At the prestigious Nritya Parva Festival held at Sri Sri Madhavdeva International auditorium in Srimant Shankardev Kalkhetra, Guwahati, Sukanya Deka, Juri Das and Elizi Ojah of Sangeet Sattra Guwahati performed Gohai Nach after which the trio dramatised the story of Andhamuni in Sattriya style. Sangeet Sattra established in 1967 by SNA awardee, the late Raseswar Saikia Borbayan, is now run by Ronjumoni and Rinjumoni Saika. The story of Shravan Kumar who lost his life while filling water in his pot, for his blind father who was thirsty ,with an arrow shot by King Dasarath was poignantly depicted in the Sattriya style.
Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah State College of Music, which is a leading college for music education in North-east India, made a group presentation. The first one was in praise of the blue god Krishna — a choreographic marvel by Ramkrishna Talukdar. Right at the start the dancers made a spectacular entry. The speed of their nritta was something unusual but that did make a visual impact. The several activities that Krishna’s life is crowded with, was enacted powerfully. The killing of the demon Sakatsura, whose greed made him abduct gopis for his pleasure, was one of the many activities of Krishna, which was dramatised. However the blissful dance of the gopis in the company of Krishna was depicted along with the joy of their love dalliance, which involved playing with colours. These are but some of the happenings, which are of eternal beauty and which never, seize to lose their interest.
Participants of Aakar’s group Bidisha Kasyap, Dridiksha Sonowal, Janaki Das, Rosy Barman and Nishita Das — performers from Maligaon Guwahati — enthralled the audience with their rendition.
Bhanu Deka and group, of Mangaldoi, who is presently under the watchful guidance of Jatin Goswami, commenced with the usual obeisance to their Guru and followed the margam by resorting to pure dance displayed through Rajaghoria Chali Nritya. Anande Vrindavane kare nach was the piece where natya or drama combined with dance as per the laid down tenets of the Natya Shashtra. Perfection in pure dance rendition was the salient feature of her presentation. The story of Krishna with the gopis at Vrindavan was effectively presented. Bhakti was at its height when each gopi felt that she was the one most sought after by Krishna.
Sattriya Kala Kendra Guwahati’s group presentation was an excerpt from Ankiya Nat, Ram Vijaya, choreographed by Guru Ghana Kanta Bora Barbayan. Sita’s vasaksajja — decking up as a bride for the Swayambhar Sabha where she was to choose her husband was vividly and beautifully portrayed. This was then followed up by Ram lifting and stringing the Shiva Dhanush and winning Sita as his bride. The depiction of this could have been more spectacular than what it was.
Devika Saikia Barthakur’s group from Pune received a standing ovation for their presentation on the theme of Krishna, starting with a dance in prayer to him, followed by pure dance enriched with episodes from Krishna’s life. As one stood with the Krishna pose, the others took upon themselves the role of bhaktas and offered their ardent prayers. Stances and friezes helped the story to move on aesthetically. The details of his birth were touched upon. How he became a Jagat Guru was told through great choreographic work, for which credit should be given to Bismilla Khan Yuva Puraskar awardee of Sangeet Natak, Naren Baruah of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra. This is perhaps the beginning of Sattriya dance being taken up by performers of other states. Participants Payal Jadav, Nayanmoni Bhagwati, Mrunmayee Barahate and Mansi of Pune were happy performers in this festival.
Further enriching was the seminar cum lecture demonstrations that took place on three consecutive morning sessions. The first speaker was SNA awardee Jatin Goswami who spoke on “Tradition Exploring Innovation”. He said that that the ancient text Srihastamuktabali is the source of the Sattriya form, which states with clarity how gestures and movements have to be dealt with. Whatever has filtered down from the other ancient texts, according to Goswami, are by word-of-mouth. With examples backing up he has accepted Srihastamuktabali as his bible.
Sangeet Natak Awardee Sharodi Saikia who has performed in many prestigious dance festivals, humbly spoke about her journey as a Sattriya nritya dancer. Using a power-point presentation she divided the history of Indian dance into roughly into four periods and placed Sattriya dance in the third one between 11th and the 18th century AD , when Assam experienced the Bhakti Movement. It was Vaishnavite saint poet, Srimad Shankaradev, who connected Assam with India by way of uniting the people of the state with the Bhakti Movement. In short she traced the history of Sattriya dance as it has come to exist in modern times.
Manipuri exponent Priti Patel spoke on the “Tradition of Indian Dance, Unity in Diversity”. Like Sattriya dance, Manipuri is also the offspring of the Bhakti Movement during medieval times. She traced the history of Manipuri dance — using a power point presentation she showed dancing images of Shiva and came to the conclusion that the cult of Shiva gave a good direction to art and culture, thereby linking all the arts. The Natya Shashtra and the other ancient texts are a great binding force. With live examples she pointed out the common points of each of the dance forms of India.
Mallika Kandali, who has been schooled by Adhyapak Ghana Kanta Bora Barbayan, has researched a lot on Sattriya dance and pointed out those elements of the form that has been derived from the folk dances. She gave a few examples of hasta mudras from Kalika Purana along with examples of pada vedas or different kinds of foot movements and other intricacies of the form.
Speaker Haricharan Bhuyian of Majuli — this year’s SNA awardee — threw light on some of the finer aspects of Sattriya.