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Performing Arts

Ankiya Nat

One-act play


(c) Centre for Cultural Resources and Training

The Bhakti movement has deeply influenced many forms of traditional performing arts prevalent in Eastern India. In Assam it inspired the superb Anktanat. In fact, all the plays in the repertory of this theatre are one-act plays and they are called Ankiya Nat.

Reasons for selection

1. This is one of the very few surviving traditional performing arts prevalent in Eastern India.
2. Ankiya Nat sinks all differences between religious ritual and aesthetic activity.
3. Ankiya Nat once enjoyed high patronage from different levels but today it is a victim of indifference. It is necessary to arrest this decay.

Area where performed

Eastern part of India, Assam

Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Dance, Theatre

Detailed explanation

To a casual onlooker, who cannot go beyond the periphery, Ankiya Nat may appear only as a form of ritual theatre. Sensitive theatergoers, however, will find that it touches those aesthetic heights from which religiosity and secularity do not look antithetical.

No less than a genius can conceive of a theatre that sinks all differences between religious ritual and aesthetic activity, and then makes the disciplined sublimity of classical arts and the emotional immediacy of folk arts walk together hand in hand. Such a form of theatre is Ankiya Nat and Shankaradeva is the genius who conceived and shaped it towards the second decade of the 16th century. He was a saint-aesthetic, subscribing to Vaishanavism but with a difference.

The elements drawn from the folk forms of music, dance and drama not only broadened the range of appeal, but gave Ankiya Nat its unmistakable Assamese character. Amongst folk forms which influenced him most are Ojhapali, a fascinating form combining elements of balladry, dance and drama: Dhulia, a form of group singing and dancing, Bhaoria, balladry, and Putlanach, the traditional marionette theatre of Assam. The fusion of all these diverse elements and influences to mould a powerful dramatic alloy surely required a sensitivity which Shankaradeva had.

The bhawna, that is, the performance of Ankiya Nat, traditionally takes place in a specially constructed theatre hall called rabha or bhawna-ghar. If such a pandal is not there, then one is improvised, or it is performed under a canopied enclosure. The performance is presented at the centre of the hall and spectators sit on all four sides.

Publication and textual documentation

More information - in form of video film

Audio documentation

already available

Visual documentation

Title: Ankiyanat
Film, High Band (U-matic), CCRT documentation department, 1999

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

1. Center for Cultural Resources and Training, New Delhi.
2. Sangeet Natya Academy, New Delhi.
3. Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts, New Delhi.

Data provider

Mr. Surendra Kaul
Director General
Centre for Cultural Resources and Training
Address: Bahawalpur House, Bhagwandas Road,
New Delhi - 110001, India