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Jai Guru Sankar

GOD IMBUES EVERY OBJECT IN THIS UNIVERSE. DO ADMIRE ALL AND EVERYTHING AS THOUGH THEY ARE GOD HIMSELF. DO NOT SEEK TO KNOW THE CASTE OF A BRAHMANA NOR OF A CHANDALA. LOOK TO A THIEF WITH THE SAME EYES AS TO A GREAT DONOR. THE ONE WHO THINKS THE NOBLE AND IGNOBLE AS THE SAME, CAN ONLY BE REGARDED AS AN OMNISCIENT. ENVY, MALICE, CONDEMNATION AND PRIDE VANISH FROM THE HEART OF ONE, WHO PARTICULARLY ADMIRES ALL HUMAN BEINGS AS VISHNU.

“Kirtana Ghosha” – Srimanta Sankaradeva

FEATURED ARTICLES 01 SANKARADEVA: SAINT EXTRAORDINARY

18 SUE HEALY, UK 24 PAULUS VELTMAN & ANJA BRUNT, NETHERLANDS

PERSONAL VIEWS

by Dr Lakshmi Nandan Bora 04 A SEER FOR ALL REASONS: SANKARADEVA

by Hugh & Colleen Gantzer 08 SANKARADEVA AND HIS VAISNAVISM

42 TAKING SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA TO GLOBAL ARENA

by Dr Sanjib Borkakoti 44 THE SOCIAL RELEVANCE OF GURUJONA’S TEACHINGS

by Dr Arati Barua 12 VRINDABANI VASTRA AND THE SENTIMENT OF THE PEOPLE OF ASSAM

by Rini Kakati

by Subhalakshmi Khan 45 WHY DO I ALWAYS REMEMBER SANKARADEVA?

by Dr Ankuran Kakoti

15 THE SATTRAS OF ASSAM

by Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta

47 SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA..HIS PRESENCE IN MY LIFE

by Lovely Dutta Prusty

20 SANKARADEVA: THE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEUR

by Sanjib Sabhapandit

THE EVENT

25 SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA AND SATTRIYA DANCE

by Dr Mallika Kandali 28 SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA: AN AVATARA

by K. Sreedhar Rao 30 THE INDOMITABLE KNOWLEDGE MANAGER

by Prakash C. Baruah 33 SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA AND HIS CONTRIBUTION TO ASSAMESE SOCIETY

by Lila Mahanta 35 SRI SRI DHAM RAM RAI KUTHI AND MADHUPUR SATTRA

by Prafulla Ch baruah

55 SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA MOVEMENT - AN EXCITING JOURNEY

by Shyamkanu Mahanta 57 SPEECH AT SRIMANTA SANKARADEVA MOVEMENT - DELHI INITIATIVE 2012

by Victor Banerjee 61 PRESIDENT’S NOTE

by Olee Borah

FROM EDITOR’S DESK

39 THE TORCH BEARER OF THE CULTURE OF MAHPURUSHA 48 CREATION OF GENIUS: PHOTO ARTICLE

by Tridip Kataky

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE 06 HOWARD KOONS, USA 14 CATHERINE MARCINIAK, AUSTRALIA

60 IMAGINARY CREATIONS OF SANKARADEVA 63 EDITOR’S NOTE

Article

Dr Lakshmi Nandan Bora

Sankaradeva: Saint Extraordinary

Dr Lakhmi Nandan Bora is a legendary Assamese writer. He was honoured with many awards including Sahitya Akademi in 1988, Assam Valley Literary award in 2004, Saraswati Samman in 2008, etc. His famous novels include Patal Bhairabi, Gonga Silonia Pakhi, Nishar Purobi, Mon Mati Megh, etc. and many of them were best sellers. He is considered one of the most renowned exponents of Sankaradeva and his creations.

Srimanta Sankaradeva, the great Vaisnava saint of Assam of the medieval period is known

people very immediately and toil hard. The artist in him made the arduous task pleasant.

as Mahapurusa, the great soul because of his extraordinary qualities, the evidence of which still influences the minds of innumerable devotees in North-India region. Besides northeast India, his field of activity extended up to Koch Behar of West Bengal and sizable portion of present Bangladesh. His fame as a spiritual leader, scholar and writer was acclaimed throughout India. He was an erudite scholar, one of the finest writers in India, a great musician, a pioneer in the field of drama and dramatic performance and above all a great religious preacher and reformer. In the Assam of his time, which roughly included the present north-east India, he brought about renaissance not only in religion and literature, but also in dance, painting and audio-visual media. He placed the region of his activities on a sound spiritual and cultural footing. He is the innovative preacher of refreshingly new religion that goes by the names of Neo-Vaisnavism of Eka Sarana Harinam Dharma, which benefited the common people immensely as they had been the victims of religious exploitation and oppressive religious bureaucracy.

The Teachings of Sankaradeva

As innovator of Eka Sarana Harinam Dharma, Sankaradeva became successful in transcending time and space. The religion is based on the essence of the Bhagawata-purana, the Geeta, the Narada Bhaktisutra and other related scriptures dwelling on monotheism. Its essential elements are devotional with two characteristics of Bhakti. They are self-surrender to God and enrichment of the self with ecstatic joy, peace and happiness through worshipping him. Faith in God is the main plank of getting salvation and liberation from the misery of life. This Neo-Vaisnavism of Sankaradeva does not encourage dialectics. It was molded by him in such a way that it genuinely conformed to the spiritual and cultural need of the common masses irrespective of caste, creed, sex and status. Thus he had been successful in bringing the people of diverse ethnic groups into the fold of this fascinatingly fresh religion he preached. For achieving this end it was necessary for him to know the common

Sankaradeva urged people to desists from inactivates and to engage themselves in action or to work incessantly and dispassionately. Work with attachment or the desire for getting the result to be curbed. This was the motto enunciated by Lord Krishna in Geeta. Eka Sarana Harinam Dharma is based on Bhakti i.e. devotion, which has to be practiced through (i) Sravana, listening to the glory of God, (ii) Kirtana, chanting prayers, (iii) Smarana, remembering the activites of God, (iv) Padasevana, serving the feet of God, (v) Archana, worshipping the deity, (vi) Vandana, saluting and prostrating at the feet of God, (vii) Sakhya, developing a sense of friendship between the adorer and the adored and (viii) Atma-nivedana, complete self-surrender. Out of all these nine ways of practicing Bhakti, Sankaradeva recommended only Sravana, Kirtana and added Dasya. He himself expresses his rapport with God by describing him as the slave of Krishna. Four cultivating devotional qualities, a devotee should adhere to nam (names of the supreme deity), deva (deity), guru (spiritual guide) and Bhakata (devotee). Hence by the guidance of the guru and association with the likeminded devotes, Bhakti can be successfully practiced, and thus attainment of salvation will be a certainty. This form of Vaisnavism belongs to the Adaitya School, advocating monotheism. It was primarily derived from the philosophical aspects of the Bhagawata-Purana and the Geeta in which God has been regarded as transcendental, possessing both Nirguna (attributeless) and Saguna (attributeful) aspects. So the Saguna God in the form of Rama or Krishna is worshipped. In the Geeta Saguna God Krishna says : Sarba dharman paritaya mamekam saranam braja i.e. giving up all religions, take initiation in me. This sloka of Geeta is the basis of Vaisnavism. So vaisnavism should postulate that worship must be confined to one God only. In his

aspects. So the Saguna God in the form of Rama or Krishna is worshipped. In the Geeta Saguna God Krishna says : Sarba dharman paritaya mamekam saranam braja i.e. giving up all religions, take initiation in me. This sloka of Geeta is the basis of Vaisnavism. So vaisnavism should postulate that worship must be confined to one God only. In his philosophical treatise, Sankaradeva says : Narayana is the supreme soul and the only Lord of the universe. Nothing exists without him. He is the cause as well as the effect of the creation. The religion preached by Sankaradeva is unique in the sense that the worship of only Supreme Being (Krishna and Rama) is permissible, and Bhakti can be attained through Sarana, Kirtana and dasyabhava (attitude of a selfless and faithful slave towards his master). But other forms of Vaisnavism prevalent to some extent. As for example, Vaisnavism of Chaitanya worships Radha and Krishna. The devotee’s of Namdeva’s Vaisnavism and those of Ramananda’s worship Rukmini-Krishna and Sita-Rama respectively. Sankaradeva’s Social Contributions Sankaradeva preached equality in the spiritual domain, keeping no bar between a Brahmana and Chandala. For the liberal outlook of Sankaradeva most of the ethnic groups of his region came into his fold and became his ardent disciples. His religion acted as a powerful integration tool. His moral teachings had been immensely successful in transforming the society to be honest, truthful, kind, patient and discriminate in enjoying worldly pleasures, nonviolent and pure in heart. His religion teaches the doctrine of Karma as described in the Geeta. So it teaches the positive outlook on life and discourages fatalistic attitudes. In the Dasama, the tenth part of the Bhagawata-purana Sankaradeva writes: Life cannot be one of inaction, it will either be good or bad action. People enjoy or suffer inevitably according to the consequence of their deeds. Sankaradeva’s greatness lies in his effective methods of popularizing his religious teachings. In his time, knowledge of scriptures generally written in Sanskrit was confined to a fortunate few, mostly to the priest class. As professionals of religion, they applied the texts of the

scriptures to serve their own purposes, and people in general groped in darkness as knowledge from the scriptures were denied to them. But Sankaradeva’s approach was revolutionary. With the object of lifting the common people from the more of ignorance, he undertook the scheme of translating the principal scriptures into Assamese. He himself translated a lot, and engaged others too. As a result, the true spirit of religion and details of Vaisnavism percolated the grassroots. This helped him immensely to preach his religion. Thus he demolished the rigid bureaucracy in religion, and became the bone of contention for the priest class who suffered heavily in their profession of exploiting the simple and ignorant masses. In the process Sankaradeva came to be known as a great litterateur. He made enormous contributions in Assamese literature. He wrote six long narrative episodes and translated part I, II, X, XI and XII of the Bhagwata-purana and part VIII of the Ramayana. He authored 4 theological and cosmological works, of which Bhakti Ratnakar was in Sanskrit. The Kirtana, his best work and Gunamala was penned by him for prayer. He wrote 6 plays called Ankiya-nats and composed a number of lyrics as bargits, gits, bhatimas, totoyas and chapayas. He was the author of 18 major works. Interestingly, about fifty percent of his total literary output were contributed after he attained the age of 95. Perhaps such an instance is rare in world literature. He enriched Assamese literature in many an aspect and coined many a new word enhancing the power of expression of the Assamese Language. He is regarded as the father of Assamese literature and held in high esteem as builder of nation too. Sankaradeva was born genius. He excelled all other Vaisnavite preachers of his time because none of them was as innovative as him and used all types of audio-visual media which have been prevalent since then. Sankaradeva composed a large number of verses and translated a number of works, which could be sung in a number of tunes like dulari, lechari etc. Thus the Bhagwata or the Kirtana recital was never boring. He was the creator of some musical equipment and a good number of musical accompaniments to be used in songs, dances and prayer. He composed nearly 240 geets (lyrics) and borgeets (divine number) which can be sung with 37 ragas and 5 talas which are also his creations. He introduced a number of dances, known as Sankari or Sattriya dances and was also the innovator of Bhaona, a kind of open air performance which enjoyed great popularity. In creating and

Debeswar Neog evolving all those audio-visual arts which still constitute the core of Assamese culture, common ingradients of the folk cultures of various tribes were aptly co-ordinated on the slender skeleton of classical dance and music prevalent in his time. Thus the culture created by Sankaradeva, now known as Sankari culture is a composite form of popular ingradients of folk cultures of different ethnic groups and as such, it has been able to touch the hearts of everybody and has been working as a powerful tool for uniting the people of the region irrespective of castes, creeds and communities. Sankaradeva is relevant in our strife-ridden age also becausecultivating and popularization of Sankari culture may act as a unifying force. Sankaradeva introduced namghar (congregational prayer hall) and hati (abode of devotees) on the pattern of the Buddhist monasteries. The namghars in different places acted as centers of learning and administering justice. So, he had sowed the seed of present panchayati system of dispensing disputes. Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, one of the stalwarts of Assamese literature and culture summarizes the contribution of Sankaradeva with these words – He gave us music, dance, musical instruments like khol, mridanga and tal, literature, nam, kirtan, namghar, borgeet, hati, housing designs, bank, society, religion, ethnics, justice, law, moral upsurge, non-violence, sacrifice and enjoyment of life. As a result, Sankaradeva’s Eka Sarana Harinam Dharma reigns supreme in the hearts of the people on North-East India and will continue to influence all spheres of life in the region. He has been regarded as the greatest amongst the greats from his time to present.

