The dramas of Sankaradeva and his chief disciple, Madhavadeva, as also other successors of theirs, are known popularly as ANKIYA NAT and called yatra, nata, nataka or nritya in the text itself. In their performances, these dramas are mostly dance and music, interpreted with very short dialogues and connected with explanatory matter (SUTRA – KATHA) from time to time. As a dramas they are a type by themselves, and do not follow any model, Sanskrit, Prakrit or otherwise. There is no Act or scene division in them; most of the dramatis personae enter the theatre (thatis, the oblong space available at the middle of the thatched prayer- house in maths), surrounded almost on all sides by the squatting audience, at the very beginning (in the evening of show); and the action sweeps on at a stretch till the end is reached (near about dawn). There are no background scenery (although Sankaradeva is said to have introduced them in his very first dramatic performance); time and distance are indicated through songs and dances. The sutradhara or sutadhari, taken originally from the classical Sanskrit drama, dhemali, looking like a clever popular translation of the Sanskrit term, purvaranga) are over, announces the drama and conducts the whole show with dances, songs and explanatory commentary. The songs, dialogues and explanatory matter are all in artificial literary idiom, which has since been called Assamese Brajabuli, being a queer mixture of Assamese, Maithili, Hindi and other elements.
These are intervened only by Sanskrit verses and, rarely, Early Assamese payara with a plaintive motif. The written text of the drama begins with a nandi (benediction) in Sanskrit, announcements of the name and theme of the piece to be presented, bhatima (panegyric) of the hero, and an extremely short dialogue between the sutradhara and a comrade in the style of amukha or prastavna of Sanskrit dramaturgy. The introductory songs (pravesagita) then usher in the hero, the heroine and other characters in appropriate dance compositions. And the real action now begins. The drama closes with a mangala or mukti-mangala-bhatima wishing everybody general welfare and the attainment of final beatitude; and this is comparable to bharata-vakya of classical dramas.
Sankaradeva wrote six plays which are still extent and are performed : Patni-prasada, Kali-damana, Keli-gopala, rukminiharan, Parijata – haran, and Ramavijaya. Madhavdeva composed Arjuna-bhanjana, Chordhara, Pimpara- guchuwa, and Bhumi-lutiwa, three other plays also being ascribed to him : Rasa-jhumura, Bhusana-haran and Kotora –khelowa.
The representations of dramas are popularly known as Bhawana or bhaona (Skt. Bhava, representation; bhavayati; Assamese, bhao di, to act or take part in a dramatic performance). The performances of Sankaradeva’s or Madhavadeva’s dramas are known as ankiya bhaona, representations of other dramas in the same grand style are also known by the same name, but even the later Vaishnava dramas differed in language and mode of performance from the ankiya mode, and came to be known as simple bhaona.