Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam

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In the year 2000, the Sattriya dances of Assam received recognition as the eighth classical dance form of India. This living tradition from the monasteries known as sattras has been practised for over 500 years by celibate monks. Created by the Vaishnava saint and social reformer Sankaradeva and his principal disciple Madhavadeva in the 16th century, it possesses all the elements of classical dance, following the principles of natyashastra. Today, it has moved to the metropolitan stage, performed by male as well as female dancers. Retaining its basic core of bhakti, it has metamorphosed into a form with high aesthetic appeal, as is evident from the rich visuals in this book.

Dance historian Sunil Kothari has visited sattras over several years, watching performances and documenting this dance form. The chapters reflect the voices of acknowledged scholars, gurus and practitioners from Assam, covering different aspects – the institution of the sattra, the dance-dramas known as Ankiya Nat and Bhaona, Ojapali dance, ground exercises and technique, abhinaya and the use of masks, the traditional repertoire, devotional songs, music and recent innovations. The concluding section features some leading exponents of Sattriya dance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Avinash Pasricha

Avinash Pasricha comes from a family of photographers. He, literally, grew up in a studio and became photo editor of SPAN magazine in New Delhi from 1960 to 1997. His photographs have been published in Life and National Geographic as well as in several books on India. He has specialized in Photography of the performing arts since 1960 and has co-authored books on Indian dance: on Odissi, Kathak, and Kuchipudi with dr. Sunil Kothari; one entitled Rhythm in Joy with dancer/writer Leela Samson; on Pandit Kumar Gandharva with critic Raghava Menon; and picture books on Pandit Birju Maharaj, Kumar Gandharva and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra with Roli Books. Over the last forty-five years, he has covered a wide range of subjects, even making audio-visuals on Indian dance forms and on eminent musicians Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Begum Akhtar and Kumar Gandharva.


Sunil Kothari, is a dance historian, scholar, and critic. He has authored several scholarly books on Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Kathak, Kuchipudi, and Chhau dances of India and edited volumes on Rasa and Damaru. He is a regular contributor to Marg. A keen observer of the dance scene for the past forty years, he has received for his overall contribution to dance, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and Padma Shri from the President of India. A former Professor and Head, Department of Dance, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, he is currently Visiting Professor (Dance), School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and is writing a book on Sattriya dances of Assam.


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Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam
148p., 254 Illustrations