Mythic Orientation in Artistic Work: A Fieldnote from the Sattras of Majuli Island

Baburam Saikia, University of Tartu

Sattra is an institutional order which was conceptualized by Sankaradeva (1449-1568) and introduced by his chief disciple Mādhavadeva (1489-1596) during the 16th century in Assam, North East India. It emerged as of a religious movement known as eka-sarana-nāma-dharma means a religion that devoted to one god i.e. Krishna or Vishnu. Sankaradeva who was the founder of eka-sarana-nāma-dharma or Neo-Vaishnavism had introduced dance, drama and music as a medium of worshipping God which also resulted to bring people into one place and unite them who were discriminated in the society based on caste and creed. During the 16th century onwards monastic order became the authority of Sankaradeva´s doctrine. Mythic source which was articulated by the preceptors, had become more vibrant in their practice as to continue the traditional root of the faith. Dance, drama and music explains different stories which are depicted in the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata. Apart from that reflection of Mythic tradition is very much alive in sculpture, paining, and musk making work in the Sattras of Majuli island. In Sattras, young boys are recruited as devotee around the age of five and since then they are trained to learn different art forms which essentially becomes the part of their religious life. In this paper, my discussion will focus on how mythic tradition is being represented in the art forms by the devotees of celibate and non- celibate Sattras of Majuli.