Recently Assamese Bhaona made an English debut in Abu Dhabi
- It is a traditional form of entertainment in Assamese and Brajavali languages, with religious messages
- These plays are popularly known as Ankiya Nats and their staging is known as bhaona.
- Bhaona is a performing art form. It is a simple drama which shows the victory of truth at the climax, generally using fictitious or mythological kings, queens, demons, gods, soldiers etc.
- The story generally depicts some initial superficial triumph of evils over good, but it shows the ultimate victory of good with intercession by the Gods.
- It was created by sixteenth-century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva
- Sankardeva created the form, usually staged in “namghars” (places of worship) and “xatras” (Vaishnavite monasteries), to convey religious messages to villagers through entertainment.
- He wrote his prose in Sanskrit but used Assamese and Brajavali to develop Borgeet, a new form of spiritual music, and Bhaona, a mythology-based theatrical performance, and monastic dances that evolved into the classical Sattriya.
- He himself wrote seven dramas (called Onkia Naat) for performance in Bhaona. The first Bhaona was Chihna-yatra, where he himself played the role of Bishnu.
- The particular form of religious school established by Sankardeva is called Eksaran Bhagawati Dharma (literally meaning religion of devotion to a single God).
- He had been for pilgrimage twice to most of the Hindu holy places twice and had observed the folk-music and culture of many religious and cultural schools. Then he created Bhaona picking up ingredients from all those cultures.
- Later, many of his followers (including Madhabdeva, the most famous disciple of Sankardeva) also wrote numerous dramas for Bhaona.
- The special features of Bhaona include plays, dialogues, dances, costumes, ornaments, entry and foot-steps of characters.
- Majuli is the centre of Assam’s Vaishnavite culture and Bhaona.
- That Bhaona can be taken to global audiences was conceptualised by Arup Saikia and his two sisters, Girimallika Saikia and Gitimallika Baidya.
- The family hails from Jamugurihat in northern Assam’s Sonitpur district.