The doyen of Odissi, Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra was born on January 8, 1926 in Raghurajpur, Orissa. Kelucharan was a precocious child, he learnt to paint, sculpt and play the Khol drum at a very early age. He joined Gotipua troupes and folk theater groups when he was just nine.
He was totally immersed in Odissi. He resurrected odissi when it was at the verge of extinction. In 1994 he set up an organisation, ‘Srjan’ to impart training to students in Odissi dance. Many famous classical dancers such as Sanjukta Panigrahi, Kukum Mohanty, Sonal Mansingh, Priyambada Mohanty, Minati Mishra and Bhartanatyam dancer Yamini Krishamurthy are disciples of guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.
For his enormous contribution to Odissi, Kelucharan Mohapatra received many awards including Sangeet Natak Akademi award, 1966; Padma Shri, 1972; Padma Bhushan,1989; Padma Vibhushan, 2000; and Kalidas Samman from Madhya Pradesh government. To honor him the Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra award was instituted in 1995. This annual award is given for the contribution in the field of art.
This Odissi exponent passed away on April 7, 2004 in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, leaving behind a league of Odissi dancers to continue the work started by him.