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Title: Sattriya  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Ghanakanta Bora, Assam, Indian classical dance, India, Sankardev
Collection: Classical Dance Genres of India, Culture of Assam, Dances of India
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Sattriya Dance by Ramkrishna Talukdar
Genre classical Indian dance
Origin Assam, India

Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya (Assamese: সত্ৰীয়া নৃত্য), is one among the eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. Recognized in 2000 as a classical dance by Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Sattriya is the most recent entrant in this list.[1] Whereas some of the other traditions have been revived in the recent past, Sattriya has remained a living tradition since its creation by the medieval polymath Srimanta Sankardev in 15th century Assam.[2]

Sattriya was further extended and defined by Sankardev's disciple Madhavdev for performances of Ankia Naat (a form of Assamese one-act plays devised by them), which were usually performed in the sattras (monasteries) associated with the Ekasarana dharma. As the tradition developed and grew within the sattras, the dance form came to be known as Sattriya Nritya, a name first coined by Maheswar Neog.[3] Today, although Sattriya Nritya has emerged from within the confines of the sattras to a much wider recognition, the sattras continue to use the dance form for ritualistic and other purposes for which it was originally created circa 500 years ago.


  • Dance 1
  • History 2
  • Promotion of Sattriya Nritya 3
  • Leading Exponents of Sattriya 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8
  • Gallery 9


Sattriya dancer Krishnakshi Kashyap in a traditional Sattriya dance costume made of Assam Pat silk and traditional Assamese jewellery: Kopali on the forehead, Muthi Kharu (bracelets), Thuka Suna (earrings) and Galpata, Dhulbiri, Jethipata and Bena (necklaces). Traditional Kingkhap motif is used in the main costume with Kesh pattern on the border. The Kanchi or the waist cloth has the traditional Miri motif.

The core of Sattriya Nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible, immediate, and enjoyable manner. Traditionally, Sattriya was performed only by bhokots (male monks) in monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark special festivals. Today, in addition to this practice, Sattriya is also performed on stage by men and women who are not members of the sattras, on themes not merely mythological.

Sattriya Nritya is divided into many aspects: Apsara Nritya, Behar Nritya, Chali Nritya, Dasavatara Nritya, Manchok Nritya, Natua Nritya, Rasa Nritya, Rajaghariya Chali Nritya, Gosai Prabesh, Bar Prabesh, Gopi Prabesh, Jhumura, Nadu Bhangi, and Sutradhara, to name but a few — these being the counterpart to items in Bharata Natyam. Like the other seven schools of Indian Classical dance, Sattriya Nritya encompasses the principles required of a classical dance form: the treatises of dance and dramaturgy, like Natyashastra, Abhinaya Darpana, and Sangit Ratnakara; a distinct repertoire (marg) and the aspects of nritta (pure dance), nritya (expressive dance), and natya (abhinaya).

Sattriya Nritya is accompanied by musical compositions called Sankardeva and Shree Shree madhavdev, among others) which are based on classical ragas. The instruments that accompany a traditional performance are khols (drums), taals (cymbals) and the flute. Other instruments like the violin and the harmonium have been recent additions.

The costumes are usually made of pat – a silk produced in Assam which is derived from the mulberry plant – and woven with intricate local motifs. There are two types of costumes: the male costume comprising the dhoti and chadar and the female costume comprising the ghuri and chadar. The waist cloth which is known as the kanchi or kingkini is worn by both the male and female dancers. The ornaments, too, are based on traditional Assamese design.


Dr. Mallika Kandali performing Sattriya dance

This dance form has remained a living tradition in Assam's Vaishnava monasteries, known as sattras, for over 500 years now. It was originally practised by celibate monks in the form of mythological dance-dramas. These dance-dramas were, in the main, written and directed by the Assamese Vaishnava saint and social reformer Sankaradeva, and by his principal disciple Madhavadeva. They were mostly composed during the 16th century.[1] In the second half of the 20th century, Sattriya Nritya moved from the sanctum of Assam's sattras/monasteries to the metropolitan stage.[4] Once the domain of celibate male monks, it is now performed by male as well as female dancers. The sattras had observed and maintained certain rigid disciplines and austerities within their walls and, until the first half of the 20th century, this dance style was performed in a highly ritualistic manner by male dancers alone. The classical rigidity, the strict adherence to certain principles, and the non-engagement of academic research on the dance form all contributed to the delayed recognition and acceptance of Sattriya Nritya as one of the eight classical dance forms of India. On 15 November 2000, the Sangeet Natak Akademi finally gave Sattriya Nritya its due recognition as one of the classical dance forms of India, alongside the other seven forms.

However, despite its delayed inclusion within the canon of Indian Classical Dance, and the accompanying lack of organisational support from the Centre that that entailed, Sattriya Nritya continued through the centuries to maintain within its forms the classical exactitude and intricate detail that mark ancient art forms. One positive outcome of Sattriya Nritya's strict adherence to the principles of the sattras has been this ability to maintain its pure forms, its distinct style. Now that it has made its journey from the sanctified interiors of Assam's sattras to the demotic spaces of the world's stages, it is time for an appraisal of Sattriya Nritya's artistic and aesthetic qualities.

Promotion of Sattriya Nritya

Over the years, Sattriya Nritya has received greater acceptance and patronage both outside the state of Assam, and outside India.

Leading Exponents of Sattriya

The following is a list of some leading exponents of Sattriya.[1]

  1. Bapuram Barbayan Atai
  2. Maniram Dutta Muktiyar Barbayan
  3. Gahan Chandra Goswami
  4. Jibeshwar Goswami
  5. Pradip Chaliha
  6. Lalit Chandra Nath Ojha
  7. Gopiram/Gupiram Bargayan
  8. Raseshwar Saikia
  9. Haricharan Saikia
  10. Kosha Kanta Deva Goswami
  11. Ananda Mohan Bhagawati
  12. Gunakanta Dutta Barbayan
  13. Prabhat Sarma
  14. Jatin Goswami
  15. Paramananda Barbayan
  16. Manik Barbayan
  17. Ghanakanta Bora Barbayan
  18. Jibanjit Dutta
  19. Tankeshwar Hazarika Barbayan
  20. Muhi Kant Borah Gayan Barbayan
  21. Bhabananda Barbayan
  22. Paramananda Kakoty Barbayan


  1. ^ This list is based on the recent publication on the subject edited by dance historian Sunil Kothari. Kothari, Sunil (ed). Sattriya-Classical Dance of Assam. Marg, The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, 2013, pp.110-140.


  1. ^ a b Kothari, Sunil (ed). Sattriya-Classical Dance of Assam. Marg, The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, 2013.
  2. ^ Sethi, Arshiya Sattriya: The redefining of a tradition
  3. ^ Thakur, Sudarsha Cultural Reportage
  4. ^ Kothari, Sunil (ed). Sattriya-Classical Dance of Assam. Marg, The Marg Foundation, Mumbai, 2013, Blurb.

Further reading

  • Neog, Maheswar. Aesthetic Continuum: Essays on Assamese Music, Drama, Dance and Paintings. New Delhi: Omsons Publications, 2008.
  • Neog, Maheswar and Keshav Changkakati. Sattriya Dances of Assam and their Rhythms. Guwahati: Assam Prakashan Parishan, 1973.

External links

  • Sattriya Dance at website.


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