Dr. Mallika Kandali
In Assamese, generally Mati-Akhora means exercise done on the ground. The Sattriya dance training begins with these Mati-Akhoras. After completion of all the Mati-Akhoras, the dancer can be taught the individual dance numbers of Sattriya. Mati-Akhoras are foundation for the learners to make a healthy physical, mental and spiritual set-up which is very necessary for a classical dancer. It is worth mentioning that some of these Mati-Akhoras are similar with some yogic postures or asana (based on yoga Shastra), which help the learners to maintain a physical and mental discipline. For example - “chakrasan” of yoga is similar with the thiyo lon of Mati-Akhora, which helps to make the back strong and the body light, which is essential for the dancer. Again “dhanurasan” is similar with the jur kamitona of Mati-Akhora, which makes the body active, strengthen the thaighs and help to remove extra fats from belly areas. Besides these many Mati-Akhoras have yogic quality which help the learners to shape their body from all sides. It is worth mentioning that Mahapurush Sankaradeva, the architect of Sattriya dance was a great exponent and expert of yoga, who studied Yoga Shastra thoroughly.
It has been observed that there is no unanimity about the total numbers of the Mati-Akhoras; in other words, the different Sattras advocate different numbers of Mati-Akhoras. Kamalabari group of Sattras have been following and practising 64 numbers of Mati-Akhoras. On the other hand, Sattras like Auniati, Bardowa (Narowa and Salaguri), Bengenaati etc. also follow some Mati-Akhoras. It is worth mentioning that, the Asom Sattra Mahasava, the highest association of the Sattras, in a seminar and workshop on Mati-Akhoras held at Jorhat from 13-03-1994, studied the Mati-Akhoras of various Sattras and accepted seventy three Mati-Akhoras. In the recent years, several dancers and researchers have enumerated this figure ranging from sixty seven' to one hundred twenty2. In one school of thought, these Mati-Akhoras are identified or named on the basis of the movements of the hands , while some experts have emphasised their views in naming them as per the movements and the direction of the feet. However, the origin is the same.
The Mati-Akhoras are broadly categorised into two parts – one part is (a) pure exercises and the other (b) basic dance units. Pure exercises are based on some acrobatic poses. For example– thiyo lon, athu lon, tamal musura, morai pani khowa etc. These exercises are generally not used in dance, though there are some exceptions. For instance – we can refer to the Natuwa dance of Auniati Sattra, where in these exercises or acrobatic poses are extensively used. On the other hand most of the Mati Akhoras belong to the basic dance units .
It has already been mentioned that the Mati Akhoras are grammatical forms for Sattriya dance, and at the same time they are the exercise as well as the structural basis of this dance form. That is why, almost the entire body processes are covered by the Mati-Akhoras and they are a) Utha (rising); boha (squatting), c) thiyo (standing position), d) calana (gati or gait), e) pak (turns and spins), f) jap ( jump), g) ulaha (undulating or wavy movements), h) citika (springing), i) bura or duba (porpoising) etc. On the other hand, the Mati-Akhoras are categorised under eight different broad units, such as - ora, chota, jalak, jap, muruka, khar, pak and lon. These are categorised on the basis of different characters and application patterns. Under these broad units, there are many sub-units. For example - there are four types of ora - Purush Ora, Prakriti or Stri Ora, Phul Ora,and Lahi Ora. Like that there are at least six types of chota- ora chota, kati chota, Udha chota etc.
Mati-Akhoras embrace all the features of Sattriya dance. They are – the basic body positions or stances, bhangas or body bending, body movements, foot-stances and foot movements, various utplavanas or jumps, bhramari or paks, gati or gaits, various hastas, sira bheda or head movements, griva - bheda or neck movements, dristi-bheda or eye movements etc.
