The only award festival in Assam, the prestigious Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Sattriya Award Presentation Ceremony 2019 and the annual three day festival of dance and music organised by Sangeet Sattra dance school, was recently held at the Sri Madhabdeva International Auditorium, Gauhati. As a mark of respect to Sattriya Guru Rasheswar Saikia, founder of the school, his daughters Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni Saikia, who are also established Sattriya dancers, introduced the award for persons who have dedicated their lives for the development of Sattriya culture and Indian classical traditions.

This year’s award went to Bharatnatyam maestro Chitra Visheswaran, Sattriya artiste Manik Chandra Borbayan, and Kathak maestro Vipul Das. The Tonmoyee Bordoloi Memorial Pratibha Sandhani Award, introduced this year for young talents, went to Sattriya artiste Seetarani Hazarika, Kathak maestro Kavita Thakur, and Pakhawaj exponent Rishi Shankar Upadhyay.

After the ritualistic Borgeet by students of Sangeet Sattra, inauguration and award presentation, the performances began with a delightful Sattriya dance recital beginning with a part of Namgosha set to raga Pahadi by Juri Das, Elizi Ojah and Sukanya Deka. Gopi Nach, set to Saint Madhavadeva’s Borgeet Kamal Nayan Aaj Pekhalu and Kharman.

The popular “Ratri” based on Ratri Shukta by distinguished Chhau exponent Shashadhar Acharya as Ratri and son Suvam as the moon was presented with stylised grace where the strapping six-footer portrayed Ratri’s interplay with the moon brilliantly, embellished with the characteristic lower torso twists of the Seriakella Chhau. Radha Krishna by Govind Mahato and Bina Chowdhury about Radha wanting to play the flute was a visual treat. Noted Odissi dancer Rajashri Praharaj’sArdhanareeswarchoreographed by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra set to Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi’s music had surpassed all of her earlier performances of the piece. Her stunning shifts with appealing facial expressions and exquisite movements from Tandava (Shiva) to Lasya (Parvati) were eye catching.

Ratikant Mohapatra’s signature piece Shabari based on Ramcharitmanas mentored by Pandit Nityananda Misra can be seen again and again with the same impact on the mind to perceive the intense pathos and subsequent Atamanivedana and Bhakti of the aging Shabari for Lord Rama. A virtuoso of a high degree, Ratikant’s elevating performance created a long lasting impression with absolute vehemence. After the duet Borgeet in the second evening, senior Sattriya dancer Chitralekha Gogoi displayed Vatsalya rasa in Sri Madhavdeva’s Borgeet Utho Uthu Gopal with sensitivity and ease. Her Rajagaria Chali saw her prowess in Nritta.

Pandit Ravi Shankar Upadhyay with son Rishi thundered through their Pakhawaj recital in tala Chautal followed by a Rela. Their Ganapati Stuti with lyrics and Pakhawaj boland interaction with talented young Sattriya khol player Arunabhjyoti kept the packed hall in rapt attention. Kavita Thakur’s riveting Madhur Ashtakam, 4padas ofAshtapadi with her two associates, a delicately choreographed Krishna Govardhan and Makhan Chori was followed by a cascade of intricate Nritta and emotive abhinaya with exquisite music in Navadurga.

Meernanda Borthakur is a gifted matured dancer and her refined ekaharya abhinayain “Usha- Chitralekha” dwelling upon Usha falling in love with Aniruddha and requesting her confidante Chitralekha to bring him to her was the highpoint of the festival.The concluding day saw the power of talented Arunabhjyoti Malakar’s Khol badan exhibiting his wizardry on rhythms to win rounds of applause. Senior dancer Jollymoni Saikia left an indelible impression with a delightful Krishna Vandana, a lyrical excerpt from Madhavdeva’s Naam ghosa and Sutradhari nach, concluding with an involved abhinaya of Kujirbanchapuran. Renowned Ramkrishna and Rumi Talukdar’s captivating presentation did full justice to Vishnu Bandana and Jatayu Mokhshakam. The mime by Kuldeep Patgiri and group and a Sattriya recital with Bijita Goswami and group dance were equally entertaining. Students of Sangeet Sattra concluded each day by their group recitals.