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Abridged Biography of Sankaradeva

Mr Debeswar Neog is a known name in Assamese Child Literature and has published three books. He is also a lyricist and has written 50 songs till now.

Sri Sankardev was born into the ‘shiromani’ baro-bhuyans family near Bardowa in 1449 AD. His father was Kusumbor Bhuyan and mother Satyasandhya, who died when sankardev was at his tender age and was raised by his grandmother Khersuti. He showed his talent when he started attending school of Mahendra Kandali at the age of 12 by writing a poem even before learning the vowels (except a). At that age he practiced yoga, according to legend he could swim across the mighty Brahmaputra while it was in spate. In the Guru Griha he studied all the Indian great holy books like – Ramanaya, Mahabharata, Puranas and also all other hindu religious books. He left the school in the year 1469 to attend to his responsibilities as the shiromani bhuyan. At the age of 20th he married Suryawati and after the birth of his first baby-girl (Monu) he lost his wife. Monu was married to Hari Bhuyan at an early age. In the year 1481, accompanied by 17 members he went out for a prilgirmage visiting all the holy places of India and gathered the vast spritual knowledge and meaningful experiences of life. At Badrikashram, he composed his first borgeet mana meri ram charanahi lagu. He returned home to Alipukhari from his 12 years religious tour and he denied Shiromaniship, but on his grand mother’s request he married Kalindi. Finally he moved back to Bordowa and built the first foundation stone of Kirtan-ghar in Bardowa and this spreaded the seed for erecting the Sattra and Namghar. After few years he moved to Majuli where he met his spiritual successor Madhabdev, a sakta then and got into a religious debate with him. Sankaradeva could finally convince Madhavadeva of the power of NamDharma. As a result, good singer and scholar Madhabdeva became a main disciple of the saint. Sankaradeva later settled at Patbausi near Barpeta and constructed a Kirtanghar. Sankaradeva once again left for a pilgrimage with a large party of 117 disciples that included Madhabdeva and others in 1550 AD. After the pilgrimage, some people conspired against Sankaradeva and complained to the king that he was corrupting the minds of the people by spreading a new religion, The king then asked Sankardev’s opponents to prove their complaints. After Sankardev defeated them in the debate, Naranarayana declared him free from all allegations and also embraced his teachings. In 1568 after leading a most eventfull life dedicated to the humanity, the Mahapurusha died; within six months of his stay at Bheladonga, at the remarkable age of 120 years.

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Article

Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

A Seer for all reasons: Sankaradeva

Hugh and Colleen Gantzer are considered the 'original' travel columnists from India who broke new ground in the 1970s and 80s with their travel columns and a prime-time travel show on national television. Latest among their countless awards include The National Tourism Award for the year 2011-12 in the category of "Excellence in Publishing – English". Their book “Colourful East” is an account of their fascinating experience of North-East India and the people.

There are Timeless Philosophies and Transient Cults. The Flower People was a time specific cult. Starting with the Peaceniks against the Atom Bomb, it was revitalized as a reaction against the Vietnam and Korean wars and then spread across the world. It guttered out when the wars ended. Then there are region-specific cults like the Cargo Cults of Melanesia where a marginalized people abandoned their traditional way of life in the belief that supernatural cargoes would be delivered from heaven. Finally there are race-specific movements like the birth and death of the, so-called, families of the south-western states of the USA. They harvested disenchanted and rootless youth, the flotsam of a sub-society that had lost its bearings, by offering a lethal cocktail of sex, drugs and life in a commune under the dominance of a charismatic and, invariably, demented leader. These are social allergies, defensive reactions to temporal irritants Last year, however, we discovered the existence of a faith born many centuries ago and, largely, confined to Assam. There could be many geo-political reasons for this sequestering, but we believe that Providence had kept it in reserve, as a Faith-in-Waiting, maturing in the womb of the North-East, ready to spread across the world when mankind most needed it.

Raj and is, in fact, the basis of the very successful Swiss system of governance. Some of the Namghars had evolved even further to embrace a more monastic way of life and the Sattras were born. We visited some of these unusual monasteries in Majuli Island where they had thrived, far from the jealousy of the priestly class of the mainland. Majuli, moated by the swift-flowing Brahmaputra, offered a safe haven, away from the machinations of those religious bigots. Bolstered by the growth of the secluded Sattras, Sankaradeva’s genius really blossomed. He composed 240 Bargeet Hymns of Higher Praise to his monotheistic Lord. In them he consistently railed against ritual and sang in favour of an emotional experience of divinity. The scholar does not see the straight path, nor does the performer of a million sacrifices .... As in Zen, reason can go only so far, feeling and intuition must take over. This vision led him to write his famed Ankiya Naat plays infusing a sense of religious ecstasy in the audience. This is conjured up by actors wearing masks of gods, goddesses, demons and demigods. We were caught up in this enchantment when we visited a monastery of married and celibate maskmakers. The slim acolyte who donned the mask of a fearsome asura was no longer a chela, he became the ravening demon. It was a hair-raising transformation.

It is the philosophy of a polymath seer named Sankaradeva. The teachings of this genius, born in 1449, are very simple. Every human being is capable of having an epiphanic experience without the intervention of priests, rituals, sacrifice or idols. To achieve this, Sankaradeva set up the NamGhars. These are prayer halls focused on sacred texts especially the Bhagawata. Everyone is welcome and treated equally. NamGhars have expanded to becoming virtual village parliaments where social issues and even disputes are handled in a democratic way. This is the principle behind Mahatma Gandhi’s Panchayat

Far ahead of our Social Media revolution, Sankaradeva used a wide variety of platforms to spread his message of devotion. The Sattriya dance was one of them. It presented his teachings in a less dramatic way than the Ankiya Nat plays. On 15th November, 2000. The Sattriya Dance was accepted as one of India’s eight classical dances by the Sangeet Natak Academy. It is the only one created by a single person. Then, on the 25th of March 2004, the international auction house of Christies put up a tapestry,

in New York, at a reserve price of US $1,20,000. This, in all likelihood, was the legendary Vrindavani Vastra designed by Sankaradeva shortly before his death in 1568.

Which begs the question “If Sankaradeva’s philosophy is so powerful, why was it confined to Assam for so long?”

The followers of other religious leaders have created works of art to capture their faith’s teachings. Sankaradeva was the only founder of a faith who was also a wide spectrum creative artist in his own right. Seer, social reformer, poet, composer, playwright, musician, choreographer, designer Sankaradeva was a multi-media guru many centuries before the term ‘multi-media’ was coined. He knew that a philosophy kept hidden was a hoarded treasure. Jesus had expressed the same thought when He said “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick ...Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works”. It had to reach as many people as possible and people’s tastes and perceptions varied. As did their frames of values.

There are two interesting theories which could explain this. In 1960, British scientist Dr James Lovelock, a consultant with the California Institute of Technology, was struck by the fact that the presence of life results in certain self-regulating changes on earth. These seem to compensate for events that would threaten life and its evolution. He reasoned that the earth is a living organism which nurtures and protects life, forcing it to evolve. Decades earlier, Jesuit priest, philosopher and paleontologist, Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had said that man will evolve to an encounter with God at what he calls The Omega Point. Based on these two theories, perhaps the all embracing message of Sankaradeva was destined, or programmed, to be spread only when a non-sectarian, global medium, was ready to propagate it.

We tend to divide the achievers of the world into two distinct categories: the ones by logic and reasoning and those motivated by emotion and intuition, the engineers and the artists, the doers and the dreamers. The doers are considered more macho than the dreamers. This is, largely, a western-oriented mind-set, which is being rapidly eroded in spite of the backlash of alarmed patriarchs and confused men brought up in male-dominated societies. Significantly, in the horrendous bus assault case in Delhi, the youngest most egregious offender said that he committed his crime to “Teach her a lesson!” Then there are others who would attribute gender biases, not to socially sanctioned attitudes but, to the inherent structure of the human brain. They believe that the left half of the brain is the logical side and the right is the intuitive or, by implication, the masculine side and the feminine side! But then, clearly, it would stand to reason that any person who could cultivate both halves of the brain would be markedly superior to the half-brainers. So if Sankaradeva’s religious discipline develops both the engineer and the artist in his followers, both the masculine and the feminine sides then, surely, this is the most appropriate path for the evolution of Homo sapiens? In fact, as technological advances diminish the need for the bulging muscles of males the glass ceiling erected by beleaguered men is being shattered. We are not neurobiologists so we cannot speak with authority on the human brain, but we find Sankaradeva’s philosophy in powerful sync with such beliefs.

Such a medium is the IT revolution’s World Wide Web

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Some Internet Resources on Srimanta Sankaradeva www.atributetosankaradeva.org www.sankaradeva.com www.srimanta.net Facebook group – “Followers of Srimanta Sankaradeva” Facebook group – “Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement”

Editor’s Box

Global Perspective

Howard Koons, USA

Holistic Treasures Howard Koons’ international travel began in 1966 when he took a position of teaching in a small, rural town in west Malaysia. From there, armed with two Leica, range finder cameras, in 1970 he traveled overland the Asia-European continent for a half year before eventually settling in Auburn, northern California. He spends most of his time working with and enjoying the art of photography. In November through January, 2011-2012, Howard and his wife explored the area in the Northeast, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu. Travel and exploring other cultures of the world has been his life’s quest. Howard visited Assam in December, 2011 and had a taste of Sankari Culture. In his words, “We arrived at Majuli Island after having spent time in Nagaland, and from there, circling the state of Rajasthan. Never knowing what new adventures await us we were warmly received at the ferry dock and taken to Po Okum, our place of temporary residency. While there we took every opportunity to explore whatever Majuli had to offer. We took numerous walks through Mishing village observing village life as I once knew it when I lived in Malaysia. We visited the many Sattras at different times of the day to experience, however momentary, Sattra life as a vibrant institution of worshipers maintaining tradition of meditation and life’s wonder. I thank the residents of Majuli for the outreaching hospitality.”

About Auniati Sattra The Auniati Sattra was established in Majuli in 1663 A.D. by the Ahom King Sultanla. He was given the name Jayaddhaja Singha after he adopted the Hindu Religion (Vaishnava) from the first Sattradhikar of Auniati Sattra Sri Sri Niranjan Deva. With around 550 residents of udasin vaishnavs, SriSri Auniati Sattra has been the epicenter of the Vaishnavism and Sattriya culture in Assam. In addition to the regular holy practices in the Sattra, numerous literary pursuits like biographical works of the Vaishnavite Saints, cultural compositions of ‘bhaonas’, ‘Sattriya songs and dances’, religious publications and preaching related to religious and societal works are the core activities of the Auniati Sattra. The main prayer in the Auniati Sattra continues from morning till evening everyday and is being continued without interruption for more than last 350 years. Website: www.auniati.org

Editor’s Box

The place of Devotion - The interior of Auniati Sattra. Photo taken by Howard Koons.

