Sattriya – A Classical Dance In India
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 one feature of this dance which stands out is the costume and the entire ensemble that looks like a unification of various colors that all interlock together and form a unique and distinct style which exhibits Assamese grandeur and cultural legacy.
Assam Silk Sarees are extremely popular, not only in Assam but throughout India and abroad. The subtle sheen and fine Silk threads are woven to form exquisite designs and motifs that are individualistic and diverse in style. The Sattriya dancers opt for these Silk sarees when putting together their dance attire. Pat Silk and Muga Silk are the two kinds of sarees used by the dancers. The reason Pat Silk sarees are so popular with this dance form is because of the various local motifs used, which represent the flora and fauna found in Assam.
A large red bindi on the forehead, dark kohled eyes stretched to form dramatic looking eyes, red or coral colored lips and flowers to adorn the hair are some of the basic embellishments used in addition to the rich looking Assamese Silk sarees worn by the dancers. A mix of Gold and Silver jewelry is used, which forms a head gear, waist belt, earrings and heavy neck pieces.
The Sattriya has gained immense popularity in the department of visual arts, not only in India but also in countries like U.S. and U.K., where the importance of Assamese culture has gained new ground in the last several years. Alongside the beautiful dance form, the Assamese jewellery designs and Silk sarees have also gained popularity across the globe. Usha Rani Baishya, who is a popular Sattriya expert across Assam, has graced this age old dance technique in several shows which have also strengthened the popularity of this dance style.
Interesting Facts and Comparisons
- The Sattriya dance dramas were written by the great saint Samanta Sankardev who was the founder of this dance, and the celibate monks performed on various mythological stories through this technique.
- It was in the year 2002 that the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy recognized the Sattriya dance as part of the 8 Indian classical dance forms.
- There are various musical instruments used in this dance, some of which include Khol (drum), Bahi (flute), Violin, Tanpura, Harmonium and Shankha (Conch Shell).
- The Sattriya dance form can be placed under 2 categories; Paurashik Bhangi, which is the masculine style and ‘Stri Bhangi’, which is the feminine style.
- Pat Silk saree is the most popular kind of saree used in this dance, which represents the locality through its various colorful motifs and designs.
- This is the only classical Assamese dance which has stayed true to its original technique and style.