Sattriya, a dance from the far eastern state of Assam in India,… emerges from a five hundred years old comprehensive theatre tradition nurtured in the Vaishnav Monasteries of Assam.
Sattriya is revealed as a living, evolving tradition, rooted in the philosophy and vision of saint-preacher-reformer-artist-composer Sankaradeva (1499-1568). The history of the bhakti movement behind the rise of Sattriya, the socio-cultural-religious context.
The Regional Arts’ Authority, the Assam Academy for the Arts, (Assam Sangeet Natak Akademi) described it as Sattriya, or belonging to the sattras. This is a more dynamic and organic term that takes cognizance of the contributions of later devotees, making spaces for the evolution of the form.
The origin of thought and movement lie, in the case of Sattriya, you have to locate it in the deeply rooted, shared belief system of the ‘Bhakti Marg’.
With the exception of the Ojapali (this is one of the pre-Vaishnav dance forms that the Vaishnav culture drew from) inspired segments, which predate the establishment of Sattras, the dance form of Sattriya is mostly culled out of the Ankiya Bhaona tradition that has a distinct vernacular vocabulary for theatrical communication and a sense of regional identity.
The distinctive Sattriya abhinaya defies elitist leanings by depicting activities like fighting, eating, slaying, killing etc. which were frowned upon by the Sanskrit texts.
The identity of any dance is incomplete without the music that accompanies it. The unique raga tala pattern of Sattriya music, the two categories of Sattriya vocal (raga based and light ), variations of presentation for different occasions at different sattras, musical instruments, as also unique features such as Gayan Bayan who sing, dance and initiate a traditional Sattriya performance.