Thursday, February 28, 2008

Srimanta Sankardeva's Vaishnavism -- Xatra's, Xatriya dance, Borgeets and Bhaonas













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Srimanta Sankardeva -- the great Vaishnavite Saint of Assam
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The great Vaishnavite saint and reformer Srimanta Sankardeva was born in Alipukhuri of Batradova, Nagaon, in 1449. He was destined to play a significant role in preaching to
humanity, and protecting human religion, the downtrodden, the oppressed and the untouchables.

Lord Krishna said to Arjuna in the Gita,
“when irreligion prevails, I manifest myself in bodily form age after age for the purpose of protecting the saints and destroying the inauspicious forces to foster religion.”

Lord Krishna is also the symbol of art. Srimanta Sankardeva’s incarnation is a great one. He was also a symbol of art. There is no “Guru” in the world who is at once a poet, dramatist, painter and sculptor. The incarnation of Srimanta Sankardeva is a historical wonder. He contributed immensely to the integrity of human culture.

“Ek Sarania Nam Dharma” preached by Srimanta Sankardeva is based on scientific analysis. The worship of Lord Krishna through “Nam Prasanga” leads to the quest for truth and balance
between the soul and the body. Hardly has there been a religious “Guru” who effectively enjoined a pure honest workculture,social discipline, humanized love and thus cherished religious values accepted by all. The lessons of humanism can be drawn in his literature, drama, music, dance, “Totoy”, “Chopoy”, “Bhaona” and art and culture.

The philosophy of his religion is enriched with the essence of Vedanta, Bhaktism, monotheism, spiritualism and humanism. The main tenets of his religious faith are truthfulness, religious
liberty and a benevolent attitude towards one and all. His religion is wholly characterized by secularism. The doctrines of all the chief religions are assimilated into the Vaishnavite faith. There is no casteism in his religion. His disciples were from different ethnic tribes of North-East Assam.

Srimanta Sankardeva was a great scholar and literary genius. His eminent literary creation is the “Kirton-Ghosa”, an early Assamese poetical work. In “Gunamala” he had cryptically described the manifold qualities of Lord Krishna in a day to impress the Koch King Naranarayana. It is almost like putting an elephant into an earthen pot, which is indeed the essence of the “Bhagavat”. “Srimod Bhagavat”, the incomparable creation of Vyasdev, the great scholar of Indian classical religious literature was translated into the Assamese language by Srimanta Sankardeva.

Srimanta Sankardeva and his great disciple Madhabdeva explicated monotheism through simple narrative description of the scriptures. The open air theater “Namghar” of Srimanta Sankardeva is the pilgrimage of universal human religion as well as its ethos and manners.

Srimanta Sankardeva’s cult based on the glorification of “Rama” , one of the greatest manifestations of “Lord Krishna”, has given the full blessings of wider Indian culture to the people of Assam. It is no exaggeration to say that Srimanta Sankardeva’s noble numbers (“Borgeet”), dramas, literature and poetic diction have created the Assamese national life.
The Xatras set up by Srimanta Sankardeva have an important role to play in the religious and spiritual life of the people. They have also got special social functions. The “Xatras’ and “Namghars” gradually turned into religious and social institutions for congregation and prayer.

Here is a brief account of some of the “Xatras’ established by Srimanta Sankardeva and his followers :



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Sri Sri Modhupur Dham


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Modhupur Xatra is located in Cooch Behar of West Bengal. The sacrosanct precinct of the famous “Xatra” where the saint Srimanta Sankardeva left for his heavenly abode brings serenity and calmness to the mind of one and all who visit this place.
Sri Sri Phatik Chandra Dev is the present “Xatradhikar” of “Modhupur Xatra”. He is well versed in all the scriptures of the Vaishnavite and Shakti cult of the Hindu religion. He has dedicated himself to the “Xatra” from his early teens and has completely immersed himself in the “Xatriya
culture”. The learned “Xatradhikar” devoted himself to the study of the Beloguri Xatra
Hindu scriptures in Brindavan for twelve long years.

Srimanta Sankardeva left behind some relics of his simple saintly life at “Modhupur Xatra”. “Gunamala” and “Twelve Scondha Bhagavat” and some original manuscripts written in his own
hand are found in this “Xatra”. The “Xatradhikars” have taken great pain and precautions to preserve these manuscripts of the saint written on strips of the bark of the “Sanchi tree”
(Aquillaria Agallocha) in his own hands in the humid and semi-tropical climate of Assam.



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Sri Sri Dhuahat Beloguri Xatra, Naryanpur :



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“Sri Sri Dhuahat Beloguri Xatra” was the auspicious location where the two jewels of the Assamese Vaishavite movement Srimanta Sankardeva and Sri Sri Madhabdeva
first met. The former was already a great saint and the latter had the potential of
greatness within him.Sri Sri Bhadra Kanta Deva Goswami is the “Xatradhikar” of “Beloguri Xatra”. He has made significant contribution to spread the Vaishnavite faith. He is a versatile genius. A renowned exponent The new web-journal Asian View is dedicated in the loving memory of eminent littrateur, editor and freedom fighter Padma-Bhusan Sri Chandra Prasad Saikia. It is owned and managing by Hridayananda Gogoi. of “Xatriya” dance, music, art and
culture, he is a perfect “Xatriya” artist of the art and culture of Srimanta Sankardeva and Sri Sri Madhabdeva. He has also contributed to the Assamese religious literature.

A major part of Assam’s culture drama songs and literature have their roots in the Xatras of Assam.

Some other Vaishnavite Xatras where Srimanta Sankardeva and his followers preached the tenets of Vaishnavism are : Kamalabari, Jarabari, Barpeta, Patbausi, Samaria, and Sundaribia .



In Barpeta District:






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PATBAUSHI SATRA:
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The Satra at Patbaushi was established by Shrimanta Sankardeva. His Vaishnava faith was spread by the guru's able disciples Shri Madhav Deva, Shri Damodar Deva and Shri Hari Deva. It was from this satra that Srimanta Sankardeva spread his faith, literature, music art-forms, culture and work-culture to its fullest form. Here the guru spent 18 years of his life with remarkable achievement including completion of the 'Kirtan Ghosa' and composition of 240 number of invaluable Borgeets. Some of the items used by these Gurus and Sachipat puthis are well-preserved here. Shrimanta Sankardeva composed 240 Bargeets, Shastra (literary religio- cultural text) and Ankiya nat (Dramas). The scripts are carefully preserved here. Of late the Govt. has taken steps for preservation of this treasures of Assamese heritage and planning to setup a Shrimanta Sankardeva Museum at the premises of the Satra. The Damodar deva Satra is also located in the same premises. Ahom Ruler Paramatta Singha constructed a Math in memory of the saint. This Satra is located at a distance of about 2 K.M. from Barpeta town.The Satra is located about 2 K.Ms North of the Barpeta town.
linked to it is the Patbaushi Damodar Satra. This Satra was founded by Damodardeva and is situated just near Patbaushi Sankardeva Satra. The Satra got royal patronage from the Ahom King Pramttwa Shingha. Bhattadeve, the chief disciple of Damodardeva, wrote Bhagawat scripture in prose from at this Satra. Besides ‘Katha-Bhagawat’, Guru-Lila, Dron-parva, of Mahabharata in manuscript forms are preserved in this Satra.



