Assam: St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, to Host Event Showcasing Sattriya Dance and Mask Art of Majuli

Guwahati, 23rd May: St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, is set to host a special event on May 29, featuring the screening of the documentary “Mask Art of Majuli” and a lecture-demonstration on Sattriya dance led by Oonmona Das, an MPhil candidate in Global and Area Studies.

The event will commence at 3:30 pm in Maplethorpe Hall with Oonmona Das’s introductory session on Sattriya dance. Das will delve into the basics and philosophy of the dance form, providing participants with an opportunity to learn fundamental movements known as “Mati Akhoras” and specific dance compositions that highlight Sattriya’s uniqueness.

Following the dance demonstration, refreshments will be served before transitioning to the screening of the documentary. Produced by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) and directed by Utpal Borpujari, the film explores the mask-making traditions of the Sattras in Majuli, focusing on the Natun Chamaguri Satra, where only two families, including award-winning mask-maker Dr. Hem Chandra Goswami, continue this intricate art form.

Mask-making holds a significant role in Sattriya culture, particularly during Ankiya Bhaona performances, dance dramas based on Hindu mythology. Crafted using biodegradable materials, these masks, or “Mukha” in Assamese, embody a profound cultural tradition within the Vaishnavite monasteries of Majuli.

Originating in the 15th and 16th centuries from the Sattras established by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev, Sattriya dance was initially performed by male monks for religious rituals and to spread Vaishnavism. Over time, especially post-independence, Sattriya has gained popularity outside monastic institutions, evolving into a prominent performative art form embraced by both men and women.

Abu Metha, Advisor to the Chief Minister and Chairman of the Investment & Development Authority of Nagaland (IDAN), revealed that the idea for the documentary was inspired by AR Rahman’s visit to the Hornbill Festival. The film is a collaborative effort between various creative minds, notably the Task Force for Music & Arts (TaFMA) and director Rohit Gupta.

Expressing excitement about showcasing Nagaland’s rich and vibrant music, director Rohit Gupta emphasized transcending historical scars. Theja Meru, Chairman of TaFMA, highlighted the positive global impact of sharing Nagaland’s music story.

The session promises to provide attendees with a profound insight into the cultural heritage of Majuli, offering a unique glimpse into the traditional art forms that continue to thrive in this region.

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