project archives » 2009



In the Footsteps of the Devadasi explores the evolution of religious and philosophical ideas, resulting in the ritual of dance by women before deities, through iconography and ornamentation in Orissan temple sculpture.

The photographic content eloquently highlights how classical Indian odissi dance drew its physical and spiritual inspiration directly from medieval Orissan temple architecture. The ornamental motif of the alasakanya, or languorous maiden, seen so profusely on its walls, provides a visual directory of permutations and combinations of the body and its limbs, around the template of the classical tribhanga. This "three-bends of the body's central axis" is pivotal to odissi's distinctive grace and sensuality.

The exhibition also demonstrates how a significant coming together of different religious ideas documented by the temples' iconography heralded the growth of tantra, where worshippers could participate in rituals and dancers, consecrated as devadasi or the "servant-wives of God", performed as a mortgage offering on behalf of the king and kingdom.

The exhibition opened on April 7th 2010 for three weeks, at the Gallery Square Circle, Bharat Nivas, Auroville. It was subsequently mounted at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Exhibition Hall in Pondicherry in March 2011 for two weeks.

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