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GANAKKUCHI SATRA:
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This satra was founded by Sri Madhab Deva for which the land was purchased by Shrimanta Sankardeva for 1 Tola (about 10gm) Gold and nominated his close disciple Shri Madhab Deva as the satradhikar to stay here to spread his faith and he went on to stay here for 18 long years. The vithis of Shri Ram Ata and Shri Ram Atoi are also preserved here. A number of Sachipat Puthis composed by Shrimanta Sankardeva is preserved here. This Satra is located within the radius of Barpeta Municipality.Some of the items used by the guru and Sachipat puthis are well-preserved here. The Satra is located within the Barpeta town area.



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JANIA SATRA:
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This Satra was established by Sankardeva's disciple Shri Narayan Das Thakur Ata. He composed a large number of devotional songs here. This Satras located at a distance of 8 K.M. from Barpeta in Barpeta Jania Road.



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· SUNDARIDIYA SATRA:
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The Satra was established by Shri Madhab Deva after leaving Ganakkuchi Satra. The first satradhikar of Barpeta Satra Sri Mathura Das Burha Ata initially come to this Satra and became a disciple of Shri Madhab Deva. It was here that Paal Nam and Beer Nam or Thiya Nam was created by sri Madhab Deva. Shri Madhabdeva composed the "Bhakti Ratnakar" and "Namghosa" here in the original Vithi of the Satra.The great saint during his sojourn here dug a Well preserved till today and water of the well is considered holy.Three Guru Asanas are placed in the name of Shri Sankardeva,Shri Madhavdeva and Shri Badula Ata.A large number of items used by the guru including Sachipat-puthis are preserved here.



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BARPETA SATRA:
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Sri Madhab Deva founded the Barpeta Satra and stayed here for 8 long years. Here he appointed Sri Mathura Das Burha Ata as the first Satradhikar of the Satra. It was Burha Ata who systematised the administration of the Satra leading to development of the institution and the region of Barpeta. A democratic system was introduced which is effective till today. Large number of followers came to Barpeta & accepted the Vaishnava faith irrespective of their caste high or low that created an egalitarian Society. A new work culture developed among the followers. The Satra has several buildings. The front gate is called 'Batsora'. The main 'Kirtanghar' is where prayers or 'Nam Kirtan' are performed is an architectural splendour. Earlier built as a Kutcha house was concretised with big-pillars in 1952 with decorative wall paintings. All the 'bhakats' or 'devotees' discussed all kinds of problems in the Jagmohan Ghar. In the 'Bhajghar' a lamp is continously burning for more than 400 years that is called 'Akhay Banti'. Sri Krishna Doul festival is organised at the premises of Doul ghar. There is a small zoo and small 'rangial' garden. Within the premises a cultural school, Keli kadam tree,Shri Shri Mathura Das Burha Ata Library, study-room, office and kitchen are also located. The buildings within the Satra premise are architectural achievements in its own right.The Kirtan Ghar is considered to be the largest in Assam. The Three Guru Asanas are placed in this buildings in honour of Shrimanta Sankardeva, Shri Madhavdeva and Shri Badula Ata. The two Satradhikars sit behind the Asanas to hold Nam-Prasangas regularly. Numerous buildings are located within the premise covering an area of 20 Bighas. Constitution formulated by Sri Mathura Das Ata is still in vogue. The Satra located at the heart of the City attracts devotees from all over the State particularly during Holi when Doul festival is organised and annivarsaries of various Vaishnava Gurus. BARADI SATA:This satra was also established by Sri Madhab Deva and stayed here for a very short period.The Sankarite culture spread far and wide from Baradi making it a centre for learning. The place is located about 2.K.M. east of Barpeta town.



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BARADI SATRA
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This Satra was established by Shri Madhabdeva. The common people were greatly influenced by the preachings of this great scholar. This Satra became an important centre of learning.



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SATRA KANARA:
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Established by Sri Sri Narayan Das Thakur Ata. This Satra is damaged by natural calamaties. Floods creates problem for running the Satra. As a result the original habitants of this place shifted to Gajia and Ganakkuchi in Barpeta. The Satra is located at a distance of 16 K.M. from Barpeta.



other satras are:



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Akaya Satra:
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Akaya Satra is the big satra in Bajali Sub-Division, Situated at Akaya village at a distance of 6 K.M. towards north from Patacharkuchi.



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Guwagacha Satra:
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Ramcharan Thakur founded this Satra, the Satra is situated at a distance of 8 K.M. towards north from Simlaguri.



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Gomura Satra:
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This Satra was founded by Madhabdeva and is situated at a distance of 27 K.M. towards east from Barpeta Town near Sarthebari.



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Bhawanipur Satra:
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This Satra is founded by Gopaldev Ata at old Bhawanipur and is situated at a distance of 26 K.M. towards north from Barpeta town.



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CHINPARA-VITHI:
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Chinpara-Vithi is the place where Srimanta Sankardeva landed from his boat at Barpeta on banks of Palangdi Bori; which is presently called Palangdihati. The Saint stayed here for six months to propogate his faith. This place is located about 1/2 K.M. North of Barpeta Satra. The Namghar established by the Guru still exist.


In Jorhat District

The Satras :

The Vaishnava Satras were founded by Sankardeva, the father of Assamese culture. The historic and auspicious 'Manikanchan Sanjog' was the first Satra in Majuli. Subsequently 65 satras grew which propagated the ethnic and sociocultural ideals. At present there are only 22 Satras in Majuli and rest have been shifted to other safer places due to flood and erosion. These Satras are the treasure house of 'Borgeet', Matiakhara, Jumora dance, Chali dance, Noyua dance, Nande Vringee, Sutradhar, Ozapali, Apsara dance, Satria Krishna dance, Dasavater dance etc. which were contributed by Shri Sankardeva.

(a) Dakhinpat Sattra:

Dakhinpat is another well-known Sattra in the Majuli Island established by Vanamalideva, another disciple of Vamshigopal. Vanamalideva was very strong in faith and devotion and an exponent of Raasleela, which is now observed as one of the National Festivals of Assam. He was honoured and treated with much respect by the reigning Ahom monarch Jayadhvaj Singh who made liberal gifts to the Sattra., During Rasotsava several thousand devotees visit these holy Satras every year.

