It was a rare occasion in the National Capital recently, when an enthusiatic audience experienced the enthralling Sattriya performance of Sanjukta Barooah Swargari, an eminent disciple of Adhyapak Bhabananda Barbayan of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra, Majuli,on the occasion of her Ranga Pravesha.Indian dances express enthusiasm and jubilance and showcase regional lifestyles with a special flavour of a particular culture. Sattriya Nritya, is one among eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. Created by Assamese Vaishnava saint Srimanta Shankardeva in 15th century Assam, the dance form of Sattriya is known for encompassing its rich traditional rituals which is displayed in form of a composite art of Ankiya naat ( a form of Assamese one-act plays) blended incredibly with music, poetry and story-telling and is usually performed in Sattras, as Assam's monasteries are called.Whereas some of the other traditions have been revived in the recent past, Sattriya has remained a living tradition since its creation by the saint. As the tradition developed and grew within the sattras, the dance form came to be called Sattriya Nritya. Today, although the dance form has emerged from within the confines of the sattras to a much wider recognition, the sattras continue to use it for ritualistic and other purposes for which it was originally created five hundred years ago.
The evening of 27th March, Sunday, at the India International Centre, New Delhi, was delightfully charmed by the magnificence of the classical technique of Sattriya dance, poetry, song, music, drumming and dancing traditions presented by Sanjukta Barooah Swargari, followed by the traditional 'Ranga Pravesha' ceremony which also entitled Sanjukta to establish herself as the first Sattriya dancer from the Delhi- NCR region.'Ranga' means performing stage and 'Pravesha' means enter is a similar procedure for ascending one learner to the stage as a dancer, who resided out side of the Sattra. As per, traditions of Sattriya school of dancing a Natuwa (dancer) is known to be qualified while he/she is able to perform in ritualistic ceremonials of Namghar. The Sattra authority awarded to learners as a Natuwa with celebrating a ceremony called Natuwa Uthuwa (Ascend as dancer). On this occasion, Adhyapak Gupiram Bargayan Burhabhakat graced the Ranga Pravesha ceremony of Sanjukta Barooah Swargari and as a representative of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra tradition, he offered the auspicious Nirmali, brought with him from Majuli.
Adhyapak Bhabananda Barbayan, who trained Sanjukta, was three and a half years old when his parents gifted him to Uttar Kamalabari Sattra, one of the prominent Vaishnavite monasteries of Assam in keeping to their family tradition for the tenth generation. From the very next year, he started learning the Sattriya dance and at 17, became the youngest Barbayan (one of the 12 cultural heads) of the Sattra. Today, Adhyapak Barbayan is creating Sattriya awareness in Delhi, through his school initiated by Assam Association in the Srimanta Sankardev Bhawan premisis. "I have been teaching Sanjukta this divine art form for the last two years now, and I have always known her to be a sincere, dedicated and extremely hard working student. I have been impressed with her determination and genuine love for the art. It has been a pleasure to have taught her in the tradition of the "Guru Shishya Parampara" to pass on the knowledge from my own Gurus," Bhabananda Barbayan said.
The chief guest of the function, scholar and eminent dance critic, Arshia Sethi, is actively involved in research of Sattriya dance and culture of Assam. According to Sethi, "The most unique aspect of the arts that are nurtured at the sattras is that they are part of a living cultural tradition. They still command devotion from the more traditional Assamese and attract new followers into their fold, following a more demanding commitment from their members as celibate monks." Further she interestingly points out that, this particular dance form is 'non-texted'. "Teaching and pedagogy has been through oral transmission, and memory has been the key-conserving factor. Although there is a 16th century text-Shubhankar™s Hastamuktavali written in Sanskrit with Assamese rendering, any reference to it in the practice and rendering of the dance, is purely incidental," Sethi said.The highly successful event marked the revival of a rich culture on the larger platform. To expand and explore the heritage of the age old living tradition, Sattriya 'Ranga Pravesh' by Sanjukta Barooah Swargari is a step forward to stir up the relevance of such a great art form in the global scale.