Volume 64 Number 3, March 2013

Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam

Edited by: Sunil Kothari
Photographs by: Avinash Pasricha
Binding: Hardcover
Specifications: 148 pages, 254 illustrations
ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0
Dimensions: 305 x 241 mm

In the year 2000, the Sattriya dances of Assam received recognition as the eighth classical dance form of India. This living tradition from the monasteries known as sattras has been practised for over 500 years by celibate monks. Created by the Vaishnava saint and social reformer Sankaradeva and his principal disciple Madhavadeva in the 16th century, it possesses all the elements of classical dance, following the principles of natyashastra. Today, it has moved to the metropolitan stage, performed by male as well as female dancers. Retaining its basic core of bhakti, it has metamorphosed into a form with high aesthetic appeal, as is evident from the rich visuals in this book.

Dance historian Sunil Kothari has visited sattras over several years, watching performances and documenting this dance form. The chapters reflect the voices of acknowledged scholars, gurus and practitioners from Assam, covering different aspects – the institution of the sattra, the dance-dramas known as Ankiya Nat and Bhaona, Ojapali dance, ground exercises and technique, abhinaya and the use of masks, the traditional repertoire, devotional songs, music and recent innovations. The concluding section features some leading exponents of Sattriya dance.

Sunil Kothari, the editor of this book, has written and edited several volumes on dance, including for Marg. He is currently editing a two-volume collection of the All-India Dance Seminar 1958 papers, for the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA). He participates regularly in dance seminars. Former Professor and Head of the Department of Dance, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, and former Dean and Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi, he has also taught as a Fulbright Professor at universities in the USA, and lectured in various countries. He has been honoured with an SNA award and the Padma Shri.

1. Introduction: From the Mists of the Brahmaputra
Sunil Kothari

2. The Classical Dance Tradition in Assam
Maheswar Neog

3. The Institution of the Sattra
Pradip Jyoti Mahanta

4. Ankiya Nat and Bhaona
Jagannath Mahanta

5. Sattriya Ojapali: A Related Dance Form
Karuna Borah

6. Nritta: Technique
6.1 Mati Akhara: Ground Exercises
      Jatin Goswami and Sunil Kothari
6.2 Pada Karma: Footwork
       Mallika Kandali
6.3 Hastas: Hand Gestures
      Sunil Kothari
6.4 Shubhankar Kavi’s Sri Hastamuktavali
      Kapila Vatsyayan

7. Nritya
7.1 Abhinaya
      Ghanakanta Bora
7.2 Masks
      Anwesa Mahanta
7.3 Repertoire
      Sunil Kothari
7.4 Expanding the Repertoire
      Sharodi Saikia

8. Music
Kesavananda Dev Goswami

Appendix: Bhortal Nritya and Sattriya Dances
Menaka P.P. Bora

9. Exponents
Sunil Kothari

Acknowledgements

Bibliography

Index

Contributors

Introduction: From the Mists of the Brahmaputra
Kothari, Sunil
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 8-17

A historical background on the history of Sattriya as a dance form, from its origins in monasteries as a devotional dance form to its adaptation on the proscenium stage. The introduction sets the tone for the book, introducing the personalities involved and also format and chapterization of the book.

The Classical Dance Tradition in Assam
Neog, Maheswar
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 18-25

This is an abridged version of Maheswar Neog’s seminal essay from the first All-India Dance Seminar convened by Sangeet Natak Akademi in New Delhi in April 1958. Maheswar Neog uses his scholarly knowledge of Indian Classical Dance to demonstrate Sattriya’s claim as a traditional classical style of dance based in Bharata’s Natyashastra tradition.

The Institution of the Sattra
Mahanta, Pradip Jyoti
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 26-37

Sattriya was, for centuries, practiced exclusively by celibate Vaishnava monks in monasteries known as sattras before they moved also to  the proscenium stage. This article takes a look at the Sattras, their history and development as well as their structure and social construct.

