Approximately 600 years ago, social and religious reformer Mohapurux Srimonto Sankardev created Sattriya to propagate his preachings of a monotheistic religion, an equal and class-free society. The dance, initially, was an integral part of one-act plays, called Ankia Nat, whose text, dance and music were also conceived and written by Sankardev. With time Sattriya came on its own and established an identity independent of the plays.
Until the mid-20th Century, Sattriya was confined to and evolved within the monasteries called Sattras, institutions created by Sankardev and built mostly in Majuli, the largest riverine island in the world. For over 500 years, the monasteries protected this sacred dance drama from outside influences. The dance derives its name from the Sattras where it continues to be performed as part of the religious practice by monks or bhokots.
In the middle of the 20th century Sattriya emerged from within the confines of the Sattras, and lay people, especially female dancers, began to embrace the beauty of the dance form and its philosophy. On November 15, 2000, Sattriya dance was declared a classical dance by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the official governmental institution which oversees the classical and other art forms of India. A unique aspect of Sattriya dance is that it is a "living" art form which has not been "revived", but has continued since its creation to be performed in Sattras for liturgical and communal purposes.