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Documenting An Art Form

Juanita Kakoty

Edited by Sunil Kothari
Marg, Mumbai, 2013, pp. 160, Rs. 4284.00


The book under review is an absolute vi- sual delight. And adding weight to the beauty of the hardbound book is the tremendous value each page holds as a source of information and knowledge about Sattriya dance.   The book boasts of contributions by eminent experts in the field including the likes of Maheswar Neog, multifaceted scholar of Assamese arts, culture and literature, distinguished academician Pradip Jyoti Mahanta who has made an outstanding contribution related to the issue of Vaishnava renaissance in Assam, leading Sattriya dance and music exponent Jagannath Mahanta, eminent art historian Kapila Vatsyayan, traditional exponent par excellence of the Sattriya dance form Ghanakanta Bora, et al.   Sattriya dance is the form of mythological dance drama initiated by the Vaishnava saint and social reformer Sankaradeva and his principal disciple Madhavadeva in the 16th century. The dance form which hinges on ‘bhakti’, received recognition as the eighth classical dance form of India in the year 2000. This book maps the history and evolution of the dance form and quite academically engages with the precincts that make it a classical form.   What makes the book a good source of reference is not only the contributions by the eminent exponents and scholars in the field but also the fact that it taps the very essence of Sattriya culture: a fact possible due to the enormous time dance historian Sunil Kothari spent in the field. The book will be an asset not only for the researcher but also the connoisseur and the novice for its easy language and flow of chapters.   Kothari has spent several years visiting different sattras all over Assam, watching performances and documenting this dance form. In fact, as mentioned in the book, he was researching on Sattriya dance even before it received recognition as a classical dance form. The long period of, as well as deep, involvement with the dance form exposed Kothari to its different nuances and put him in touch with leading exponents. Which, in my view, explains the quality of the articles in the book. With the vast engagement and exposure behind him, Kothari, perhaps, could sense what aspects the book should cover and who should contribute.   The articles span quite a range starting from the origin and evolution of Sattriya dance to the different aspects in technique, music and instruments used etc. We learn that Sattriya dance gets its name from the Vaishnavaite monasteries—sattras, set ...

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