(b) Garamur Sattra:

Lakshminarayana, another saint of Damodaradeva sect and a passionate devotee, established the Garamur Sattra in the Majuli Island during the reign of Jayadhvaj Singh. It should be noted that under the patronage of the Ahom sovereigns, the Majuli Sattras became famous centres of the Vaishnava faith, cultural activity and piety of the monks. During autumn end, traditional Raasleela (co-acting) is shown with great enthusiasm. Some ancient weapons called "Bortop" (canons) are preserved here.

(c) Auniati Sattra:

It was founded by Niranjan Pathakdeva, a distinguished disciple of Vamshigopal. Niranianadeva's purity of character and devotion to God drew admiration even from the Ahom King Jayadhvaj Singh (1648-1663 AD) who himself became the saint's disciple and endowed the Sattra with suitable land grants for the maintenance of the monks and the monastery. This Sattra is famous for "Paalnaam" and Apsara Dance and also for its considerable collection of Assamese old utensils, jewellery and handicrafts.

(d) Kamalabari Sattra:

Padma Ata who was a Shudra set up Kamalabari Sattra in the Majuli Island. He led a very simple and saintly life and attained high spiritual eminence. In course of years, inessential rites and unrecognized observances crept into the faith which Padma Ata and Mathura Das of Barpeta Sattra reformed. They set up a refined sect called "Nikasainhati". Padma Ata stressed the teachings of Sankaradeva that external things such as yogic exercise, sacrifice, bathing in Holy River, pilgrimage, 'Sanyasa' and fasting do not purify a man as honest life, good company and love of all beings do. On the eve of his death, Padma Ata nominated his Brahman disciple Shriram to the Adhikarship of the Kamalabari Sattra. This is also an Udasin Sattra i.e., the head of the Sattra is a celibate. Kamalabari Sattra is a centre of art, cultural, literature and classical studies. Its branch Uttar Kamalabari Sattra has performed cultural programmes of Satria Art in several states of India and abroad.

(e) Bengenaati Sattra:

It is a storehouse of antiques of cultural importance and an advance centre of performing art. Muraridev, the grand son of Sankaradeva's stepmother has founded the Sattra. The royal robes belong to the Ahom king Swargadeo Gadadhar Singha, made of gold and an umbrella, which is also made of gold, are preserved over here.

(f) Samaguri Sattra:

This Sattra is resourced with the famous Mask-crafts in India.

Auniati, Dakhinpat and Garamur are the principal Brahmanical Sattras. The Sattradhikar's of these monasteries are strictly celibates. The Sattradhikar's for these Sattras are elected from other Sattras where married life is allowed. The chosen young man is brought into the Sattra during his teen age and trained up in Vaishnava religion, philosophy and life. During the period of training this young devotee is called "Deka-Adhikar", the young pontiff.



DHEKIAKHOWA BARNAMGHAR :
Established during 1497-1539 by saint-reformer Madhavdeb



Institutions of Sattras



Besides Bardowa and Barpeta, Majuli Sattras along with Kuruabai Sattras exercise tremendous influence on the life of the Assamese people. They are even to-day the glorious religious institutions of Assam, and are not only the seat of religion, learning and education, but the very centre of traditional cultural activities like dance, drama, music and religious recitals. Judged by such external standards as landed estates, number of 'Sisvas' and 'Bhaktas', these Sattras still claim to be the biggest religious institutions. In the hey-day of their glory, the income of these Sattras went mainly to the welfare of the people by way of the promotion of learning, development of cultural activities and help to the needy. These are some of the important Sattras, which brought about a new orientation and salutary reformation in every aspect of Assamese life.





The Foundation of Satras:
In 15th century the first Satra was founded in Majuli Assam. Since then 65 Satras have come up for the propagation of ethics and socio-cultural ideals. However, at present there are only 22 Satras in Majuli. The others had to be transferred to safer places due to the devastation of flood and erosion.



Satras of Majuli



Majuli, the world's largest river island is one of the major seat of several Satras established by Vaishnava revivalist, Sankardeva. During Rasotsava, thousands of devotees visit these holy Satras every year. The shrine is held in high veneration by the Vaishnavites. Journey to Satras of AssamAirport : Guwahati, the commercial capital of Assam is connected to all the major cities of India. One can easily reach Guwahati from any part of the country, from where one can pick a bus, trains, taxi or boat to various Satras located at various parts of Assam.





Railhead : Rail lines connect Guwahati with all the major cities of India. From here one can easily reach the Satras.
Road Transport : Road routes are well defined in Assam . One can easily reach the Satras by road.
Water Transport : Water Transport is arranged by the tourism department of Assam to provide boats and launches to the tourists coming to the areas like Majuli.
Staying near Satras (Majuli) in AssamMajuli does not possess a developed infrastructure for tourism and accommodation. There are no hotels. Some satras have guestrooms. If you write in advance, they would certainly be available. In addition to the Satra facilities, there are Inspection Bungalows at some points on the island (the one at Kamalabari is well located), and a Circuit House at Garamur, which is the sub-divisional headquarters.


In Dibrugarh District

Dehing Satra:

During the Moamoria uprising this satra received royal patronage from kings like Rajeswar Singha, Lakhi Singha, Gaurinath Singha. It is situated on the banks of the river Dehing under Larua mouza. This once famous satra is now in utter ruin.

Dehing Namti Satra:

This satra is situated under Sasoni mouza on the banks of the river Disang and is about 8 miles away from the town of Naharkatiya. At present, the main wing of the satra is at Namti in Nazira. It should be noted that this satra was at earlier times situated in between the roads Hologuri and Sariyahtoli in the District of Dibrugarh. This satra was established by Binandashyam Gohain. According to a book brought out by the satra Lachit Borphukan was one of the chef followers of Binandashyam Gohain

Dinjoy Satra:

The Satra is located at Dinjoy about 5kms north of Chabua Township. Amongst the twelve main devotees of Gopal Atadev, the distinguished devotee Aniruddha Dev founded a Satra first at Bisnubalikakunshi village of North Lakhimpur. Later on this Satra was shifted to Khutiaputa. During this period the Moamoria rebellion took place and this Satra fell into troubled waters. This rebellion took place when Astabhuj Gosain (Priest having eight hands) was the ninth head of this Xatra. After his demise, this religious seat of the Satra remained vacant for about fourteen years. Later on Pitambar Chandra Dev was made the head of the Xatra on the orders of Maharaj Gaurinath Singha. The Satra again fell into deep trouble when during this period there occurred a rebellion once again. Even after the end of the Moamaria rebellion this trouble continued at the time when the Burmese invasion began. After stability returned to the kingdom, Bhaktananda Gosain who had been absconding during the Burmese invasion, came to Barbheti Satra situated in Malowpather. Matibor Senapati, the son of Sarbananda Singha of Tinsukia(Bengmora), with due permission of Purnananda Singh Swargadev, brought Bhktananda Gosain first to Rangagara and then later on to the present site of Dinjan at Chabua and named the Satra thus established as Dinjoy Satra. The Satra since then(since 1837) has remained at this place and has become famous as the Dinjoy Satra.
Moderkhat Satra:

It is an extension of Dinjoy Satra. When Sidanandadeb Dinjoy was the head priest of Dinjoy Satra, his brother Chandrakantadev established the Moderkhat Satra at Moderkhat.