Article

Arati Barua

Sankaradeva and his Vaisnavism

An Interpretative Note in relation to Sankaracharya’s Advaita Vedanta Dr. Arati Barua is Associate Professor and HOD, department of Philosophy at Deshbandhu College, Delhi University, New Delhi. Dr. Barua is the editor of the book “Schopenhauer and Indian Philosophy: A Dialogue between India and Germany” which strengthens the link of Indo-German scholars connection in this regard. She is also the author of highly acclaimed books “The Philosophy Of Arthur Schopenhauer”,” Gandhi And Grant: Their Philosphical Affinities”,” West meets East: Schopenhauer and India”, etc. “Jaya Guru Sankara Sarbagunakara jakeri nahike upam, Tuhari Charanako renu sata kauti bareko karohu pronam…” Introduction:

The great saint Srimanta Sankaradeva’s phenomenal contribution towards the regeneration of Assamese society in every dimension of life - from religious reforms to social reconstructs - was so overwhelming that it is impossible to think of modern Assamese society and its literature, arts and culture without any reference to this great son of Assam. It is worth recognizing the fact that five hundred years back when there was no easy modes of communication, Sankaradeva took the pains and difficulties of travelling the length and breadth of India not once but twice in his life time and visited the well known centers of learning in search of knowledge about Indian religion and culture. He visited Srikhetra, Mathura, Vrindavan Kashi, Puri, Mithila and other places of learning and acquired a thorough understanding of the secret of Indian life, culture and philosophy. He took the vow of transplanting the Indian ideals and view of life in Assam, not in an undiluted form that he had conceived of it, but in a simplified and modified form that fit into his vision of an Assamese society. His vision was essentially to unify the vast masses of people of different strands of beliefs and practices, religion and culture and faith that lived in Assam - from Assam- Kamrupa to Koch Beher and beyond- into a unified and composite Assamese society. For this purpose he had used various instruments of mass communication such as literature and poetry, music, sculpture, painting, dramatics etc. to spread his vision of the ideals of Indian philosophy and values in Assam. It was a massive task, a Herculean task indeed. For to achieve this he had to construct the foundation of Assamese language to

communicate his ideals to reach out to every common man and used various modes of communication such as songs and poetry, story telling, music, dramatics, paintings and sculptures that can easily appeal to the imagination of people. His message of eksarania dharma and its practice by humming the great deeds of Lord Krishna was so electrifying that it unified the vast masses of people of different cultures, faiths and beliefs into a singular form of Assamese culture which epitomizes the present day Assamese society. He had unified Assam through cultural assimilation and he had integrated Assam with the rest of India again through unification of culture. His contribution was so massive that there was no comparable historical figure in the World even during the great Renaissance period. We just cannot describe him merely as a religious reformer, a linguistic, a literary figure, a poet, a musician, a dramatist, a social reformer and anything that you can imagine of. He was much more than all that, he was much greater than what he had achieved. It is a matter of shame and regret that a genius of Srimanta Sankaradev’s stature has not been given his due place in Indian history and culture. It is immaterial to find out who may be held responsible for that. It is in this perspective I am extremely delightful to learn that Assamese people living in and outside Assam has taken the pious initiative to promote the teachings of Srimanta Sankaradeva outside Assam and to bring “Gurujona” to a global focus. As a part of this initiative, an event is going to be organized on the 1st of June, 2013 at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore, India. I feel myself lucky and proud to get an opportunity to write a piece on the thoughts and philosophy of our Guru Sankaradeva for the Souvenir of Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement, Bangalore Initiative, 2013. For this I wish to express my gratitude and gratefulness to the committee. I wish a great success of this Movement. In this paper I shall try to make a very modest attempt to shed some lights on Sankaradeva’s

philosophy in relation to Sankaracharyya. Sankaradeva’s Vaisnavism: Sankaradeva, the founder of Vaisnavism in Assam, believed that the ultimate aim of life could be achieved through devotion to Lord Krishna. His purpose therefore was to spread this simple message so as to reconstruct the Assamese society by unifying the people of all sheds of life. He was not interested to bring about any metaphysical revolution. Thus, he played a role like Lord Buddha and Mahaveer Jaina who were basically social reformers, ethical thinkers than metaphysicians. According to Dr. Maheswar Neog, Sankaradeva had nowhere tried to establish an independent philosophical system. But a close observation would reveal that theological questions were not altogether left out of discussion in the writings of the Vaisnavite thinkers in Assam. True, he did not develop his philosophy in a systematic form or his ideas were perhaps not original and novel but his works cannot be said to be devoid of any philosophy. In Sankaradeva’s Bhakti-ratnakara, Bhakti-pradipa, Kirtan-Ghosa and Madhavadeva’s Namaghosa, we can find enough evidence of philosophical and theological or ethical principles of the Vaisnavite thinkers of Assam. It needs to be recognized that almost all the works of Sankaradeva and his followers were translations of and compilations from works by others. It is further said that there is no original theological work or commentary on any fundamental scriptures, which was written by them. Therefore, it is not easy to formulate a clear philosophical view of Vaisnavism in Assam. However , on the basis of these translations, an attempt has been made here to relate aspects of Sankaradeva’s Vaisnavism with Sankaracharya’s philosophy. Philosophy of Sankaracharya: Advaitavada: Sankaracharya was one of the greatest thinkers of our country. His philosophy is known as advaitavada. The main principle of advaitavada is “Brahman satya jagat mitthya, jiva brahmaiva naparah.”

(Brahman is the ultimate Truth. Jagat is false, jiva and Brahman are non different). The main philosophical basis of Sankaradeva is also the same. Sankaradeva’s Vaisnavism mainly derived its philosophico-religious contents from the Bhagawata purana and the Geeta. He had re-established and re-explained the philosophical views of Bhagawata Purana in his works. For the Vaisnavite thinkers of Assam, Bhagawata purana was considered to be the supreme authority. Hence the influence of Bhagawata purana on Vaisnavism in Assam is quite obvious. Of course, there were other works such as the commentary of Sridhar Swami which had also influenced the Vaisnavite thinkers in Assam. According to the experts on Vaisnavism, the philosophical teachings of Bhagawata Purana are quite close to that of Sankaracharya. In order to explain the Purana, Sankaradeva had always taken the help from Sridhara Swami’s 'Bhagawata Bhavarthadeepika’. Sridhara Swami himself had said that he had followed the views of Sankaracharya. On the other hand, we find in Sankaradeva’s ‘Bhakti ratnakara’ (which contains the whole of his philosophical views) the mention about Sridhara Swami’s commentary to the largest extent. That is the reason why do we find much similarity in Sankaradeva’s philosophy with that of Sankaracharya. Brahman and Maya: Like Sankaracharya, Sankaradeva also accepted "Brahman" as the ultimate cause of this world and had given different names to it like ‘paramartha', 'Bhagawata' etc. Sankaracharya had explained the riddle of perceiving the world of multiplicity in place of one Brahman through the doctrine of maya. And Sankaradeva was in agreement with Sankaracharya in this regard too. Maya is the magical power of Brahman through which the world is projected. Actually the jiva and jagata are not different from Brahman but due to the influence of maya, jiva forgets his real nature and suffers from all kinds of sufferings in this world. Jiva is under the spell of maya. Maya being the magical power of creation is indistinguishable from God. For God, maya is only the will to create the appearance. It does not affect God, It does not deceive Him. Sankaradeva has ascribed the name ‘Mohini’ to maya. God is said to be the greatest magician and he has created this world through the power of maya. This illusory world appears to be real to the ignorant but the wise persons

do not accept anything as real except the God. Maya has two functions - avarana and viksepana. Due to the avarana function, maya covers jivas with darkness and due to the function of, viksepana maya makes the real appear as unreal and the unreal to appear as real. The individual jivas, being under the influence of maya, remain attached to this world and though being a part of the sadanandamoyee God, the jiva’s remain unhappy and also far away from God.

mukti as the highest end of life. He feels that a person who is jivanamukta can still be trapped in the net of maya if he has no bhakti. But those who are at the lotus feet of God, they are automatically rewarded with mukti. Hence the reason why Sankaradeva prefers Vaikuntha than mukti since one can enjoy the blessedness of God in Vaikuntha only. He said, “Ram hena ito duguti aksara sadai adare gawe,

Sankaradeva also mentions these avarana and viksepana functions of maya. In this way Sankaradeva’s philosophical reasoning is quite in agreement with Sarnkaracharya’s philosophy. In his Kirtana Ghosa Sankaradeva has said, “tumi paramatma jagatara isa eka,

sansara sagar tari sito nare durlabha moksaka pawe”. The easiest means to attain God is through devotion that is why Sankaradeva preferred bhakti to mukti and said:

eko bastu nahike tomata byatireka”. (There is only one God in this world and nothing in this world is different from that God.) From this it is clear that like Sankaracharya, Sankaradeva had given special importance to the monistic concept of God. Moksa and Bhakti : Regarding the concept of moksa, Sankaradeva was in full agreement with Sankaracharya’s advaita mukti. Sankaradeva’s views on moksa and bhakti are to be found in his BhaktiRatnakara, which contains his philosophical reasoning. In this work Sankaradeva not only tried to assimilate the philosophical views of the Geeta and Bhagawata but also tried to express his views in the simplest language. Following Geeta and Upanishads, Sankaradeva accepts the ‘law of karma’ in his philosophy. From this viewpoint the jivas either suffer or enjoy according to their own karma and remain attached to this illusory world. The jiva attaining real knowledge can be free from the illusion of this world and can get merged with the Paramatma. However, Sankaradeva attributes higher place to bhakti than mukti even though he accepts

“Parama ahimsa dharma sanyase napawe ji moka jnana abhyase. bhakatese kare amaka baisya kahilo Uddhava ito rahasya” (Kirtan Ghosa) So, according to him, the simplest means of bhaktimarga is to attain moksa and Paramatma. His contributions towards the social, religious, cultural, philosophical and spiritual developments in Assam are immense. To achieve his objectives, he had established “Sattras” which were like monasteries. The ‘Namgharas’, for example, were like Halls for assembling of people for prayers and ‘nama kirtana’ which became a popular institution in the religious life of the Assamese people. It is thus clear that Sankaradeva’s works revolved round a central philosophy of thought, which is Advaitavedanta. He may be called as the great Advaita vedantist philosopher of

of Assam. The most beautiful part of Sankaradeva’s philosophy and religion was that his “Sattra” institutions were open to all irrespective of any caste and religion. His philosophy was philosophy of humanism and love for all beings.

Do you know this?

References: Barua, Arati (2008), “Philosophy and Religion of Sri Sankardeva” in Philosophy of Sankardeva vol. I.: an Appraisal, edited by Prof Nilima Sharma, Gauhati Barua, Arati (2005), “On some aspects of Sankardeva’s philosophy” in Social Science Research Journal vol. 6 number 1, Panjab University, India Dutta, Anima (1982), Assam Vaishnavism, Mittal Publication, New Delhi Neog, Dr. Moheswar (1965), Sankaradeva and His Times, Gauhati University Farquhar, J.N. (1920), An outline of the Religious Literature of India, Oxford, U.P. Sarma, Dr. S.N. (1996), The Neo-Vaisnavite Movement and the Satra Institution of Assam, Lawyers.

Srimanta Sankaradeva is known as an individual of extra-ordinary intellect, but he was such an all round perfectionist that his physical power and attributes were also known to be of extra-ordinary degree. There are legends of how the Mahapurusha did some extreme physical act of power not possible to any normal human being. Sankaradeva was a master swimmer and it is known that he could cross the river Brahmaputra at ease even when the river was in spate (The average width of Brahmaputra in plain is 10 km). There was another instance of the strength of the Guru when he controlled a fierce wild Ox in his young age at school and save a whole village from the agony of the Ox. His extreme physical ability can also be seen in his works too. He wrote more than half of his books around the age of 100 years. He also set out for his second pilgrimage at the age of 101 and travelled all around Northern India.

Mahanta, B. (1994), Sankardevar Darsan, Lawyers Darbasi, Janice (1998), Srimanta Sankaradeva: The living Legend, Vikas P. House, Delhi Datta and Chatterjee, (1984), An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, Calcutta University Dasgupta, R. K., “Sankardeva :the founder of Assamese Vaisnavism” in A Tribute to Sankardeva organization.

Though Sankaradeva was a man of extra-ordinary strength but he always showed love and compassion to all living things. Once during his second pilgrimage, he encountered a deer and a peacock caught in a trap by a hunter. Sankaradeva asked his disciples to free them and put some money for the poor hunter instead. The hunter on return was moved by this act and rushed to Sankaradeva to lament his past acts and to take him as his disciple. Srimanta Sankaradeva agreed and graced the hunter with spiritual knowledge.

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Article

Rini Kakati

Vrindabani Vastra and the sentiment of the people of Assam

Rini Kakati, NRI from London, has been instrumental in organizing various conferences and researches at international level on the famous Vrindavani Vastra. She is known for her community, social, academic and cultural works spanning across countries from U.K. to her motherland Assam. She was awarded International Society's 'Glory of India Award' for her proactive work in 2009.

