Nilakshi Barah hopes to take traditional Assamese dance form to the global stage
Created by the founder of Vaishnavism in Assam, Saint Srimanta Sankardev Sattriya or Sattriya Nritya is among the eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. But though the dance evolved in the 15th century, it was accorded recognition by the Sangeet Natak Akademi as a classical dance form of India only in the new millennium.
Nilakshi Barah from Melbourne is a fine exponent of Sattriya as well as Indian classical dance Odissi and performed the two with elegance in Sydney on 1 October as part of the first Assam Convention in Australia.
Nilakshi began learning Sattriya dance—originally performed only for ritualistic purposes within the sattras or Assamese monasteries—when she was four years old but switched to the Odissi style when her family relocated from Assam to Orissa. In Orissa, she started her training in the classical Odissi dance, under the guidance of Late Guru Padmashree Gangadhar Pradhan and her mother Guru Srimati Meenakshi Barah. She trained for 10 years and was later awarded with National Scholarship in Odissi Dance and State Best Dancer.
Once back in Assam she resumed her unfinished training on Sattriya and completed it before she moved to Delhi for her graduation.
Nilakshi now runs her own Odissi Dance School in Melbourne and is a member of Federation of Indian Music and Dance of Victoria (FIMDV). She performs Odissi and Sattriya dances across Melbourne as part of programs conducted by FIMDV to keep her art alive.
Like the other seven schools of Indian classical dance, Sattriya Nritya encompasses the principles required of a classical dance form and resembles Odissi classical dance very closely.
Despite its delayed inclusion within the canon of Indian classical dance, Sattriya Nritya continued through the centuries to maintain within its forms the classical exactitude and intricate detail that marks ancient art forms. One positive outcome of Sattriya Nritya’s strict adherence to the principles of the sattras has been this ability to maintain its pure forms, its distinct style. And Nilakshi only hopes to take that journey to the global stage.