Garpara Satra:

This satra is situated in the Rohmoria mouza and was established even before the establishment of Dinjoy Satra. This satra is now being shifted to some safer place because of soli erosion. Narimaider was the first chief priest of this satra.



In Goalpara district :



SRI SRI SHYAMRAI SATRA



The Shyamrai Satra the center of Vaishnavite culture and religion has been established in the center of the town, Goalpara about 366 years ago. In the preliminary stage the Satra was managed by two brothers namely Late Raghu Medhi and Late Kush Medhi. Subsequently the people of Goalpara assembled there and took a decision to establish the Satra on a permanent footing. Accordingly they approached the Meshpara Estate Zamindar who in turn allotted 8 bighas of land in the center of the town for establishment of this Satra.Since then, the Satra is continuing smoothly observing all formalities and aspect of vashnavite culture. Regular “NAM PRASANGA” etc. are being held systematically with the observance of the religious festivals every year.One of the very important aspect of the Satra is that the Satra authority has preserved the “ASTHI” (Lucky bone of the forehead) of Sri Manta Sankardeva which is being exhibited in the Satra campus during Sankar Jayanti period i.e., in the month of Sukla Dasami (during September- October)

In Nagaon District:

BORDOWA:-
The Birth place of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva, the great Artist, Author, founder of Vaisnava Religion, Dramatist etc. of Assam. The place is situated 18 Km North – West from Nagaon town, There are two Sattras one is Narowa Sattra and other is Salaguri Sattras. The mini Museum is there in Narowa Sattras. Fagua Festival and the Birth and Death Anniversaries of the Vaishnava saints are observed there with great grandeur.
The important Satras of Sonitpur are :



NIKAMUL,



SIPAHA



MADAR GURI



BALIPUKHURI



KUNDARBARI



BARALIMARA



NALESWAR THAN



DAKSHINPAT



SOUDKUCHI SATRA.





Bare Shaharia Bhaona





Generally the term Bhaona in Assamese means a cultural activity involving dramas, depicting the various stories taken from the epics. These dramas were mostly written by Sankardeva and Madhabdeva.Bare Shaharia Bhaona of Jamuguri (50 kms from Tezpur) is a unique form of Bhaona. Twelve or more Bhaonas are performed simultaneously in different stages built on a single platform.



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About Sattriya Dances of Assam





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The Sattra institution of Assam was a creation of Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1567 A.D.), the great saint-scholar, poet-playwright and philosopher reformer, who nearly revolutionized the medieval society of Kamarupa-Asama in nearly all its aspects about five and a half centuries back. Born in a non-Brahmin Kayastha family, known as the Bhuyans and educated in an indigenous tol under the guidance of a well-known teacher of the time, Sankaradeva soon became well-versed in classical scholarship. Having studied most of the sastras, Sankara became a devout believer in and follower of one and only one Supreme Godhead, represented in Krishna-Visnu, and thus joined the pan-Indian neo-Vaisnava movement which soon became a strong religious-social-cultural force in this part of the country under his leadership. At the age of about twenty Sankaradeva wrote his first poetic composition on the story of king Harishchandra, thus beginning his long and chequered career of writing poems, hymns, plays and songs which were all centred on the concept of bhakti or devotion to the Supreme Being. When he was hardly thirty-two, Sankardeva undertook a pilgrimage in the company of some of his disciples to Northern India spending twelve years of his life during which he gathered immense experience about the religion of bhakti which became the dominant spirit of the faith and way of life he was soon to propagate. The geographical expression, now known as Assam, was in those days a habitat of people belonging to numerous ethnic groups of diverse creeds and faiths some of whom indulged in evil practices like animal slaughter and even human sacrifice in the name of religion. Sankaradeva aimed at synthesizing that society by introducing a very simple faith based on bhakti and nama, that is complete devotion to and chanting the names of that one God, the cause of all life in the universe, without any expensive and ostentatious rituals. To achieve his purpose of bringing the diverse people together under that simple religion he had to take the help of popular art and literature and also introduce some institutions of which sattra is a major and important one.Sankaradeva is said to have established his first sattra at Bordowa, his birth place and then at different centers as he had to move from one place to another on account of internecine conflicts and royal persecution. A sattra is like a medieval shrine of math with central prayer-hall, called namghar, rows of houses arranged in particular order for the bhakats or disciples and office-bearers and separate residential building for the head of the sattra, called sattradhikar and his deputy known as deka satradhikar. The model of a sattra introduced by Sankaradeva and his chief follower and successor, Madhavadeva, was followed by others like Gopaladeva and Damodaradeva whose disciples took to establishing sattra which, in course of time, spread all over the Brahmaputra Valley gradually growing into hundreds in number. The administration of a sattra is run by the satradhikar assisted by his deputy and a number of other office-bearers. Some of the important functionaries of a sattra are Bhagawati, the reciter and expounder of the Bhagawata, also known as Namlogowa in some sattra of Upper Assam, Deori or Biloniya, the distributor of sacred offering known as mah-prasad, Bharali, the store-keeper. The musicians trained to organize devotional music and plays are known as gayan, the singers, and bayan, players of instruments like drums and cymbals. Prasanga or congregational prayer consisting of singing devotional hymns was originally held for fourteen times a day, but later on reduced to four or even two in some sattras for obvious reasons.The center of a sattra is the namghar where members of the community assemble not only for prayer but also deliberations, religious, moral and cultural. A namghar consists of two principal parts, the manikut, the sanctum-sanctorum, where a sacred text is placed on a thapana, a pedestal receptacle or simhasana, and a bigger hall known in some sattras as rabhaghar. This hall, where people assemble for prayer, religious discourses or enjoying dramatic presentations, is usually open in all three sides except the one to which the manikut stands. It is to be noted that originally constructed with bamboo, reeds and thatch, the namghar is even now a humble structure without any outward show or ostentation.



