Traditional Dance forms of  Assam


Folk and Classical Dances of Assam

Along with the tradition of other forms, dance and music has always played a very important role in enhancing the cultural glory of Assam which is richly inherent in the social customs and rituals in various spheres. Female participation among the tribes is the Karbis, the Dimasa Kacharis, the Zemi Nagas and the Kukis in the hill and the Boro Kacharis, the Misings, the Rabhas, the Tiwas the Hazons and the Deoris.

Karbi: The Jongra dance of the Karbis is performed to celebrate the mirth and grandeur of the nature’s elements.

Dimasa Kacharis : The Dimasa Kacharis of the north Kachar hill district celebrate busu a post harvest festival by performing a group dance known as Dimasa young boys and girls in traditional costume dance in pairs in the open space generally on moonlight nights.

Zemi Nagas and the Kukis: A number of colorful varieties of dances of different Naga groups represented by male and female are associated with their festivals.

The bamboo dance of Kukis which resembles the famous Mizo bamboo dance involves a lot of care caution and patience on the part of the dancers.

Boro Kacharis: Boro Kacharis celebrated the spring time Baisagu festival and marriage ceremonies with dance and merriment just around the harvest season, the Boro woman perform a dance with vigorous movements to invite rain. The Maho Hunoi is another dance performed by the Boro Kacharis to derive away mosquitoes.

Misings: The Ali Ai Lingang ( first sowing of seeds) is the prime festival which is celebrated on the first Wednesday of the month of Fagun. Groups of male and female dancers and drummers also visit other villages to participate in drumming and dancing competition. The Misings also celebrate Bihu by performing their distinctive style of Bihu dance accompanied by Mising Oi Nitam and also Assamese Bihu songs.

Rabhas: The Rabha tribe has a rich and colourful dance tradition primarily associated with their various festivals. The Rabhas dance representing hunting and community fishing.

Hazongs: A number of significant Hazong dancers are associated with agricultural activities. During the preparation of soil for plough, the young Hazong boys and the girls perform Lewatona dance in the field. Charmaga is an important festival of the Hazong tribes.

Tiwa: The Tiwas of the hill celebrate the spring festival Sugra Misawa with song and dances which reflect the spirit of the spring youth and love. The Tiwas worship nature and perform various rituals to preserve it by observing Langhaun festival around December and January. The Tiwas celebrate the Pisu (Bihu) at the advent of the spring season.

Deoris: The celebration of Bahagiya Bisy (mid April) and Maghiya Bisy are the chief festivals of the Deoris.

The Tea Tribes: The tea garden labours in the tea gardens of Assam were recruited by the British Planters in the later part of the 19th century mostly from Bihar, Orrisa, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamilnadu etc. Jhumur songs and dances occupy a very prominent place in the life of tea labour community.

Folk Dance Forms of Assam

Bihu: Bihu is full of vigour and jubilation. It is generally danced in group by young boys and girls where rhythm is uniformly maintained by the drummers, pipe blowers and all other accompanist who play various traditional instruments like Toka, Gogana, Pepa, Flute, Cymbals, Suthuli. It is interesting to note that in the past, Bihu songs were composed extempore and they embraced a number of themes which were based on Nature, environment day to day activities and also the erotic ways of the youth. Evidently, love and emotions instinct of the heart is the key note of most of Bihu songs.

Ojapali dance belongs to one of the very ancient traditional performing art forms of Assam. The distinctive type of folk drama performance is presented through choral singing accompanied by dances and gestures depicting the meaning of the narration. An Ojapali troupe consists of an Oja and four to five Palis or assistants. The chief of the assistants or Pali is known as Daina Plai.

Another important festival associated with serpent goddess Manasa or Maroi Puza is the Deuddhani festival held in Kamakhya Temple every year from the last day of Sravana to the second day of Bhadra. An inspired dance performed by a male dancer known as Deodha is the most significant part of the festival.

Besides the above mentioned dances, there are some other folk dances of Assam, which are performed entirely by woman. They are Devadasi, Spi, etc.

Classical Dance Forms of Assam

Sattriya was recognized as one of the major dance forms of India in the year 2000. The graceful Sattriya style, which has all the ingredients of Indian Classical dance, was created by the 15th century Vaisnava Saint and reformer Shankardeva who was a great artist and musicians of rare genius himself. The Sattriya dance numbers appended to the one act play known as Ankia Bhaona which was composed by Shankardeva and his principal apostle Madhadeva. Most of the Sattriya dance numbers belong to Ankia Bhoona representing various stages and situations in a particular play in progress.

Folk Elements in the classical forms

Folk culture is the basis of all the classical or refined forms of human culture, like its counterparts in India, the classical Sattriya dance of Assam grew out of the traditional synthesis of the ingenious cultural influences.  

Description and Analysis of Female Dances of Folk Form

Devadasi Dance: Devadasi is a Sanskrit term, which literally means female servant of the deity. This term has been in vogue in India in relation to religious practice. Hayagriva Madhava Mandir of Hajo had a distinctive identity of being a Visnuite temple unlike other centers of Devadasi culture of Assam. Opinions vary regarding the antiquity of the tradition at various temples. However, it is believed that the Devadasi tradition had been prevalent in Hazo much earlier then the temple of Negherting and Dubi Mrdanga and tall were the two main instruments that accompanied the dancers here. The dancers were well trained in every aspects of music. During the performance in the evening hour Nati used to cover their head and face with transparent veils.

Deodhani Dance: Deodhani is a ritualistic dance associated with Manasa culture or snake worship and forms a part of an age old tradition of choral singing and semi dramatic folk form known as Suknanni Ojapali, This Shamanistic dance is usually performed by an unmarried girl who has to observe a number of ritualistic customs.

Bihu Dance: The Bihu dance is an integral part of the spring time. Bihu festival, which is the most cherished festive occasion of joy and merriment for the Assamese people. Bihu songs and dances performed by young man and woman reflect youthful passion and sprit offspring season and also the agricultural and pastoral experiences.

Description and Analysis of Female Dance of Classical form

The Sattriya dance of Assam has one of the major forms of India with all the classical ingredients inherent in it. Cali Nac is one of the most graceful of Sattriya dances which represents feminine grace and sentiments. The guru carit puthis indicate that cali nac was created by Madhabadeva in Barpeta Sattra. The cali nac is consisted of three main parts, namely Ramdani, Gita nac and Mela nac.

Gopi Bhangi represents the dance of the milkmaids of Vraja and other woman characters of the dramas composed by Shankardeva and Madhavadeba. Among the woman characters mention may be made of Yosoda, Rukmini, Sita, Satyabhama etc. Gopi nac is divided into two parts Bajanar nac and Slokar nac. The origin of Apsara nrtya is associated with the story of Gobardhana Dharan by Krishna. In Auniti Sattra, this dance is popularly known as Apsora nrtya and performed during Bohag and Magh Bihu. In Dakshinpat Sattra this dance is known as Indra vishek festival celebrated on the third day of Raslila. Sattriya dances originally formed a part of the Sattriya drama. Sthana plays an important role for both the male and female characters.



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