The word Sattriya is derived from the word ‘Sattra’, because till then the dance recitals were exclusively practiced within the compounds of a Sattra, a monastery like institution which was the epicentre of the Vaishanvite culture. Srimanta Sankardev during 15th & 16th century brought about a renaissance which strung the society together into a cultural and social whole and can be said without doubt that it was this resurgence in the society that shaped the present day Assam. It is as a Classical Indian dance which reflects Indian culture, its legacy and heritage of over 5000 years.
Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev used the charm of art and culture to intertwine his philosophy of monotheism i.e. Vaishnavism so that it could be used as a medium of instruction. To spread this art form, Sankardev used as a tool the style of story telling through drama called the Ankia Naat which depicted the life of Lord Krishna & Lord Rama and numerous dances were included in those Ankia Naats created by Him. At later stage, his chief disciple Sri Sri Madhavdev and other apostle created some newer numbers.
With time, many names were used like Nadu bhangi, Jhumura Naach, Chali-Nach, Behar Nach, Sutradhari, Gosain Pravesh, Gopi Pravesh, Ojapali Nach to name a few, but today in common parlance it is known as Sattriya, thanks to Dr. Maheswar Neog who understood the need for a singular identity rather than the confusion of various names. The sattriya dance can be classified into two styles namely Paurashik Bhangi i.e Tandav or masculine style & Shtri bhangi i.e Lasya or feminine style. The history of Sattriya goes back centuries; however, it saw the light of the outside world only in the 60s of 20th century when it was first preformed outside the Sattra. Credit goes to Late Moniram Dutta Muktiar Barbayan & Late Raseswar Saikia Borbayan. These two exponents were rewarded by Sangeet Natak Akademi in the year 1963 & 1980 respectively, a much needed impetus to a dance at such a nascent stage. However, the contribution of eminent personality Dr. Bhupen Hazarika is noteworthy in the field of Sattriya Dance.
The dance has every flavour of a matured art form but it does not share the same pedestal as other classical dance forms of India. The reason for its lesser popularity is because the dance stayed inside the Sattras and limited to the Bhakats (disciple) only until the middle of the 20th century. Finally, the Sangeet Natak Akademi of India, in November 2000, accorded Sattriya dance with the status of a Classical form. After recognition, the youth have shown their interest to learn this dance very eagerly. Various Sattriya exponents are composing newer pieces breaking the monotony of older compositions captivating the hearts of the youngsters. However, this has not come at the cost of the basic tenets of Sattriya. Nartan Kala Niketan of Guwahati in Assam, a premier institution of Sattriya dance is relentlessly pursuing this goal to promote and popularise this dance across the globe through their performances. The road map for the future involves the participation of the performers, institutions, patrons & media in particular which is the window to the outside world.