It is worth mentioning that generally the dance is divided into two kinds – 1) tandava and 2) lasya. Tandava style of dance represents the masculine and vigorous expression or movements. On the other hand lasya style of dance represents the smooth, delicate, graceful, gentle expression or movements. This division of tandava and lasya is observed in Mati-Akhoras. It is worth mentioning that Sattriya dance is basically a lasya based dance form. So, though the division of tandava and lasya exists in this dance form, yet we do not have extreme vigorous expression in tandava part of Sattriya dance. Basically it is divided on the basis of general nature or temperament of man and woman. Anyway - this division is strictly followed in the Mati - Akhora. For example - Ora (the basic stance or position of Sattriya) is divided into "purush ora" and "prakriti ora" which represent the male and female elements. On the other hand, one of the bhramaris is also divided on the basis of male and female elements, that is purush pak and prakriti pak. It is worth mentioning that the dance numbers of Sattriya are also divided into two types– a) purusha bhangir nach (male style of dancing) or tandava style dance numbers and prakriti or stri bhangir nach (female style of dancing) or lasya style dance numbers etc.
It is worth mentioning that, the Natya Shastra has mentioned the chari and karana, which are also certain kind of exercises and bhangis like Mati-Akhoras and are used to compose certain dance poses. It is worth mentioning that there are some similarities in the structural pattern of Mati-Akhoras with the structural pattern of those chari, karana, khanda, mandala, matrika and angahara of Natya Shastra. As described by N.S. – poses created by the movements of a single foot are called chari, poses created by using two feet are called karana, combination of three or more karanas create a khanda and the combination of three or four khandas create a mandala. On the other hand two karanas create a matrika and two, three or four matrikas create an angahara. The application pattern of chari, karana, khanda and matrika is directly observed in Mati-Akhora.For example-the features of chari
are observed in Citika of Mati-Akhora,karana in Hat-Bhari Chalona,khanda in Hat Soluwa etc. It is worth mentioning that, there is a lot of scope to create the mandala and angahara in Sattriya by using various Mati-Akhoras.
After the completion of Mati-Akhora, when the learner's foundation becomes strong, then she or he is generally taught Nadubhangi nach, a dance numbers of Sattriya.
Now, some important Mati-Akhoras are mentioned below, according to the application pattern:
Name of the Mati-Akhoras WHERE TO APPLY
1. Khasaka As exercise, and salutation to Guru
2. Ora (Purush and Prakriti) Initial position in male and female style of dancing
3. Orat baha-utha Both exercise and dance
4. Harbhanga As exercise, can be used in dance
5. Pani-sisha As exercise, can be used in dance
7. Saman ora As dance pose
8. Udha-chota in dance
9. Baha chota in dance
10. Ora chota in dance
11. Samukhalai chota in dance
12. Kati chota in dance
13. Etiya chota in dance
14. Gerowa-sowa A exercise, can be used in dance
15. Orat jap in dance
16. Bagh jap in dance
17. Beng jap or bhekola jap both exercise and dance
18. Samukhaloi jap in dance
19. Kachobandh As exercise
20. Hatpakowa As exercise, can be used in dance
21. Moropa in dance
22. Muruka in dance
23. bahamuruka in dance
24. thiyo muruka in dance
25. Hat salowa in dance
26. Citika in dance
27. Ketela in dance
28. Jalak in dance
29. Sigha jalak in dance
30. Tewai in dance
31. Kakilakhosa in dance
32. Khahaki in dance
33. Jatoni in dance
34. Athuwa in dance
35. Kati khar in dance
36. Cit khar in dance
37. Luti Khar in dance
38. Olata khar As exercise
39. Chatrawali both exercise and dance
40. Morai pani khowa As exercise
41. Kachai pani khowa As exercise
42. Udha lon As exercise
43. Thiyo lon As exercise, use in natuwa nach
44. Athu lon As exercise, use in natuwa nach
45.Tamal muchora As exercise
46.Buku chuwa both exercise and dance
47.Purush pak in dance
48.Prakriti pak in dance
49.Akal pak in dance
50.Uor pak in dance
51.Pithi pak in dance
52.Thita pak in dance
53. Cereki pak in dance
54. Shari pak in dance
55. Geri pak in dance
56. Thengmela tukura pak in dance
57. Udha Cereki pak in dance
58. Teltupi As exercise
59. Zor kamitona As exercise
60. Kamitora As exercise etc.
61. Tukura pak in dance
62.Kati pak in dance
63.Uddha cereki pak in dance
64.Theng mela tukura pak in dance
65.Uor pak-tukura pak in dance etc.
1. Goswami, Jatin : Sankari Nrityar Mati-Akhora, Part I
2. Saikia, Govinda, Sattriya Nrityar Ruprekha.