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 the propagation of the Vaishnava faith.
This Indian dance form evolved and expanded as a distinct 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 was aptly named Sattriya.
Sankaradeva introduced this dance form by incorporating different elements from various treatises, local folk dance with his own rare outlook.
There were two dance forms prevalent in Assam before the neo- Vaishnava movement such as Ojapali and Devadasi with many classical elements.
Two varieties of Ojapali dances are still prevalent in Assam i.e. Sukananni or Maroi Goa Ojah and Vyah Goa Ojah.
Sukananni Oja paali
- Sukananni Oja paali is of Sakti cult
Vyah Goa Oja paali
- Vyah Goa Oja paali is of the Vaishnava cult.
- Sankaradeva included Vyah Goa Ojah into his daily rituals in Sattra.
- Till now Vyah Goa Ojah is a part of the rituals of the Sattars of Assam.
The dancers in the Oja pali chorus not only sing and dance but also explain the narration by gestures and stylized movements. As far as Devadasi dance is concerned, the resemblance of a good number of rhythmic syllables and dance postures along with footwork with Sattriya dance is a clear indication of the influence of the former on the latter.
Other visible influences on Sattriya dance are those from Assamese folk dances namely Bihu, Bodos, etc. Many hand gestures and rhythmic syllables are strikingly similar in these dance forms.
Sattriya dance tradition is governed by strictly laid down principles in respect of hasta mudras, footwork, aharyas, music, etc.
This tradition has two distinctly separate streams-
- the Bhaona- related repertoire starting from Gayan-Bhayabnar Nach to the Kharmanar Nach,
- Secondly, the dance numbers are independent such as Chali, Rajagharia Chali, Jhumura Nadu Bhangi, etc.
Among them, the Chali is characterized by gracefulness and elegance, while the Jhumura is marked by the vigour and majestic beauty.