Bhaona or Assamese drama is perhaps the oldest form of dramas played on stage. But lack of written evidence has denied it to be the oldest of dramas. It is a traditional form of entertainment created by the Vaishnavite saint Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankardeva in the early sixteenth century to mould unity and democracy among the people of Assam and preach religious messages. Bhaona also termed as Ankia Naat were a medium through which people folked to Naamghar (prayer halls) and Satras (Vaishnav monasteries) and along with enjoying the dramas (Ankia Naat) learned about the preachings of God.
Bhaona’s are both melodrama (Giti-nataka) and dance drama (Nritya-nataka). So to be concordant with the melody of Gita (holy book of Hindus) and also be suitable for Nritya- instruments like Khol, taal, doba, nagara, etc. were created by the great saint. ‘Ankiya’ means one act and ‘Naat’ means drama. So ‘Ankiya Naat’ simply means one act play. The play comprises an orchestra of Sutradhar (narrator), Gaayan (singers), Baayan (instrumentalists) and actors. Sanskrit was not easily understood by common people, so the language used in Bhaona’s were Brajawali language, a creation of the Mahapurusha for the common people. The Sutradhar explains the story along with the orchestra to make it easier for the audience to understand. Even today, Bhaona’s are played in Naamghars and Satras in Assam and the same enthusiasm is noticed. However, it is a dying art form which due to our negligence, the coming generation may not enjoy if the present do not hold back to the old preachings of the great saint.
Joi guru sankar.