Nritya Parva: Annual Festival of Sattriya dance
- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Sattriya Kendra, Guwahati

February 9, 2014

Nritya Parva, the annual festival of Sattriya dance, the classical dance of Assam designed to propagate the Sattriya tradition, was celebrated at the Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati, by the Sattriya Kendra, Guwahati, a constituent unit of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi. Operating since July 2008, the Kendra as a part of SNA’s project supporting the dance and the allied traditions has been successful in sponsoring and promoting Sattriya dance, music and theatre across the country. The rarely seen dance form and dance dramas were a feast to the eyes with a host of young dancers and groups participating in this year’s four-day festival from different parts of the state.

Well into its 13th year, each day began with the traditional gayan-bayan by groups from leading Sattras, institutions preserving the Sattriya heritage of music, dance and dance dramas over several hundred years. The Kendra offers support to artists by providing a platform to showcase their talents and at the same time exposing the traditional art form, all under the able guidance of the project director Dulal Roy and Program Officer Raju Das and others at the Kendra. Altogether five solos, 5 duets, 2 trios and 3 groups performed the traditional art form together with 4 gayan-bayan groups from different Sattras. This apart, this Nritya Parva witnessed the Kendra’s presentation of Srimanta Sankaradeva’s masterpiece ‘Keli Gopal’ in dance drama style. After the welcome address by the project director Dulal Roy, the festival was inaugurated by Imran Shah, President of the Sahitya Sabha of Assam in presence of other dignitaries. Raju Das offered the vote of thanks.

Slide show

The opening gayan–bayan was by the members of Sri Sri Bhogpur Srimanta Sankardev Kala Parishad, Majuli, followed by a solo recital by promising dancer Anwesa Mahanta who presented a Namgosha, then a patriotic Vandana, a pure dance item Soru Ramdani and an abhinaya number Geetarnach. All the solo items presented pure dance or Ramdani and different abhinaya pieces using Borgeet at times. The solo numbers on the second day was by Lima Das and Swagata Das, Seupriya Goswami Barthakur was on the third day and Priteelekha D Chowdhury on the last day, all from Guwahati. Two duets on the first day were by Arunima Gogoi and Pranjit Saikia, and Sangita Phukan and Dimple Saikia. Sattriya Kendra’s ‘Keli Gopal’ concluded the evening amidst loud applause.

The gayan-bayan groups on the consecutive days were by Haricharan Bhuyan (Majuli), Sattriya Rangalay (Narayanpur) and Robin Pator and group (Sivsagar). Gyanamalini Borah, Rumpi Rabha and Himashree Roy, Nrittyana, Dodhnoi, were the trio on the second day with one more  by Sagarika Pathak, Junamoni Tamuli and Aditi Saikia from Bongaigaon on the third. Banani Kalia Sutradhar and Priyambada Bharati (Guwahati) presented pure dance Suddha Chutkala and an abhinaya piece - excerpts from Sankaradeva’s ‘Parijat Haran’ on the third day. The twins Dimpi and Simpi Sonowal from Duliajan and Shrutimala Medhi and Malati Rajput from Guwahati performed duets on the third and concluding days respectively. A whole range of pure dance, chalis, abhinaya items (set to Borgeets) and Namghoshas mostly set in chuta, chutkala, pari and rakta talas were presented. An added attraction was the unusual ‘Byas Ojhapali’ by Rudra Kanta Nath and group from Darang.

Morning sessions included lecture demonstrations on various subjects. Dr. Pradipjyoti Mahanta spoke on ‘Sattriya, plurality of expressions: from word to performance’ on the first morning followed by an interesting ‘Devadasi dance of Assam’ by Krishna Kanta Handique, Sivasagar. His lecture was supported by a rare experience of a group devadasi dance by young girls. ‘Hegemonic masculinity: rethinking the concept in art’ by Madhurima Goswami from Tezpur was the topic of the final morning session. In addition, an exclusive photo exhibition on Sattriya dance, music and theatre was arranged in the Bhawan to facilitate the enrichment of the tradition. 

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a critic of performing arts, specialising in dance, dance theatre and expressions and is a regular contributor to The Hindu, and the Statesman Kolkata in dance, vocal music and theatre. She is trained in Kathak, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri as well as vocal, semi-classical music and Rabindra Sangeet. A Science communicator, Ph.D. in Polymer Science, Commonwealth Scholar and a retired Professor of Chemistry, Nita devotes most of her time to dance and theatre writing.