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From History to Heritage: The Manifestation of the 500-year-old Sattriya Nritya

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Article by Swagata Borah, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visuals by: Rahul Haloi

শ্রীমন্ত শঙ্কৰ হৰি ভকতৰ,
জানা যেন কল্পতৰু।
তাহান্ত বিনাই, নাই নাই নাই,
আমাৰ পৰম গুৰু।।

Sattriya Nritya (সত্ৰীয়া নৃত্য), the age-old traditional form of performing art is a prime Indian Classical form of dance to be counted along with the other 7 forms of highbrow classical arts of the nation. Acquiring its origin from Assam, the traditional art form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the Vaishnava saint Mahapurusha Sankaradeva.

Although the dance form was in practice since the 15th century, it was only November 15, in the year 2000 when it got full-fledged recognition as a classical dance form by the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Sattriya

Who created Sattriya Nritya?

Sattriya Nritya, as a combination of dance and drama, was created by Sankardeva to appendage the one-act plays devised by him which were known as Ankiya Naat. These plays were usually performed by the Bhokots (male monks) in the Assam’s monasteries (Sattras). The art form drastically emerged from the sanctum of Assam’s sattras to the metropolitan stage in the second half of the 19th century.

Sattriya

The context of Sattriya Nritya has wholly been based on mythological tales. It focuses primarily on the 10 Avataras of Lord Vishnu emphasizing more on the Krishna Avatara. This is been an artistic way of bestowing mythological teachings to the people in an accessible and enjoyable manner.

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Who perfromed Sattriya Nritya?

Sattriya was traditionally performed only by the male monks in the monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark peculiar festivals but in the present day, in addition to the practice, Sattriya is also performed on stage by both men and women who are not members of the Sattras, on themes which are not merely mythological.

Sattriya

What are its two chief branches?

Sattriya Nritya has two chief branches, Lashya Nritya and Tandava Nritya and these are divided into numerous genres, some of which are: Apsara Nritya, Behar Nritya, Saali Nritya, Dasavatara Nritya, Rasa Nritya, Rajaghariya Saali Nritya, Jhumura, Nadubhangi and Sutradhaar etc.

Sattriya

While Saali Nritya was introduced by Madhavdev, a loyal disciple of Sankaradeva, the others were introduced by Sankaradeva himself. Similar to the other seven schools of Indian Classical dance, Sattriya Nritya too encompasses the principles required of a Classical Indian dance form. Natya Shastra, Abhinaya Darpana, and Shakaradeva’s Sangit Ratnakara are some of the treatises of dance and dramaturgy.

The traditional dance form includes pure dance, solo(Nritta), expressive dance, solo (Nritya) and dramatic play, group (Natya). The character-specific different styles of Sattriya have their own costume variations and focus on the various life stages and activities of Radha, Krishna and the gopis.

Sattriya

In the contemporary state of affairs, the 500-year-old form of traditional art is suffering extinction due to the utmost negligence of the present-day generation. The socio-cultural dynamics of the rich art form which marks the eternal existence of our culture and heritage must be preserved and prioritized for the sake of our realm.

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