Historical records provide ample evidence of glorious textiles tradition of Assam. At the request of the Koch king’s brother: Prince Chilarai, Sri Sankaradeva took up the project of tapestry weaving for which he engaged the weavers of Tantikuchi or Barpeta. Eventually, the Vrindabani Vastra was lost though the last place of resort for the Vastra was the Madhupur Sattra in Koch Behar. The Vrindabani Vastra a figured silks from Assam: from the 16th – 18th century (measuring 120 cubits long and 60 cubits broad) are rare silk textile fragments depicting scenes from the life of Lord Krishna in a floral, naturalistic and preciously elegant style are preserved at the Blythe House, part of British Museum. Also in other museums like Victoria & Albert Museum, Chepstow Museum in Wales, Calico Museum of Textiles in Ahmedabad, Newark Museum in New Jersey, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Museum of Mankind in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Centro Internazionale delle Arti e del Costume in Venice and AEDTA Collection in Paris. As Richard Blurton, the Curator at the British Museum explains, it was Perceval Landon, a British journalist and special correspondent for The Times who acquired the Vrindabani Vastra on his expedition to Tibet in 1903 – 1904 in a town called Gobshi. And he gave the textile to British Museum in 1905 over a hundred years. Rosemary Crill, the researcher & the author of the book Vrindavani Vastra: Figured Silks from Assam is a Senior Curator for the Asian Development at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Her suggestion is that it can be linked examples some of which emerged from Tibet to Assamese Vaishnavite rituals. The piece which is at British Museum cannot be certain that it belongs to the period of Sankaradeva. But pieces in other places could be about Sankaradev's time.

Museum would be very dull places if they could only display works that were made in their own countries or ethnic areas. What is most important is that art is displayed publicly not hoarded in private collections. Galleries upon galleries of European and American museums can be seen filled by objects from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The colonial powers as we like to call them were the ones that preserved these treasures. Without them most of these artefacts would have disappeared by neglect. Many works of art have been preserved better as a result of being carefully handled in a foreign museum: there is the theory that the Elgin marbles would not have remained in their present condition in Athens because of the high air pollution levels, and similarly, many treasures would have been lost or destroyed for ever had they not been removed by outsiders. Perceval Landon must have understood the importance of Vrindabani Vastra when he found it in Gobshi and decided to bring all the way from Tibet to a safer home like British museum. The world does seem a smaller place nowadays and to me these treasures do belong to the world. Cultural artifacts were local then became national and are now global. Civilization is not a civilization if you do not share with others. British Museum has done a good job of looking after them and naming its original. As coming from Assam, I can feel the sentiment of Assamese people today being emotional and stubborn to bring back Vrindabani Vastra to home. We can not do anything to conserve what we already have. What about the wealth of historical treasures such as monuments and artefacts from our deep past? The preservation and conservation of the Majuli Sattra, State Archives, State museum, District library to name a few are in a

dilapidated condition. Archaeological Survey of India has often complained that lack of adequate funds is largely responsible for its inability to protect the country’s museums and monuments. Assamese has a very rich literary history, is known to have written literature starting the thirteenth century before the printing press was brought to Assam by Europeans. The books were written painstakingly in hand on especially prepared paper from locally available resources. Some of these documents stored in the museum of Assam and Gauhati University library in various conditions, most not so scientific. And as a result of the natural calamities, sheer neglect and lack of knowledge, the precious hand-written books, dating back centuries are slowly getting destroyed. A long year of neglect have taken its toll on a number of sites of historical importance, the ancient monuments of the state have failed to get the recognition that they deserve. We demolish old temples. Not to speak of other sites, cracks on the famed Rang Ghar and Kareng Ghar, have now endangered the very existence of this structure. The NorthBrook gate in Jubilee garden, Panbazar, at the very heart of Guwahati is facing the burnt of neglect, and big cracks have appeared on the pillars. This gate was constructed near Sukreswar ghat on the bank of river Brahmaputra, where NorthBrook got down from the ship to visit the city in 1874. It also welcomed Lord Curzon during his visit to Guwahati from Kolkata. Another sad example: when we demolished our old Cotton College administrative building, which was built in 1901 initiated by Sir Henry Cotton. It is our heritage. Isn’t it? British maintained English Heritage. They aim to make people understand and appreciate the importance of historic site to get the care and attention it deserves, from the first traces of civilisation to the most significant buildings of the 20th century. They feel that it is their job at English Heritage to make sure that the historic environment of England is properly maintained and cared for. In Stratford -upon-Avon, Shakespear’s cottage, the original structure of the building still stand as it is. They renovate, redecorate but never change the structure. Now both India and Assam wants to claim back the Kohinoor Diamond and Vrindabani Vastra. Unfortunately this is like trying to rewind history. Where would you stop? Would every

Roman artefact in Britain have to be sent to Italy, along with every Roman or Greek statue? Would the French want back statues that were cast from the bronze of their guns, could the South African’s claim back all their diamonds and gold? Should all Dutch paintings be sent back to Holland? It just wouldn’t work. In Victoria & Albert Museum one can see the famous Tipoo’s Tiger which had been damaged in the Second World War. Also many works of Buddhist art from Central Asia was also damaged in Berlin and lost forever. In such a volatile world where works of art be safe? Who were to deny that Britain is a colonial misadventure of last century? But Britain has also brought a morale system into the society. We are no more than the summation of our experiences. For our experiences define our identity. In case of Vrindabani Vastra, the problem is how can we establish the original ownership? So, far nothing has come up. But again once the State Government is not in a position to preserve and conserve the already existing artefacts, how can we be assured safe keep of Vrindabani Vastra in Assam. The climate of Assam is very humid. It rains torrentially during the Monsoon season. The Brahmaputra and the many hundreds of big and small rivers and tributaries in Assam are prone to damaging floods almost every year. Earthquakes are fairly common as well. There are hardly any scientifically maintained archival sites. However a temporary measure, for the public viewing of Vrindabani Vastra one can suggest in a place like Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalashetra, Guwahati, provided it has any scientific method to preserve. The arrangement should be for a limited period only. Once more Vrindabani Vastra in its current location is much more safer and available for many more people who might be interested in arts and culture As an Assamese, I feel fortunate that I am able to view this historic piece of textile in British Museum where every care is taken to preserve and conserve.

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Global Perspective

Catherine Marciniak, Australia

The Doorway

In November 2012 my partner and I visited Majuli, an island in the middle of the Brahmaputra River in Assam. This is the fifth largest river in the world and even in the dry season it is a massive body of water weaving its way through islands of shifting grey silt. We are told the annual floods are getting worse, sadly eating away the island and its ancient cultural heritage at an alarming rate. It is not just the physical environment that is in a constant state of change on Majuli. This is a place where monks in ancient Hindu monasteries chant, drum, dance, do circus tricks, pray and play in spiritual communities of men, from 5 years old to frail elders of indeterminate age. They travel to Europe to perform Indian classical dance and know more about Australian cricketers than I do. I have always loved the creative buzz of capturing the richness of India in photographs but I have also felt a little uncomfortable about falling into the trap of framing people here as the exotic other. Today, what I witness on Majuli is the universal language of technology and photography, breaking down these barriers. I saw the tentacles of the electricity grid reaching even the remotest of villages enabling not only the light bulb, but also other “basic modern necessity� like the mobile phone. In our travels on Majuli we saw only couple of other foreigners but there were number of Indian photographers taking photos of the monks in the monasteries and each other in front of a beautiful Majuli backdrop. Perhaps in the end we all recognised a poignant image, or a story behind a face, and feel compelled to capture the moment. Catherine Marciniak from Australia works for the public broadcaster in Australia, as the NSW North Coast ABC Open Producer, helping others to see and record the stories around them. Her obsession is in capturing the stories that make us who we are. She took this photograph of Monk entering a prayer hall (Namghar) at Kamalabari Sattra in Majuli.

Article

Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta

The Sattras Of Assam

Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta is presently, Additional Director General of Police, Assam and was recently awarded President Police Medal for Distinguished services. Mr. Mahanta is a multifaceted talent, was co-author of the famous Coffee table "Sattras & Dargahs of Assam", directed in many documentaries and films. He is also one of undertaken commendable role in Police Public Relationship.

The forerunners of the Bhakti

movement in Assam found widespread following cutting

across caste, creed and communities when they embarked on the philosophy of devotion and its multi-faceted ramifications. Proliferation of scriptures in local language, art, craft, painting and other forms of aesthetics like songs, drama and a new social system—all created, propounded and propagated by Sankaradeva and his contemporary disciples, were carried forward as a tradition by the later monks. The reason of sustenance of this great tradition of religion, art, culture and social organization over the last six hundred years is because of an organized continuum of the tradition— through the institution of the sattras. The sattra institution since the 16th century itself have witnessed its horizontal spread in terms of geographical coverage right from Koch-behar and some areas in present day Bangladesh to the tribal areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland on the eastern most part of the country. Its vertical spread may be assessed from its deep-rooted influences on the social fabric of mainland Assam over a very long period of history. Origin of Sattra The dictionary meaning of the term sattra would imply a religious institution—a monastery. In Krishna Yajurveda, the word sattra is meant to connote various religious functions like ‘yajna’. A transliteration of the verses mentioning sattra in the 1st chapter of Bhagawat purana, (“Naimishe Naimishe kshetre rishayah Shaunakadai sattrang swargaya lokayo sahashra samamasata’), rendered by Sankaradeva himself, indicated sattra to be a place of congregation of sages and monks to get immersed in discourses on the Bhagawata religion. It is pertinent to mention here that the terminology sattra is an ancient one. The great master

himself laid the foundation of this great institution when he set up its various components to further his philosophy in an organized manner at Bardowa. The essential feature of the sattra institution-the prayer house, called by nomenclatures like devagriha, sattragriha, kirttanghar in different carit-puthis was set up by Sankaradeva himself as the nucleus of this institution. Unending sessions of recitation, community singing of prayers, religious discourses by the apostles with the preceptor (Guru) as the epicenter were usual practices as detailed in many of the Carit-puthis. This practice widened the ambit to take into the fold of the order the common people of the places wherever the two masters Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva had camped. Most such places of congregational prayers and discourses attained certain amount of sacred aura and the disciples later called them sattra or Thaan sattras. Madhavadeva, who succeeded Sankaradeva on the pontifical position, is credited with establishing a monastery in Barpeta in a manner that was novel and systematic. Damodardeva, another very dear disciple of Sankaradeva, and a much respected scholar, also established the monastery of Patbausi— with all the super-structures that had become the standardized style for all the later sattras to follow. Thus the institutionalized form of sattra was implemented by these two great disciples of Sankaradeva. Benefitting from direct association and influences of both Madhavadeva and Damodardeva, Vamsigopaldev implemented the same in Upper Assam. Sattras and the communities The Sankaradeva movement not only watered down the system of discrimination on the basis of caste, but also strived to save the society from practices of religious bigotry, untouchability and most interestingly, gave space to the Islam and other faiths--both in terms of taking the believers into the Vaishnavite fold and creating a system of harmonious co-existence. So overwhelming

the likeness of the Islam and Sankarite religions have been in Assam that a number of Islamic institutions were structured typically in the line of the sattras. E.A.Gait observes in the Census Report of Assam, 1891, that the “Mussalmans have borrowed the ecclesiastical machinery of the Hindus. They have their Gosains or spiritual preceptors to some one of whom every Mussalman is bound to attach himself…These Mussalman Gosains have their own sattras or establishments and resident disciples. Devotees belonging to various tribes of Assam to the tune of lakhs still take initiation in some or the other sattra and embrace the formal disciple hood of the pontifical order of that particular sattra. The Muslim followers of Sankardeva and his successors like Chandsai, Yavana Jayhari and Dheli tailor, and the tribal disciples like Norottam of the Nocte, Paramananda of the Mishings and Gobinda of the Garos are some examples of the popular folklore of Assam. Some of these devotees also donned pontifical positions.

At the helm is the Sattradhikar. A number of disciples were tasked to propagate the faith and the tenets by Madhavdeva and Damodardeva and proselytize willing people. They set up sattras in different parts and were termed as Gosain, Sattriya, Adhikar or Sattradhikar. The Sattradhikar is the spiritual and administrative head, exercising a guardianship over thousands of men and women who become the disciples of that particular sattra. However, he does not own the sattra but acts as the principal ‘guide’ of the organization belonging to the community of disciples. Earlier, the Sattradhikar was chosen on the basis of a consensus or merit but later succession became hereditary in most of the sattras. In the sattras of the celibate order, even now, the Sattradhikar is nominated from another sattra by consensus. The Sattradhikar of Purana Kamalabari has requested this author to locate a well-groomed boy to be nominated and trained for the post of Deka-Sattradhikar— the designate in waiting. Both Barpeta and Bardowa sattras witness a system of democratic election to choose the Sattradhikar.

