Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya, is a major Indian classical dance. It is a dance-drama performance art with origins in the Krishna-centered Vaishnavism monasteries of Assam and attributed to the 15th-century Bhakti movement scholar and saint Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev.
One act plays of Sattriya are called Ankiya Nat, which combine the aesthetic and the religious through a ballad, dance, and drama. The plays are usually performed in the dance community halls (Namgar) of monastery temples (sattras). The themes played are related to Lord Krishna, sometimes other Vishnu avatars such as Rama and Sita, and stories from the epics (Mahabharata and Ramayana) are also referred to. The philosophic religion of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva was based on Vedanta, Bhagavadgītā, and the Bhāgavata Purāna, so there is no presence of Radha in Sattriya dance presentations.
In 2000, the Sangeet Natak Akademi of India recognized Sattriya as a classical dance. Modern Sattriya explores many themes and plays, and its performances are staged worldwide.
Sattriya is a classical dance of India, tracing its roots to ancient drama and music texts of India, particularly Bharata Muni's Nātya Śāstra. Its first complete compilation is dated to between 200 BCE and 200 CE, but estimates vary between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The most studied version of the Nātya Śāstra text consists of about 6000 verses structured into 36 chapters. The text describes the theory of Tāṇḍava dance (Shiva), the theory of rasa, bhāva, expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, standing postures all of which are part of Indian classical dances. Dance and performance arts, states this ancient text, are a form of expression of spiritual ideas, virtues, and the essence of scriptures.
The history of dance arts in Assam goes back to antiquity, as evidenced by copper plate inscriptions and sculptures relating to Shaivism and Shaktism traditions. Singing and musical traditions, similarly, have been traced to the Assamese chorus singing tradition for the Hindu epics: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Monasteries and temples in Assam, called satras, have dance halls (Namghar) for Sattriya. Above: Namghar entrance.
The modern form of Sattriya is attributed to the 15th century Sankaradeva, who systematized the dance using the ancient texts and introduced drama and expressive dancing (nritta and nritya) as a form of a community religious art for emotional devotion to Krishna.
Since the 15th century, the Sattriya art grew as part of the Vaishnava bhakti movement, in Hindu monasteries called Sattra. The art was developed and practiced by monks in the form of dance dramas about legends and mythologies of Krishna, particularly from texts such as the Bhāgavata Purāna. One distinctive part of the Sattriya dance inside temples and monasteries is that the dance is not celebrated before any idol, but is performed before a copy of the Bhagavata Purana placed in the eastern (sunrise) corner called Manikut of the dance hall (Namgar).
These dance dramas were, in the early days, written and directed by the Assamese poet-saint Sankaradeva, and by his principal disciple Madhavadeva. They were mostly composed during the 16th century. Once the domain of male monks, it is now performed by the male as well as female dancers. In the second half of the 20th century, Sattriya Nritya moved from the sanctum of Assam's sattras / monasteries to the metropolitan stage.