Ankiya Nat and Bhaona
Mahanta, Jagannath
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 38-45

The classical dance-drama tradition of Assam is an outcome of the all-pervading Vaishnava Bhakti movement of the 15th–17th centuries. The written text of this dance-drama form is known as Ankiya Nat, while the performance is called Ankiya Bhaona. Sankaradeva evolved Ankiya Nat and Bhaona on the principles of classical Sanskrit drama, as a skilful contrivance for the propagation of his new faith based on bhakti.

Sattriya Ojapali: A Related Dance Form
Borah, Karuna
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 46-51

Ojapali as a dance form in the classical mode in Assam is of considerable antiquity. The author describes the various aspects of this dance form, which is led by a dancer called an oja and is accompanied by others including his right hand, known as a daina. The article examines the form as well as the various types of Ojapali dance prevalent in Assam. Finally, the article explores how the sattras adopted Ojapali to create their own unique blend of Sattriya Ojapali.

Mati Akhara: Ground Exercises
Goswami, Jatin and Kothari, Sunil
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 52-63

Mati akharas or ground exercises are practised in order to make the body agile and flexible. Sattriya dancers are trained in these physical exercises from a very young age. The article explores the various exercises that constitute mati akhara with accompanying illustrations.

Pada Karma: Footwork
Kandali, Mallika
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 64-69

Since Sattriya dances are focused mainly on dramatic performances, stances have an important role in each sequence. This article describes various stances used in Sattriya with illustrations to enable a more informed understanding of various dances.

Hastas: Hand Gestures
Kothari, Sunil
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 70-73

Hand gestures are a hallmark of classical Indian dance and Sattriya has its own set that follows from the tradition of the Natyashastra and other natyashastra texts, as well as Shubankar Kavi’s Shri Hasta Muktavali. The article describes various hastas along with illustrations for demonstration.

Shubhankar Kavi's Sri Hastamuktavali
Vatsyayan, Kapila
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 74-75

This article takes a deeper look at the text known as the Sri Hastamuktavali, a treatise written in eastern India on the hand gestures used in classical dance. This text is examined by the author with a comparison made between both the classical Natyashastra and the regional tradition of mudras mentioned in the Kalikapurana. The Sri Hastamuktavali includes aspects of both traditions.

Abhinaya
Bora, Ghanakanta
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 76-81

Abhinaya covers every aspect of the dramatic process: it is the synthesis of aharya – facial make-up, costumes, jewellery, and settings; vachika – the speeches and songs presented by the actors; angika – bodily movements; and sattvika – the expression of emotions. The article looks at Abinaya in various compositions written by Sankaradeva and his disciple Madhavadeva.

Masks
Mahanta, Anwesa
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 82-87

The use of masks in the Sattriya tradition is seen mostly in Ankiya Nat or Bhaona. The author studies the various types of masks, how they are made and how they are used.

Repertoire
Kothari, Sunil
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 88-95

This article examines the traditional repertoire of Sattriya including Ankiya Nat and Bhaona as well as Gayan Bayan.

Expanding the Repertoire
Saikia, Sharodi
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 96-101

With Sattriya leaving the exclusivity of the sattras and entering the proscenium stage, where it also includes women exponents its repertoire began to expand. While new religious performances were added, the expanding repertoire also includes secular stories.

Music
Goswami, Kesavananda Dev
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 102-107

Sattriya music is based on a unique raga and tala pattern set to a large corpus of compositions of Sankaradeva and his successor Madhavadeva. This article chronicles the various musical compositions and styles that go into accompanying various Sattriya dances.

Appendix: Bhortal Nritya and Sattriya Dances
Bora, Menaka P.P.
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 108-109

Sattriya music is based on a unique raga and tala pattern set to a large corpus of compositions of Sankaradeva and his successor Madhavadeva. The article discusses the various types of songs played and sung to accompany various different dances. It also contains a general overview of the instruments used in Sattriya music.

Exponents
Kothari, Sunil
Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2013; ISBN: 978-81-921106-6-0, pp. 110-141

A selection of male and female practitioners of Sattriya.