Besides singing or chanting of devotional hymns and playing orchestral music, another very significant mode of popular education and entertainment which Sankaradeva introduced was bhaona, that is, performance of plays known as ankiya nats which is saint poet-playwright himself wrote, directed and even acted in. He wrote six full-fledged plays which, interestingly were preceded by a dramatic performance known as Cinhayastra where painted pictures of the seven Vaikunthas (about of Lord Vishnu) were presented with accompaniment of song, music and dance. As this proved to be extremely popular, Sankaradeva went on to write full-fledged plays on subjects taken from the epics and the Bhagawata Purana where the greatness and supremacy of Lord Krishna or Rama is shown. The plays were performed in the spacious hall of a namghar which, as has been noted already, was an inseparable part of a sattra. Singing, dancing, playing on musical instruments like khol, cymbals and many other indigenously developed instruments, acting mask-making and so on became part of sattriya culture as these were primarily cultivated and developed within the precincts of a sattra. Ankiya plays and bhaona, in course of time, became a welcome means of entertainment even for the royal family and the nobility. Ahom kings and courtiers invited satradhikars and Mahantas (spiritual leaders and preachers) from satras to perform plays in the royal palaces. For instance, it is mentioned in the Tungkhungia Buranji that at the invitation of king Kamaleswar Simha the Mahantas of Bareghar Satra presented the play Rukminiharana (1816), one of Sankaradeva’s well-known plays, and another sattras called Namati Dihing Satra, enacted a play titled Akrura-gamana. In this way ankiya plays and bhaona gradually came out of the confines of the sattras and namghars and people, irrespective of whether they lived in a sattra or outside, took to performing plays which were enjoyed by all sections of the society. Bhaona thus became ingrained in Assamese cultural life, and despite the invasion of modern drama and theatre in the nineteenth century, it has never lost its hold, particularly on the vast majority of the people living in the countryside. And in recent years bhaona appears to be regaining its earlier popularity as is evident in frequent performances and even bhaona competitions organized in the lines of modern one-act play competitions.



Ankiyan nat and bhaona is a dramatic institution where there is a preponderance of dance and songs. Characters in an ankiya play enter the stage dancing in a given manner to the accompaniment of songs and music. In nam prasanga, that is, daily services offered at regular intervals in the namghar and other forms of praying and singing, dance has a distinctive place. Those people in a sattra, therefore, who take part in bhaona, devotional singing and chanting and other manner of congregational praying, have to be dancers trained the proper way. Dance is thus an inseparable part of sattriya culture which has been sustained through the aged since the days of Sankaradeva who himself was a master dancer and musician. The dance form introduced and developed by Sankaradeva and followd by his great disciples like Madhavadeva, Damodaradeva, Gopaladeva, Harideva and others, is known as sattriya nritya probably because it was an integral part of the bhakti movement led by the great master and also because it was in a sattra that, like bhaona, dance also was initially cultivated. As Sankaradeva’s aim was to bring the common people into the fold of his ekasarana nama dharma (complete submission to one and only One God through chanting His name again and again), he laid great emphasis on dance, along with acting, which could easily catch the fancy of the ignorant laity. So Sankaradeva saw to it that the dance forms he developed, though classical in spirit, would take in their ambit as many elements from indigenous sources as possible. It is, therefore, found that sattriya dance is an assimilation of classical elements and elements taken from folk dance forms practices by various othnic groups. Some of the important and popular forms of sattriya dance are sutradhari nritya, gosai or Krishna nritya, dasavatar nritya, bhortal nritya, jhumura, chali, gayan-bayan and son on. Sattriya dance is now a popular dance form which is avidly cultivated by enthusiasts, particularly from the younger generation. Having received formal national recognition, sattriya dance has now joined the family of national dance forms which are integral part of Indian culture.The sattra is a democratic organization in which each and every member of the society has a role to play, however small it might be. The doors of the namghar are open to all, no matter what caste or gender one belongs to. Sankaradeva asserted that all men are equal, and so there must not be any discrimination against anybody on consideration of caste, community or social status. He admitted into his religion of bhakti and nama members from all castes and communities beginning from the Brahmins and the Kayasthas to the so-called outcaste and the lowest of the low. Among such known names were Candsai, a follower of Islam, Gobinda, a Garo, Jayantahari, a Bhutiya, Shriram, a Kaivarta, and Madhava, a potter. Women have equal access to namghars and can take part in nama-kirtana. They can receive initiation and even hold responsible positions. It is to be noted that Kanaklata, Sankaradeva’s grand daughter-in-law, became not only the head of a sattra, she also appointed twelve sattradhikars to organize more sattras. The role of a sattra in propagation religious and moral education and organizing religious-cultural activities is confined not just to the physical boundaries of a sattra, it goes far beyond into the villages lying far and wide. Villagers or members of the laity come to sattras to attend religious functions and also to listen to religious and moral deliberations organized in sattra namghars. Not just the bhakats or the functionaries, others also can take part in the activities of a sattra under the over-all guidance of the sattradhikar. The sattradhikar or his representative, accompanied by some of the sattra functionaries, pay periodical visits to the villages where followers or sisyas of the sattra live. He stays either in a namghar or in a temporary camp made for the purpose, give sarana to new entrants to the faith and bhajana to senior disciples. Sarana is a simple ceremony through which new converts are advised to follow four fundamental principles of the faith, known as cari-vastu, namely, nama (reciting the names of God), deva (surrender to God), guru (acceptance of a preceptor), and bhakat (taking delight in the company of religious brotherhood), while bhajan entails an elaborate ceremony intended for spiritually advanced followers.



The sattra institution since its inception has contributed immensely to the building of a cohesive Assamese society. The principles and ideals of Sankaradeva were religiously followed by his successors and disciples who, through the ages, have endeavoured to carry on the mission of the great master. Madhavadeva, who became chief apostle after Sankaradeva, carried on the mission initiated by his master. The two great maestros were followed by a succession of preceptors, including Damadaradeva, Vamshigopala, Harideva and Gopala Ata who, despite certain differences which propped up in later years, were one in propagating the message of bhakti among all sections of the people in this part of the country. Gopala Ata of Bhabanipur Sattra in Lower Assam who received initiation from Madhavadeva and who considered Sankaradeva as his guru’s guru, made all-out efforts to reach to the people of diverse ethnic groups living in the Upper Assam region ruled by the Ahom Kings. He entrusted twelve of his learned disciples, both Brahmins and non-Brahmins, with the task of programming the Vaishnava faith based on equality and brotherhood throughout the length and breadth of Assam. His message was propagated among almost all sections of the Assamese people by his disciples who tried to remove the evils of caste distinctions by embracing people from all tribes and ethnic groups into the fold of the faith enunciated by Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva. One of Gopaladeva’s followers, Aniruddhadeva, initiated among others, the Morans and Motoks of Upper Assam into the faith who later fought even the Ahom kings for their attempts to humiliate their gurus of the Kala Samhati sect, consider to be most liberal of the sects or samhatis into which the sattras were later divided. Another of Gopaladeva’s distinguished followers, Sriramadeva (1665-1740), satradhikar of Chaliha Baregahar Satra, then situated on the bank of the Dihing river near Naharkotiya nad presently at Nazira in Sivasagar district, accepted even the Nocktes of NEFA (Arunachal Pradesh) as his disciples. He initiated the Nockte chief, Lothakhunbao, and gave him the well-known name of Narottama. Even now Srirama Ata’s followers, who hail from nearly all sections of the Assamese society, believe in the myth of ‘Naga (Nockte) Narottama Gosai Sriram lage Vaikunthalai jai’ (Naga Narottama Goasi Sriram go to heaven together). Another sattra, Mairamora, also near Nazira, brought into the fold of the bhakti faith even Nagas of the nearby hills whose descendents are now living in a village of their own close to the sattra. Besides these, there are many other sattras of Gopala Ata lineage who have freely mixed with people from the so-called lower strata of the society in an attempt to make them equal partners of the universal brotherhood enunciated by Sankaradeva’s bhakti faith.



