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Guru Dr. Gangadhar Pradhan
Born(1948-07-10)10 July 1948
Parikula, Brahmagiri Orissa
Died10 October 2010(2010-10-10) (aged 62)
OccupationClassical Dancer, actor, Mardal Player, Choreographer, Festival Organiser
Spouse(s)Sulochana Pradhan
  • Sibashis Pradhan
  • Sanjibani Pradhan
  • Sudeshna Pradhan
  • Sasmita Pradhan
Parent(s)Muralidhara Pradhan
Dutika Pradhan
AwardsSangeet Natak Akademi Award, Padma Shri, Doctorate

Early life

Pradhan was born on 10 July 1948 to Muralidhar Pradhan and Dwitika Devi, of Parikul. Initially, he neither cried nor moved, giving the impression that he was stillborn. The father vowed that if the child survived, he would send him to serve their deity Lord Balunkeshwar for 5 years. At age 3, while travelling in a bullock cart, the boy fell and was injured severely. The father vowed to send him for 10 years instead of 5. From age 5 to 15, the boy worked in a temple as a devotee of Lord Shiva.

While there he did chores, help and obey the seniors, look after the harvest, study and take lessons of dance as a Gotipua dancer. In this dance form, boys dress like girls to perform. The boy was fair in colour. He had handsome features and grew his hair long. He was a quick learner. Though only senior boys were allowed to learn Mardal, a musical instrument, he furtively taught himself to play the instrument while the older boys worked at the paddy fields.

In July 1966, he arrived in Bhubaneswar and entered Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya. His talent as a Mardal player made his teachers depend on him as an accompanist. Parents of female students started inviting him for accompanying their daughters for practice. Gradually he started teaching students privately. In his third year, he played Mardal for noted dancer Rita Devi and went to Mumbai. There, he started participating in many programmes. He won 1st prize in all Orissa Dance Competition held at Puri. Then came opportunities in Oriya films, opera and theatres where he directed dance sequences in their plays and productions. He completed his Nrityacharya degree course in 1971.


He received a National Scholarship from 1971 to 1973 under Padmabibhusan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. He got extensive theory from Dhirendranath Pattnaik. Pradhan married Smt. Sulochana Pradhan in 1972. By the time he had finished college, he had established himself among the art lovers of Bhubaneswar. After the scholarship he took two years additional training in Odissi dance and trained himself in mastering the Mardal. He was actively associated with many organisations such as Bhubaneswar Kalakendra, Sangeeta of Jatni, Chilika Sangeet Parishad and Balugaon. He directed and choreographed many dance items for the annual day events of schools and colleges. He got involved in Ekamra theatres from 1969. He found a patron in Kamala Lochana Mohanty of Ekamra theatres. From 1979–96 he travelled with Padmashree Late Sanjukta Panigrahi.

Orissa Dance Academy

In 1973, he started an organisation called Natyaloka, drawing help and inspiration from Pt. Raghunath Panigrahi and Late Smt Sanjukta Panigrahi. He renamed it Sunati and in 1975 renamed it again, to Orissa Dance Academy. The initial 35 students included Krushnapriya Pattjoshi, Saratpriya Pattjoshi, Susmita Mitra, Dipti Sahoo, Digbala Sahoo, Aruna Mohanty, Archana Mohanty, Annapurna Panda, Jaba Dey and Ananya Das. Classes were held three times a week.

With the help of journalist B.K. Kanungo, he held classes at Sambadika Bhawan, which belonged to the Journalist Association. Another early supporter was Dhiren Pattnaik, Secretary of Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi. Orissa Dance Academy was formally registered with Pattnaik as President, Bhabani Biswal as Secretary and Guruji as Principal. In 1978, the golden era of Orissa Dance Academy began with Guru Gangadhar Pradhan and Aruna Mohanty participating in the India festivals held in Germany and Belgium.

In 1980, students of Orissa Dance Academy, Dipti Sahoo, Saratpriya Pattajoshi, Pagala Swain, Nandita Patnaik and Aruna Mohanty joined a cultural delegation by ICCR managed by Pattnaik that travelled to Portugal, Spain, Holland and Italy. By this time, students such as Minakshi Behera, Chapala Mishra and Mamata Nayak had started performing. The Academy relocated and became one of the premier cultural institutions of India. It has about 300 students and a 30 dancer performance unit.

The school acts as an umbrella organisation for some 33 other cultural organisations both in India and abroad, including Chitralekha Dance Academy Toronto, Centre for World Music San Diego, an institution in Amsterdam, Holland, Sangeeta Nritya Academy-Assam and Purva-Baroda.

Apart from choreography, composing dance dramas and ballets, he composed in the genre of regional folk dance. The Academy has performed for national and international audiences.

Konark Natya Mandap

Konark Natya Mandap in a non performing day.
Konark Natya Mandap in a non performing day.

Pradhan established Konark Natya Mandap in 1986. It hosts classes on Gotipua, Odissi dance, Mardala, Tabla and Odissi vocals.

On its three stages students and others present art forms such as Sankirtan, Paika akhada, Pala, Daskathia, Ramalila on occasions such as Basant Panchami and Jhulan Purnima.

Kala Mandir

To promote Orissan art and culture, he established Chandrasekhar Kala Mandir in 1992, at Parikul, Puri. Training is imparted in both Odissi and Gotipua facilities


The Konark Dance and Music Festival was first held in 1986, at Arkavihar, Konark, becoming an International fete, presenting dancers, musicians, artists and scholars from across the globe. It is held every year from 19th – 23 February.

\The Kalinga Kala utsav began from the inception of the Chandrasekhar KalaMandir, Parikul, Puri about 11 years ago. It is held every year in April. Pradhan acquired a plot of land, near Dhauligiri, Bhubaneswar.

The 1st Dhauli Mahotsavas was held from 27 to 29 March. For this effort towards promotion of culture, Pradhan was awarded the State Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. The nation awarded him the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, by the President of India.

Gurus under whom Gangadhar trained

Gotipua Gurus

Banchhandihi Pradhan
Birabara Sahu
Mayadhar Rout
Chandrasekhar Pattanaik

Odissi Dance Gurus

Pankaj Charan Das
Ddba Prasad Das
Dhirendranath Patnaik

Mardala Gurus

Singhari Shyam Sundar Kar
Banamali Moharana

Awards and honours

Guruji was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1998[1] and the Padma Shri (Indian's fourth highest civilian award) in 2008.[2]

Guruji received honours and awards for his contributions. Notable among them are State Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Central Sangeet Natak Award 1997, the International School of Theatre, Denmark, Canada, and the US. He was awarded the Sanjukta Panigrahi National Award on 25 August 2002 and the Sanskruti Bharatee Award from National Council of Asian Indian Association on 26 September 2002 at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Pradhan was the first Orissan artist to receive teach at Cornell University. He was the President of Orissa Sangeet Natak Akademi from 2006–07. He was designated the "Padmashree" by the government of India in 2008. Other honours include:

Positions held


  1. ^ "Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar (Akademi Awards)". Sangeet Natak Akademi. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2010.
  2. ^ "Padmashri Awardees list". Government of India. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 21 April 2010.