Ankiya Bhaona- to get new lease of life

Guwahati: Assam`s traditional theatre, `Ankiya Bhaona` with its roots embedded deep in the Vaishnav monasteries or `Satras`, is set to get a new lease of life with an initiative by a state apex body to popularise it among diverse communities.

Bhaona was traditionally confined to satras with performances strictly confined to those associated with these monasteries. "Earlier, Ankiya Bhaona was rarely performed outside the broad periphery of the satra, but we have realised that it is now time to walk an extra mile to build inter community bridges in Assam as an investment in social security and social capital," President of Asom Satra Mahasabha, Lilakanta Mahanta said.

Mahasabha, the apex body of around 600 Satra institutions of the state, along with the Srimanta Sankar Foundation, organises an annual Bhaona festival titled `Setubandha` or building bridges involving various ethnic tribes.

"The theatre festival is an endeavour towards integration, peace and harmony among all sections of Assamese society as ethnic groups and tribes have also expressed their desire to be a part of Vaishnav traditions and be an equal stakeholder in the state`s socio-economic ethos," President of Srimanta Foundation Keshavananda Deva Goswami said. .

Ankiya Bhaona, apart from its artistic and aesthetic elegance, was envisaged as a medium of communication and emotional integration at varying levels by the great Vaishnav saint, Sankardeva, in 15th century, Goswami said. "Our aim now is to bridge the cultural and emotional distance growing among the different sections of the society and to unite the diverse communities through cultural assimilation," he said.

Mahanta pointed out that they had initiated the process a few years ago with 25 bhaonas performed by various communities like Tiwa, Mishing, Sonowal Kachari, Bodo, Tea tribes, Karbis, Rabha, Nepali, Moran, Rajbongshi, Singpho among others.

"In the earlier programmes, however, the bhaonas were performed in the original form, i.e in the language of the plays written by Sankardeva and his main disciple Madhavdeva but for the first time in history, two plays were performed in Bodo and Mishing language this year," he said.

Sangeet Natak Akademi`s Sattriya Kendra Centre here also organised a five-day Ankiya Bhaona Samorah to propagate, spread and revive the traditional Sattriya culture and heritage among the youth.

"Due to changes in society and the advent of modernism, people tend to shift to something new and forget their own culture and heritage. With this in mind, we are trying to bring back the people, particularly the youth, to their roots," SNA`s Programme Officer Raju Das said.

Bhaona owes its origin to the unique genre of plays, evolved by Sankardeva and his disciple Madhavdeva, and is a kind of dance-drama with songs and dialogues in Brajavali.