25 years on and still going strong

It was a five-day visual treat for connoisseurs of dance from world over

25 years on and still going strong

 A 65-km drive from Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Orissa will take you to the small town, which plays host to the annual Konark Dance and Music Festival (KDMF). The backdrop is the Natya Mandap, which has been built on the lines of the Sun Temple. As you near the Natya Mandap, you can hear the sounds of ghungroo, pakhwaj and flute unmistakably in the background. The sounds reverberate in the ears as you head for Arka Vihar. The festival which is a three-day affair every year was extended this year to five days, it being the silver jubilee year of the event.

Thanks to the magnificent structure built of black granite and designed as the chariot of the Sun God drawn by seven exquisitely carved horses, the Sun Temple of Konark is better known as the 'Black Pagoda.' The exquisitely decorated 'Natyamandap' (dancing hall) of this 700-year-old shrine is a true piece of architectural grandeur. The skilled craftsmen of yesteryears have embellished the temple with some outstanding stone sculptures depicting Odissi dance poses and gestures. Their work strikes the viewer as beautiful poetic lines transcribed in stone.
An open air auditorium with these beautiful sculptures of the temple as the backdrop provides the perfect setting for the dancers to perform various Indian dances like Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Manipuri, Kathak and Chau tribal dance.

The festival is one of the oldest in the country, started in 1986 by the efforts of Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, a well-known Odissi guru, the director of Konark Natya Mandap. "This festival has been striving to provide a platform for music and dance performances of a high order for the 24 years continuously and successfully. It has put Konark on the world cultural map," says Guru Gangadhar Pradhan, the brain behind the festival, who has a dream and a vision to turn the place into a festive affair all 365 days a year.

The annual festival is jointly organised by Orissa Tourism, Orissa Dance Academy and Konark Natya Mandap. It attracts spectators from all parts of the world. It takes place in mid February every year. From the date of its inception 1986, the main purpose behind the Konark festival was to promote Konark as well as Orissa as a tourist destination.

The festival receives support from the Union and the state governments, major cultural bodies like the ICCR, Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, corporate houses and generous individuals.

A scintillating solo Odissi recital by internationally acclaimed dancer Sujata Mohapatra, disciple and daughter-in-law of legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, marked a fitting beginning of the silver jubilee edition of the festival. Artistes of Kathak Academy, Lucknow, led by Pandit Arjum Mishap staged group recitals. Earlier, Rabisankar Pradhan and Dambaru Rao, both from Orissa, presented a duet on sitar and sehnai respectively.

The five-day festival also featured stalwarts like Carnatic vocalist Balamuralikrishna and Mohan Veena exponent Viswa Mohan Bhatt besides exponents of Kuchipudi, Sattriya, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam. KDMF is one of the leading festivals in India and supports as well as embraces art forms and artistes from India and across the globe. Till date more than 7,000 performing artistes have availed themselves of the opportunity to participate in this internationally acclaimed event in Orissa.

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