The principal form of classical dance in Assam
is the Satriya. Although throughout its ancient history, as recorded by travelers
like Hieun- Tsang and others, this land prided
itself on dances like Nati and Ojapali,
it was only with the birth of Sankaradeva
in the mid-fifteenth century that a clear classical form emerged. Possessed as
he was with religious fervor, Sankaradeva presented performances all over India,
against painted backdrops. Essentially these dances related to the Vishnu
cult and Sankaradeva was trying
to cajole a corrupt and degraded society out
of slumber. He himself participated as Vishnu. This form, the Chinna Yatra became
the starting point for the emergence of a new and distinct genre, which came to
be called Ankia Nat.
Celibate monks form the core of participants of this form of art. Krishna,
as an incarnation of Vishnu is the most celebrated figure. The philosophy of Sankaradeva
is crystallized in the six works he wrote which now form the basis of Ankia Nat.
These plays are performed in satras, or schools for scriptural learning. Hence
the name, Satriya.