manipuri, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi and Sattriya.

Temple Trail: And what makes this event all the more fascinating is the setting — staged as it is against the backdrop of the 13th century world heritage site that was built to represent the Sun God’s huge chariot with 24-wheels drawn through the heavens by seven celestial horses.

The Konarak edifice boasts of exquisitely decorated walls with frescoes and sculptures of gods and goddesses, besides the natyamandir that has a plethora of statues depicting Odissi dance poses. Experts and locals believe that this was the place from where this graceful dance form originated and that, as part of a daily prayer, ritualistic dances were performed in front of the statue of the Sun God.

As the cool sea breeze wafts in (the temple once stood at the coast but now the waters have receded to a few kilometres away), the magnificent stage called the Konark Natya Mandap — that has been created to look like the ancient natyamandir — unveils performances by both established as well as upcoming artistes.

Dance Delights: The dance almanac of the five day extravaganza this year packs in an amazing punch — it features Odissi recitals by Nupur Dance Academy (Niranjan Rout & group), Diksha Manjari (Dona Ganguly & group), Sutra Foundation (Ramli Ibrahim & group), Kaishiki (Daksha Mashruwala) and the GKCM Odissi Research Centre.

Visitors shall also enjoy watching the Mohiniattam by Nalanda Dance Research Centre (Kanak Rele & group), Bharatnatyam by Temple of Fine Arts, Kathak by Abhinava Dance Company (Rajendra & group), Kuchipudi by Vanashree Rao & Group and Manipuri by Manipuri Nartanalaya (Bimbabati Devi & Group) besides the state’s folk dances including Saraikella and Mayurbhanj Chau, and folk performances from across the country.

This experience will not be complete without having a dekko at the number of stalls that offer not just a taste of the state’s myriad gourmet delights but also an up, close and personal look at the variety of handicrafts including the intricate filigree work, painting on palm leaves and appliqué patterns that Orissa is famous for.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.