SingOdia Community celebrates Utkal Divas.

Prachi Hota : Odissi Dancer.

Utkal Divas or UtkalaDibasa or Odisha Day is celebrated on 1st April in Odisha (formerly Orissa) to commemorate the formation of the state as a separate province on 1st April 1936. Odisha the Indian state on the subcontinent’s east coast by the Bay of Bengal is also known as Utkala when mentioned in India's national anthem.

Odisha is the land of rich cultural heritage and traditions. The city boasts of majestic temples, shrines, caves and traditional dance forms. The Sun Temple of the 13thcentury, at Konark is a UNESCO declared World Heritage site, the Chhau dance (a traditional tribal folk dance) is a UNESCO declared Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,the famous RathYatra (Chariot festival) of Jagannath Temple, of Lord Jagannath (Lord Krishna) at Puri, the caves at Udaygiri and Khandagiri dwelling retreats of Jain ascetics, the picturesque Chilika lake are some examples to cite.

Konark Dance Festivalis the famous dance festival held every year in December by the Odissa tourism since 1989 wherein the open-air auditorium of the Konark Sun temple serves as the venue. There is also the Konark Music and Dance Festival showcasing classical dance and music since 1986 organized by the KonarkNatyaMandap founded by renowned Odissi dance exponent and teacher, late Padmashri Gangadhar Pradhan, the venue, a very ambient replica of the famous Sun Temple.

Another historic milestone for the state, the Odia language got classical status this year putting it in the same league as Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

With the key focus to promote the rich cultural heritage of Odisha, to retain its Odisha connection and Odia belongingness among the Odia people in Singapore the SingOdia Society a non-political, non-profit, and voluntary society was formed in 1998 by a small group of Odia expatriates. It was formally registered as a Society in 2012 and now has 77 paid up members who participate in the AGM.

Regarding the socio cultural activities engaged in by the Society, Mr Sambit Kumar Mishra, who has been in Singapore since 1999 and who took charge as President in 2010 explained they organise three major activities a year, Utkal Divas, Ganesh Puja and a Badminton tournament.

Odissi dance is one of the eight major classical dance forms of India. It is known for postures as in Indian sculptures and for the characteristic featureTribhangi(three parts break), the independent movement of head, chest and pelvis. The Ashtapdhis of Jayadev commonly forms the theme in these dances.

‘Rising Star’ (The Hindu), ‘Her Expressions Speak” (The New IndianExpress) are a few of the praises attributedtothis bright upcoming young Odissi dancer. She had been invited by the SingOdia Society to dance at the event.

PrachiHota, 17 years, started her training in the Odissidance at the age of three.Presently she is under the guidance of Smt Y Asha Kumari, disciple of Guru Sri Gangadhar Pradhan and SmtAruna Mohanty of Odisha Dance Academy. Prachi has participatedin many the major festivals in India.

To my query: Why did you chose to study Odissi dance? And your future plans.

Prachi:I feel liberated when I dance. Dance is the activity of the day that makes me forget all my worries and concerns in the world. It gives me renewed energy. I feel that I am my real self when I dance without any pretence.

As to why I chose Odissi particularly I really have no idea. We were in Kolkata during my initial days of childhood. My mother took me to various activity classes including multiple forms of dances like RabindraNritya, folk dance, Kathak and Odissi. Out of these dance forms, I felt an undeniable, natural connection to Odissi. So picking Odissi was like completing myself.Other than dancing as much as I possibly can in this lifetime, I plan to propagate this dance form and create awareness about the real spirit of this dance form. While I do get ideas for compositions, I know I have a long way to go before I can start venturing there. At this point, though I am focusing on propagating Odissi among people of my age by performing in various schools.

And about your performance in Singapore?

Prachi: It feels good to know that Indians living outside the country are so enthusiastic about watching, and learning their culture. It indicates how strongly culture remains ingrained within us and connects with the motherland. The inquisitiveness of the children and parents gave me a feeling that I could motivate some of them to learn this beautiful dance. I feel buoyant and at the same time humbled by this experience. This will remain in my memory as my first overseas performance.

The Utkal Divas held on May 3rd at the Theatrette at Singapore Post Centre by the SingOdia Society saw a joyful gathering of 250 members of the community. The event had colourful and vibrant dances, songs and skits. Mementos were given away to the participants and prizes to the winners of the Badminton Tournament. Mr Saroj Kumar Satpathy received the "Odisha Ratna" award for his nine years of contribution to the Singapore Odia Society.