Dance of the monks – An aticle on classical dance of Assam

Dance of the monks

By – SUSHANTA TALUKDAR

Sattriya was recognised as a major Indian dance form by the Sangeet Natak Akademi on November 15, 2000, when Bhupen Hazarika was its Chairman. The formal recognition created great enthusiasm among the people of Assam in general and among Sattriya exponents, academics and sattra institutions in particular. More and more enthusiasts started taking an interest in learning Sattriya.

In November 2002, the Akademi launched a project to support Sattriya and allied traditions of Assam. The project envisaged support for training programmes in dance institutions and identified sattras. It also supports research, documentation and publishing in the subject. An annual festival of Sattriya and presentation of the dance outside Assam are also part of the project.

On July 15, 2008, the Akademi set up a Centre for Sattriya Dance, Music and Theatre Traditions, named Sattriya Kendra, in Guwahati. It also sponsors “Nritya Parva – A festival of Sattriya Dance”, in association with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Assam, with the broad objective of featuring the creative efforts of young artists. This has provided Sattriya gurus and senior dancers a national platform to present their compositions and choreography.

However, there is controversy and debate over the nomenclature of Sattriya as the Sankardev Sangha wants the dance form to be named as “Sankari Nritya” after Sankardeva. It has taken the issue to court. The sangha, established in the 1940s, is engaged in practising “Sankari Nritya” and “Sankari Sangeet” as part of its efforts to propagate the religion and tradition of Sankardeva.

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Satriya Nritya, a classical dance form of Assam created by Vaisnav Saint Sankardev