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13th Guru Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Sattriya Award presentation
- Dr. Nita Vidyarthi

August 23, 2021

The Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Award was instituted in 2009 in memory of the legendary Sattriya Guru Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan, who had played a pioneering role in sustaining and elevating the classical tradition of music and dance of Assam, unfurling the Sattriya culture not only to the world of Indian classical dance but also to the international cultural map. He may be considered as a crusader and was motivated in the liberation of women (nari mukti) by training them in the dance form which otherwise had been cloistered. He had also played a vital role for the attainment of its classical status.

The premier Sattriya institution Sangeet Sattra in Guwahati which has expanded the trajectory of its Founder-Principal, Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan under the able hands of his daughter- disciples Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni Saikia and a group of culture loving people as well as dedicated members of the institution, continued the award ceremony since 2013, through a glittering three day annual festival of Indian classical dance and music.
Sangeet Sattra
Sangeet Sattra

Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Award

As a mark of respect, every year on July 8, the birth anniversary of their Founder-Principal, Sangeet Sattra honours eminent individuals who have immense lifetime contribution in the field of performing arts - dance and music - especially Sattriya culture, with the Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Sattriya Bota (Award).

This year, the awards went to Gobinda Saikia, a senior exponent of Sattriya culture and a disciple of Guru Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan, ex-faculty of Sangeet Sattra and a retired demonstrator of State Music College with his roots at Notun Kamalabari Sattra; tabla exponent and musicologist Dr. Dilip Ranjan Barthakur, the first doctorate of North East India in the field of music; and Nani Baruah, senior musician of Assam who has spent his life in the propagation of khol, bhaona and other indigenous art forms and contributed to Bihu dance of Assam. He has been associated with Sangeet Sattra since its inception. The award carried a trophy, a citation, a set of angavastras and a cash purse.

The one and a quarter hour ceremony at the home ground of Sangeet Sattra was an austere, well-planned, warm affair abiding by all Covid restrictions, in the cosy, artistically flower decorated hall of the institution in presence of a niche audience.

Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Award
Guru Vandana and Vishnu Vandana

The inauguration by the dignitaries and welcome address by Ranjumoni Saikia, Secretary of Sangeet Sattra and Swapnil Baruah, the executive President of the institution, was followed by the invocation Guru Vandana and Vishnu Vandana presented by the musicians and senior female dancers, Oonmona Das, Avantika Choudhury, Nihita Parashar, Pragati Upadhyay, Priyanka Bayan and Rodali Bora. This ritualistic performance in Taal-Thukoni Ektaal, Chutkala taal and Mishra taal was to evoke the blessings of the Almighty and purify and prepare the stage by offering prayers in the form of music and dance. There were nice touches to the dance built with bhangis in distinctive lasya style to bring enough spark that clearly comes from solid training even in the restricted stage space without making allowances.

The awardees Guru Gobinda Saikia and Nani Baruah were then welcomed on to the stage by the students of the institution with the accompaniment of traditional music. The sounds of khol and bortaal (large brass cymbals) reverberated in the hall with devotional grandeur. The presentation of the awards was followed by the customary speeches by the awardees which as always were fact-packed.

Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Award
Gosai Nach

Gosai Nach (Purushpradhan Nritya) in Taal–Ektaal is an entrance dance of Lord Krishna or Lord Rama. The six young third year students of Sangeet Sattra did full justice to the majesty, grandeur and devotional character of the piece woven with pure dance technique and a harmonious and graceful blend of lasya and tandava. In characteristic features like jumping and spinning they exhibited wonderful sense of negotiating the small performance space that displayed their maturity and control. The dancers were Krishangi Saikia, Taposya Das, Kanishka Sarmah, Binamrata Baruah, Jyotiranjana Kashyap and Jigyasa Kalita.

An equally impressive performance was the popular abhinaya item "Madhu danaba darana devabarang," a Tutoi (a type of poem) composed in Pori taal and Ektaal by the senior dancers Pragyamonjoree Das, Rishikanya Dutta, Ruma Rulika Bhuyan, Ayana Hazarika, Priyanka Kalita and Himakhi Kalita. However, the piece needs focus and more drama, space being a major constraint with live musicians on stage to match the fine choreography and skill of the dancers.

Keeping in mind the constraint of space, the economical treatment in movement and rhythm along with expressional felicity of the dancers made the lyrics of the poetry stand out in burnished clarity in the choreography by Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni Saikia along with Dhrubojyoti Pathak. The music was essentially tradition bound, well focussed with an energetic khol backup by the upcoming talented Arunabhjyoti Malakar and seasoned Dhrubojyoti Pathak, taal (brass cymbals) by Kangkan Jyoti Saikia and a sensitive lilting flute by Nibir Dev Sarma.

Guru Rasheswar Saikia's own disciple and well-known dancer Jolymoni Saikia Mahanta steered the programme with warmth and devotion interspersing with the obeisance to her Guru with the song "Tumi bhakta kalpataru bahiry bhitarey guru...."

Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan Award
At Dibrugarh University

Dr. Dilip Borthakur from Dibrugarh could not be present due to Covid restrictions. But it was gracious and a great gesture on the part of Sangeet Sattra to confer him the award in an exclusive ceremony on July 25th at the Seminar Hall, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dibrugarh University. Ranjumoni Saikia and Swapnil Baruah together with Sangeeta Dutta Baruah, member of Sangeet Sattra, travelled for 11hours all the way from Guwahati to do the honours with full formality, in presence of a select gathering

The programme began with a Borgeet after a simple inauguration followed by the welcome address by the Secretary and Executive President and conferring of the Award to an overwhelmed Dr. Borthakur. Like all other awardees his speech was informative and an experience of intellectual exchanges about the prominent classical work of the maestro and more than a full-fledged Guru and human being. Bor Ramdani by the dancers of the Dibrugarh Centre of Sangeet Sattra closed the small yet special and memorable award ceremony.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.

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