Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s moment in the sun, that of adding yet another feather to its hat of staging high-quality sporting events reached a new zenith with an opening ceremony for the ages, held for the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships at the Kalinga Stadium here yesterday.
The event was flagged off by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
The journey of Odisha – right from the Kalinga war during the reign of emperor Ashoka, to the spread of Buddhism in the region and its subsequent modernity was told through various dance forms. The narrative followed Odisha’s landmark history; right from its ancient temples to its pristine coastline, from its mighty rulers to their penance, from its beautiful simplicity to its fierce ambitions, all aspects were displayed through dance and art forms, some of them intrinsic to the region. Famed Odissi dancer Aruna Mohanty and Shankar Mahadevan headlined the celebrations amongst more than 800 participants that included dance groups from the region.
The act was followed by ‘Waterways’, signifying the importance of Odisha’s coastline and the role it has played in taking the thoughts of Ashoka’s Buddhism to the rest of the world, and the cradle of civilization it later became. The 400 dancers taking the stage showcased the most historic moment of his life, the Kalinga war and the anguish thereafter that led him into Buddhism – an act put together by Odissi virtuoso Aruna Mohanty’s stunning choreography, performed by her pupils.
The introduction of the international group ‘I000 hands of Buddha’ as a result offered a seamless transition, signifying the spread of Buddhism throughout the Far East. King Kharavela sowed the seeds of peace and growth in Odisha, transforming the kingdom from heritage to modernity that was exemplified through poetry, adding another form of artistic expression to the opening ceremony.
Kharavela built most of the temples in Odisha, and its depiction through the classical expressions of Odissi was the perfect match as the dance form was originally performed in temples. Aruna Mohanty performed this piece herself as the wheel of Konark transcends into the proverbial wheel of time, which was followed by the modern day advancements Odisha has made, shown through a two-minute long film. The wheel of Konark came a full circle, and was portrayed through a dazzling showcase of high-definition LEDs worn by the Zenith Dance Troupe.
The arrival of Shankar Mahadevan was combined with Sambalpuri dancers taking the stage to perform to his version of the hugely popular Odia folk song Rangabati. The selection of Mahadevan’s songs also took the similar route of a journey, where Rangabati gives way to Breathless and concludes with Koi Kahe Kehta Rahe, a popular Bollywood track that sees the entire cast take the stage, with the addition of 300 children from Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, making it a 800-strong cast that raises the intensity levels to a crescendo.