Dancers pay tribute to guru - Danseuse Rupashree Mohapatra visits Sashimani Devi, the last living devadasi of Jagannath temple

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By NAMITA PANDA
  • Published 6.09.11
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Mahari dancers pay homage to the last surviving Devadasi of Jagannath Temple (below) on Teachers’ Day in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra

Puri, Sept. 5: It was special day for all kinds of teachers today, and the last living devadasi of Jagannath temple, Sashimani Devi.

While students of various educational streams conveyed their gratitude to teachers on Monday on the occasion of Teachers’ Day, Mahari dancers in Puri celebrated Guru Dibas by expressing their affection and respect to the last living devadasi of Jagannath temple.

“This is a ritual that my revered Odissi guru, Pankaj Charan Das, had initiated and even as a 10-year-old child, I remember visiting devadasis Harapriya Devi, Kokila Prabha Devi and Sashimani Devi to serve them in various ways on the occasion of Guru Dibas as they used to teach us Mahari dance,” said Mahari dancer Rupashree Mohapatra.

Mohapatra, along with a number of her disciples, visited the ailing Sashimani Devi. From applying alata on her feet to gifting her with a new sari and paying homage by traditional methods of arati and puja, the dancers showed their gratitude to the dancer. “Every year, we adorn her with flowers and various traditional accessories. We then perform the guru pujan to pay tribute to her,” said Mohapatra.

“Earlier, Mahari was not taught to anyone other than a devadasi, and I will always remain obliged to Sashimani Devi and other late devadasis for training me themselves. In fact, Sashimani Devi has always treated me like her daughter,” Mohapatra said.

“I also miss my guru, Pankaj sir. But I know his blessings are always with me,” she added. During the celebration today, Sashimani Devi rendered the song, Ehi katha re mo mana, on which Mohapatra performed a Mahari sequence.

“I’m happy that like every year, Rupashree came to my house and spent time with me. I hope Mahari dance, which is a favourite of Lord Jagannath, will survive with the efforts of dancers like Rupashree,” said Sashimani Devi.