Tucked away at Athgaon, Dhing in Assam’s Nagaon district, Aharya of Ankiya bhaona by a small production unit was recognised on Wednesday by the Sangeet Natak Akademi as closest to the original costumes, masks, headgear and accessories as used by Assam’s philosopher and social reformer Srimanta Sankardeva in the 16 the century.
Set up by the Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva as part of its Cultural Heritage Centre, the production unit is peopled by a group who were given a 45-day training in the art of Ankiya Naat makeup and the making of costumes, props and accessories which are used in the plays, which mostly depict the life and love of Lord Krishna of the Hindu religion.
The Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva is a global organisation which propagates the neo-Vaishnavaite philosophy and social reforms of Sankardeva and his most well-known disciple Mahapurush Madhavdeva across the world.
President of the Society, Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti said that the workshop sponsored by the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2014 was the first step in restoring the originality in costumes, headgear, jewellery and props.
“During the period of the World War II or sometime thereabout, the costumes had become opulent and added glamour to the stage productions. The costumes and jewellery began to be imported from Kolkata and some other places. This was not Srimanta Sankaradeva’s objective when he created the Ankiya Naat,” Borkakoti said.
Prior to the teaching of the art in the Aharya workshop, Satradhikars, heads of the Vaishnavaite Satras, members of various organisations associated with Sankardeva’s philosophy and the Sattriya culture as well as critics were taken into confidence and discussions based on the simplicity of design and jewellery in the Ankiya bhaonas written by Srimanta Sankaradeva were taken into consideration.
After the workshop was over, the production unit was started and the organizers of bhaonas staged in different places of the State as well as in the international bhaona festival held at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra , Guwahati, either rent or buy costumes and other accessories from here.
“Our costumes are cheaper compared to the imported ones. For example, if the imported costume of King Ram costs Rs 2000 ours is just a fraction of the cost. In fact if four of those costumes cost Rs 8000 that is the amount required for all the costumes produced by us for one bhaona,” said Borkakoti.
Ram Vijay, a bhaona produced in the Spanish language in international bhaona festival in 2017 by five countries -France, Slovenia, Denmark, Belgium and Mexico had bought all the costumes from the Society’s production unit. Mridu Mouchum Bora, the secretary of the Society, had designed the costumes while it had been directed by Bhabananda Barbayan of Uttar Kamalabari Satra in Majuli.
Aharya of the Society were exhibited in Bharati Mela, Kolkata recently and in the Make in India festival held in Mumbai courtesy the Sangeet Natak Akademi.
The National School of Drama (NSD) also wore the Aharya produced by the Society in Parijat Haran, a bhaona they had staged in Majuli recently and also in Delhi.
Ankiya Bhaona forms part of the second year students’ curriculum in NSD.