Over the centuries sattras have multiplied into some hundreds, and socio-political and other changes have affected this religious-cultural organization also. There have also been differences among the sattras as evident from the emergence of the four samhatis or sects. But the differences are peripheral, and the hard-rock of Sankaradeva’s democratic faith of bhakti remains unshaken. No matter to what denomination a sattra belongs, its ultimate allegiance is always to Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva, the great cementing forces behind sattriya culture which, to some extent, have homogenized Assamese society. It is time the sattras shed their differences, if there are any, and organized themselves in a proper way so that they can contribute effectively to the enrichment of Assam’s cultural life.



Sankardeva created the Sattriya dance to accompany the Ankiya Naat (a form of Assamese one-act plays devised by him) which was usually performed in the Sattras. As the dance developed and grew within the Sattras, the dance was named Sattriya by the literateur Maheshwar Neog, who tried to promote it. Though the dance form has come out of the confines of the sattras to a wider audience, the sattras continue to use the dance form for ritualistic and other purposes for which it was originally created 500 years ago.



The dance



The core of Sattriya Nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible and enjoyable manner. According to tradition, Sattriya is performed only by bhokots (male monks) in monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark special festivals. Today, in addition to this practice, Sattriya dance is also performed on stage by men and women who are not members of the Sattras, on themes that are not mythological.



Sattriya dance is divided into many genres: Apsara Nritya, Behar Nritya, Chali Nritya, Dasavatara Nritya, Manchok Nritya, Natua Nritya, Rasa Nritya, Rajaghariya Chali Nritya, Gosai Prabesh, Bar Prabesh, Gopi Prabesh, Jhumura, Nadu Bhangi and Sutradhara, to name but a few. Like the other seven schools of Indian dance, Sattriya encompasses the principles required of a classical dance form: the treatises of dance and dramaturgy, like Natyashastra, Abhinaya Darpana, and Sangit Ratnakara; a distinct repertoire (marg) and the aspects of nrtta(pure dance), nrtya(expressive dance), and natya(abhinaya).



Sattriya dance is accompanied by musical compositions called borgeets (composed by Sankardeva among others) which are based on classical ragas. The instruments that accompany a traditional performance are khols (drums), taals (cymbals), the flute. The violin, harmonium etc have been recent additions. The dresses are usually made of pat a kind of silk produced in Assam, woven with local motifs. The ornaments too are based on local traditional design.


History



In the second half of the 19th century, Sattriya emerged from the sanctum of Assam's Sattras. It moved from the monastery to the metropolitan stage. The Sattras had maintained certain rigid principles within their walls, and until the first half of the 19th century this dance style was performed in a highly ritualistic manner by male dancers alone. The classical rigidity, the strict adherence to certain principles, and the non-engagement of academic research on the dance form all contributed to the delayed recognition and acceptance of Sattriya as one of the eight classical dance forms of India. On November 15, 2000, the Sangeet Natak Akademi finally gave Sattriya Dance its due recognition as one of the classical dance forms of India, alongside the other seven forms.



However, despite its delayed inclusion within the recognised schools of Indian classical dance, and the accompanying lack of organisational support from the Centre that that entailed, Sattriya continued through the centuries to maintain within its forms the classical exactitude and intricate detail that mark ancient art forms. One positive outcome of Sattriya's strict adherence to the principles of the Sattras has been this ability to maintain its pure forms, its distinct style. Now that it has made its journey from the sanctified world of Assam's Sattras to the demotic spaces of the world's stages, it is time for an appraisal of Sattriya's artistic and aesthetic qualities.



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Matiakhora, the Syntax of Xattriya Dance





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The Xattriya dance syllabus begins with the Matiakhora. Matiakhoras are the basic exercises which help in the formation of the body and clearity of hands. Matiakhoras are considered as the grammer of Sattriya dance. Each Matiakhora is like a letter in an alphabet and if we join together some postures of the Matiakhora it gives rise to a beautiful dance sequence. Matiakhoras are of sixty four types and they are divided into eight broad categories:
ORA
SATA
JHALAK
SITIKA
PAAK
JHAP
LON
KHAR
Below are some links giving more details of Matiakhora.

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Musical Instruments for Xattriya Performace


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The musical instuments those are used in Sattriya are namely:
KHOL (CYLINDRICAL DRUM)
PAATI TAAL, KHUTI TAAL, BHOR TALL ( ALL THESE ARE CYMBALS)
BAHI(FLUTE)
NAGARA(ALSO DRUM)
VIOLIN
TANPURA
HARMONIUM
KAAH/GHANTA (BELL)
SHANKHA (CONCH SHELL)
DOBA (ALSO DRUM)





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Costumes for a Xattriya Performance


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LOHONGA: Lohonga is a long skirt with pleats.
TANGALI-I: Two long pieces of cloth like scarfs which are pleated and placed on either side of the shoulders.
TANGALI-II: A belt designed to keep the costume in position.
KASALI OR ANCHAL: A piece of cloth wrapped around the chest.
PAGURI: Like Turban. There are sixteen different types of paguries used in Sattriya, most commonly used are the KUKHAPATIA PAG worn by a Suttradhari (the chief Interlocutor), TOEKUNIA PAAG worn by the Gayan (singer),the Bayan (drummer) etc.
BLOUSE: Short sleeved blouse.
DHOOTI: A long cloth wrapped round the legs and tied round the waist by making 'THOOR' (pleats which are not parmanent).
SADAR: A long piece of cloth that is worn over the upper part of the body.





