Odissi or Orissi?

Photo  1998, David J. CapersEither Orissi or Odissi may be considered acceptable in writing. While close however, both would be technically inaccurate in the Oriya pronounciation of the word. The confusion over how to spell Orissi, in English, is due to the fact, Indian languages possess some entirely different sounds in their alphabets than does English. In Oriya script, the second letter of Odissi has an 'rd' sound, with a rolled 'r' similar to Spanish. However unlike Spanish, there is only one roll of the tongue followed immediately by the soft 'd' sound. The 'r' and 'd' are said almost simultaneously creating a new (for Euro-Americans) combined sound. Perhaps, to satisfy purists, the most correct (Romanized) spelling of this Indian dance form would be:


That is awkward and unwieldy. For decades both spellings have been used in literature on Orissi. When I first learnt of Orissi, in the early 1980's, it was pronounced mostly with the (rd) sound, but occasionally with a hard 'D' and no 'r,' or an 'r' and no 'd.' Over the last two decedes the hard 'D' seems to have won out in general usage, possibly due to Westerner's inability to pronounce the (rd) sound correctly. The 'D' only pronunciation has a harsh unaesthetic sound, and 'Orissi' more accurately represents the musical sound of the word to my own ear, however both spellings are used interchangeably on this site. (David)

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