| Odissi Guru Gangadhar Pradhan. Telegraph picture |
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 11: From organising colourful dance festivals to promoting Odissi dance throughout the world, Guru Gangadhar Pradhan was a pioneer in taking the dance form to new heights of glory.
As he departed the worldly abode in the early morning on Monday, the fraternity of dancers he left behind throughout the state are in deep mourning.
Hailing from a humble agrarian family in the small village of Parikul in Puri, to an Odissi maestro of international repute, Guru Pradhan’s life was dedication personified.
He was trained right from the age of six by eminent masters such as Banchhanidhi Pradhan, Pt. Chandra Shekhar Pattanaik, Guru Mahadeva Rout and Guru Birabara Sahoo of the Gotipua tradition.
After completion of a course of Natya Acharya from the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, he further perfected his skills under the tutelage of the most revered dance Gurus like Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Debaprasad Das, Minati Mishra, Dhirendra Nath Patnaik. As part of a scholarship from the government of India, he also trained under the doyen of Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
But dance was not his only forte. He was also a well-trained mardala player, accompanying dancers of the repute of late Padmashree Sanjukta Panigrahi and Illeana Citaristi at national and international concerts.
“I still remember he accompanied me on my first stage performance on the mardala. We also practiced together and even during the festivals all of us organised, he always came forward for any technical help or for gathering artistes,” says Odissi danseuse Illeana.
Guru Pradhan established the Orissa Dance Academy (1972) with branches in different parts of India as well as abroad including Canada, Netherland, and USA. He also established the Konark Natya Mandap in 1985, which is a frontline institute imparting training in Odissi, Gotipua, Chhou, Pala and Odissi vocal. He also formed the Chitralekha Dance Academy, Canada, Odissi Dance Circle in California, Amsterdam, Anand in Gujarat, Sangeeta Nrutya Academy, Guwahati, Odissi Natyashala, Delhi, Odissi Kala Kendra, Calcutta, Konark Natya Mandap and Chandra Shekhar Kala Mandir.
As a choreographer, his creations and innovative ideas have guided many dancers from the state. From dance dramas to ballets in Odissi, Guru Pradhan used beautiful themes and choreography. But most of all he is known for his visionary steps to organise festivals such as the acclaimed Konark dance and musical festival and the Dhauli Mahotsav that attract Odissi lovers from all over the world to the state. He was also the organiser for festivals including Kalinga Kala Utsav, Basanta Utsav, Nimapara Mahotsav, Boita Bandana Utsava and so on including the annual Chitralekha Dance Academy festival in Canada.
A winner of the Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi award, the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as well as the Padmashri award, Guru Pradhan will remain immortal in the hearts of his countless students. “His demise is a great loss for Odissi. He was like my younger brother and we were closely associated for more than 20 years. A deeply humble person and a great artiste, he will be remembered always for his courage to begin dance festivals without much financial support. He was an innovative architect and the Odissi fraternity looked up to him after Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra,” says eminent musician Raghunath Panigrahi.
Guru Pradhan was suffering from a heart problem and was being treated for more than a week at the Apollo Hospital where he breathed his last.
His body was first carried to the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya and then to his institute in Konark. The last rites were performed at Swarg Dwar in Puri on Monday.