Naamghar and the hatis The prayer hall called naamghar inside the sattra premise plays a pivotal role in the sattra way of life. A large hall, rectangular in shape, is used as the congregational prayer hall of the devotees of the sattra. Over the years, this institution has become a centre for community deliberations in respect of temporal issues also. On the eastern part of the main prayer hall lies the sanctum-sanctorum called monikut. The holy throne called Simhasana is kept here to represent the abode of divinity. These naamghars along with the monikut form an important component of mainland Assam’s social life. While most of these naamghars maintain their allegiance towards one or the other sattra, they may be independent of sattra or may be adhering to other non-sattra ecclesiastical order like the Sankar Sangha. It is generally the sattras of the celibate order which are distinctive in their sustenance of the old system of four dormitories, all around the naamghar. Called the hatis, the set of houses are constructed around all four directions of the naamghar to be used as the places of stay of the monks and disciples of a particular sattra. For the married persons, separate houses inside the premise are provided. There is also the concept of bahir-hati for those household families of devotees staying outside the sattra. The Sattradhikar The sattra is run as per a well organized system of administrative and operational structure.

There is an elaborate mechanism of running a sattra and various events through a number of designated officials. Samhatis: Over the years, especially after the passing away of the great preceptor, the Vaishnavite community acquired four different identities. A dispute over succession reportedly occurred between the two worthy disciples, Madhavadeva and Damodardeva, though as per the Carit-puthis, Sankardeva chose Madhava to take the mantle of carrying forward the faith. A new stream thus came about under the leadership of those disciples of Sankardeva, who were of closer proximity to Damodardeva. Brahma Samhati: Thus the stream created by the Brahmin Gurus having allegiance to Damodardeva and with emphasis on Brahminical rituals came to be known as the Brahma Samhati. In the sattras of Brahma samhatis, the Sattradhikar is mostly of Brahmin caste. This samhati does not deny the emphasis on rituals of the greater Hindu faith; it holds that even a ‘Vaishnava’ can follow the precepts of the Vedic rituals. Deva, meaning God, is given the utmost focus in this and this sect advocates worshipping of the idol of Vishnu. There are more than a hundred Brahma samhati sattras in the Brahmaputra Valley, of which

This stream gives special focus on the role of the Guru or the preceptor. Gopaldeva is also called the Purna Gopal— the complete being and revered like God. Similarly Aniruddhadev who propagated the faith and managed to take into the fold the most backward and tribal people of the easternmost part of Assam and present day Arunachal Pradesh, is a very revered Guru. Some members owing allegiance to the Mayamora Sattra took arms and rose in a rebellion against the Ahom monarchy in the 17th century.

Nika Samhati: This stream came about at last over the issue of equaling Madhavdeva and Chaturbhuj Thakur, the grandchild of Sankaradeva. Mathuradas bura-Ata, Padma BadulaAta, Keshabcaran and later Ramcaran Thakur are precursors of this samhati. While Sankaradeva is considered the Guru of all Gurus, Madhavadeva also occupies a very major place in this. This samhati’s major emphasis is on maintaining and ensuring purity of body and mind (nika). The habits of food, clothing and ritualistic practices are overriding concerns in this samhati. Colleagues in prayer – Sat sang – is a special focus in this samhati. No idol finds a place here—instead the scriptures are given the position of God. Barpeta of Mathuradas, Kamalabari of Padma-Ata, Khotora of Gobinda Atoi, Dhupguri of Laxmikanta, Sundaridiya of Ramcaran etc. are important sattras of this samhati. Barpeta is the major sattra of this samhati where the democratic system of management of the sattra has been in place since it was established. Because of sustained practice and special focus on enculturation of the young monks in these sattras through learned monks, the wonders of cultural heritage of sattras are better preserved in most of these sattras. The Kamalabari heritage has played a pivotal role in sustaining the traditional dance and music.

Gopal Ata chose six Brahmin and six Kayastha Adhikars and trained them in various aspects of sattra administration. They were then sent to different places to propagate which, over the years, resulted in formation of many sattras.

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the Auniati, Dakhinpat, Garmur and Kuruabahi are the most famous and influential. Maneri Sattra at Bohori (Kamrup) was established by Haridev. Vamsigopaldev and Banamalidev played stellar roles in establishing the four famous sattras at Majuli in eastern Assam. Kal Samhati: Madhavadeva’s most loved disciple Gopal Ata became the head after the demise of Madhavadeva. He established a sattra at Kaljhar in Barpeta. The sattras that had evolved from the teachings and guidance of Gopal Ata, Jadumoni and Aniruddhadev, had created the stream of Kal Samhati— the word ‘kal’ having come from the ‘Kaljhar Sattra’.

Purusa Samhati: This stream has come into being with the sattras referring descendency to Purusottam Thakur, the grandchild of Sankardeva. While he himself set up a sattra at Jania, Purusottam also selected six Brahmins and six Kayasthas to propagate the faith. Accordingly many sattras were set up by the early pontiffs. Chaturbhuj Thakur, brother of Purushottam also chose twelve other pontiffs who set up sattras like Bihimpur, Nachpar, Chungapara, Bongaya, Kaoimari, Halodhiati etc. Kanaka Barojon are those sattras of this stream which were set up at the initiative of Kanaklata, wife of Chatrubhuj Thakur. Among the four pillars of Sankardeva’s tenets, Purusa samhati lays maximum emphasis on naam or singing of hymns. That is how over the centuries, this samhati in considered gifted on music. This stream does not prohibit Brahminical rituals very strongly. Vishnu idol is worshipped in most of the sattras of this samhati.

Global Perspective

Sue Healy, UK

The Artistic Way of Living Sue Healy is a global traveler and lives in the UK. Sue visited Assam recently and got a touch of Sankari culture during this visit. She writes down her experiences of Assam and culture: “ I am primarily a birdwatcher and like to try to capture a flavour of the areas that I visit around the world. I travelled to Assam with Ornitholidays, a tour company at the end of November last year and we cruised down the Brahmaputra River. I found the people, wildlife and scenery of this whole area amazing, and the presentations of local culture brought a heightened awareness of the beauty of the state of Assam.�

This Photograph taken by Sue Healy captures GayanBayan performances at Kamalabari Sattra. The Gayanbayan is a unique combination of musical orchestra and group dance. Recently, such 14,883 Khol players (drummers) entered into record by playing in unison at Titabor in Jorhat, Assam (See page 23)

About Kamalabari Sattra In the post Sankardeva-Madhavadeva era, the NeoVashnavite movement was continued by their disciples in Assam. Padma Ata, also known as Badala Ata, took the leadership in the eastern Assam and Majuli. Initially a swordsman in the army, he exhibited a supreme distrust in worldly affairs after witnessing the large-scale massacre of men and animals during the expedition against the Daflas, and became a disciple of Madhavadeva at Koch-Behar. In 1595 Badala Ata established a Sattra in the Orange (Kamala) Garden (Bari) of one of his disciples, Purusottama Baruah, in Majuli. The Sattra was named as Kamalabari. Ata stayed in this Sattra till his death nominating his Brahman disciple Srirama as his heir. The Kamalabari sattra has been a centre of art, cultural, literature and classical studies for centuries. Due to the damages done by flood, one branch of the Sattra is recently established in the mainland Assam. But a branch of the original Sattra still continues. The Sattra has been producer of great cultural figures in Assam. It is the home to legendary musicians and artists like the Late Maniram Dutta, Muktiyar Bayan and Raseswar Saikia Barbayan, who contributed greatly towards the conferment of the Classical status upon Sattriya Dance. The disciples and artists trained in the Sattra perform nationally and internationally today. The Sattra is known for creating sculptures of mythological characters and also crafting beautiful boats.

Editor’s Box

Students of Sattriya performing Mati-Akhora at Kamalabari Sattra. Photo taken by Sue Healy.

Article

Sanjib Sabhapandit

Sankaradeva: The Social Entrepreneur

Mr Sanjib Sabhapandit is a national award winning filmmaker cum writer from Assam. "Jatinga Ityadi", an Assamese Feature Film directed and written by him was praised by critics and screened at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), 2007. He recently made another Assamese feature film ‘Jaangfaai Joonak’ using advance digital technology. Sanjib Sabhapandit is an exponent of Srimanta Sankaradeva and has directed a film for the Sankaradeva Movement.

An entrepreneur, generally, does not tread paths traveled by others. He is, by and large, not happy with the existing disposition and so he sets out to chart out his own road map. He creates challenges for himself and then sets his own standards. He never accepts defeat and takes all set backs on his stride. He is always magnanimous and never allows himself to be bogged down by trivialities. Even against all odds, he remains steadfast as rock in his own convictions. An entrepreneur does not work for himself, primarily. He works for all around him. The fruits of his efforts are the resources for his society. An entrepreneur creates his own value system. Others bathe in those values to enrich their lives. A successful entrepreneur leaves behind a legacy. He creates followers who carry forward that legacy; because he is a leader and he is accepted as a leader and that is the aura about him. People feel for him as he feels for them. They cry for him as he suffers for them. He makes life bigger and fuller for himself as well as for others. He creates avenues for others to grow and flourish. He not only creates wealth but basically builds up an institution or a number of them. So an entrepreneur is a social leader. He has to have personal charisma He has to maintain and increase his follower base. He has to keep them in good and positive spirit. He has to decentralize authority and responsibility amongst his followers. He has to be successful and also create successful models to inspire his followers.

He has to be clear and appear to be clear in his perceptions and convictions and decisions and deeds. He has to be creative and he must prove that he is different and yet one among them. He must be expressive in more than one ways. He must show initiative in more than one area He must be talented in more than one trait And finally He must be a caring human being with love, affection, transparency, credibility, ethos, dignity and humility. In Sankaradeva, the great social reformer, religious Saint, cultural icon, creative genius and social entrepreneur, we have all these intrinsic qualities blooming in luxuriant abundance. For a man to be born in the 15th century in a superstitious society ridden with casteism, black magic, idol worship , illiteracy and having no literature & philosophy & cultural practice worth the name and still be able to transform the whole lot of people into a nation of definite identity , it speaks volumes about this giant of a person. It seems virtually impossible to draw a parallel with any other person in world history having such creative genius barring a few of the likes of Leonardo de Vinci. And what a rewarding studies to discover, one after another, the similes in virtues of a modern day entrepreneur in his personality, deeds and creations. We may set out to unravel one by oneA true entrepreneur has the unique capability to know and understand man. Sankaradeva was excellent in this domain. The first meeting and the subsequent initiation of Madhavadev into his hall of disciples (termed as Mani Kaanchan Sanjog = confluence of ethereal Gold and Silver.) is considered as the most auspicious moment in Assam’s socio-cultural history precisely

for this reason. In Madhavadev, Sankaradeva saw the reflection of his image and the qualities necessary to imbibe, assimilate and propagate his teachings and values. The days and years that followed saw an explosion of creative brilliance in both of them and Assam started bathing in the basking glory of unstoppable literature, dance, music, songs et al. Being a person of correct democratic values, his wisdom led him to decide upon Madhavadev as his successor much to the surprise of his sons and disciples. Madhavdev was no blood relation to him. But in his judgment there was nobody who was better suited to take over the mantle to guide the surge of devotional movement sweeping the people. This set up the required precedent for democratic functioning of the Sattra institution. Sankaradeva created the seeds of the the Assam’s own Socio-Religious-Cultural institution called the Sattra. It was a set up which was headed by a Sattradhikaar and which had a following in the form of disciples called Bhakats. It was a formalized institution which had a definite place of physical existence. It was run in a methodical, democratic and decentralized way with a laid down hierarchy. The Sattradhikaar was the supreme head. The Dekaa-Sattradhikaar was the incumbent in waiting. The Medhis were the disciple relation officers. The Muktiyaar was the registrar – responsible for the accounts and promulgator of strictures, The Aaldharaa was the personal assistant to the Sattradhikaar, The Paachanee was the messenger, The Khaataniyaar was the liaison officer between the king and the Sattradhikaar, The Hatimataa was the caller. The Naamghareeyaa was the caretaker of the Naamghar, The Paaldharaa was the shift duty officer, the Paathak was the reader in meetings, the Bhagawatee was the reader of Bhagawat, the Gaayan–Baayan were the singer- musician band, the Sutradhar was the trainer of performing arts, the Bharali was the caretaker of Sattra stocks, the Deuri was the distributor, the Khanikar was the architect- designer- planner etc. Like the Ahom kings’ structure of governance (Borgohain, Buragohain, Barpatragohain, Phukan, Hazarika, Saikia etc) the Sattras also had a functional hierarchy with defined duties and responsibilities. He created avenues for all of them to grow and flourish. He not only created social and cultural wealth but this unique institution of Sattra infused a lot of indelible values in Assam’s life. The Sattras did take social leadership in many subsequent historical events like the freedom struggle against the British (As may be seen in the powerful novel Mrityunjay by the

