Sattriya Nritya – A Majestic Indian Classical Dance from Assam

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage


India is a land of rich cultural heritage, and its classical dance forms are renowned worldwide for their grace, expressions, and storytelling abilities. One such exquisite dance form is Sattriya Nritya, which originated in the northeastern state of Assam. Sattriya Nritya holds a special place in the Indian classical dance repertoire, with its distinct style, history, and cultural significance. In this blog post, we will delve into the enchanting world of Sattriya Nritya, exploring its origins, unique features, and the impact it has made on the Indian dance landscape.

Origins and Historical Significance:

Sattriya Nritya traces its roots back to the Vaishnavite monasteries or ‘sattras’ of Assam, which were established by the revered saint and social reformer, Srimanta Sankardeva, during the 15th century. Sankardeva, along with his disciple Madhavdeva, infused spiritual and devotional elements into this dance form, making it a medium for expressing religious stories and teachings.

Initially, Sattriya Nritya was performed exclusively within the confines of the sattras by male monks known as ‘bhokots,’ who used it as a medium to propagate religious messages and disseminate spiritual knowledge. However, with time, the dance form expanded beyond the monasteries and evolved into a revered classical dance tradition, breaking gender barriers and allowing female performers to participate.

Distinctive Features and Aesthetics:

Sattriya Nritya is known for its elegant movements, subtle expressions, and intricate footwork. The dance form draws inspiration from the rich cultural tapestry of Assam, incorporating elements from the region’s folk traditions, tribal dances, and even the graceful gestures of the local wildlife. The dance movements in Sattriya Nritya can be categorized into two broad types: ‘nritta,’ which focuses on pure dance movements, and ‘nritya,’ which emphasizes storytelling and expressions.

The costume and makeup in Sattriya Nritya are distinct and visually captivating. The dancers adorn themselves in vibrant traditional attire, typically consisting of a silk dhoti, chadar (wraparound cloth), and a headdress adorned with peacock feathers. The face is painted white, with prominent red lips and black-lined eyes, lending an ethereal charm to the performers.

Themes and Repertoire:

Sattriya Nritya encompasses a wide range of themes and narratives, primarily derived from Hindu mythology and the Vaishnavite philosophy. The dance often portrays episodes from the life of Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, and other deities, showcasing their divine exploits and teachings. Through intricate hand gestures, facial expressions, and body movements, the dancers vividly bring these stories to life, evoking a range of emotions and captivating the audience.

Sattriya Nritya Performances:

Over the years, Sattriya Nritya has gained recognition as one of the major Indian classical dance forms, with performances held on both national and international platforms. Numerous talented dancers and gurus have dedicated themselves to preserving and promoting this traditional art form. Festivals such as the Sattriya Dance Festival and the Sankardeva Nrityotsav celebrate the beauty and essence of Sattriya Nritya, attracting artists, scholars, and enthusiasts from all corners of the world.

Preserving and Promoting Sattriya Nritya:

To safeguard the cultural heritage of Sattriya Nritya, efforts have been made to document and teach the dance form to future generations. Institutions such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Sattriya Akademi have played crucial roles in imparting training, conducting research, and organizing performances. Moreover, the inclusion of Sattriya Nritya in the list of Indian classical dance forms by the Sangeet Natak Akademi has further boosted its recognition and support.

Exploring the Enchanting Dimensions of Sattriya Nritya

There are a few additional aspects worth mentioning about Sattriya Nritya:

Musical Accompaniment:

Sattriya Nritya is often performed to live music, with the dancers being accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as the khol (a drum), taal (cymbals), flute, violin, and sometimes the traditional string instrument called the xutuli. The music adds depth and rhythm to the dance, enhancing the overall experience for the audience.

Guru-Shishya Parampara:

Like other classical dance forms in India, Sattriya Nritya follows the age-old guru-shishya parampara (teacher-disciple tradition). Knowledge and skills are passed down from gurus (teachers) to shishyas (disciples) through rigorous training and dedicated practice. This ensures the continuity and authenticity of the art form.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage:

In 2019, Sattriya Nritya was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This recognition acknowledges the significance and cultural value of the dance form, and it further encourages its preservation and promotion both within India and on the global stage.

Fusion and Contemporary Adaptations:

While Sattriya Nritya maintains its traditional essence, it has also embraced fusion and contemporary adaptations. Collaborations with other dance forms and experiments with innovative choreography have allowed Sattriya Nritya to evolve and connect with diverse audiences, making it relevant in today’s artistic landscape.

Socio-Cultural Impact:

Sattriya Nritya has played a vital role in shaping the socio-cultural fabric of Assam. It serves as a means of cultural expression, social cohesion, and identity preservation. The dance form has also contributed to tourism and cultural exchange, attracting visitors from around the world to witness its mesmerizing performances and learn about the unique heritage of Assam.

By exploring these additional aspects, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of the beauty, significance, and evolving nature of Sattriya Nritya as a major Indian classical dance form from Assam.


Sattriya Nritya stands as a testament to the vibrant and diverse cultural tapestry of Assam and India as a whole. Its evolution from a sacred monastic dance to a celebrated classical form showcases the resilience and adaptability of traditional art forms. The beauty, spirituality, and grace of Sattriya Nritya continue to captivate audiences worldwide, while its practitioners and enthusiasts work tirelessly to ensure its preservation and growth.

As we witness the ongoing revival and popularity of Sattriya Nritya, let us celebrate this magnificent dance form, embracing its timeless charm and the stories it weaves through movement, expressions, and devotion.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Introducing Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar - a specialist academically trained in modern Western sciences, yet deeply enamored with India's timeless ethnic arts, crafts, and textiles. Her heart beats for the rich and glorious cultural and spiritual heritage of India, and she has dedicated her entire blog to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide. Through her simple yet impactful blog posts, Mala aims to reach every nook and corner of the globe, sharing India's beauty and wisdom with the world.

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