Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Sattriya: A mythological theme based dance

Sattriya is a classical dance which is devotional in nature. It originated in in the 15th century in Assam. The person who contributed in its evolution was the great Vaishnavite saint Shri Sankardev. It is known that he was a social reformer and a great performing artist. It got its name from “sattras” which were Assam's monasteries setup by saint Shri Sankardev for the preservation and propagation of this dance form. After sometime it got the name Sattriya Nritya. It got it base from Ankia Nat or one-act play. These plays depicted the life of Lord Krishna & Lord Rama and numerous dances. Sattriya is a dance form in which music, dance and drama are rolled into one.

The theme of this dance form is mythological stories. This dance presented the stories in a simple and enjoyable manner. In the present the themes have extended from mere mythological stories but the main purpose is to make the dance accessible, immediate. 

The sattriya dance can be classified into two styles namely Paurashik Bhangi i.e Tandav or masculine style & Shtri bhangi i.e Lasya or feminine style. Independent dances include Rajagharia Chali, Chal, Natua, Sattriya Ojapali and Nadubhangi.

This dance form consists of dance patterns which are called bhariman or Khoj.It is the the movements of either single or pair of feet. Sattriya dance has many feet positions or feet stances. There is a basic stance or position in Sattriya dance form where all the dance numbers of Sattriya start, that is called Ora. Ora covers both feet and hand position.

The dresses are usually made of pat, a type of silk produced in Assam, woven with intricate local motifs. The ornaments, too, are based on traditional Assamese designs.

The instruments used during a performance are khols (drums), taals (cymbals) and the flute. Other instruments like the violin and the harmonium have been recent additions.

In the past this dance was performed by the male monks who used to live in “sattras”. They used it for ritualistic and other purposes. Latter as this dance form gained popularity, it is now presented by men and women who are not the members of “sattras”. It is still practised, preserved and performed consistently in the Vaishnavite monasteries. This classical dance form has also been well appreciated and practiced outside the Indian mainland as well. 

Many ancient Indian classical texts like Natyashastra, Kalikapurana, Yoginitantra, Abhinayadarpana and also in sculptures, historical relics contains the description about this classical dance.

Nartan Kala Niketan of Guwahati in Assam, a premier institution of Sattriya dance is pursuing this goal to promote and popularise this dance across the globe through their performances.

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