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Washington, Mar 25 (Canadian-Media): In continuation of Homegrown concerts in the Homegrown Plus series (HPS) of Library of Congress (LOC), Dancing Monks of Assam (DMA) Traditional Dance from Assam (India) of Sattriya Dance Company was performed in LOC, reports from LOC said.
Library of Congress. Image credit: Twitter handle
LOC, the world’s largest library, is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on site and online.
Homegrown concerts presented in the HPS are accompanied by oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post.
The dance form Sattriya is more than 500 years old and performed in the monastery, Uttar Kamalabari Satra on the island of Majuli in the Brahmaputra River, Assam and in 2016 it became on the Brahmaputra River -- first island to be made a district in India -- which became regionally famous as a center for these religious arts.
With the diminishing and in danger of extinction of this tradition by the middle of the 20th century, so monks from the monastery on Majuli began performing and teaching the dance in the local communities and also women in order to preserve it as a living tradition and spread its teachings.
Originally, the traditional dance of DMA was performed inside the monastery and so the monks played the roles of both men and women, as women were not allowed in the monasteries for centuries.
The Dancing Monks of Assam perform at the Library of Congress. The dance was originally performed inside the monastery and so the monks played the roles of both men and women, as is done here/ Courtesy of Stephen Winick, 2018.
Guru Raseswar Saikia Barbayan, who passed away in 2000 was responsible for bringing Sattriya to stages outside the monastery and was the first to train women.
This was a revolutionary change and extremely controversial, but the experiment was successful as the dance became revitalized in the communities.
As it was inappropriate for monks to dance with the women whom they taught, women did the dances together.
In 2009 The Sattriya Dance Company was launched in Philadelphia with a mission to tell the story of Sattriya and raise awareness about Majuli and its monastery through performances, lecture demonstrations, and classes.
It is the first Sattriya dance company in the United States.
The spread of Sattriya outside the monastery in communities of Assam, has helped in its revival; nevertheless religious aspects of the dance remain an important part of the presentation.
With the popularity of Sattriya dance and being recognized as one of the classical dances of India, there is a greater chance of its spreading, not only through India but to other parts of the world.
It has gone through understandable changes as it has adapted to new performers and venues, but hoped that reportedly it will continue to retain and preserve much of the traditional and sacred character taught by the monks.