introduced in the 15th century A.D by the great Vaishnava saint and reformer of Assam, Mahapurusha Sankaradeva as a powerful medium for propagation of the Vaishnava faith.
This neo-Vaishnava treasure of Assamese dance and drama has been, for centuries, nurtured and preserved with great commitment by the Sattras ( Vaishnavamaths/monasteries). Because of its religious character & association with the Sattras, it has been aptly named Sattriya.
There were two dance forms prevalent in Assam before the neo-Vaishnava movement such as Ojapali and Devadasi with many classical elements.
Two varieties of Ojapali dances are still prevalent in Assam i.e. Sukananni or Maroi Goa Ojah and Vyah Goa Ojah. Sukananni Oja paali is of Shakti cult and Vyah Goa Oja paali is of Vaishnava cult. Sankaradeva included Vyah Goa Ojah into his daily rituals in Sattra. Till now Vyah Goa Ojah is a part of rituals of the Sattras of Assam. The dancers in a Oja paali chorus not only sing and dance but also explain the narration by gestures and stylized movements.
As far as Devadasi dance is concerned, resemblance of a good number of rhythmic syllables and dance postures along with footwork with Sattriya dance is a clear indication of the influence of the former on the latter.
Other visible influences on Sattriya dance are those from Assamese folk dances namely Bihu, Bodos etc.
Because of its geographical location, the people of Manipur have been protected from outside influences, and this region has been able to retain its unique traditional culture.
Lai Haraoba(merrymaking of the gods)is one of the main festivals still performed in Manipur which has its roots in the pre-Vaishnavite period. The principal performers are themaibasandmaibis(priests and priestesses) who re-enact the theme of the creation of the world.
With the arrival of Vaishnavism in the 15th century A.D., new compositions based on episodes from the life of Radha and Krishna were gradually introduced.
There are five principalRasdances of which four are linked with specific seasons, while the fifth can be presented at any time of the year. In Manipuri Ras, the main characters are Radha, Krishna and thegopis.
A short fine white muslin skirt is worn over it. A dark coloured velvet blouse covers the upper part of the body and a traditional white veil is worn over a special hair-do which falls gracefully over the face. Krishna wears a yellow dhoti, a dark velvet jacket and a crown of peacock feathers.
The Kirtan form of congregational singing accompanies the dance which is known as Sankirtana in Manipur. The male dancers play the Pung and Kartal while dancing. The masculine aspect of dance - the Choloms are a part of the Sankirtana tradition. The Pung and Kartal choloms are performed at all social and religious festivals.
The martial dancers of Manipur - the Thang-ta - have their origins in the days when man's survival depended on his ability to defend himself from wild animals.
The Manipuri classical style of singing is calledNat- very different from both north and south Indian music, this style is immediately recognizable with its high pitched open throated rendering with particular type of trills and modulations.
Besides theRasand otherleelas, each stage in one's life is celebrated withSankirtana performances - child birth,upanayanam, wedding andshradhaare all occasions for singing and dancing in Manipur. The whole community participates as song and dance form part of daily life expressions.