Jnanpith awardee Birendra Kr Bhattacharyya). The Sattras owned land and the Bhakats offered their labour to produce crops which was partly kept by the Sattra and partly given to those who had toiled. Regular religious discourses were held where knowledgeable people rendered explanations on religion and philosophy and moral values and ethics. It was a place of worship. It was a gravitating point for the Bhakats as well as for the society in the sense that for almost every conceivable matter, opinion of the Sattra was sought for, be it naming a new born child in a family or be it what profession should a son take or be it where a daughter was to be married off or be it settling a dispute. The Sattras had such tremendous control and hold on the disciples that its stricture was not easily defied. The Sattra had a definite revenue collection system in place. The disciples paid an annual subscription. Those who could not pay in money terms were required to pay in kinds- may be some produce or some physical labour. The Sattras were the places where, besides religion, regular practice of drama (Bhaona), Music and Dance (Bargeet and Sattriya Dance) were held. It is quite astonishing that without any patronage from the power that be and without much of written rules, the Sattras could preserve these beautiful Art forms in all their glory and purity for more than 500 years now. It speaks volumes about the inner strength of the Sattras because of which the Sattriya dance today is recognized as one of the classical dance forms of India. The core strength of the Sattras is amply demonstrated by this single fact. The Sattras had a unique type of banking system. It used to receive extra agri produce of the Bhakats, store it and then lend it to those who needed it. It was to be replaced subsequently by the person and if he could not then he was required to compensate by other means such as serving the Sattra for a specified period as directed. Sankaradeva undertook two very long and arduous journeys on foot all alone traveling to places of religious importance like Kaashee, Vrindavan, Mathuraa, and Sankar peeth, Puri etc. Just think of such a journey spanning 12 years together in the early sixteenth century India when there were no roads, no maps and no guides. These were the journeys of pure

motivation and challenge. Sankaradeva wanted to study, learn and have a first hand feel of Indian religion and philosophy. He wanted to bring its vast ocean to the illiterate, poor and backward people of Assam in an effort to change the society. He wanted to use religion as a tool for social change. So he plunged into a barrage of literary creative endeavors in a language simple enough to be understood by the common man churning out such classics as the Kirtana, The Bhaagawat, The Dasam Scandha, the Uttaraakaanda Ramayan,the Anaadipatan, the Bhakti Ratnakar and the dramas like the Rukminee Haran, Ram Bijoy, Paarijaat Haran, Keligoopaal, Kaaliya Daman etc. The goal was clear in his mind- to churn out Amrit (Honey for immortality ) from all that he could lay his hands upon (the scriptures of the great Indian civilization) and present it to the uneducated, poor, down trodden, socially ostracized masses - hopelessly resigned to fate. His concern and care for the common man were so strong that he virtually created a whole new language for Assam and the Assamese by simplifying the difficult Sanskrit words (e.g. Harsh- Harish, Manushya- Manich etc). In those times, talking against a religion or trying to change anything of a religion was considered blasphemous. But Sankaradeva being a genius to the core did make a substantial change while bringing Krishna to Assam. Radha and Krishna are inseparable characters in Indian psyche. But Sankaradeva thought that a tribal oriented society may not accept Radha, who is elder to Krishna and is somebody else’s wife , mixing up in musical and dance escapades with all the symptoms of a damsel in love longing for union with her lover. Sankaradeva did it and did it brilliantly and most effectively. Here nobody feels the absence of Radha. What a stupendous literary achievement! His innovations were so great that with effortless ease, he eliminated the distance between the performer and the audience. He tore down the concept of Proscenium style of theatrical presentation and created the Bhaona where the audience sit surrounding the performance area from where they can touch the feet of ‘God’ as well as heartily enjoy the destruction of the ‘Demons’. Earlier all performances were by the priestly people and in a language not understood by the masses. But now the common people, for the first time could enjoy something in a participative way. May be this was the first step towards empowerment of the

people if we look at this in the back drop of those times. As a true entrepreneur, whenever he felt something to be necessary but non existent, immediately he embarked upon a solution and was never overawed by a situation. One of the finest examples of this is his painting of the background screens or ‘PATS’ for his dramas with natural colours like Hengul- Haaitaal etc. If we go by chronology, then it may not be improper to suggest that centuries ahead of William Shakespeare, Sankaradeva created the first drama of the medieval world. It was named Cihna Yatra. One of the greatest characteristics of this genius was the scale in which he operated. He always thought big and did big. The classic example of such a creation is the Vrindavani Vastra , 180 feet long -depicting in woven design -stories from the Indian mythology- from the birth of Krishna to the destruction of the demon king, Kangsha. These were stories or pictures in sequence- as if in motion – told visually, colorfully, artistically, methodically and that commanding respect. Was it a fore runner of modern day movies? – One may wonder no doubt. It is awesome to even think that anything and everything that we talk of as a symbol of Assamese culture and identity are all his creations- Literature- poetry, drama, songs – Bargeet, the Bhaona, the Mukha (Mask), the Sattra institution, Musical instruments- Khol, Mridanga, religion, prayer, the Namghar ( it can not be simply translated as a prayer hall or temple), the Guru- Shishya ( tradition) parampara, Art – sculpture, painting, a dress code et al. Everything that he created had his own stamp of quality and standard because there was no earlier reference. He was such a towering personality and he radiated so much wisdom that although he was virtually persecuted by the then power that be, yet he was well protected by the common people and he was accepted in the Royal court of the Koch Behar king Naranarayana and was bestowed with the highest royal honour. Although there was quite some danger to his life and security always, yet his charisma won over everybody. His life was a mission to elevate ‘life’ from trivialities and he was abundantly successful in that. His was a life dedicated for others and this left behind a legacy of unparalleled

reverence. He was a leader who was accepted in totality because he was a person who embraced everybody irrespective of their faith, caste, ethnicity and viewpoint. This is a hall mark of a true leader. He practiced true detachment in attachment. He was a family man, yet his magnanimity encompassed the whole society. The emergence of Sankaradeva was a historical necessity. He took a different course in life and along with him the people and history of Assam took a different course. He charted his own road map and the destiny of all subsequent generations changed. Although persecuted, although he had to leave his place of origin, Bardowa, although he had lost his wife, yet nothing could extinguish his zeal. He was rock steady in pursuit of his creations and reformatory tendency within his own value system. He could derive a satisfaction that lives of thousands and lakhs of his direct and indirect followers and admirers changed for the better. Like his literary creations all his other creations are richly successful in the context in which these were created. His success in opening up the minds of the people created waves of changes in the society and hundreds of Sattras sprang up after his death. These became epicenters of social life everywhere He was different, yet he was one of them. He was a superb communicator .He expressed himself in more than one ways. He took initiative in more than one area. And as because he was understood very well he could survive till today and he is still growing in more ways than one. This is also a statement that he remains contemporary even today because of his universality. Yet above all he was a great soul- loved and liked by all. Although deeply anchored in the common man yet he transcended all boundaries and became everybody’s man – an icon- A leader per excellence -a true social entrepreneur.

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It was a proud moment for Assam when 14,883 khol players participated to play in rhythm for 15 minute on 6th January, 2013 in Titabor, Jorhat. This breaks the previous Guinness Book of world record of maximum artists playing a percussive instrument in rhythm. Khol is the instrument created by Srimanta Sankaradeva and now it has become part and parcel of traditional music of the region. Adding more flavour to the event, all the participants, from very young child to old in age, wore the traditional attire of the Sankari culture (white dhoti, kurta and white turban). This was a moment when Sankaradeva’s creation was elevated to global level.

Global Perspective

Paulus Veltman & Anja Brunt, Netherlands

Living Sankari Culture

Global Traveler Paulus Veltman and Anja Brunt visited Assam in 2008. During the visit they were touched by the Sankari culture of Majuli. Paulus writes: “Anja and I love India very much and have travelled the country widely. We spent some wonderful days on Majuli Island. Mr. J. N. Sarma from Majuli Tourism gave us a very interesting tour of the Satras and its culture. They impressed us as very special, peaceful places of worship. We took our meals with local people, which gave us a chance to get acquainted with traditional Majuli lifestyle. While on Majuli, we visited the 16th Youth Conference of the All India Deori Youth Students' Association (AIDYSA) and the Annual Conference of the All Deori Women Association (ADWA) at Nandeswar Deori Milan Kshetra, Majuli Island. I was invited to address the conference on how we live in our native country (The Netherlands) and on our impressions of Majuli. We are looking forward to visit the North-East again, and then will definitely spend some time on Majuli Island, again.�

Article

Dr Mallika Kandali

Srimanta Sankaradeva and Sattriya Dance

Dr Mallika Kandali, Associate Professor at R.G. Baruah College, Guwahati, is one of the leading exponents of Sattriya dance. She is not only an accomplished performer of Sattriya herself, but also a scholar, researcher and author of the dance form. She received her doctoral degree from Gauhati University for her thesis “The Sattriya and the Odissi Dances: A Comparative Study”. She has authored many articles and books on Sattriya including "Nritya Kala Prasanga aru Sattriya Nritya".

Sattriya

dance is one of the many a beautiful art creation of the great saint Srimanta

Sankaradeva. This article focuses on the evolution and formation of Sattriya dance, now considered as one of the principal classical dance traditions of India. The Sattriya dance evolved from the dances of the Vaishnava theatre called Ankiya-Bhaona or Ankiya-nat, composed and choreographed by Srimanta Sankaradeva with an aim of propagating bhakti as a medium of reaching out to the people of all hues. There are some main distinctive features of Ankiya-nat, which are as follows: (i) Ankiya-nat is a combination of nritya, natya and sangeeta (dance, drama and music). (ii) All the dramatist or theatrical personae or bhawariyas perform their roles mainly through dances. (iii) The four types of Abhinaya-angika, vachika, aharya and sattvika are actively exhibited in Ankiya-nat. (iv) Ankiya-nat is juxtaposition of all the Rasas, but the bhakti has the dominant role in it. (v) The music is based on various ragas and talas. (vi) Like the purvaranga in Sanskrit drama, there are elaborate arrangements of preliminaries of and Ankita-nat performance called gayan-bayan or jara-gowa. The gayan-bayan on its own comprises a large number of dhemalis (meaning sports) in the form of performance accompanied by the gestures of dances. (vii) There are many Shastric and local elements in Ankiya-nat. It is worth mentioning that in the time of Srimanta Sankaradeva, the term of nartaka and nattuwa was used which generally meant in actor-cum-dancer. In this context, we can say that the Ankiya-nat of Srimanta Sankaradeva is like a dance drama form, where dance plays a dominant role. In other words starting from preliminaries (gayan-bayan) to the end (kharmanar nachh),

the entire performance of an Ankiya-nat can be describe as a colourful panorama of various dance numbers. Each of these numbers stands as a distinctive variety of its own. So, Ankiya-nat is the foundation and one of the major sources of formulation of the Sattriya dance tradition. Bharata's “Natya Shastra” is the major treatise that had undertaken a profound theoretical deliberation on the poetics, theatre, dance and many other classical art forms in India. Like many others, the Sattriya is essentially based on this text. It is worth noting that the Natya Shastra, which forms the basic text of Indian Classical dance, drama etc. was studied and analyzed by Srimanta Sankaradeva. 1 So, like other classical dance forms the Sattriya also comprises almost all the angika aspects, which are introduced by the Natya Shastra. It is worth mentioning that we can see the structural pattern of mati-akhora (ground exercise training, a must for Sattriya dancers) with the cari, karana, khanda and mandalal2 of Natya Shastra. Mati-akhora is the basic exercise patterns and grammatical forms of Sattriya. Natya Shastra has mentioned about cari and karana, which are also a certain kind of exercises or bhangis like mati-akhoras of Sattriya and are used to compose certain dance poses. As described by Natya Shastra - the poses created by the movements of feet are called cari, poses created by using two feet are called karana, combination of three or four karanas creates a khanda, and the combination of three or four khandas creates a mandala. As Bharata described, caris are of two types, bhaumi (earthly) and akasiki (ariel). Caris done touching the ground are called bhaumi and caris done above the ground are called akasiki. On the basis of synchronized movement of feet, calves, thighs and hips-what Bharata described as cari and karana, the mati-akhoras of Sattriya belongs to the same genre. For example, the

