This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Gotipua Tradition: A Deeper Insight

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Astitwa:

The living tradition of Gotipua originated in one of the most popular pilgrimage centres of India, Puri, in the Indian state of Orissa. The Gotipua dance emerged in the early 16th century and what makes it unique is that its performers are pre-puberty boys (age 3 to 12), dressed in female attires. Watching Gotipua dancers perform is an important learning experience for Odissi trainees, because most of the aspects of Odissi have been taken from the Gotipua dance. Although there are not too many details regarding its exact origin, there are two theories to highlight the emergence of this tradition.

One theory states that with the coming of Mughals, the Devdasi system gradually declined. To carry forward the legacy, the temple priests and elite people chose boys from poor families to dance for the deity. The other story is related to the most famous Bhakti saint of this region, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who wanted dance troupes to perform in the procession of Lord Jagannath. However, the priests refused his request because they believed ‘devdasis‘ could not perform the dance during their menstrual period as it would make the ceremony impure. So eventually, young boys were chosen to dance for the deity.

During this time, Orissa was also going through a lot of social and political changes. Both the Mughal and the Afghans were trying to seize power in this state. It is said that to fight against them, ‘akhadas’ were constructed, in which the young boys were given physical training to become fighters. They were even trained in dancing to make them a part of the temples so that they could protect the temples of Orissa from the external threats. And thus, the tradition of Gotipua came into existence.

The boys are chosen exclusively from very poor families at a very young age and then they are trained under expert gurus (maestro), following a rigorous training. Generally, the training process includes sessions of yoga, massages, acrobatic exercises, formal schoolwork, and hours of rigorous practice. Families consider it a great respect if their child is selected to be a Gotipua, who are hence also known as ‘god’s own children’.

In Oriya, “Goti” means ‘single’ and “pua” means ‘boy’. Contrary to the name ‘single boy’, Gotipua dance is performed in groups. While most of the elements of this dance can be closely related to Odissi, this dance form gives special place to acrobatics where yogic postures and special ‘mudras’ are enacted.

Guru Maguni Charan Das, a 96-year-old danseur was awarded Padamshree in the year 2004 by the Indian government for his attempts to revive this old dance form. He is now a living legend in Orissa who brought great laurels to this folk dance.

The repertoire of dance includes four phases in the same order, namely, Vandana (worship prayer), Sa ri ga ma (an elegant dance number), Abhinaya (dance on poetry from Geet Govindam, the 12th century sacred verse, especially dedicated to Radha-Krishna) and Bandha Nrutya (acrobatic and yogic postures)

The dance performance is supported by music that consists of Mardala (two heads drum, rhythm percussion instrument indigenous to Orissa), Gini (small cymbals), harmonium, violin, Bansuri (flute) and one or two vocalists.

The costume and make-up of the boys are considered sacred and have evolved in the last 50 years. The dancers wear jewellery made with beads, bracelets, ornaments along with brightly coloured traditional dress called as ‘Kanchula’.

As a tradition, Gotipua inherently highlights the belief and ethos of the Hindu philosophy. By temporarily taking transgender identity, Gotipuas represent the nature (Lila) of the Supreme Lord, who just works through its thousands of manifestations on this Earth in the form of human beings. They represent the possibilities of numerous gender norms and several combinations of sex and gender. In fact, throughout the Hindu holy texts, we have had mention of demigods and saints who have existed in multiple identities, in different sex and genders. And, if we view the dance form in a larger perspective, it celebrates the existence in full acceptance of all possibilities of sex, gender and self. Moreover, the soul, the ‘atma’ has been regarded to be a neutral entity in Hinduism, which again points out to the same fact that even though we all are different from outside, encapsulating many roles and entities, inherently, we all are the same.

As the Gotipua dance is performed by the downtrodden, it has opened up opportunities for a parallel economy for them, which is all set to gain international exposure, thanks to the brilliant works of several Odissi gurus in this field. Gotipua dance groups have now gained recognition from Orissa government and the future of this dance seems bright. Such dance traditions are symbolic of India’s rich cultural heritage and the tolerance we have for all forms of life, irrespective of external differences. We must surely promote them to continue the legacy of India, a home to diverse art practises.

You must be to comment.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By pratyush prashant

By Rana Ashish Singh

By bife rakma

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below