A webinar series on different facets of Sankaradeva studies, organized by Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva, was started with the maiden lecture programme by Dr Arshiya Sethi, a dance scholar and Fulbright fellow from New Delhi on 19th December 2021. She talked about “Going Global: Sankaradeva and the Living Arts of the Sattras.” The program was moderated by Dr. Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, author and scholar of Sankari culture.
Dr Arshiya Sethi referred to the recognition of Sattriya dance at the national level on November 15, 2000 and spoke about the challenges that came after that in her lecture. She gave special reference to the devotees residing in the Sattras, the Vaishnav monasteries of Assam. The recognition was accompanied by a change in its practising population, a re-gendering of its performers, a change in its location from sacred to secular, as well as a change in its agenda and content, she said.
Flushed with new patronage since 2000, it has developed along with diverted aesthetics, Dr Sethi said. However, in the context of the monasteries that produced and nurtured the dance, the receptivity was high. Thus, the first impetus of the global valorisation of Sankaradeva came from the living arts of the Sattras, particularly its dance called Sattriya. Whether in France, UK, USA, Mexico or New Zealand, audiences around the globe embraced its rarity and “authenticity”. This has kindled an interest in Sankardeva and his philosophy, Dr Sethi opined.
Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, in his comments, said that many aberrations have been seen in the aftermath of the new recognition by ill-trained performers. Over experimentation is also a menace as it will hurt the original features of the art form. It is the need of the hour to have a controlling body in order to prevent such distortions. The authenticity of the entire Sattriya culture will be at stake, he warned.
Among others, Dr. Ratul Chandra Bora, former Registrar of Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva Viswavidyalaya, Shilpika Bordoloi from Jorhat and Priyadarshini Dutta from the USA gave their observations on the lecture. They highlighted the pressure coming on the performers in the wake of recognition of Sattriya as classical dance and stressed on preservation of the originality in the dance form. The role of academicians was also stressed upon. Mridu Moucham Bora, Secretary of Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva, offered a vote of thanks.
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