earthly cari like samapada, sthitavarta mattali, urudveritta, vicyata etc. and the akashi cari like nupura padika, udhajanu, bhramari etc. can observe the similarities with some of the patterns of movements of mati-akhoras, feet movements and the bhangis of the Sattriya dance. The patterns similar to that of karanas as described in Natya Shastra are also seen in mati-akhoras. The legs movements in some mati-akhoras are similar to that of karanas. In the application of lina, we can see that in one of the bhangis of Bor Praveshar Nachh (one of the dances of Sattriya repertoire which is generally performed by the monks in Sattra), is almost similar except the hand position. Besides these the thiya lon of mati-akhora has similarity with atikranta, the jorkamitona of mati-akhora with sakatachya, beng jap with chakramandala, morai panikhowa with gangavartana and purush ora has certain similarity with nikuttaka and ardharecita. Further, it appears that besides the Natya Shastra, Srimanta Sankaradeva must have studied the Abhinaya Darpana and Sangeet Ratnakara also. Because we can observe that many of the elements of Abhinaya Darpana are seen in Sattriya dance too. For example the features of vegini cari of Abhinaya Darpana are present in the cereki pak (one of the spins) of Sattriya where the dancer moves quickly on toes, and also in the thita pak (one of the spins) the dancer moves on entire sole. The kuttana cari of Abhinaya Darpana, is seen in the thita pak of Sattriya and some of the bhangis of Sutradhari and Rajagharia chali nachh of Sattriya repertoire. Besides these, the mandala-bheda of Abhinaya-Darpana, some of the sthanaka-bheda, utplavana, bhramari, gaits, hastas, sira-bheda, etc. from Abhinaya Darpana and some of the sira-bheda, griva-bheda, hastas etc. from Sangeet Ratnakara are also visible in Sattriya dance. Srimanta Sankaradeva was an avid reader of Yoga Shastra and had acquired high proficiency in the yogic practices.3 It’s worth mentioning that the different types of yoga exercises seem to have been practiced in Assam since early times. Especially nathism seems to have been prevalent in Assam since the time earlier than Srimanta Sankaradeva. The nathas are also known as Yogis, various forms of Yoga practices have been once cultured among them. So, in this context we can assume that Srimanta Sankaradeva had taken some elements from the yogic postures of the yoga system or yoga shastra. The body exercises are essential for any dancer to gain body flexibility was never an unknown fact for the saint. So, many of the postures of mati-akhoras have striking similarities with the yogic posture. For example, oodha Ion of mati-akhora is similar with the yogic posture shirsasan, kasa-bandh

is similar with the yogic posture padmashan etc. Many of the postures of mati-akhoras have striking similarities with pre-Sankaradeva Devadasi dance tradition of Assam. Devadasi dance tradition was a temple dance tradition of Assam, where we can observe many shastric elements. Some acrobatic postures of matiakhora like thiya lon, aathu lon etc. of Sattriya have similar counterpart in Devedasi dance tradition. Besides these, the basic positions or stances of Sattriya, which are called ora, phul ora etc. are also similar with Devadasi dance. Many foot positions, movements, hastas, interpretative hastas are also similar between these two dance forms. So, we can assume that Srimanta Sankaradeva studied and explored some of the postures from this Devadasi dance tradition. It is worth mentioning that the chali nachh composed by Sri Madhavadeva, apostle of Srimanta Sankaradeva, which has a significant part of the Sattriya repertoire bears some similarity with the Devadasi. On the other hand, that influence of many Abhinaya hastas, feet movements, dristi, the pattern of Abhinaya, body movements of preSankaradeva ojapali tradition is highly visible in Sattriya. So these are also major sources of formulation of Sattriya dance. Srimanta Sankaradeva synthesized both classical and folk elements to build up the Sattriya dance in the form of its diverse components. Various indigenous elements and materials from different sources such as folk cultures, the tradition of sculpture vibrant in the North Eastern region etc. were also seems to be explored by the saint. For example, one of the distinct body movement features of Sattriya, ulaha (undulating body movement) is similar the body movements of various folk dance traditions of Assam. Again the body movement of posolatola (mati akhora) is similar to one of the body movements of the kherai dance of Bodo community of Assam. Besides these some of the feet movements of Sattriya like - siral, leciri, citika etc. are also similar to the kherani dance of Bodo community, Karbi folk dance, the hamjar folk dance of Rabha community, madan hasta of Sattriya is similar to one of the hastas of Bihu dance, hayire or khirkhir hasta of Sattriya is similar to the Bihu dance of Mishing community etc. The postures of sasaka hasta of Sattriya can be traced out in the bronze sculpture of Durga of 9th century and also it is visible in the sculpture of Lord Vishnu of llth-12th century.

Srimanta Sankaradeva visited and stayed in many places in north and south India during his two pilgrimages. It is mentioned in Guru Charita Katha (biographical treatises) that the saint had undertaken his first pilgrimage for about a period of twelve years.4 It is mentioned in the Guru Charita Katha and the Bordowa charita that after his first pilgrimage the saint presented his first dramatic representation the Chihna-Yatra.5 The Chihna-Yatra had marked the beginning of an epoch making era of dramatic performances or dance drama presentations known as the Ankiya-nat consisted of all the essential theatrical elements mentioned in the Natya Shastra. Many opined that Srimanta Sankaradeva had formulated the classical dance of Sattriya in a rather eclectic manner with ingredients and components derived from various sources gathered during the pilgrimage combined with his profound creative impulse. But, from the analysis it is evident that in spite of having certain traces of his insights gained during the two pilgrimages, it is largely the result of the indigenous and shastric elements which influenced and impressed the saint to make this dance-art form as an unifying coherent force to promote his ideals of bhakti blended with cultural heritage of the region.

References 1.

Guru Charita Katha, Maheswar Neog (ed.) p.24

2.

Natya Shastra, Chapter XI, VV.2-3

3.

Daityari Thakur, Mahapurusa Sri Sri Sankaradeva and Sri Sri Madhavadeva Carita, p.11-12

4.

Guru Charita Katha, Maheswar Neog (ed.) p.26-28

5.

Neog, Maheswar, Sankaradeva and his times, Early History of the Vaishnava Faith and Movement in Assam p.107-108

Dr Mallika Kandali performing Sattriya

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Article

K. Sreedhar Rao

Srimanta Sankaradeva: An Avatara

Mr K. Sreedhar Rao, IAS, served as the Chief Secretary of Sikkim. He was also the Additional Chief Secretary of Assam and dealt insurgency in the state gracefully. He took initiative in various development works of Sikkim like founding the first University, Medical College, Engineering College and a Business College. Currently he is the Chairman of the State Knowledge and Administrative Reforms commission of Sikkim.

As one who has

had the privilege of serving in the State of Assam for decades in various

capacities and having been acquainted with its unique history, culture and heritage, I am of the distinct view that Srimanta Sankaradeva, should be regarded and revered as the State’s greatest contribution, indeed a precious gift from the soil of Assam to the rich pan Indian cultural and spiritual mosaic of our composite civilization. To my understanding, he stands on the same footing- indeed on par- with the great seers of the South –Adhi Shankara, Madhvacharya, Ramanujacharya,- and in our own times Swami Vivekanada , who come amidst us to restate, the core beliefs of our philosophical system but with a new emphasis, lending a new meaning to eternal truths, to make these eternal truths more relevant to the new circumstances and changing times. Ancient beliefs and hypothesis are tested in the light of new discoveries, both scientific and spiritual, to re-establish their validity even when examined under the luminosity of reason and evidence. In every part of this great subcontinent, regarded rightly as “Punya bhumi” and “Karmabhumi”etc from time to time there descends a “thataghata” or an “avatara” who takes upon himself the onerous responsibility of showing a new path, opening a new avenue for spiritual and social progress. Such a thesis would apply to Srimanta Sankaradeva in the same manner as it applies to many other Saints like Thukaram Gyaneshwar, Namdev and Eknath of Maharashtra and great advocates of Bhakti movement, Saint Thyagarja, Purandaradasa, Meera Bhai, Andal and Akka Mahadevi as also Chaintanya Mahprabhu who are all part of our great heritage, both cultural and spiritual. This phenomenon is unique and so special to our spiritual heritage, without which this great civilization may not have survived the onslaught of time and of internal dissensions and external invasions. Lord Krishna himself states this principle emphatically in the Bhagavat Gita : “Yada yadahi dharmasya glanirbhavathi Bharatha tad atmanam srujmyaham” and “Paritranaya . sadhunam vinashaya dhushkritham dharma samsthapanayacha sambhavami yuge yuge”

(Whenever there is a decline in righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, O Bharatha, then I send forth (incarnate) myself) (For the Protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being form age to age) When the Buddha appeared before his father the King at his palace after his enlightenment he explained his new status as follows: “From time to time there appears a Thathagata, a fully enlightened one, blessed and worthy abounding in wisdom and compassion, unsurpassed as a guide to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men. He proclaims the truth both in letter and in spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress and lovely in its consummation. A higher life doth he make known in all its purity and in all its perfectness.” I regard this phenomenon of “Avatara”- periodic appearance on this earth of an evolved and perfect being - unique to our civilization, not to be found in any other part of the world- as an act of compassion by the great souls who have achieved redemption to return in order to guide and aid all others by enabling them to recapture a sense of mission for redemption and their innate spirituality and enable them to overcome the danger of losing their precious heritage due to both internal and external threats. Our civilization has managed to survive primarily because of this mechanism of self defence and process of self renewal. As Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan avers external invasions and internal dissensions, came very near crushing our ancient civilization many times in our sad history. The Greek and the Scythian, the Persian and the Mogul, the French and English have attempted to suppress and obliterate this at regular intervals and yet it has survived only because it has shown again and again the ability to continuously reinvent itself

and go through a process of self renewal. History records as to how many an ancient civilization-the Aztecs, the Incas, Egyptian and the Persian- have all been simply obliterated from the face of the Earth by foreign occupiers. Studied in this light the place of Srimanta Sankaradeva in the Nation’s cultural, spiritual and civilizational history assumes an altogether new and larger dimension. When Sankaradeva appeared in Assam several schools of thought were competing for people’s attention and certain extreme forms of ritualism, especially pertaining to Shakti worship had taken root. Several ethnic groups were also kept outside these belief systems. Based on deep study of the Upanishads, the Bhagawat Gita and the Bhagawat Purana and a superior grasp of the Jnanakanda part of the Vedas, he evolved a new interpretation which synthesized the competing systems. This is now designated as “neo Vaishnavism” which declared the unity of the Supreme Being –Hari and Hara are one and the same declared Srimanta Sankaradeva. This is indeed the reaffirmation of the Upanishads and the Gita and reflects in full measure the view that the “Truth is one but scholars may describe the ultimate truth in different ways”—Tad ekam, Vipra bahuda vadanthi.” This is non-doctrinaire mono-theism of the highest order that Sankaradeva propogated. Sankaradeva’s genius lays in making religion far more inclusive and accessible to everyone by de-emphasizing ritualism and reemphasizing the value of Bhakti as the way to attain the Supreme. In this he stands on par with many exponents of “Bhakthi Marga” all over our ancient land. Such a methodology makes spiritualism more intelligible, accessible and meaningful to almost everyone. He also used music and dancing as part of the path of devotion and organized the system of collective community based worship in village “Namghars” where “Namkirthans” are practiced. He and his successors such as Madhavdeva, Damodardeva were great institution builders and over a period of time a large network of spiritual and educational institutions known as Xatras were established all over Assam which are said to be over five hundred A unique dance form known as Xathriya dance was evolved along with groups of musicians, in practically every village which specialized in singing of “kirtanas” and dancing to devotional music as well as enacting plays which had a deep moral message, to all segments of the community. In this again his system is comparable to the contributions of Saint Thyagaraja, Purandardasa and the great traditions of devotional music and dancing in other parts of India-such a Bharatha natyam and Kuchipudi- suggesting that beneath the apparent diversity there is a strong undercurrent

of spiritual unity, that needs to be fostered and promoted in every possible way. He was egalitarian in his approach and opened the door for worship to all classes of people. This spiritual revolution has to my mind helped the society of the region to avoid altogether from being infected by several of societal ills that afflict several parts of the country even today such a caste rigidities, gender inequality and discrimination. Assam is remarkably free from female feticide, dowry deaths, honour killings, bride burning etc and in fact the place of women in the society is far superior to that in almost all other States. This remarkable culture and tradition is unfortunately under severe threat from both internal dissensions and external forces. Alien cultural influences are becoming more assertive while, the society is getting divided along sectarian lines. There is huge unemployment, lack of development and the absence of the spirit of enterprise, all leading to considerable dissatisfaction, disillusionment and unrest. Confidence in the present system’s ability to resolve the problems is declining, even as standards of probity in public life are on the wane. The magnitude and complexity of the problems are continuously increasing, even while the ability of the system to respond and resolve the problems is declining. There can be no doubt that all these issues need to be addressed at once by all concerned and in this it will be of great value to remind ourselves of the central message of the great Saint Shrimantha Sankaradeva. When we attained independence we dreamt of a nation, in the eloquent words of Rabindranath Tagore: Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high Where knowledge is free; where the world is not broken up Into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depths of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way Into the dreary desert of dead habits; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action; Into that heaven of freedom, My father let my country awake. Today sadly we are going further and further away from realizing this dream.