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Jewellery for a Xattriya Performance


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(1) SITIPATI OR KAPALI(HEAD ORNAMENT)
(2) GOLPOTA (NECKLACE)
(3) GEZERA OR DHOLBIRI (NECKLACE)
(4)BENA OR JOONBIRI (NECKLACE)
(5) DUGDUGI (NECKLACE)
(6) LUKAPARO (NECKLACE WITH EARRINGS)
(7) KERU(EAR RINGS)
(8) THURIA (EAR RINGS)
(9) SONA (EAR RINGS)
(10) GAAMKHARU(BANGLES)
(11) MUTHIKHARU(BANGLES)
(12) JUNUKA (FOOT ORNAMENT OR TINKLING BELLS)






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Hasta or Hand Gestures in Xattriya Dance


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Sage Bharata has described in the Natyasashtra the various poses made by hands, eyes, eye-lashes, nose, lips, cheeks, feet and head. The Srihastamuktavali, written by Subhankara Kavi of Assam, is a large treatise on hand poses or hand gestures and an elaboration of Natyasashtra on the subject. Only a single manuscript copy of this treatise has been found in the Auniati Sattra Library. It contains over 1,000 Sanskrit slokas, each followed by an Assamese rendering in prose. It is stated that this manuscript belonged, originally, to one Sucanda Rai Ojha. It may be taken for granted that the Assamese translation of the work, which could not have been of a date later than the eighteenth century A.D., was made for the use of this Ojha. As a matter of fact an Ojha must have known some, if not all, of the hand poses numbering 2079 as described in this work. According to Srihastamuktavali, the hand, for different gestures, is divided into three broad categories, namely:
(I) Asanjukta Hasta or Single Hand
(II) Sanjukta Hasta or Joined Hands
(III) Nritya Hasta or Dancing Hands
Asanjukta Hasta is of thirty different types.They are:
(1) Patak, (2) Padmakusa, (3) Hankhamukh, (4) Kartarimukh, (5) Alapadma, (6) Tripatak, (7) Musttik, (8) Shikhar, (9) Ardhachandra, (10) Sharpashira, (11) Suchimukha, (12) Khatakaamukh, (13) Araal, (14) Sukatundu, (15) Sadansa, (16) Kangul, (17) Urnanav, (18) Kapitha, (19) Mrigasirsa, (20) Hansapakhya, (21) Tamrasur, (22) Satur, (23) Mukul, (24) Bhramar, Salanta Madhukar, (25) Kadamba, (26) Krisnasarmukh, (27) Ghrunik, (28) Singhashya, (29) Ankus and (30) Tantrimukh.
Sanjukta Hastras are of fourteen different types. They are:
(1) Gajadanta, (2) Kaput, (3) Bardhaman, (4) Anjali, (5) Nisadh, (6) Karkat, (7) Utsanga, (8) Abahittha, (9) Swasttik, (10) Makar, (11) Dul, (12) Pushpaput, (13) Maraal and (14) Khatakabardhamaan.
Nritya Hastas are of twenty seven different types. They are:
(1) Keshabandha Hasta, (2) Nitamba Hasta, (3) Resit Hasta, (4) Ardharesit Hasta, (5) Satur Hasta, (6) Udhrittu Hasta, (7) Pallab Hasta, (8) Pakhyabanchit Hasta, (9) Lataanaam Hasta, (10) Natamukh Hasta, (11) Swastik Hasta, (12) Biprakirna Hasta, (13) Abwidhabaktru Hasta, (14) Susyasya Hasta, (15) Araalkhatakaamukh Hasta, (16) Bakkhyumandali Hasta, (17) Urahpaarshwardhamandali Hasta, (18) Paarshwamandali Hasta, (19) Urdhamandali Hasta, (20) Musttikswasttik Hasta, (21) Pakhyapradyutak Hasta, (22) Kari Hasta, (23) Dandapakkhya Hasta, (24) Garurpakkhya Hasta, (25) Alapadmunnut Hasta, (26) Uttanresit Hasta and (27) NaliniPadmakus Hasta.





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Bharir Abasthan or Position of Feet


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There are five positions allowed.
(1).Samapaad, (2) Bisampaad, (3) Akunchit, (4) Kunchit and (5) Ogratalsanchalan
Bharir Maan or Steps
Fourtyfour different types of steps are used in Sattriya dance. Each movement of the foot is mainly based on these steps.They are namely;
(1) Juti, (2) Bar Juti, (3) Adha Juti, (4) Uthi Siral, (5) Bahi Siral, (6) Solona, (7) Pani Paruwa, (8) Pani Pisoluwa, (9) Khuwali Pisaluwa, (10) Tewari, (11) Bagali Ghutiuwa, (12) Baahir Sula Ghuruwa, (13) Vitar Sula Ghuruwa, (14) Nepur Soluwa, (15) Haati Khujia, (16) Maan Solona, (17) Kawai Bulan, (18) Dhera Paak, (19) Naandi Khuj, (20) Sitika, (21) Shalika Juti, (22) SoruJuti, (23) ThiaJuti (24) Kaatir Salona, (25) Borah Jaap, (26) Khusora, (27) Soria Jaap, (28) Dulpata, (29) Harin Jaap, (30) Bagali Thengia, (31)Bhauri Paak, (32) Sorusola, (33) Barsola, (34) Danchakra, (35) Gubardhan Dharan, (36) Tini Juti, (37) Thekesoni, (38) Utha Khuj, (39) Boithaku Buwa, (40) Akpakia Sitika, (41) Bulani, (42) Pitika, (43) Dupakia Sitika, (44) Laahani Mara.





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Taals or Rhythmic Beats


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Main Taals those are used in Sattriya dance are :
(1) Suta Taal, (2) Thukuni Taal, (3) Rupak Taal, (4) Sarubisam Taal, (5) Jati, (6) Rupganjal And (7)Mishra Taal (Combinations of four- Suta, Duwas, Rupak and Jati).






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Description of Some Matiakhoras:


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Purush Ora:
The dancer is in the semi sitting position which is Ora position. The heels are placed at a distance of six inches with toes pointing outward. The two feet make a horizontal line and the knees will bend outwards. The two hands will make the Patak Hasta and (the thumbs will bend inwards) The elbows will bend and the hands (middle fingers) will be placed at shoulder level.
BOL OR MUSICAL NOTATION OF PURUSH ORA
TAAL: SUTA TAAL(4 BEATS)
0 DHI- NA * JEEDHEY 0 NADHEY 2 DHEYDAO
0 DHENEE 3 TADHE 0 NEETA 4 DHEENA 4 TIMES
Prakriti Ora:
Same as the Purush Ora except that the hands are put in front of the chest. This position is known as Prakriti Ora. The musical notation is same as the Purush Ora.
Orat Botha-Utha:
Maintaining the Ora position and hand folded in front of the chest ( like the Indian salutation of Namaskar) one should go from semi sitting (ora position) to sitting position.
BOL (USICAL NOTATION)
DHEI * KHEER 0 KHEER 2 KHEETAW
0 DHEI 3 GEER 0 GEER 4 DHEENAW 4 TIMES
Harbhonga:
Sitting in the Prakriti Ora position, the dancer should strike the floor with her or his right foot and then push towards the lefthand side corner while bending it at the knee at the same time and then stretching it. The hand be at Prakriti Ora position and then should be pushed in the opposite direction of the upraised foot. Head and neck movement should be in the same direction of the upraised foot.
0 DHEE- * NAAK 0 KHEE- 2 TAAK
0 DHEE- * NAAK 0 KHEE- 4 TAAK 4 TIMES
Athoowa:
The dancer is in the sitting position with one knee almost touching the ground and of that side of which the hand is facing towards the ground and with the other hand at the chest level, mudra (hand gesture ) is Kartarimukh hasta.
BOL ( MUSICAL NOTATION )
0 DHE - ERDHEE * NAA- UTA 0 KHITTITI 2 DAWTA
0 DHE - ERDHEE * NAA- UTA 0 KHITITA 4 DHEI 4 TIMES





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BORGEET:





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Devotional songs composed by Shrimanta Sankardeva are still popular in this region. The Borgeets (literally: great songs) are devotional songs, set to music and sung in various raga styles. These styles are slightly different from either the Hindustani or the Carnatic styles. The songs themselves are written in the 'Brajavali' language.







