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Gotipuas: The Boy Dancers of Odisha

Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi (Editor)

An event immensely significant for the evolution of Odissi dance was the establishment of gotipua system where boys of tender age were trained in the art of dancing and singing and started performing for general public. In course of time, they started participating in many ritualistic festivals connected with Lord Jagannath.


Goti in Oriya means ‘single’ and pua means a ‘boy’. This is a tradition exclusively to Odisha where tender-aged good looking boys are dressed as girls who sing and dance. This singing while dancing, known as bachika abhinaya, is an essential feature of the gotipuas. In addition, they also exhibit some extremely difficult bandhas (acrobatics).


Gotipua dance appears to have originated during the reign of Prataparudra Deva in the 15th century. It is believed to be introduced by his minister Ramananda Ray, who was a devout Vaishnavite. The Vaishnavites, who did not approve dancing by women, practised sakhibhava or offering one’s own self to Krishna as a female attendant; promoted dance of the boys as girls. One of the important contribution of the gotipua system was the spread of the devotional songs based on Radha-Krishna throughout Odisha.


The revival of Odissi dance owes a lot to this tradition. As a matter of fact, the contents and the repertoire were totally from this system.


After a lean period, the gotipuas have come back in a big way. With the growing popularity, many troupes have come up around their previous hubs mainly in Puri district. With their spectacular bandhas, they have carved out a niche for themselves in the field of dance in India. They are in great demand and are a huge attraction in most of the festivals. The revival and development of the gotipua system has now added a fresh dimension to the overall scenario in the field of traditional dance.

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About the author

Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi

Priyambada Mohanty Hejmadi is the pioneer Odissi dancer whose performance in the First Inter-University Youth Festival in 1954, New Delhi, led to the discovery of Odissi dance and drew national attention to this art form.  She gave the first full evening Odissi performance in New Delhi in 1961 to establish Odissi as a self-sufficient classical dance form.  Trained by all the leading gurus, she has received several national recognition including the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as one of the finest exponents of Odissi.  Recipient of titles Nrutya Saraswati and Nrutya Bharati, she has played a significant role in the revival and popularization of Odissi both in India and abroad.  Her primer on Odissi Dance (Netic, New Delhi) is widely used by dancers and scholars alike.  A zoologist by profession she has received Padmashri from the President of India for her contribution in Science and Technology.  She is the former Vice-Chancellor of Sambalpur University.

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Bibliographic information

Title Gotipuas: The Boy Dancers of Odisha
Format Hardcover
Date published: 31.12.2019
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9788173055058
length 96p.