Sattriya Dance has its origin in the “Sattras” established by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev in the 15th and the 16th century. The Sattras were established for the propagation of Vaishnavism and later they became the religious, cultural and social hub for the people of Assam. The great Vaishnavite Saint has developed this dance form with its basic roots aligned with the characteristics of other forms of Indian classical dance. Initially a part of the “Ankia Naats”, this dance form derived its name from the word “Sattra”.
This dance form was originally performed in the Sattras and the Namghars by the male Bhokots as a part of religious rituals and for spreading the philosophy of Vaishnavism. Eminent personalities and reformers like Late Moniram Dutta Muktiyar Barbayan, Late Roseshwar Saikia Barbayan, Late Dr. Maheswar Neog , Late Dr Bhupen Hazarika, Late Ananda Mohan Bhagawati to name of few contributed in developing and bringing the Sattriya dance to the outer world. A revolutionary change took place, when female dancers started performing this art form, which was earlier prohibited.
Finally in 15th November 2000 , the Sangeet Natak Akademi declared Sattriya Dance as a classical dance form of India. With time many other performing artistes brought changes to the dance form with their newer compositions and creations.
The Dance Style:
Enriched with the classical elements and its basics related to the “Natyashastra” , “Srihastamuktawali” , “Abhinaya Darpan”, Sattriya dance has reached a different horizon from its origin in the Sattras. Various research and creative works has given this dance form a newer style.
The Sattriya dance can be classified into two styles, namely “Paurashik Bhangi” i.e. Tandava or Masculine style and “Stri Bhangi” i.e. Lashya or feminine style. There are six types of Anga (Limb), six types of Pratyanga, six types of Upanga (Lower limb), nine different types of Gatived (Movement), eight types of Dristived (Eye movement), nine types of Shiraved (Head movement), four types Gribaved (Neck movement) are found in Sattriya dance. The musical instruments used in Sattriya are the khols or the drums, the taals or the cymbals and the flute.
Sattriya Dance usually exhibit different forms of dances:
The “Mati Akharas” are the basic exercise and grammar of Sattriya Dance which forms the basic foundation in the training of a Sattriya dancer. In the post Sankarian period, there were 44 Mati Akharas, but according to Kamalabari Sattra there are 64 Mati Akharas in use. These basic steps and exercises prepare a dancer’s body for other complicated and choreographic numbers. The 64 Mati Akharas may be further sub- divided into eight main types: Ora, Saata, Jhalak, Sitika, Pak, Jap, Lon and Khar.
One of the major dances in Sattriya is the Krishna Nritya which portrays the activities of young Krishna. Krishna Nritya is a pure dance performed in Sutataal. Normally, yellow colored dhoti, blue shirt or blouse, headgear with peacock feather forms the basic costume of Krishna Nritya.
Another dance style based on the life of Lord Krishna, Nadubhangi Nritya covers the story of Lord Krishna defeating the poisonous snake “Kaliya” and also other stories related to Him. The Nadubhangi Dance has two parts- Ramdani and Geetor Naach, wherein the pure dance is performed with songs in the Geetor Naach. Rakta Taal, Poritaal, Jaman Taal, Suta, Melajyoti, Chutkala, Jatitaal are used in Nadubhagi dance. The costume of this style mainly comprises of yellow colored dhoti, black or blue shirt or blouse, Kanchi (waist belt) and headgear decorated with “Kalki”.
Jhumura is a pure dance having its origin in the “Jhumura Naat” of Sri Sri Madhavdev. It uses masculine postures and style and has three parts- Ramdani, Geetor Naach and Mela Naach. The costume of Jhumura dance consists of Paguri or turban, laced shirt or blouse, white dhoti etc.
It is believed that the Chali Naach has its connection with the dancing peacock which is also mentioned in the Bhagavad. Under the guidance of Sri Sri Madhavdev, male dancers dressed as female performed this dance in Barpeta. The Chali dance is of two types – the pure style and secondly the Rojaghoria style which developed in the post Sankarian time. There are eight Ramdanis in pure Chali and in the recent times abhinaya is also included in Chali Naach.
Rojaghoria Chali dance has evolved during the Ahom period. This dance is performed in the sequence of Ramdani, Geetor Nach and Mela Nach. Due to royal influence the costume of Rojaghoria Chali Nach is more elegant than of the pure Chali Nach. Musical instruments like the Mridanga and Pakhawaj were used apart from the traditional instruments.
The “Behar Nach” , also known as the “Bihar Nach” or “Bahar Nach” is basically a group dance showcasing the lively activities of Lord Krishna with his companions in Vrindaban. This dance has two parts- Ramdani and Geetor Nach. The Ramdani part is danced on Chuta Taal and in the Geetor Nach part, various taals like Poritaal, Jaman, Suta, Chutkala and Jati are used.
The character of Sutradhar plays a prominent role in the “Ankia Naats”. Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev used the tool of story telling to preach Vaisnavism to the common people at that point of time. The Sutradhar recites the story of the drama or Naat and thus manages the flow of the play. The three parts of Sutradhari Nritya are Geetor Naach, Slokar Naach and Ragor Naach . This dance covers the three aspects – Nritta, Natya and Nritya.
The Bor Prabesh Nritya depicts the stories of young Krishna and illustrates his activites with his friends while coming back from cattle herding.
The dance through which the main characters in “ Ankia Naat” make their entrance to stage is known as Gosain Prabesh Naach. The youthfulness of this dance is used to mark the entry of radiant and majestic characters like Krishna, Balaram, Ram- Lakshman, etc.
The main female character enters to the stage with the Gopi Prabesh Naach. This style reflects the feminine style of Sattriya Dance. Leading female characters in “Ankia Naats” like Rukmini, Satyabhama, Sita etc makes their entry with this dance style.
The “Sattriya Ojapali” is based on “Byahar Ojapali” of the pre Sankarian era. This dance style uses hand movements and abhinaya to convey the stories and like other Sattriya art forms, it was widely used to spread the message of monotheism. The different parts of Ojapali Naach are- Raag Diya, Raag Malita, Raag Charun, Geet, Diha, Thio Paton, Kathan, Bana, Dhura, Baadya Kheyali , Upadesh .
Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees:
1. Late Moniram Dutta Muktiyar Barbayan (1963)
2. Late Bapuram Bayan Attai (1978)
3. Late Roseshwar Saikia Barbayan (1980)
4. Indira P. P. Bora (1996)
5. Late Pradip Chaliha (1998)
6. Late Parmanand Barbayan (1999-2000)
7. Ghana Kanta Bora (2001)
8. Jatin Goswami (2004)
9. Gunakanta Dutta Barbayan (2007)
10. Manik Barbayan (2010)