Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra is undoubtedly the most important figure in Odissi
dance today and has been the guru at some time of nearly every important Odissi
dancer and teacher in India and throughout the world. Born in Raghuraipur, a
village in Orissa in 1926, he belongs to a family of Patachitra painters who
used to paint patachitras of Lord Jeganath.
He started learning Gotipua Nritya
and Pakhawaj under the great gurus, Mohan Sundar Deva Goswami and Pankaj Charan
Das at an early age. He performed with a Rasleela troupe before joining the
theatre. After Indian independence, he started to work to popularise Gotipua
Nritya and the Mahari dance, and has subsequently received many awards for his
contribution. He is one of the main architects of the contemporary Odissi
repertoire and vocabulary. His creative ability is very evident in his
choreography, while it is also informed by his study of ancient scriptures and
sculpture in the temples of Orissa.
Guru Kelu Charan Mahapatra's attitude
towards dance is, in essence, devotional; to him dance is not so much a vocation
as it is an expression of life. Decades of hard work lay ahead. Kelubabu crafted
a new visual aesthetic for Odissi defining movements, imagining choreographies,
creating staple Pallavis, abhinaya and saabhinaya numbers that were to become
the accepted ;traditional; margam of Odissi. Never before had an entire
tradition been recreated by the magic and diligence of one man's hard work.
Kelubabu was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan and the Kalidas Samman, amongst
innumerable other awards. But to lovers of dance and rasikas of his art he was
always a ;Vishwa Bhushan;.He was passed away on 7th April 2004.