Bhortal Nritya as the name itself suggests is a dance form, which is performed using Bhortal (A kind of cymbal) on both hands by the dancer. A unique dance form originated at Barpeta, known as satra Nagar across the state. Bhortal dance has attained tremendous popularity not only in Assam but also in different parts of India and abroad. It is unique in its style of performance. Seeing the dance performance by a group of dancers with bright cymbals (Bhortal) on both hands is really heart touching and amusing. There is hardly such form of dance in Assam performed with cymbals or anything else on both hands from the beginning till the end. Moreover, this dance has the capability of arousing devotional feelings to the audience.
Bhortal Nritya as a form of performing art has an inseparable relation with ‘Thiya Naam’, so called as the artists have to perform it by standing in rhythmic movement of the legs and also clapping of their hands in the rhythm of cymbal and nagara (a leather instrument). Any discussion about Bhortal Nritya remains incomplete without an attempt to throw a glance at different aspects of thiya Naam. It is a Thaat form of Ojapali being regularly performed both at the Satra premises and other places on various occasions. ‘Thiya Naam’ is a group performance. Pathaka, who initiates it by singing Diha- Pada (Verse devotional of the Kirtan Ghkha and the Naam Ghokha and Borgeet of the Vaishnavite Gurus Mahapurush Sankardeva and Sri Sri Madhabdeva respectively) is followed by Palis. Nagara and cympal play pivotal role in the rhythmic movement of the verse from a very slow to the swiftest one towards the end. Co- singers (Called Palis) stand in almost a semi circular shape and the Pathak takes his place at the center surrounded by Palis. The Nagara players play the instrument by sitting aloof. Thiya Naam has five beating of Nagara – 1. Ektali (8 Matras) 2. Dutali (8 matras) 3. Thela (4 Matras) 4. Chotati (8 Matras) 5. Jhuna (Having two stages – first of 12 Matras and the second of 6 Matras). The ending part of Chotali is known as ‘Ghata’. The songs and movements of the artists become ‘druta’ (rapid) at this stage. Listening and seeing such an attractive performance wet with spiritual flavor the audience certainly feels a momentary departure to a world which is free from the pains, sorrows and sufferings of the human world. The swiftest movement of the cymbalist in varied gestures and postures in the rhythm of Nagara and also the clapping of the palis make it superb and eye- catching. So, different gestures and pastures expressing the underlying meaning of the verse with the melody and rhythm of Chotali by the dancer with Bhortal on both hands is a Bhortal Nritya. Mudras noticeable in Bhortal Nritya are Sutradhari, Suruka, Kiriti, Ora, Thiyakhar, Katikhar etc. Nagara and Cymbal are the main instruments. The singers of the verse (song) go on singing with clapping of their hands in the rhythm of Nagara and Taal. Before the song a Ghata is used and the dancer appears on the stage with the rhythm of Nagara. The song beging in slow movement after the Ghata ends. The slow beginning gathers momentum in different druta taal and it comes to an end with a Ghata again.
Costumes of Bhortal Nritya include Dhuti, Turban, (paguri) Cheleng on the body worn as a sacred thread used by a Brahmin and a waist- band (all are put on according to tradition).