Gayan (singer) and Bayan (instrument players) are integral part of religious activities of Satras. According to the belief, the prayers by Gayan-Bayan are very spiritual and cultural. They offer prayers with songs and instruments like Khol and Tal (cymbal). Srimanta Sankardev developed the instrument Khol during staging of his first drama Chihnajatra. It is believed that this instrument is divine and Srimanta Sankardev used it to train Gayan-Bayan.
From the time of its beginning, Barpeta Satra has been a centre of Satirya culture. First, all the disciples of Sri Madhabdev practised the songs and other performing arts. However, Mathuradas Burha Aata, the great administrator of his time, divided the duties among various Bangasaras and Hatis according to their capabilities.
The worship by Gayan-Bayan has a very important place in daily and occasional prayers of Barpeta Satra. Mainly Dhemali(saru, bar, ghosha), Ankia Nat, the songs of Ankia Nat as Geetar Pala, Bbhojan-Byabahar,Gosai nachuwa, Sewar Prasanga are performed by the Gayan-Bayan in Barpeta Satra. Six groups of Gayan-Bayan have the responsibility for it. They are:
• Sutradhar Bangsa.
• Bhima Bayan Bangsa
• Bayan Bangsa of Galiahati.
• Gandhiya Bangsa.
• Aaghona Bayan Bangsa
Sewar Prasanga /Sewar Kirtan
Sewar Kirtan is the amalgamated performance of gurughat, kou raga, kalian raga, suhai raga by Gayan-Bayan. They encircle the Guru-Asan singing the Bargeets. During the round centering the Guru-Asana, they pause nine times as a symbol of nine types of Vakti or homage to our nine Aatapurushas. The duties of various groups of Gayan-Bayan for Sewar Kirtan as follows:
• Fagun, Sot, Bahag by Dakshinhati.
• Jeth, Aahar, Saon by Sutradhar Bangsa
• Vadra, Ahin, Kati by Bhima Bayan Bangsa.
• Kati, Aghon by Bayan Bangsa of Galiahati.
• Puh, Magh by Gandhiya Bangsa.
It is the special pattern of singing of the songs from Ankia Nats and Jhumura Nat on death anniversaries of Srimanta Sankardev, Sri Madhabdev and Mathuradas Burha Aata. These Gitor Pala is generally performed during the night and one song usually takes one to one and half hour for presenting it in a stylish manner. The original and pure form of Satriya music can be found in these Gitor Pala.
Guru Ghata occupies a prominent place above all other Ghatas. The performance of Guru Ghata in the Satra is two-fold, one is played on every day evening in the form of “Sewar Kirtan” and the other fold is performed occasionally in various festivals by Gayan Bayan.
The Guru Ghata played in eternal worship acts as a cohesive force among the performers of all ‘Hatigot’ and ‘Banshara’. But the Guru Ghata played in the occasional performance differs slightly from Hatigot to Banshar as well as from Banshara to Banshara.
Guru Ghata or concert in honour of the preceptor is an amalgamation of four different ‘Ghatas’ namely-
1. Lawnou Ghata relating to Childhood days of Lord Krishna.
2. Raga related Ghata.
3. Raga related ‘Chansar’ Ghata.
4. Concluding Ghata.
DHEMALI – THE PRELIMINARIES
Dhemali is the musical prelude of an “Ankiya Nat” which very much resembles with that of Purvaranga, the Preliminaries mentioned in the “Natya Sastra” and like the Sankrit plays, it consists of singing and dancing invocation of devotional nature by the orchestra or Gayan- Bayan with accompaniment of Khol and Tal to secure the favour of the Almighty for the play to be presented. Dhemalis are the amalgamation of three fragments:
1. Upabeshana – Playing of the khol in sitting posture.
2. Pada Sanchalana – Playing of the khol with the movement of feet.
3. Rag Malita – Emergence of Raga.
In Barpeta and its neighbouring Satra, Dhemalis occupies a prominent place above all other Sattriya rhythmic variation. Because Dhemalis are amalgamation of all Bol, Tal and Ghata. In Barpeta Satra the main preliminaries performed are called Bar Dhemali and Saru Dhemali, sometimes followed by the ‘Guru-Ghata’. Ghosha- Dhemali, Nat-Dhemali, Deva- Dhemali are also integral part of Saru and Bar-Dhemali. In Dhemali, the musician appears in proper costumes. Generally, they wear a white ‘dhoti’, white ‘kurta’ called ‘bygon’ and a white turban. The Gayan Bayan together begins a concert of songs, playing Khols and cymbals in dancing movement. The dancing mainly consists of rhythmic ‘stepping’.
The segment of the Dhemali which is performed in the sitting mood is called “Opor Sakeli” in Barpeta Satra. The word “Opor” means the outer or upper part and the word “Sakeli” means the outer skin or cover. In the “Opor Sakeli” Segment the Bayans prepare themselves for Pada Sanchalana – playing of the khol with the movement of feet.