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The Sattriya dance form was introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahapurusha Sankaradeva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaishnava faith. The dance form evolved and expanded as a distinctive style of dance later on. This neo-Vaishnava treasure of Assamese dance and drama has been, for centuries, nurtured and preserved with great commitment by the Sattras i.e. Vaishnava maths or monasteries. Because of its religious character and association with the Sattras, this dance style has been aptly named Sattriya.

Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya is one among the eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. Recognized in 2000 as a classical dance by Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Sattriya is the most recent entrant in this list. Whereas some of the other traditions have been revived in the recent past, Sattriya has remained a living tradition since its creation by the medieval polymath Srimanta Sankardev in 15th century Assam.

Sattriya was further extended and defined by Sankardev's disciple Madhavdev for performances of Ankia Naat (a form of Assamese one-act plays devised by them), which were usually performed in the sattras (monasteries) associated with the Ekasarana dharma. As the tradition developed and grew within the sattras, the dance form came to be known as Sattriya Nritya, a name first coined by Maheswar Neog. Today, although Sattriya Nritya has emerged from within the confines of the sattras to a much wider recognition, the sattras continue to use the dance form for ritualistic and other purposes for which it was originally created about 500 years ago.

Dance
The core of Sattriya Nritya has usually been mythological stories. This was an artistic way of presenting mythological teachings to the people in an accessible, immediate, and enjoyable manner. Traditionally, Sattriya was performed only by bhokots (male monks) in monasteries as a part of their daily rituals or to mark special festivals. Today, in addition to this practice, Sattriya is also performed on stage by men and women who are not members of the sattras, on themes not merely mythological.

Sattriya Nritya is divided into many aspects: Apsara Nritya, Behar Nritya, Chali Nritya, Dasavatara Nritya, Manchok Nritya, Natua Nritya, Rasa Nritya, Rajaghariya Chali Nritya, Gosai Prabesh, Bar Prabesh, Gopi Prabesh, Jhumura, Nadu Bhangi, and Sutradhara, to name but a few - these being the counterpart to items in Bharata Natyam. Like the other seven schools of Indian Classical dance, Sattriya Nritya encompasses the principles required of a classical dance form: the treatises of dance and dramaturgy, like Natyashastra, Abhinaya Darpana, and Sangit Ratnakara; a distinct repertoire (marg) and the aspects of nritta (pure dance), nritya (expressive dance), and natya (abhinaya).

Sattriya Nritya is accompanied by musical compositions called borgeets (composed by Sankardeva and Shree Shree madhavdev, among others) which are based on classical ragas. The instruments that accompany a traditional performance are khols (drums), taals (cymbals) and the flute. Other instruments like the violin and the harmonium have been recent additions.

The costumes are usually made of pat a silk produced in Assam which is derived from the mulberry plant and woven with intricate local motifs. There are two types of costumes: the male costume comprising the dhoti and chadar and the female costume comprising the ghuri and chadar. The waist cloth which is known as the kanchi or kingkini is worn by both the male and female dancers. The ornaments, too, are based on traditional Assamese design.

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