Ruled by various kings and dynasties, Odisha has acquired many a traditions in its wake. Thus Odisha can best be defined through its racial and cultural amalgamation that lives through its heritage.
Odisha has a glorious tradition of music. The figures or dancers and musicians carved on ancient temple walls, speak of Odisha's rich musical heritage. Odissi Music is a classical form consisting of all the necessary ingredients common to Hindustani and Karnatic Music. Odissi sangita is a synthesis of four classes of music, i.e. dhruvapada, chitrapada, chitrakala and panchal, described in two treatises namely, Sangita Sarani and Sangita Narayana written in the early 19th century. It owes much to Jayadev, the saint-poet, the great composer and illustrious master of classical music.
In sync with the greatest music of Odisha, the Odissi dance is said to be an effort to come near God and experience true bliss. Therefore, this dance was a legacy kept alive by the devadasis who used to dance to the recitation of hymns and bols of talas. The Odissi dance is evolved from the millennium old dance form called Mahari that used to be performed at the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri by devadasi dancers called maharis. Later on, it was promoted as the classical dance form of Odisha. The gurus who raised the dance form to the level of international eminence are late Kavichandra Kalicharan Patnaik, padmabhusan Kelu Charan Mahapatra, Padmashree Pankaj Charan Das and Deba Prasad Das to name a few.
Apart from the classical Odissi, Chaau is also a prominent dance form in the world of Odisha music and dance. It is the dance of warriors to the accompaniment of indigenous music instruments. The highly Stylised Chhau dance of today follow the basic principle of the Natya Shastra of Bharat Muni and the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeswara. Jatra, Pala, Dashkathia, Gotipua, Naga-Medha dance are few other dance forms that form the rich history and culture of Odisha.
Odisha is a confluence of the Aryan, Dravidian and Adivasi cultures. Most festivals in the state bring out some part of these cultures and celebrate their religion by way of festivals which span out the entire year. There are festivals that are common, but the celebration remains unique to a region. Chandan Yatra, Snana Yatra and Ratha Yatra are observed with special gaiety and fervour at Puri although the last-mentioned one is celebrated at Baripada, Athagarh, Dhenkanal, Koraput and other places even outside the state. Durga Puja is observed throughout the state, more particularly at Cuttack. Kali Puja or Diwali is celebrated in different parts of Odisha. Bali Yatra of Cuttack on the full moon day in the month of Kartika reminds the glory of Odishan traders in the long past. Chaitra Parva, a festival of Chhou dance, is celebrated at Baripada. Makar, Holi, Mohurram, Id and Christmas are also celebrated throughout the state.