Odissi dance has come a long way from what it was only 50 years ago. What we call Odissi today has very little resemblance to what the mahari-s or the devadasi-s used to dance in the temples and the akhada pilla in the matha-s. The dance compositions which constitute the present Odissi repertoire are products of the last part of the 20th century; they were created keeping in mind the secular environment of a proscenium stage presentation. The enormous growth which the style has witnessed both in terms of technique and dance compositions is to be attributed to the creativity and versatility of the present-day practitioners.
There was a very famous sabha called Saraswathi Gana Sabha in Kakinada at that time. It was run by a zamindar and industrialist who did not bother about the expenditure or worry about ticket sales. Mostly he spent his own money, though he did accept financial support from other zamindars, like those of Pithapuram, Kirlampudi and Samalkot. The Sabha used to conduct a 10-day music festival every year, with a single performance each day. The first five were performances by Telugu musicians and the next five were those of Tamil musicians. Music enthusiasts from Berhampur to Nellore gathered in Kakinada for the festival. My father and I (in my case, beginning in 1928) had opportunities to attend many of the concerts. My father had a student who would buy two season tickets for the festival.
My periodic trips to the easternmost part of Andhra Pradesh generally include a safari through Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Salur and Bobbili, apart from on-and-off visits to the pilgrim centres of Simhachalam, Punyagiri and Ramateerthalu. This time, bookshops in Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram which I visited yielded a rich harvest. Yogi at Visalandhra (he is the manager there) and the brothers K. Prasad and K. Srinivas at Himamsu were extremely helpful to me. In the first place, I told the manager when I had last visited the shop and and he assembled in no time all the subsequent book arrivals in my areas of interest. In Himamsu, there are shelves devoted to books on music, dance, Annamacharya, etc. The books were brought to me, in sets of related titles. Yes. Every time I go to these places, my purse is lighter but my heart is fuller, and after a time, my mind all the richer.