Sattriya Dance: The classical dance of Assam
Sattriya dance is a genre of dance drama that tells mythical and religious stories through hand and face expressions. The basic dance unit and exercise of a Sattriya is called a Mati Akhara. The Akharas are subdivided into Ora, Saata, Jhalak, Sitika, Pak, Jap, Lon and Khar. A performance integrates two styles, one masculine (Paurashik Bhangi, energetic and with jumps), and feminine (Stri Bhangi, Lasya or delicate).
This classical Indian dance was cultivated as a form of worship in the Sattras and the Namghars by the male Bhokots as a part of religious rituals and for spreading the philosophy of Vaishnavism. The monks trace the origin of their art form to Sankardeva, the 15th century founder of Assamese ‘Neo-Vaishnavism’, a religion that venerates the Indian god Vishnu, particularly in his incarnation as the flute-playing Krishna. The monks dance in his honour and narrate playful, sensuous and fantastical episodes of his life as recounted in the ancient epics. A revolutionary change took place, when female dancers started performing this art form, which was earlier prohibited.