Odissi is one of the famous classical Indian dance forms from the state of Orissa. Odissi is a highly inspired, passionate, ecstatic and sensuous form of dance with a history of almost two thousand years. Like most of the South Indian classical dances of India, Odissi has its origin in the Devadasi tradition, where it was initially performed in the temples as a religious offering by the 'Maharis' who dedicated their lives in the service to the Divine.
The state of Orissa has a great cultural history. The rulers of the region built many magnificent temples, which became the centers of art and culture. It was around these temples that Odissi Dance was born. It remains a conundrum whether the dance is inspired by the timeless beauty of the temple sculptures, or the sculptures depict the celestial grace of the dancers.
Although initially , Odissi was not considered one of the main classical dances of India, its antiquity has been traced to an early sculpture found in the Ranigumpha caves at Udaygiri, Orissa dating to the 2nd century BCE. Thus, Odissi appears to be the oldest classical dance rooted in rituals and tradition of ancient times. In fact, the *Natya Shastra* refers to *Odra Magadhi* as one of the *vrittis* and the word *Odra* refers to Orissa.
However, since the exact date of the origin of the tradition could not be found, the Maharis and the Achariyas adapted the existing format of Bharatnatyam along with the sculptures on the temple walls to the present form of Odissi.