What would be greater than a Guru who is well known by the names of his famous students? Art isn’t defined by the way it is performed; it is defined by the name of that person who has contributed all his life to reviving and flourishing that art. Kelucharan Mohapatra was a legendary Indian classical dancer and a prominent Odissi dance teacher. He was born on 8th January 1926 and led this dancing talent towards great heights until his death on April 7, 2004. He is amazingly the first ever winner of Padma Vibhushana Award from the state of Odisha.
Born on 8th January 1926, Kelucharan became an inspiration for many dancers of his time. He did a lot of inspiring performances in his youth. His father was also an artist and a Mridangam player. But he never encouraged Kelucharan to pursue his dreams and follow his interest. Later he left him with Guru Mohan Goswami at the age of 9 for 10 years. There, he learnt acting, stage setting and choreography skills. Being a dancer, he got attracted towards Laxmipriya who was also a classical dancer and married her. They had a son named Ratikant.
He became a member of the dance troupe that was guided by Guru Goswami and went place to place for performing various dance performances there. During 1946 to 1952 Kelucharan stayed with a theatre group named Annapurna from Cuttack. He came into the limelight after his solo dance drama performance on Devi Bhasmasura and was highly appreciated after that. He taught many students and dedicated more than 6 decades of his life to the Odissi dance. He is well remembered for the revival of this dance form in the 20th century.
A tremendous performance of Kelucharan Mohapatra was the Gotipua Dance that is the traditional dance form of Odisha where the boys dressed themselves up like women. This dance was specially performed to praise Lord Jagannath. He researched a lot on Gotipua and Mahari Dance. Then, he used his research to restructure the dances forms of Odisha in a more striking and graceful form. He mastered the use of several great instruments like the Tabla and Mridangam and all these had a great role in the music for his dance performances too. He was also a skilled artist and mastered the pattachitra painting art which was done on pieces of cloth.
Kelucharan is the proud winner of many precious awards. He won Padma Shri Award in the year 1972 and the Sangeet Natak Academy Award in 1966. In 1989, he became the proud winner of the Padma Bhushan Award. He was honoured with the Sangeet Academy Fellowship in 1991. Again, in the year 2000, he was awarded the highly remarkable Padma Vibhushan Award. The government of Madhya Pradesh honoured him with the Kalidas Samman too.
Kelucharan was a great teacher and is still alive in the hearts of the people who pursue and admire the Indian Classical dance of Odisha. His teachings will stay forever and he will always be known for reviving the stunning art in the hearts of Indian people. He had played a great role in flourishing Indian culture amongst the people and was hence privileged with the most prominent award of the country that is the Padma Vibhushan award in 2000. He had truly dedicated all his life to the art of Indian classical music and dance. People like him deserve true respect from all the citizens of the country.
Quotes by Kelucharan Mohapatra
“The real dance must convey the feeling of undivided existence, that a spectator can feel that he is not different from the thing observed.”
“Odissi is not a mere dance form to entertain people but to inspire and elevate. I don’t actually dance but pray in compassion and the spectators say that this `form’ is dancing.”
“Dance has not only made my life purposeful, it has been my whole life… Whatever I am today is entirely due to the blessings of my guru.”
Written By: Milan Bhardwaj