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15th Raseshwar Saikia Barbayan sattriya ceremony

The 15th Raseshwar Saikia Barbayan Sattriya Bota Award ceremony 2023, organised by Sangeet Sattra in honour of its Founder Principal, Adhyapak Raseshwar Saikia Barbayan, was held alongside the annual music and dance festival at the Sri Sri Madhabdeva International Auditorium in Guwahati.

The three-day festival featured powerful performances, commemorating the visionary recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award. As a former bhakat (monk) and Muktar of the Kamalabari Sattra (monastery), he aimed to put Sattriya on India's cultural map and extend its reach.

The Hon'ble Governor of Assam and other dignitaries inaugurated the event with grandeur. The legacy, carried forward by his talented dancer-daughters Ranjumoni and Rinjumoni Saikia, began with an instrumental ensemble, Upaj.


Upaj, performed by a group of young musicians, was a notable success. They were led by Raja Boruah (Pradyut Prakash Boruah), a renowned percussionist involved in over 20,000 recordings, and ace Khol player Arunabh Jyoti Malakar, grandson of Maestro Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan. The musicians' training, sincerity, and skill, combined with the sounds of khol, djembe, and darbuka by Arunabh Jyoti, violin by Ripunjit Borah, and flute by Nabajit Saikia, created a harmonious experience. The ensemble also featured a tambourine, ghungroo (bells), long brass chimes, and bortaal (large brass cymbals), enhancing the artists' melody and understanding.


The Hon'ble Governor of Assam conferred the award to Shashadhar Acharya, a distinguished Chhau artist from Jharkhand, representing the 15th generation in the family of traditional artists of the Seraikella Chhau dance. Shashadhar is also an eminent scholar and a performing artist of Sattriya music and dance.  Eminent scholar Karuna Borah from Assam, was the other awardee, an avid researcher of traditional dances of Assam  and performing artiste of Sattriya  music and dance holding a Master’s degree in Assamese literature and a B.Ed. The performance segment commenced with a devotional fervour with the Chorus Borgeet Kanai bina rupasiya penned by Madhavdeva, set to raga Boradi and taal Pari and sung by Gautam Bayan, Prangopal Das, Deba Shankar Barman, Nityananda Deka and Diganta Das.


Rinjumoni Saikia, the maestro's younger daughter, is a senior teacher and a delightful Sattriya and Kathak dancer. Her recital began with the Krishna Bandana, Bhaje vrajaika mandanam samasta paapa khandanam. The Krishnashtakam was set to raga Vrindavani Sarang in Sattriya taal Thukuni (3 matras). This was followed by a pure lasya composition, number three, sub-form Ramdani of the rajaghariya chali where her technical skills came to the fore. She concluded with the Borgeet - Krishnaroop barnan from a part of Ankiya Nata, composed by Madhavdeva set to ragas Shri and Kalyan and talas, Suta and Jaman and later Pari and Ektal . In the Barpetia theonaam (Jhuna Naam) piece, Rinjumoni impressed the audience with her soulful abhinaya as Yashoda. Able vocal support from Prangopal Das, the music composer, Dhrubajyoti Pathak on the khol, Arunabh Jyoti Malakar and Ripunjit Borah on the taals(rhythm) and Nabhojit Saikia on the flute along with Rinjumoni's choreography is praiseworthy.

Acclaimed Odissi dancer Kavita Dwivedi has earned rave reviews for her recitals. Her entry with Om namoh Sivaya initiated her classical elegance, infusing grace and vigour in her Siva Panchakshara stotra with the music composition of Suresh Kumar Sethi. Capturing the technical training and fluency of expression of her father and guru Harekrishna Behera, her combination of lasya and tandava style in the lyrics of her own choreography came alive with elan. With the concept of Ardhanareshwar, the lyrics differed from the often-heard stotram. Two memorable moments to luxuriate were the hastas portraying the lines Mandakini Salila and the depiction of samudra manthan.


The inaugural evening concluded with a group dance presentation by the students of Sangeet Sattra. Five senior-most students, Juri Das, Himasri Kolita, Elizi Ojah, Avantika Choudhury and Nishita Parashar,  their well-coordinated execution gave a wave nature to this item. At the same time, the sideways showed perfect geometry. Accomplished musicians from the institution gave excellent support, and Abani Chowdhury ably compared the evening.


With the khol badan of a large group of students (both boys and girls) of Sangeet Sattra under the music direction of Manju and Jeetumoni Borah, the second evening presented its Sangeet Vaswar Award, an event in memory of the young talent Tanmoyee Bordoloi. The awardees for the year 2023 were - senior Sattriya artist and teacher Sabita Saikia and dancer and choreographer Bhanu Deka.



Gunidra Nath Ojah is a descendant of Lakshana Ojah, belonging to the Ojah clan of Barpeta Sattra. It was a privilege to hear him present Saint Sankadeva's Borgeet in raga Natmallar, the uncommon Naokhelar geet, in Paritaal and the famous Madhura Murati Muraru in his own inimitable style replete with andolans and meedhs.


