Nritya Pravah: An evening of Sattriya dance
- Deeptangshu Das
April 24, 2019
Sattriya is one of the major Indian classical dances from Assam. Although it is a living dance tradition which has been thriving for almost six hundred years through the Sattra institutions (Vaishnava monasteries) of Assam, it gained mainstream visibility only in the recent decade after Sattriya was recognized as a classical dance by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2000. This recognition encouraged and facilitated further experimentation, research and performance in the field of Sattriya dance. One could get a fine glimpse of this ongoing trend in the annual event of Parampara Pravah, a well-known Sattriya institution run by exponent Dr. Mallika Kandali. Nritya Pravah, the annual event of Parampara Pravah, was organized on 28 March 2019 at the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati. The program started with lighting of the lamp by the doyen of Sattriya dance, Nrityacharya Jatin Goswami along with other stalwarts.
Mallika Kandali has carved out a niche in the field of Sattriya dance through her exploration of innovative themes and experiments within the grammar of Sattriya dance. She received her Ph.D in Sattriya dance and has also authored two books on the dance form. One can discern that her erudite concepts and evocative choreography are influenced by her meticulous research work. The Nritya Pravah event was significant in this regard as Dr. Kandali engaged with unique ecological themes such as the relationship between women and nature as expressed in the item Vrikhya Sakhi. It is based on Srimanta Sankaradeva's thought-provoking verses where the saint describes the relationship between trees and women. In the absence of Lord Krishna, the gopis become restless and they eagerly search for him everywhere. They ask all the trees and flowers about the whereabouts of Krishna. They also narrate how the trees are valuable for human life. In the light of such careful and thoughtful depictions, one can also establish Sankaradeva as an environmentalist. Vrikhya Sakhi represents this theme of deep relationship between nature and human emotions. Similarly, the item Vrikhya Varnan portraying the significance and richness of the natural world, is based on Sankaradeva's verses which depict the rich world of flora. Conceptualized, directed and choreographed by Mallika Kandali, the senior students of Parampara Pravah performed Vrikhya Sakhi while the junior batch enacted the Vrikhya Varnan.
Mallika Kandali also attempted to convey a contemporary, social message by incorporating mythology in her own performance of Suchanda Bayana through the heart touching depiction of maternal love and compassion through the figures of Yashoda and Devaki. Did Yashoda who nurtured Lord Krishna know since beginning that Krishna was not her son? Did Devaki know that Krishna whom she gave birth to was now growing up in Yashoda's loving care and home? Both the mothers must have felt boundless love for their son, biological for one and adopted one for the other. This dance item magically evoked such profound maternal emotions and predicaments. Based on a borgeet (devotional song) by Madhavadeva which epitomizes vatsalya bhava or the emotive expression of maternal feelings, this item was also conceptualized and choreographed by Dr. Kandali. Beginning with a sloka by Magha Pandit about the glory of the resplendent morning, the composition ends with another sloka composed by Dr. Nripendra Nath Sharma celebrating the universal love of motherhood and illustrates that if everyone were to emulate Nanda and Yashoda's qualities of nurturing other's children as their own, the world will become the harbor of happiness and peace as no child would be bereft of parental love and care.
Students of Parampara Pravah
The other presentations of the evening include Khol Badan, Gopi nach, Mati-akhora, and Jhumura's Ramdani part. Khol Badan (Khol - drum - is the main instrument of Sattriya dance) by the students of Parampara Pravah transformed the auditorium into a sacred space. The senior students of Parampara Pravah performed Gopi Nach, which is a graceful female dance number of Sattriya. There were some rhythmic slokas in this dance number which made the performance more soulful and lively. Jhumura is one of the male dance numbers of Sattriya. The students performed the Ramdani part of Jhumura dance where only the pure dance portion is performed. The junior students of Parampara Pravah performed Mati-akhora, the grammar of Sattriya dance.
The whole event captured the aesthetic richness, flavor and depth of Sattriya dance. The audience was also captivated by the melodious and soulful music of Bhupen Nath. The stage decoration by Nuruddin Ahmad was ethereal. The accompanying artists namely Giren Kalita and Dayananda Bora (khol), Bhupen Nath (vocal), Deepen Sharma (violin), Prasanna Barua (flute) further enriched and intensified the aesthetic mood and ambiance of the evening. The event was well organized by Parampara Pravah. Dr. Mallika Kandali truly deserves an applause for this endeavor and for inspiring the flow of Sattriya tradition.
Deeptangshu Das is an Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Dibrugarh University (Assam). He has published poetry in literary magazines like 'Efiction-India' and blogs regularly at dphrases.wordpress.com.