by Nataraj Das
The Bhortaal Nritya is one of the unique creations
of Barpeta Sattra. It does not fall under any category of Sattriya Dance.
Basically this is a style of dancethat has been a derivative of assimilation of
the body movements and Pada - Hasta Mudras (posture by hand and palms) of
Satriya dance and those of the team lead of Thiya Naam. In a single expression
it can be said that Bhortaal Nritya is a dance form where the art of Sattriya
Dance and Thiya Naam have been conflated.
The name Bhortaal Nritya has been given to this style of dance because of the instrument used by the performer artiste. The instrument that the performer or performers use here as prop is BHOTTAAL or BHORTAAL, a kind of cymbal that was invented by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva during his exhibition of Chinhayatra ,the much acclaimed play that was presented in style of animated picture, most probably the first of its kind in the world, at Bardowa Than. The name Bhortaal was thus given to this style of dance.
Two maestros of Sattriya Culture from Barpeta deserve the approbation for this Bhortaal Nritya. Though Narahari Burhabhakat (1913 – 1985) has been much publicized figure as the key person behind the creation of this Nritya, it will be an act of prejudice if we do not give Mahananda Sutradhar (1918 – 1973), the other maestro, his due share of credit. Mahananda Sutradhar was an able artiste and team lead (Oja) or leading light of Thiya Naam. He was an inhabitant of Borhati of Barpeta Town. The whole township of Barpeta has been divided into 22 (twenty two) parts, each called a “Hati” by the first Burhasattriya Mathuradas Burha Ata of Barpeta Sattra. Mahananda Sutradhar and Narahari Burhabhakat often sat together at the BOHA of the latter at Barpeta Sattra. Mahananda Sutradhar was a GRIHASTHI BHAKAT(a married disciple having his own family life) while Narahari Burhabhakat was a KEWALIYA BHAKAT (A disciple who leads a lifelong bachelorship unmoved by the material world) and lived at the designated residence, called BOHA, within the sattra premises of Barpeta.
There has been a tradition of organizing Thiya Naam or Birnaam on the seventh day of Bohag, the first month of Assamese calendar, in front of Dalan, the main entrance building of Barpeta Sattra. Devotees from different Hatis participate here in groups to perform Thiya Naam or Birnaam. It is said that Mahananda Sutradhar was inspired by the style of presenting the Thiya naam by the team leads of these groups holding cybals in their hands and his wit then caught this idea of creating a dance taking on board the movements as well as posture of the body with the Hasta and Pada Mudras. Later Narahari Burha and Mahananda Sutradhar, the duo, burnt their midnight oil in developing the Bhortaal Nritya to its full perspective. Narahari Burhabhakat was an eminent sattriya dance artiste with an admirable handsome physique who brought the Bhortaal Nritya to a fully developed shape.
The artiste wears a Dhoti and a shirt like clothing resembling to Chapkon. He also wears a Cheleng, a white chador like long cloth and a turban on his head. Earings (Kundal), bracelets, chains around neck (Golpata & Haar) and Ghungroos on the feet are also part of the attire used by the artiste.
The style of performance:
The Bhortaal Nritya can be performed in solo or in groups. The cymbal is the main and the only instrument that is used as prop by the performer. The music or the song to which this dance is performed can be a Borgeet or a prayer from Kirtan Puthi or Naamghosha. The artistes dance the Bhortaal Nritya holding the cymbals in their hand with dramatic expression of eyes and movement of the body cadenced to the symphony created by the melody of Nagara (Kind of percussion instrument in pair) and Taal (cymbals). The performers do not use the cymbals to produce any sound.
At the spotlight:
Narahari Burhabhakat was instrumental in popularizing this dance. Later this dance could draw the attraction of artiste of IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association) like Kalaguru Bishnuprasad Rabha and Uday Sangkar etc and these cultural leaders were moved by the beauty of the dance. Their noble initiatives added one more dimension in bringing Bhortaal Nritya to the glare of publicity. Bhortaal Nritya has been well exhibited in many National and International Cultural facade. Even Dr Bhupen Hazarika also had cinematographed Bhortaal Nritya by Narahari Burhabhakat in his film ERABATOR SUR in 1955.
1) Barpeta Sattrar Itibritta – By Dr Bhupendra Roychoudhury.
2) Other resources