Experiencing Satriya in a new way
Satriya dance, a classical dance form of India, developed sometime in the 15th century at the initiative of great Vaishnavite saint and social reformer Srimanta Sankardeva. The Satriya dance form borrows its emotional thrust from Ankiya Bhaona theatrical traditions without forsaking its traditional moorings. Though Satriya dance has now traversed from the Satras to different corners of the entire globe, it has not forsaken its meditative character. It evokes a message of universal peace and harmony, just like Sankardeva’s preachings ushered in an era of renaissance; its unique blend of morality, simple philosophy, religion, poetry, music and dance empowering every being to free the shackled ‘jeeva’ or soul.
Keeping with the spirit of experimentation and innovation going on with the dance form, Vedajyoti Ojha – a spirited classical dance soloist and choreographer – has conceived and launched an Arts antiquity project, entitled ‘Satriya Heritage Project. Under this project, different dimensions and facets of Satriya traditions, like instrumental music, theatre and stage props can be used for traditional and contemporary interpretation of the dance form.
The first session of this project, ‘Noble Rhythms and Melodies: Experiencing Satriya through Mridanga and Sarinda’, was presented at the Vivekananda Kendra Institute in Guwahati last week. In this project, the traditional but no so popular rhythmic instrument, Mridanga, and the forgotten string instrument, Sarinda, have been introduced into mainstream Satriya dance by Vedajyoti in collaboration with musicians Bhaskar Jyoti Ojha (Mridanga) and Prasanta Kumar Choudhury (Sarinda), thus enriching Satriya repertoire.
The basic aim of the Satriya Heritage Project is to establish the Mridanga as a major rhythmic instrument in addition to the Khol. At present, no indigenous instruments have been used either in the Satras or other Vaishnava institutions, including Satriya dance music. The Sarinda is sure to fill the void of a stringed instrument in Satriya dance music, which was greatly felt till now.
Vedajyoti claims the Satriya Heritage Project to be an original concept carried out in close consultation with Nrityacharya Padmashree Jatin Goswami. She says, “This is the first time in the history of Satriya dance music that such a work has been attempted. The entire project has been documented through dance notation and digital music technology”.
Vedajyoti Ojha is a fulltime dancer who ameliorates her artistic realms through creative choreography, expressive dances, seminars and workshops. Based in Houston (USA), Vedajyoti is immensely committed towards performing Satriya dance and exploring innovative elements for presenting Satriya as a classical dance form within its traditional framework. She envisions herself as one who can create bridges – between culture and people.
Vedajyoti’s tutelage in classical dance vocabulary started at the age of five years under the tutelage of Guru Indira PP Bora, who is a highly acclaimed Indian classical dancer and choreographer and also a recipient of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She received initial training in Satriya under Guru PP Bora and Sri Bhuban Bora. She has also received intensive training in Satriya dance under Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Nrityacharya Pandit Jatin Goswami. Vedajyoti has performed in various cities of India and abroad with Guru Indira PP Bora and her troupe – Kalabhumi Dance Company – and also as a soloist. Persistent encouragement from her mentors to ascend from the purview of her dance education to different genres of traditional and classical dance forms has inspired Vedajyoti to actively associate herself with practical research, innovative presentation and performance of a 560-year old living dance tradition. Extensive study trips to India have put Vedajyoti I touch with the contemporary and traditional interpretations of Satriya. She delves into the changing dynamics of Satriya – checking out the current trends with her dance gurus. With these experiences and guidance from her mentors, her roots and insight went deeper, expanding her repertoire of the traditional and contemporary developments in Indian dance.