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Navollasa - Bringing Oriya Culture To Lincoln, MA

Ranjani Saigal

 The India Discovery Center presented a fabulous Odissi recital by the leading Odissi dancer Biswajit Das and his students on January 4 at the Bemis Hall in Lincoln, MA.The event was an attempt by the India Discovery Center to present the culture of Odisha to the people in the town of Lincoln. 

“NAVOLLASSA is made up of two words NAVA and ULLASA.  NAVA happens to be the root for the English word “new” and ULLASA is linked as a precursor to the word “delight”.   So NAVOLLASA would literally mean “New Delight”.  We connect it to the New Year.  In place of Happy New Year, we say “Delightful New Year”, said Bijoy Mishra the founder of IDC as he welcomed the audience. 

Describing the land of Odisha Mishra said “A land of rivers and agriculture, Odisha maintained a self-contained independent culture with adamant earthy habits and strong sense of harmony.  While the settlement possibly began forty thousand years ago, known history can only be reconstructed for about ten thousand years with rock cut art and clay artifacts.  The area became opulent through trade about three thousand years ago and developed expertise in ocean navigation.  Most of the Far East was settled by people from the area called Kalinga in olden days.  Buddhist universities flourished and eventually massive temples were built with astronomical precision.  The land developed her own faith system, food habits, language, literature, music, dance and social celebrations” 

Following a documentary on Odisha, a beautiful Sanskrit poem penned by Poet Radhanatha Ray was sung by Sudhira Misra of Acton. Well known Gujarati playwright and community leader Chandu Shah, another key team member of the India Discovery Center served as the MC for the evening. 

The opening dance number was a Mangalacharan in Oriya. Biswajit showed his exceptional prowess in Abhinaya from the get-go as he prayed to Lord Jagannath asking for nothing except a few grains of sand. 

The next piece was the Krishna Ashtakam presented by Neha and Megha Panighrahi. They beautifully depicted several Leelas of Lord Krishna. They learned the piece in just ten days. Their joyful synchronization was a treat to watch. 

We then came to the central grand piece of the evening, Radheya by Biswajit Das where he depicted the story of Karna. We could feel the strength of Karna at his powerful best and clearly view the vulnerabilities of the powerful warrior as Das took us through the various parts of story. It was superbly done. 

The next piece was the depiction of a  lovely conversation between Radha and her friend presented by the beautiful and talented Priya Bangal. The song was a Oriya piece where the friend is telling Radha about the rumors of her love with Krishna that is floating around. For those of us used to the traditional Ashtapadi of Jayadeva for the stories of Radha and Krishna this was a cute new twist. 

The grand finale was Moksha that used Navarasa from the Ramayana as the theme. Biswajit Das presented several tales from the Ramayana bringing out the Rasa of the incident. Yet another brilliant piece from Das.  The event ended with a prayer to Lord Jagannath. 

Manorama Chaudhary, who was instrumental in bringing Biswajit Das to Boston presented the vote of thanks. In addition to the dance concert, there were beautiful art pieces from Odisha displayed. The event was a beautiful window into the grand cultural landscape of Odisha with great dancing. 

About the artists

Biswajit Das started his Odissi training at the Orissa Dance Academy (ODA), Bhubaneswar at the age of 9.  He continues to be groomed under the renowned Padmashree Guru Aruna Mohanty (Creative Director, ODA) and has become a versatile solo artist and an energetic member of the ODA repertory group.  He has been awarded the Senior National Scholarship by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the National Youth Award given by the government of India.  He is also recognized as an ‘A’ grade artist in the Bhubaneswar Doordarshana Kendra.  Biswajit has performed all across the globe including the USA, China, Canada & Mauritius.  

Priya Bangal is an Odissi dancer currently training under Master Artist Shipra Mehrotra at Avantica Academy of Odissi Dance in Norfolk, MA.  Priya has performed Odissi at various dance festivals in the Boston area and is a recipient of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, awarded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, along with her mentor Shipra Mehrotra. She presented her solo evening-length debut in Odissi at the Boston Center for the Arts in November 2019.  She has also co-founded Samvād, a forum that facilitates informal interaction between Indian Classical dancers and musicians in Boston. Priya was initiated into Odissi by Jayashree Mohapatra of Woburn, MA.

Megha Panigrahi has been learning Odissi for the past 12 years, first under Guru Jayashree Mohapatra and later under her mentor Shipra Avantica Mehrotra at the Avantica Academy of Odissi Dance (Norfolk, MA).  While she is currently in college, she likes to keep up with her Odissi learning so that she may continue to evolve as a student artist.  

Neha Panigrahi has been learning Odissi for the past 12 years.  She originally learned Odissi from Guru Jayashree Mohapatra and is currently training under her mentor Shipra Avantica Mehrotra at the Avantica Academy of Odissi Dance (Norfolk, MA).  Neha is currently a freshman in college and is studying abroad in Paris for a year before attending George Washington University to study Economics and Public Policy.   

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