Sattriya: The Dance Form of Assam

Introduction to Sattriya Dance Form

The Sattriya dance form has its origin in the ‘Sattras’. Srimanta Sankardev was the bone who established it in the 15th and the 16th century. Sattriya dance is spiritual in nature. Since they were for propagation of neo-Vaishnavism. Still, latterly they came the religious, artistic, and social mecca for the people of Assam. Sattriya is piecemeal from other classical dance forms as it has its unique charm and grace, which evocatively endue it with the bhakti rasa. The word ‘Sattra’ gave this dance its name. It was firstly performed in the Sattras and the Namghars by the manly Bhokots as a part of religious ritual, and for several centuries it was confined within the four walls of the Sattras. Also. it was for spreading the gospel of Vaishnavism.

Formerly, virgin monks performed the dance, and womanish places also legislated by them. A revolutionary change took place when womanish hop started performing this art form. Ultimately, on 15th November 2000, the Sangeet Natak Akademi declared Sattriya Dance as a classical dance form of India.

Satra (Ekasarana Dharma) - Wikipedia-sattriya
A Sattra

So, Podium School would like to take this occasion to introduce this dance form to all our compendiums. Read on!

Sattriya Tradition

The Sattriya tradition gets handed down orally from one generation to another, and in this process also undergoes lyrical and metrical extemporizations. The geographic position of the tradition ranges from the vast breadth of the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam and corridor of the Barak vale in southern Assam to some areas in the Arunachal Pradesh, east Cooch Behar, and West Bengal.

The living dance tradition of Assam
Sattriya Tradition

The communities associated with it are

  • The Assamese Hindu Community in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam including Majuli, the swash- islet of the Brahmaputra
  • The Rajbanshi Community in Chatrasal in the skirting areas of Assam as well as Cooch Behar in West Bengal
  • Groups of the Nocte Community in Arunachal Pradesh
  • Many groups of the Bodo Community in Assam and Nagaland border
  • Mising and Sonowal lines spreading over the vale
  • Groups of the Naga lines living within Assam and skirting areas of Assam and Nagaland

Sattriya Dance Style

 Dance - Classical Dance Form from Assam
Sattriya Dance Style

This dance is different from other dance forms in its introductory station. The dance is grounded on mythological themes. For males it’s called the Purush Pak while for womanish, Prakriti Pak. Amended with the classical rudiments and its basics related to the ‘Natyashastra’,‘Srihastamuktawali’,‘Abhinaya Darpan’, Sattriya dance has reached a different horizon from its origin in the Sattras. Colorful exploration and creative workshop have given this dance form a newer style. In recent times, there has been significant development in the choreographic styles, costumes, and stage donation. Which has led to this dance getting more dynamic as a performing art.

How to do makeup in Sattriya!

The Sattriya dance can be classified into two styles, ‘Paurashik Bhangi’ i.e., Tandava or Mannish style and‘Stri Bhangi’ i.e., Lashya or womanlike style.

The musical instruments used in Sattriya are the Khols or the Barrels, the Taals or the Cymbals and the Flute. Music instruments similar as Mridangam and Pakhwaj were a part of the music of Rojaghoria Chali Dance. Still, in recent times we use violin too in the Sattriya music.

Sattriya Dance Costume

 Dancers Madhusmita Bora and Prerona Bhuyan | Indian classical  dance, Traditional indian dress, Dance of india
Sattriya Dance Costume

The costume of Sattriya dance is broadly of two types. The virile costume comprises of the dhoti and chadar and the paguri (turban) and the womanish costume comprises of the ghuri, chadar and kanchi (waist cloth). In the old days, the costumes were of white or raw silk color with use of red, blue and pusillanimous for specific dance numbers. In the old days, people used velvet and satin to make the costumes. With the change in time, as this dance form evolved from the sattras onto stage, the design and paraphernalia of the dance costumes changed. Likewise, Pat or Paat, a silk produced from the mulberry plant, makes the costume of Sattriya dance. These hand- woven paraphernalia generally have intricate original motifs like Kingkhap, Miri Motif, Kolka etc.

A unique fashion in raw gold is used to make the jewelries, earrings are made in analogous designs and Thuka Suna and Keru are worn by hop. Artist’s wear Kopali on their forepart. Womanish hop wear white flowers in the hair.

The costumes of Ankiya Naats (dramatizations) are various and character specific. Use of Mukha or masks to depict demons and special characters are also unique of this dance form. Also, the art of mask timber is an integral part of Sattriya culture and began in the Sattras of Assam. Original crafters make these beautifully decorated turbans and crowns.

The facial makeup of Sattriya dance is analogous to other classical dance forms of India. Still, in earlier times traditional accoutrements and sauces were used for makeup.

Postures in Sattriya

Sattriya Dance | Krishnakshi Kashyap
Postures in Sattriya

Whenever the dharma or the law and order was in peril on the world, Lord Vishnu expressed onto this world to re-establish Dharma and Peace, law and order and to cover the world from the evil rudiments of the society. The ten embodiers of Lord Vishnu, known as the‘Dasavatar’; are Matshya-the fish, Koorma-the tortoise, Varaaha-the boar, Narashingha-the man captain, Vaamana-the dwarf, Parashurama, Rama, Halirama, Buddha, and Kalki. Description of these incorporations are plant in the Vaishnavite literature and are al depicted in Sattriya Dance.

Dance along with Beauty, Posture And Makeup

Final words

As Sattriya dance takes its fresh place among the honored classical balls of India, it’s likely that it’ll renew to spread. Still, not only through India but to another corridor of the world. It has gone through accessible changes as it has acclimated to new players and venues, but I hope that indeed as it reaches new cult it’ll continue to hold on to important of the traditional and sacred character that the monks hoped to save. Podium School urges all the kiddies out there to learn at least one of the classical balls to keep our tradition alive.

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