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An English translation of a borgeet (Doyar Thakur Hari Jadumoni Oi Raam Adhome Tomar Naam Daake) , by Mrs. Bina Hazarika, England


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devotional ode below:

The Prelude

O' merciful Lord Hari, the Jewel of Jadu Clan, Oh
Rama,
This worthless person seeking your blessings,
Narayan, please be compassionate and allow my
Restless soul at your feet as the place of resting.

The Verse

Ojamil the priest a foolish sinner
Accepting you as the Holy father
Became free from worldly goods
Gets his Baikuntha(Heavenly) address
Which is known to the universe.

Reciting this verse one begets much piety,
I am a pitiless sinner, hence,
All my hopes on you as my deity.
This utmost offender,
Wait for you my rescuer
Because you are the saviour.

Bless this Kali Yuga
How fortunate are the people
of the blessed land call Varat(India)
Forsaking the Yogic practices,
Praying at your feet
Joyfully proclaiming the truth.
Everyone says, finally
reaching you is the aim;
You know that well Narayan.
This foolish Madhab
At your feet Oh Lord of the Jadu clan,
Now to be inducted to your ways
Is my wish very very firm.






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One side note: news on global appeal of Borgeet:
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Gospel in borgeet style - US-based musician fuses genres to create a winner

When Gospel meets borgeet, the result is a US chartbuster.
Rupam Sarmah, the US-based technocrat from Assam who had taken gagana out of the bihutolis to Hollywood in 2003, has now turned to borgeet — Assamese devotional songs which originated in the satras of Majuli — for his fusion album My Love is You.
The album not only became an instant hit but was also among the top 10 songs in various music stations across the US last year. It even made it to the Grammy awards nomination ballots last year, though it did not make it to the final five.
“The number God, Can You Hear Me? in the album is influenced by borgeet. I composed the song with the tune of borgeet and rendered it in Gospel style. The songs in the album are unique in composition with innovations which include fusion of Bihu and lokogeet (folksong),” Sarmah wrote in an email to The Telegraph.
The musician had earlier fused the sound of gagana, a musical instrument made of bamboo — an integral part of Bihu music — with notes of the synthesiser for an album with Hollywood composer Alan Roy Scott, famed for his score in the film Top Gun.
“The songs of My Love is You have been played across many radio stations in the US, Canada and other countries,” said Sarmah.
The album was placed third in the Best Indian Album category of the Just Plain Folk Music Awards 2006. He had received a JPF award in 2002 for a Hindi album Piya re.
Sarmah said My Love is You has been dedicated to the people of Assam. In fact, the flip side of the album’s cover has the lyrics of God, Can You Hear Me? with a picture of Majuli.
Born in Jorhat, Sarmah moved to the US in 1992. But his love for Assamese music has made him experiment again and again with indigenous tunes and instruments.
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· Bhatima


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Deva bhatima -- panegyrics to God
Naat bhatima -- for use in dramas
Raja bhatima -- panegyrics to kings (to king Nara Narayan)



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ANKIYA GEET:


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Shrimanta Sankardeva composed ankiyageet for ankiya-nats or plays. These are sung on special occessions like Doul festival,anniverseries of the two gurus and other festivals.
Ankia-nats are musical extravaganzas, divided into categories of songs – Artha-bhatima, Nandi-bhatima, Pravesh geet, Poyer, Muktawali, Pitambari and other songs. These are called ankia-geets. Songs or geets of the ankia-nat are also a special type, which are called ‘ankar-geet’ and Borgeets, Today, lechari, Ghoshas are also used in some plays. The ankar-geet bears a dhuwa or refrain as it bears ‘rags’ with ‘Tal-maan’. There are various tunes in bhaona-geets. Such as Aswari, Ahir, Bhupali, Dhansiri, Belwar, Gandhar, Kalyan, Shyam, Ramgiri, Mahura, Suhai, Borari, Sindhura, Gouri, Rashak, Bhairabi etc. These tunes are used in all borgeets and other songs of Sankardeva and Madhabdeva. The actors are called ‘Bhawaria’ who produced Bhaba or emotion. The skilled village artists are called ‘Khanikar ‘ who are experts in making wooden and earthen images of God. They also prepare ‘cho’ (effigies) and masks (Mukha) life size of grotesque type masks such as Ravana, Yama, Kumbhakarna, Hanuman, Kali-Nag, Garunda-pakhi etc. These are made by Khanikar, which are essential elements in Bhaonas. Actors are to paint for their make-up befitting their roles. For the makeup ‘Hengul’ (cinnabar) and ‘Haital’ (yellow-orripment) are used with some necessary colours such as blue and red. In this way the Bhaona culture is performed in Assam.






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DRAMA & THEATRE: Ankiya Naat and Bhaona's


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Sankardeva popularised 'Bhaona' or mythological plays that became centre of attraction from the common masses. Colourful dresses were worn on the occassion by the participants. The modern dance form became popular with spreading of dramas. These dramas resulted in formation of professional theatre groups in and around Pathsala region leaving behind an unique cultural legacy. Large number of professional theatre group enjoy popularity among the people in every hook & corner of Assam. Theatre groups like Nataraj, Kohinoor, Abahan, and Aradhana from Pathsala has not only carved out a niche but also revolutionised this medium despite challange from Cinema Halls.



Dramas (Naat)





Sankaradeva was the fountainhead of the Ankiya naat, a form of one-act play. In fact, his Cihna Yatra---staged by him when he was only 19---is regarded as one of the first open-air theatrical performances in the world. Cihna yatra was probably a dance drama and no text of that show is available today. Innovations like the presence of a Sutradhara (narrator) on the stage, use of masks etc. were used later in the plays of Bertolt Brecht and other eminent playwrights.



These cultural traditions still form an integral part of the heritage of the Assamese people.

1 comment:

Arunava Gupta said...

Excellent info. Excellent work
Kudos to the author! Keep up the good work.
Thanks.