Majuli -Theatre Dance of Assam

Documents & Archives > Countries > INDIA > Majuli -Theatre Dance of Assam
Majuli, the largest river island in Asia, is a home of the specific cultural and artistic tradition of the Assam, a state in the far north-east of India. The Dancing Monks of Majuli there for five centuries perpetuate a classic major art: The sattriya. The erosion of the Brahmaputra and floods had already cut a third of the island, engulfing 40 monasteries and several tribal villages. Driven by the talent of the artist-monk Bhabananda Barbayan and support of the association Preserve Majuli, Dancers of Majuli helped to highlight an artistic heritage that was supposed to disappear. In 2001, a band of unknown artists that was coming from far Assam received in Delhi, from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture, the best reward for their performance of dance. India had just discovered an essential part of his artistic heritage. After five centuries of existence, Sattriya was finally recognized as one of the greatest art of the Indian traditional shows as the Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi or Manipuri. The northeast, geographically and culturally distant from the rest of India, has long been ignored. The state of Assam in the Brahmaputra valley saw the birth and developement of special a style of dance and drama: The Sattriya.
This sacred and didactic show is interpreted by bhakats (monk-artists-farmers). Its origin dates back to the great neo-Vishnu movement that began in the 15th century. The Sankaradeva master created the 1480 drawing of elements of Natya Sastra. It takes its name from the word « sattra » meaning “monasteries unique in their kind.” While in the neighboring state, was popularized the Manipuri by dancers in India and abroad, Sattriya is hardly spread beyond the borders of Assam. Ignorance of the whole region and the neighboring states of Manipur and Assam could justify treating their respective styles as the same. These two traditions are indeed inspired by the Vaishnava literature (devotion Vishnu); However Sattriya shows notable characteristics: it does not mention Radha, the mistress of Krishna, and does not address the issue of hunting by the principle of non-violence. These greats classics alive for five centuries are present in all religious or court ceremonies of Assam. Towards the 1940s, a monastery leader, friend of Ghandi, encouraged people of Assam to learn Sattriya, until then only interpreted by monks. Today Sattriya is very popular in Assam, it is taught in schools and has great secular dancers. The Dancing Monks of Majuli, they, have grown up in the Satras. For centuries, the elders pass on to younger this art created for them by Sankaradeva. They so perfectly mastered the genesis.

Ankiya Bhaona – theater

The drama pieces called Sattriya Ankiya Bhona were written in the 15th century, mainly from of episodes of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana: 6 by Mahâbharata and 6 others by Sankaradeva and 6 others by his apostle Madhavadeva. For five centuries, this theater practice unit without any complex devotional consistency and the pleasures of popular entertainment. The register is epic and the succession of comic scenes, warlike, matrimonial, dance, etc. operates by fostering the clarity of the story for all. Expertly codified, the play knows how to stay clear.  Uncommon scenic phenomen, their natural presence creates a nice balance resisting the rigors of acting. The Ankiya Bhaona consist of short dialogues and interspersed with varied dances, music and narrations sung / recited (Sutra Katha). The plays do not have uninterrupted acts or scenes. The characters enter the oblong scene without any decor reproducing the temple (namghar). At the occasion, the backdrop can be opened to the outside revealing the illuminated vegetation. The concepts of time and space are indicated in the songs or dances.

Nach – dance

Sattriya is a didactic and devotional dance dominated by a sense of universal love. It symbolizes the actions of Vishnu, especially his avatar Krishna, a god incarnate with irresistible charm, who fights evil while demonstrating that life on earth is not devoid of amenities. The positions of the body, hands, feet, and facial expressions match a complex symbolism. The lively dancer, animate with a kind of communicative grace becomes an instrument in the hands of the gods whose mission is to transcribe the cosmic and human life and to help people to live in harmony with the « Law of Good Order. » It is also, within a few minutes, for the dancer as for the public, to integrate the cosmos and find his « infinite self inside. » For this, the dancer identifies himself totally to the deity that represents it. It draws its inspiration from the descriptions in ancient texts and popular imagery. This transformation requires not only sophisticated costumes and makeup, but also facial expressions, body and even voice intonations transformation. It is the pleasure of playing stories by combining dance and rhythm. Discover a little-known style with Indian artists touring at the theater du Quai Branly. Beginners course open to all. Majuli, the largest river island in Asia, is home to a specific cultural and artistic tradition in Assam, a state in the far northeast of India. The Dancing Monks of Majuli perpetuate for five centuries there a classic major art: Sattriya.
The erosion of the Brahmaputra and floods has already cut a third of the island, engulfing 40 monasteries and several tribal villages. Driven by the talent of the artist-monk Bhabananda Barbayan and the support of the association Preserve Majuli, Dancers of Majuli helped to highlight an artistic heritage that was about to disappear. In 2001, a band of unknown artists coming from far Assam received in Delhi, from the Prime Minister and the Minister of Culture, the best reward for their performance of dance. India had just discovered an essential part of its artistic heritage. After five centuries of existence, Sattriya was finally recognized as one of the great arts of the Indian traditional shows like the Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi or Manipuri.
The northeast, geographically and culturally distant from the rest of India, has long been ignored. The state of Assam in the Brahmaputra valley saw the birth and the development a particular style of dance and drama: Sattriya. This sacred and didactic show is interpreted by bhakats (monk-artists-farmers). Its origin dates back to the great neo-Vishnu movement that began in the 15th century. The Sankaradeva master created it int the 1480, inspired by elements of Natya Sastra (great treatise on dance-theater-music written by Bharata around 200 years after J-C). It takes its name from the word « sattra » meaning monasteries unique in their kind. While in the neighboring state, Manipuri was popularized by dancers in India and abroad, Sattriya is hardly spread beyond the borders of Assam. Ignorance of the whole region and the neighboring states of Manipur and Assam could justify treating their respective styles as the same. Those two traditions are indeed inspired by the Vaishnava literature (devotion Vishnu); However Sattriya shows notable particularities: it does not mention Radha, the mistress of Krishna, and does not mention the issue of hunting by the principle of non-violence. Those great classics pieces alive for five centuries are presents in all religious or court ceremonies of Assam. Towards the 1940s, a monastery leader, friend of Ghandi, encouraged people to learn Assam Sattriya until then interpreted only by monks. Today Sattriya is very popular in Assam, it is taught in schools and has great secular dancers. The Dancing Monks of Majuli, they have grown up in the Satras. For centuries, the elders pass on to younger this art created for them by Sankaradeva. They so perfectly mastered the genesis.
Ankiya Bhaona – the theater’s drama pieces called Sattriya Ankiya Bhona were written in the 15th century, mainly from episodes of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana: 6 and 6 others by Sankaradeva Madhavadeva by his apostle. For five centuries, this theater practice high-flying unit without complex devotional consistency to the pleasures of popular entertainment. The register is epic and the succession of comic scenes, warlike, matrimonial, sung, danced, etc. operates by fostering the clarity of the story for all. Expertly codified, the play knows how to stay clear. Never dramatic rigor comes curb the familiarity of performers in respect of their characters and their sacred dimension. Natural of their presence creates a nice balance in resisting the rigors of acting. The Ankiya Bhaona consist in short dialogues and interspersed with varied dances, music and narrations sung / recited (Sutra Katha). The characters enter the scene without a decor reproducing the temple (namghar). On the occasion, the backdrop can be opened to the outside revealing the illuminated vegetation. The concepts of time and space are indicated in the songs or dances.