This Is Why Assam’s Tableau At The Republic Day Parade Wins More Than Just The First Prize

by Sumati Mehrishi - Jan 28, 2020 03:34 PM +05:30 IST
This Is Why Assam’s Tableau At The Republic Day Parade  Wins More Than Just The First PrizeAssam’s tableau at the Republic Day parade. 
  • The achievement for Assam came on the historic day when the All Bodo Students’ Union and all factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland signed the Bodo Peace Accord with the Indian government.

Assam’s stimulatingly embellished tableau depicting the rich weave of handicraft, dance, music, life and its people, has won the first prize at this year's Republic Day Parade. Themed ‘Land of Unique Craftsmanship and Culture’, the tableau showcased several elements of the state’s culture.

Celebrating the moment, Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Twitter: “A moment of pride. On a day we signed the historic #Bodo Peace Accord, an icing on the cake came in form of news of Assam's tableau at #RepublicDay parade showcasing Bhortal Nritya, a Sattriya art form, and Cane & Bamboo handicraft, bagging first prize (sic).”

The achievement for Assam came on the historic day when the All Bodo Students' Union (ABSU) and all factions of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) signed the Bodo Peace Accord with the Indian government.

The state tableau winning in the national celebration perhaps gave them another reason to celebrate Assamese pride.

The tableau made a strong statement in the first glimpse itself. Its form was resting on the heritage and tradition of bamboo and cane handicrafts, visibly and in spirit.

It stood out for the fine execution of an idea, which was meant to project the local crafts and textures as part of the state's intangible language and alphabet.

Bamboo was the base for the main structure representing the state. Cane and bamboo handicraft in the form of jaapi — the traditional headgear, vases, baskets and other forms exhibiting the local craftsmanship, looms and threads gave it an immensely rich emotional texture. The structure rose in the front, in the slender and graceful neck of a bird, and the beak pointed in the direction of its forward movement.

The idea of home, of time, of rhythm, of the warp and weft that keeps Assam's indigenous expressions prospering and thriving, stood out boldly in this tableau.

The gorgeous rawness in the abundance of the raw material which makes the state in the North East, particularly Assam the storehouse of nature's gifts, looked enthralling in the depiction of the different elements.

The thrust of the activity shown on the tableau by artistes was that of the weaving and the art of ‘making’ — with the help of deft fingers and traditional tools.

The excellent team behind Assam's entry on Rajpath perhaps wanted to portray how the local crafts play an integral role in shaping the local economy.

Well, it not only did succeed in the motive, it managed to deliver a message on Rajpath — to fellow Indians — that the road to Assam for a visit could begin here.

The idea of playing an audience to the local crafts and craftspersons, in the state they visit, does appeal to many viewers. It is a familiar one to people who are exposed to the regional crafts, but have not been to the state.

The art of weaving cane and bamboo shown on the tableau came across as part of the performance. That's a thing of joy in a Republic day tableau, which at times fails to make an impact or effort at blending people and message in representation.

Then, the nuances in portrayal: of how Assam, much as other states in the North East, preserves its fabric and narrative in day-to-day lives and at homes, were not lost.

There is much more to Assam's winning tableau.

Broadly, it portrayed three strong elements: bamboo, Bhortal dance — which represents the Sattriya tradition, and the brass cymbals, which were shown in depictions of human figures engrossed in the music and the playing of these.

The corresponding live performance of Bhortal dance, which was taking place alongside the tableau's movement, enhanced this element and the presence of music.

People's exposure to performance forms of the Sattriya tradition is limited. The tableau has opened the gates to initiation and broader participation of state groups, governments at the Centre and states, societies for promotion of culture, towards exploring Bhortal dance and expressions of the performing arts from the Vaishnava tradition living in the North East.

Not often are introductions to a lesser known form of performing art so simply presented to a nationwide audience in a snap of less than half a minute. Assam did it with static and moving expressions.

The whirling of the brass cymbals by the dancers, the music to which Bhortal music is set and performed, their hand movements, the fresh and green bamboo shoots displayed in the cane vases and the unfinished, half woven baskets leave a lot for imagination and exploration.

The Assam tableau has not just won the first prize. It has won in sending out an invitation — complete in itself — packed and woven in art, and wrapped in the pride of the gamosa and jaapi.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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