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Sattriya Music, Dance and Theatre

Domain:Performing arts

State: Assam


Sattriya music, dance and theatre is a composite body of multiple forms of artistic expressions involving music, dance, drama and other allied arts. These art forms are of great significance to the spiritual and social life of Assam. Based on a vast corpus of devotional compositions in Brajavali as well as vernacular Assamese, and woven with a distinctive melodic and rhythmic structure, this body of cultural expressions is inextricably associated with rituals and ceremonies in the Sattras (monastic institutions of Vaisnavite faith and learning). Permeated with intense spiritual fervour and educational value, the Sattriya tradition has become an indispensable part of the religious, social and cultural life of the community. Performed with deep emotional attachment to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals, this tradition is a unique testimony to religious experience integrated with aesthetic elegance. The Sattriya tradition is distinct from the major schools of music and dance in the rest of the Indian subcontinent as it combines elements from both pan-Indian and Indo-Mongoloid traditions. The theatrical tradition called Bhaona also has several distinguishing features of its own.

The Sattriya tradition is primarily handed down orally from one generation to another, and in the process also undergoes melodic and rhythmic improvisations from time to time. Geographic location of the Sattriya tradition ranges from the vast expanse of the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam and parts of the Barak valley in southern Assam to some areas in the Arunachal Pradesh, east Cooch Behar and West Bengal. The communities associated with it are:

(i) The Assamese Hindu Community in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam including Majuli, the river-island of the Brahmaputra,

(ii) The Rajbanshi Community in Chatrasal in the bordering areas of Assam as well as Cooch Behar in West Bengal,

(iii) Some groups of the Nocte Community in Arunachal Pradesh,

(iv) Some groups of the Bodo Community in Assam and Nagaland border,

(v) Mising and Sonowal tribes spreading over different areas of the valley and

(vi) Some groups of the Naga tribes living within Assam and bordering areas of Assam and Nagaland.