Assam Dance History
Assam Dance is one of the Indian classical dances, also known as Sattriya Nritya. The word Sattriya is derived from the word ‘Sattra’. In ancient India, the dance was practised within the compounds of a Sattra due to religious reasons. Later, in the 15th century, the great Vaishnavism saint Srimanta Sankardev, the founder of Vaishnavism in Assam, revised the dance and brought it as a living tradition of Vaishnavas. The Academic research of the dance, the classical rigidity and certain principles of the Assam dance made one of India’s eight classical dance forms.
Origin of Assam Dance:
Shrimata Shankaradeva, the great saint of Vaishnavism who lived between 1449-1568 AD, introduced this classical dance during his period. Mainly the concept of the Assam dance was for the propagation of the Vaishnava faith. As a result, the classical dance of Assam became a part of Vaishnavism.
Ankiya Naat, an old form of Assamese one-act play, was devised by Sankardeva and created sattriya Nritya. The Kshatriya Nritya is generally performed as a passion to the dancers. Almost 500 years ago, the Pattaya Nritya served in Sattras, which was widely recognized in society.
The Dance Performance:
The dance performs during ritual celebrations and special occasions. Before the first half of the 19th century, Sattriya Nritya served in Sattras on special events, but in the second half of the 19th century, the dance had a glorious change. Such Classical dance transformed from the monastery to a highly sophisticated stage. In the early days, the dance was performed highly ritualistically within the walls of Sattars. However, the male dancers adopted this Classical dance and had no space for women at the beginning of the evolution of the dance. Only male dancers adopted it. Since the modern period, female dancers have also performed Sattriya Nritya as equal to male dancers. In the very early days, only the male monks had a grip on this classical dance and performed it before the public in matters to propagate Vaishnavism.
Mythological stories are the central theme of the Assam dance. So the artists dance with the concept of the mythological teachings for the public to make them understandable in a proper way. The epics are well known to the people, so one can enjoy watching the dance. Traditionally male monks only performed the Assam dance with the mythological concept in their daily rituals and special festival celebrations. Today Men and females also perform Assam dance on the stages, and the theme stories of the dances have been changing slightly.
The costumes of the classical Assam dance are beautiful. Probably, they made silk which was produced in Assam widely and woven the silk with local motifs. Due to the modernized society, the Male dancers wore the dhoti and Chadar. The female dancers wore the workers and Chadar. Both the female and male dancers use the Waistcoat during the performance.