Sattriya Dances of Assam and Their Rhythms

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Maheswar Neog
Publication Board, 1973 - Balls (Parties) - 474 pages
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Dr Neog’s work on the Sattriya and allied dances of Assam
SRIHASTAMUKTAVALI
Dr Neog’s work on the Sattriya and allied dances of Assam was a crowning achievement
of his life. Here, Dr Neog had gone deep into the nature of dancelores, living very vibrant in the Vaishnava monasteries of Assam. That there are certain departures from the other four Indian Classical dances defined earlier,has been pointed out by him in his earlier work, a very well-edited version of Subhankara Kavi’s Srihastamuktavali where he traced all the distinctive peculiarities of Assamese dancelores. Srihastamuktavali is the most distinctive treatise on the language of hands in dancing, in Sanskrit.Even a single hand like Pataka has as many as 213 Viniyogas or application.This is seen in no other treatise of dance. A manuscript of the work was found in the manuscript library of Auniati Sattra, Assam, Dr Neog worked on the treatise as a lonely undertaking and had published :
(1)Half of the work with the Sanskrit text and an old Assamese Chaya in the monthly journal Ramdhenu in the year fifties.
(2) The Sanskrit text serially in the Journal of the Music Academy, Madras in 1953-1957 .
(3) A version of the original Sanskrit as well as old Assamese gloss published by Publication Board, Assam .1964
(4) The Sanskrit text published from Asam Sahitya Sabha with assistance of Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, Government of India . 1968
(5) A deluxe edition with complete English rendering of the Sanskrit text and an elaborate critical introduction published by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi in 1992 and released by the than Prime Minister of India, Shri P.V.Narasimha Rao. Dr Neog received a photo copy of fragmentary manuscript styles as Hasta Ratnavali written by Raghavaraya , King of Navadipa, and he also obtained a transcript of the manuscript from the Bodlean Library of Oxford University. Its text was utilized for textual comparison with the Assam manuscript of Srihastamuktavali .The contents although restricted to the hastas ,again reflect the direct relationship with the Natyasastra tradition on the one hand and the regional traditions of hand –gestures known as mudras in the KalikaPurana tradition of Kamarupa.Dr Neog makes a very interesting comparison between mudras mentioned in the Kalika Purana and the hastas mentioned in the Srihastamuktavali,.The text is important for making comparisons for not only with the Natyasastra, but also the Abhinaya darpana and the Sangita ratnakara ,
It is pertinent to mention here that Dr Neog’s paper titled “Indian classical dance literature and Subhankara Kavi’s Hastamuktavali presented at the National Dance Seminar, Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi in 1958 was highly appreciated and drew the attention of dance critics and scholars of the country present in the seminar to give a thought that the Sattriya Dance tradition of Assam should be considered as Classical dance of India. It drew the attention of the Akademi and Ministry of Cultural Affairs , Government of India head. An Expert Committee was formed which included Dr Neog , and the matter ended with the Akademi’s decision to offer national awards for Odissi, Kuchipidi, Sattriya and Ojapali , Yakshagana etc. which were termed as traditional dances .Late Maniram Dutta Bayon Muktiar was awarded national award by the Akademi fir the first time for the year 1961-62 un 1963 at the persuasion of Dr Neog followed by Late Gajan Chandra Goswami for Ankia Nat in 1969 . Late Roseswar Saikia Bayon was awarded in 1980 for Sattriya Dances. Late Lalit Chandra Ojha was awarded national award for Ojapali in 1985.
RESEARCH IN THE VAISHNAVA MUSIC AND DANCE
Speaking about the role of Sangeet Natak Akademi , the
 

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While the study and interpretation of art and culture have been Dr Neog’s forte, his greatest contribution is towards Sankaradeva studies and more particularly in unfolding the great treasures of the Sankaradeva movement in 15-17th centuries. Dr Neog lived the life of a crusader for the establishment of Assam’s traditional music, dance and drama in their rightful places in the hall of glory of India’s art and culture. With his skilful, painstaking and exacting vision he steadily and relentlessly carried on his crusade presenting papers and giving academic discourse in various national seminars where he unfolded before the cognoscenti of Indian art the distinctive tradition of Assam enduring as ritualistic ones in the monasteries (sattras) or as part of its socio-religious pursuits. The studies made by the Professor are themselves among the best on the subject – with the relevant material culled both from the old texts as well as from the best known institutions and individuals. Dr Neog was invited by Sangeet Natak Akademy to participate in the National Music Seminar where he gave a lecture cum demonstration on Tradition of classical music of Assam in 1957 in New Delhi and put forward the claim strongly and scientifically that the vaisnsavite music system or bargit do have the merits to be recognised as a classical system which was appreciated by all the national scholars who were present in the seminar. This was followed by the National Dance Seminar in 1958 where he presented two papers one on Indian Classical Dance literature and Subhankara Kavi’s Hastamuktavali and the other was Classical Dance tradition of Assam. These two seminars and the papers presented by Dr Neog can be said to be a crowning achievement of his life. In his presentation Dr Neog proved that Assamese dancelores represents what may be termed as fifth school of Indian classical dance. This prompted the Ministry of Education,Scientific Research and culture to form an Expert Committee which included Dr Neog also as an expert, to go into the question whether apart from the four accepted systems of classical Indian dance other forms like Kathakali, Bhagavatamela, Sattriya Dance etc., should also be recognised as classical.The expert committee met in Madras in 1958 and decided that outstanding artists in these traditional forms should be honored and secondly materials may be collected and documented with a view to have a comprehensive classification of dance forms prevalent in the country. The General Council of Sangeet Natak Akademi in its meeting on 12th March 1960 decided to confer Akademi awards to exponents of traditional dance form other than the usually recognised four. The first category included Sattriya Dance of Assam and Maniram Dutta Muktiyar, the Chief Dance Guru of Kamalabari Sattra was the first to receive this award.The recognition of the Sattriya Dance as a Major Tradition of Indian Dance by the national Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2000 is the culmination of long drawn efforts first undertaken by Dr Neog in association with the Akademi and in itself is a homage to this great tradition , its exponents in the past and present, and specially to the contributions of Dr Neog. In recognition to Dr Neog’s outstanding research, Sangeet Natak Akademi elected him as its Fellow (Ratna sadasya) in 1995 .
Professor Maheswar Neog felt the role of culture and relevance of Sankaradeva in building up the nation and mentioned in his speech as president of Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1974 "The call of Sankaradeva was the call for a comprehensive culture and high spiritual values. That is why there is still a relevance of this 16th century saint .We ought to have a scientific analysis of that relevance with its root in the life of the people. We should also try to have an assessment and a modern resuscitation of the art forms included in the Sankaradeva movement. In the west no body can call himself a properly educated and cultured man unless he also understands the symphonies of Beethoven and
 

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