Now Learn Indian Classical Sattriya Dance From Anywhere

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By Aroonim Bhuyan

In what can truly be described as the perfect synergy between culture and technology, a new mobile app launched this month will help those interested in learning a major form of Indian classical dance recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) of the India, practically from anywhere in the world.

By downloading the Sattriya Darshan app, now available in Google playstore, users can learn and understand different aspects of the Sattriya dance that originated in the state of Assam, northeastern India, in the 15th century.

Sattriya is one of the eight classical dance forms of India recognized by the SNA, the others being Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Mohini Attam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak and Manipuri.

Recognized by the SNA as a classical dance in 2000, Sattriya Nritya is a performance-drama dance art having its origins in the Krishna-centered Vaishnavism monasteries of Assam and attributed to the scholar of the 15th century Bhakti movement and saint Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva.

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Sankardeva created Sattriya Nritya as an accompaniment to the Ankiya Naat (a form of one-act play that he designed), which were performed in sattras, as the Vaishnavite monasteries of Assam are called. As the tradition developed and grew in the sattras, the dance form was called Sattriya Nritya.

Today, although the Sattriya Nritya has emerged from the confines of the sattras for much wider recognition, the sattras continue to use the dance form for ritual and other purposes for which it was originally created. is 500 years old.

The core of the Sattriya dances was made up of mythological stories and was seen as an easy way to present them to ordinary people in a simple and accessible way. Although this form of dance is traditionally performed by male monks called bhokots in sattras as part of their daily rituals and at special festivals, today Sattriya Nritya is also performed on stage by men and women who are not not necessarily members of sattras and on themes not only mythological.

Sattriya dance is divided into many genres like Apsara Nritya, Behar Nritya, Chali Nritya, Dasavatara Nritya and Rasa Nritya to name a few.

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Like the other seven Indian classical dance schools, Sattriya understands the three principles of such a school: nritta (pure dance, solo), nritya (expressive dance, solo) and natya (dramatic play, group).

The dance has three distinct parts: Guru Vandana, Ramadani and Geet Abhinaya. While the first two are performed without any music and remain largely unresponsive to change, it is only the third, based on the childhood tales of Lord Krishna, that the dance form really gets a makeover.

The sattriya dance is accompanied by musical compositions called borgeets (composed among others by Sankardeva), based on classical ragas. The instruments that accompany a traditional performance are the khol (drum), taal (cymbals) and the flute. The violin and harmonium were recent additions.

The new Sattriya Darshan app aims to help new learners through this complex art form.

MEET THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN CREATING THE APP

Conceptualized and imagined by Anuradha Kaushik, a 12-year-old Delhi-based student of the dance form who also takes coding classes, the app’s landing page takes the user through the following topics, among others: l history of Sattriya dance, Guru-Shishya Parampara (teacher-student tradition), the foundation of Sattriya dance, repertoire of Sattriya dance, music of Sattriya dance and literature of Sattriya dance.

Anuradha attributes the inspiration behind this idea to her dance teacher Sattriya Meenakshi Medhi. Medhi, one of the main exponents of this dance form, founded the Delhi-based Satkara Dance Academy which focuses on Sattriya.

“I thought about this project three months ago during one of my coding lessons,” says Anuradha. “I discussed this with my teacher and my Sattriya Adhyapika Meenakshi Medhi and both were very supportive. Meenakshi Madam went out of her way with content, advice and invited more people to create this app.

Medhi obtained his Nritya Visharad in Sattriya dance from Sangeet Sattra Pariksha Parishad, Guwahati (Assam), under the direction of Adhyapak Late Jibanjit Dutta.

Anuradha Kaushik

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After Adhyapak Jibanjit Dutta passed away, she began to learn this dance form under the direction of award-winning Sangeet Natak Akademi Adhyapak Haricharan Bhuyan Borbayan. She was also guided by the late Dr Jagannath Mahanta on the theoretical aspect of Sattriya dance during her research period at the University of Mumbai and received special training by Adhyapak Paramananda Kakoty Borbayan of Purona Kamalabari Sattra, Titabar and Adhyapak Bhaben Borbayan of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra. , Majuli. Apart from Sattriya, she also completed her visharad in Bharatanatyam.

Speaking to The Northeast Today, Medhi said the new app would help him fulfill his long-held dream of teaching Sattriya to non-Assamese devotees, both in India and abroad.

She explained that she offers online classes through Google Meet and sends related documentation through Google Classroom.

“At the moment I have students in Belgium, USA and Canada and from December a new student will join us from the United Arab Emirates (United Arab Emirates),” Medhi said. “In India I have students in Madurai and Bengaluru, while I have 15 in my Satkara academy in Delhi.”

Meenakshi Medhi

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On a related note, she said that although she was approached by many young people in Assam, she turned them down because they have the opportunity to learn directly from Sattriya exponents established in their own state. .

However, at the same time, she does not wish to take beginners for her non-Assamese online classes and prefers only those who have basic training in any form of classical Indian dance.

“In the Satkara Darshan app, I plan to upload videos of a few basics of Sattriya dance to users and then offer full video tutorials for a small fee to those interested,” Medhi said.

Apart from this, the app will also document the life of seasoned Sattriya teachers in Assam, as well as videos and research articles written by Sattriya scholars.

And here’s something of extra value for those who don’t really like dancing.

“Today, many candidates for civil service exams in India choose Indian culture as an option,” Medhi said. “However, I have noticed that much of the information about Sattriya Nritya available in the public space, including online, is not authentic. The Sattriya Darshan app will offer authentic information about this classical dance form to all these budding candidates.

(The writer is a senior New Delhi-based journalist covering diplomacy and foreign affairs)

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