Chetan Joshi opened his flute recital with a short alaap of Bihagda in vilambit, composed by his guru, Raghunath Seth. Joshi mentioned that it is a blend of Khamaj and Bihag with two nishads in Roopak tala (7 matras). Then he moved on to madhya laya, traversing through his guru Bholanath Prasannaji's taans. A perfect performer that he is, a surprise came as he invited other flautists in the auditorium to accompany him on stage while he desired to play a drut Teen taal bandish composed by him, with Arunabhjyoti Malakar on the khol. His refined technique was projected in Raghunathji's Bhatiyali. 


Renowned dancer Seuj Priya Borthakur Goswami, a recipient of Ustad Bismillah Khan Puraskar, trained under his father-in-law, Akademi Ratna, Jatin Goswami, needs no introduction for her fine stage presence,  be it in dancing or acting. With special training in Deodhani dance from Lalit Chandra Nath Ojah, it was natural that her opening number Hey Gopal infused with Ojahpali elements, was a visual pleasure. She presented herself as a Kalahantarika nayika (Radha) in Sankaradeva's Keligopal through Ankiya Nata, with music composition by Gunakar Deva Goswami and Dhrubajyoti Baruah.


Accompanying the flute of Nabajit Saikia and refrain of Bharadwaj Amritaprabha Mahanta's Kalahantarika Bhabey Seujpriya portrayed  – a segment from the Ankiya Bhaona Keligopal, excelling in her skill and ability. 

The choreography by the seasoned and sensitive dancer was replete with clarity of movements. Jatin Goswami compositions Krishna bina shreshtha keho nahi (Krishna is the best) and Krishna Debo Dukkho Hari (Krishna will offer relief from sorrow) were animatedly interpreted to attract the audience's attention. As Radha, she merged with the musicians' fine musical support, including Anchal Dutta on the violin and Dhrubajyoti Baruah on the khol.


The brightly clad, well-trained group from Bharati Vidyapeet School of Performing Arts (a Deemed University) Pune gave a good account of themselves in dramatising the popular song Pekhu madano gopal, O sakhi. The online student of Ranjumoni Saikia, Kavita Nath from California, who took the stage next has grasped the basics of the Sattriya nritya well and showed promise in her presentation of a short pure dance item followed by the popular song Ogo sakhi pekho madana gopal. The final presentation was an enjoyable Hey Krishna Basudeva Devakinandan by the tiny tots of Sangeet Sattra.


Sankardeva's  Borgeet by the students of Sangeet Sattra ushered in the concluding evening with a devotional fervour. A researcher, a sub-editor of Ajir Asom, and also trained in the complexities of khol-playing under Jatin Goswami, Kusha Mahanta began his recital with Roopak taal and then offered a striking presentation of Pari taal. Rupunjit Borah's violin support added an extra edge to his presentation.


Elizi Ojah, a seasoned dancer and Sattriya practitioner, began her dance training under guru Raseshwar Saikia and later emerged as a performer under the guidance of Rinjumoni and Ranjumoni Saikia. Elizi began her invocatory Bandana with a Krishna Bandana, set to the ever popular sloka Kasturi tilakam lalata pataley. Switching on to the pure dance Hajowali Number One  Chali Nach  in Taal Thukuni and Taal Suta, she engaged the audience with the seamless presentation of the otherwise uncommon piece. The response from the discerning audience was overwhelming for her interpretation of the performance text in her concluding impassionate and captivating portrayal of the 'laya-lasya roop'  of the Vasaksajjika nayika as Rukmini, in an excerpt from the Ankiya Nata Rukhmini Haran set to Ek taal and Sutkala taal.


Anusuya Dance Academy, Guwahati, is a premier Bharatanatyam institution in Assam that completed its silver jubilee.  It's an all-female, six-member group performed a 'swara-laya' piece highlighting the architectonic form of Bharatanatyam set to melodious music. Their concluding Siva-stuti was delightful imagery of Lord Siva concluding with Hara Hara Siva Siva.


The seven dancers from Lakhimpur Sattriya Sangeet Bidyalaya started with a Chali nach of Bara-Ramdani and then performed a Geetar Nach abhinaya from Kaliadaman Natak, showcasing spirituality and humility.

Next, twelve dancers from Nrtiyangam, Mangaldai performed a Guru Bandana - Sri Krishnaya Namoh, followed by Ramdani, and concluded with Sri Sri Madhavadeva's Borgeet, Soi dekho Dekho Sundara Kanu, set to different talas. Their light green costumes were also notable.


The much-awaited dance drama Draupadir bastraharan by the expert senior members of Sangeet Sattra, based on the game of dice from the Mahabharata, was the crowning piece of the evening with fine dancing, acting and high-quality music by artists of high calibre. It successfully built a correlation between the narrative, singing, and choreography. The stage enhanced the choreographic appeal as the dancers in two parts, Pandavas and the Kauravas, all clad in dazzling costumes, took turns to encircle the stage, break into an introductory 'pravesh nach' together and then stand face to face, ready for the game. Accompanying musicians were Ripunjeet Borah on the violin, Nabajit Saikia on the flute, Kangkan  Jyoti Saikia on the taals (rhythms), with Prangopal Das in his melodious voice on the vocals on the harmonium and the assistant director.


The award festival concluded with a variety of Sattriya numbers like Dasavatar, Nadubhangi nach, Chali Nach, and Gopi Nach by a large group of Sangeet Sattra students, from beginners to older ones.



Photo Courtesy :Sangeet Sattra