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Article

Prakash C Barua

Sri Sankaradeva: The Indomitable Knowledge Manager

Prakash C Barua did his engineering from Benaras Hindu University and IIT, Kharagpur. He joined as a design engineer with Heavy Electricals India Ltd in Bhopal, and retired as head of HR&IT from BHEL in Bangalore. He is a founder member of K-Community (www.kcommunity.ning.com) in Bangalore and actively participates in CII (Confedaration of Indian Industry) initiative on KM.

Sri Sankaradeva was a highly multifaceted personality and this aspect has been researched and presented in various publications. On this occasion I’ll just mention a few of the skills which impressed me immensely of Sri Sankaradeva as a remarkably successful Knowledge Management practitioner: 1. He relied on reliable, authentic, researched field data and as a result He could win over strong opponents with differing faiths and beliefs with impeccable logic and oratory. 2. He had a strong sense of observable data and converted these data into meaningful information through deep understanding of the contemporary social and cultural infrastructure. 3. He could personally experience inputs from the external world and apply these through his creativity into simple and commonly usable tools of socio-cultural uplifting. The methodology and results of his 12 years’ pilgrimage (1483-1495) and then once again in 1552 were quite different from those of a typical holy man. His great creations like Bargeet, Bhaona and Nritya resulted out of his observations and studies made during his pilgrimage to various societies, places of culture, literature and philosophy. These observations combined with his creative talents gave birth to unique musical instruments, choreographs and costumes which, even after five and half centuries of turbulent times, remained as proud possessions of Assamese culture. 4. Unlike a mystique saint, He appeared to be an ordinary person with earthly sensibilities. He was married and it is possible that losing his wife and father at an early age His spiritual inclination turned more on the transcendental. He, however, performed the duties of a responsible father and married off her daughter before undertaking the pilgrimage which lasted 12 years. He had inherited the powerful position of Shiromoni of the BaroBhuyan clan.On return from the 12 years pilgrimage; He declined to take the position of Shiromoniship in pursuit

of knowledge and service. But He ensured that His successor could carry out his role without any hassles. His cousin Ramaraya’s daughter Kamalapriya was married by Chilarai, the general of the Koch army and the brother of king Naranarayana. This relationship cultivated to a great extent the spread of Sri Sankaradeva’s faith in the Koch kingdom. 5. He was an excellent communicator and had the artistry of creating a communication medium among disparate groups and regions to spread the message of his faith. There are many facets of this and I want to mention just one ; i.e. Bargeet, which has been described by various authors as “Holy Songs”, “Noble Numbers” ,”Great Songs” and “Song Celestial”. Sri Sankaradeva composed some 240 Bargeets, but only 34 survived a devastating fire. Later Madhavadeva added another 157. Almost all Bargeets were written in the Brajavali language. This language is not the spoken Assamese language of the region. However, this language with the influence of pan Indian languages of the time such as Sanskrit and Maithali ,but innovatively adapted to the local conditions, became so popular that Borgeets are still very much alive in the Sattras and Namgharhs of Assam and stand out as distinct artefacts of the region. 6. He was a master collaborator and that was based on His knowledge and wisdom. Like any other social reformer, He too faced persecutions wherever He tried to introduce his way of faith and religion. Many felt threatened as he challenged established ways, faiths and beliefs. He had to struggle and make sacrifices. He was wandering around most of his life from one place to another. But through his journeys beginning with Alipukhuri, where he was born, through Batradowa, Gangamau, Dhuwahat, Patbausi, Kochbehar and Bheladonga, where he passed away, he could establish his faith and institutions through collaboration with the diverse local population. 7. In the spirit of a true KM practioner, Sri Sankaradeva facilitated collective personal wisdom

into an integrated social movement. Arising out of his preachings, religion became an open experience which any devotee with faith, could reach. Religion itself became a social philosophy. Namghars, which were first established for preachings created an arena for social discourse. It became a centre where disputes could be resolved and business deals could be settled. It thus facilitated trade. It is not surprising that the business community took interest in setting up Namghars. Religion became something more than a personal experience. It became a social philosophy. 8. He knew how to identify talent and how to retain talented people even in turbulent times. A disciple remained committed to the Guru throughout his life willingly and voluntarily. Shankardeva laid great emphasis on the association of his devotees, in an environment of philosophy. It is amazing that when he settled down at Patbausi (near Barpeta) some of the people he initiated were Chakrapani Dwija and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya, Brahmins; Ketai Khan, a Kayashtha ; Govinda,a Garo;Jayarama, a Bhutiya; Muran, a Koch and Chandsai, a Muslim. This is also the place where he befriended Ananta Kandali, the profound scholar of Sanskrit. It speaks volumes of the talent management skills of the Mahapurusha. 9. Sri Sankaradeva was a great visionary. Again there are many facets to this, but here I want to mention just one, of which I ever remain fascinated. And that is about the Sattras set up by the Mahapurusha and his trusted disciples. The Sattras happened to be his experimental ground of most things that the Mahapurusha would leave as gift to the Assamese Society and Culture. The most admirable thing was the ‘work culture’ in the Sattras. It was the place where all kinds of industries and crafts flourished five and half centuries ago. Sankaradeva worked for the development of cottage industries in the Sattras and selection of location and the architectural style of the Sattras were designed to meet this objective. There were many items which were produced locally proving the self-dependence of the local artisans. Materials made of bamboo like pachi, kharahi, dala, kula, kath, chaloni, bisoni, japi, etc and that of wood like safura, pira, wooden chests, bar-pira, etc were promoted by the bhakats (devotees) of the saints. Handloom products like chador, gamocha, dhoti, eri, muga, pat, etc. were produced independently. New dress forms and attires were

introduced for performing various dance forms and plays. The Sattras also served as the centres of excellence for all the elements of socio-cultural ethos such as the language, the literature, the music, the songs, the dance, the plays, etc. It was also a place to shelter the poor and the hungry. In this society, dignity of labour had its due place and the bhakats did not complain that they had to earn for their living. 10. Sri Sankaradeva was an immaculate democrat. He recognized the dignity of labour and respected the profession of his followers, including the ‘lower’ caste and poor weavers, black-smiths, oil-producers, fishermen, tailors, etc. The apparel of Sankaradeva was tailored by Chandsai, a Muslim follower. Many traders joined his fold as the democratic sociologist Sankaradeva strived to form a casteless and classless society. My humble submission to this august gathering is that most of these directions that Sri Sankaradeva provided are currently as relevant as they were so five and half centuries ago.We need to revisit these sincerely to create a society of harmony and collaboration we so desperately need today.

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Gallery

Bardowa: Srimanta Sankaradeva’s Native

Bardowa is not only Srimanta Sankaradeva’s place of birth but also the origin of the Eka Saran Naam Dharma. At Bardowa, Sankaradeva first staged the Cihna Yatra at the age of 19. After jis first pilgrimage in 1494 AD Sankaradeva constructed the first community prayer hall called kritanaghar or most popularly namghar which had later become the model of nucleus of the sattra institution. This photograph is captured by Uddipta Sankar Pathak (About Uddipta on Page no 48)

Article

Lila Mahanta

Srimanta Sankaradeva and his contribution to Assamese Society

Lila Mahanta is the President of Assam Sattra Mahasabha, apex body of 900 Sattras of Assam. He is an exponent of Sattriya dance and Bhaona. He has authored many books on Sattras and Sattriya Culture. He has also written many Ankia-nats, led and directed teams from Assam in Bhaona performance in various parts of the country. He is Sattradhikar of Konwerpur Barkhatper Sattra, Sibsagar

The Socio-religious reformation in Assam took place in the form of Neo-Vaishnava Movement which brought on a new and comprehensive outlook on life, a distinctly healthy tone to social behavior of the people. The main reason for this renaissance fervor exuding from this movement was undoubtedly the personality of Sankaradeva (1449-1568), the saint and preacher, poet, playwright, philosopher, reformer and artist, “all rolled in to one” to quote S. Agarwalla, the doyen of orientalists. The receipt of Bhagawata Purana from Jagadish Mishra from the Gobardhana Math in Orissa and extensive pilgrimage far and wide across the country gave the young scholar in Sankaradeva, distinct mission of propagation of Bhakti i.e. unflinching devotion to the unity of Godhead as represented through Lord Vishnu as Krishna, the cowherd deity, and fired his imagination to preach the pursuing of the new faith adopting noble methodology of devotional songs, theatre and a great social behavior of the people. The Neo-Vaishnavism in Assam led by Sankaradeva and his bond of illustrious apostles did not end as a religious movement alone, but in a great cultural resurgence. It laid down the foundation of democratic principles and consolidated the forces of solidarity by giving all individuals, the equality of privilege to profess religion by all section of the people irrespective castes and creed. His motto was “Let no one question a man’s caste or creed, whoever adores God is God’s own. “Jatipati pucchai nahi koi, jo Harika bhaje, so Hariko hoi.” For has not God appeared in inferior forms as fish, a boar, a tortoise and so on. A bhakta who is no different from Bhagawata, may likewise be born in any of the degraded castes” (Wilson IPSSF). Another aim was his Loke Bhakti Pantha i.e. Loke Sangrah , Loke Sthiti and Loke Ranjana. The Sattra institutions are the creation of Srimanta Sankaradeva and the Assam as a whole are indebted to this great saint of 15th century. During that time, the society was engulfed with

chaotic condition, pollution in social structure was rampart and human sacrifices were freely offered to deities in the name of religion. With a view to ploughing their inner sense to help them have a new awakening, he took up a novel design through art and culture, literature etc. So he introduced dance, drama, instrumental music, devotional songs, above all Ankia Naat Bhaona. Miraculously, Srimanta Sankaradeva succeeded in his endeavour to win the hearts of many, including his opponents. All these were done through the Sattra institutions. During the last few centuries, the sattra has been enriching the Assamese life morally, socially, educationally and contributed to a great deal in the realm of literature and art. Assam is the land where people of various ethnic groups with various shades and grades of culture and heterogeneous beliefs lived side by side. They believed in different Gods and observed different practices. The Vaishnava movement of which sattra institution served as the religious organ supplied a common and simple religion, based on ethico-devotional codes and conducts and to a considerable extent did away with various faiths and creeds of diverse shades. It is no mean achievement of the Vaishnava movement to turn the land of Kamarupa, famous from the earliest times as the stronghold of Tantricism and Saktism, into a predominately Vaishnavite land. Now let us discuss some of his valuable contribution towards society. Namghar – The central institute within the Sattra is the Prayer Hall known as Namghar or Kirtan Ghar and also named as Hari Griha, along with the Manikut attached to Kirtan Ghar. The Asana (seat), Singhasana (seat with lion motif) or Guru Asana, seat of the Guru i.e. Mahapurushar Asana identified with the Supreme Being are a constant feature of the Sattra Kirtan Ghors. The Bhagawata Purana is the perceptible image of Hari, wrought of words alone (Tenayam Vanmmayi murtih pratyaksa Vartate hareh). For this reason Bhagawata Purana is

solemnly placed in sanctum sanctorum of Manikut. The daily naam Kirttana and congregational songs and other rituals are observed in the Namghor. Sattras have developed a school of classical dance and this is entirely religious in motive, and popularly known as Sattriya Nac – that has received high appreciation from the eminent dance connoisseurs of India. Fortunately, very recently the Sattriya Dance has been recognized as classical dance form of India as those of Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Bharat Natyam etc. by Sangeet Naatak Academy. The Cihna – Yatra Bhaona was a milestone of Srimanta Sankaradeva wherein were depicted the scenes of seven Baikunthas with a presiding Vishnu over each. Observing his all-round talents, even his most opponents surrendered at his feet and got initiated. Bhaona performance specially flourished in the sattras where it became a regular feature on all ceremonial occasion. With the increase of its popularity it gradually spread to villages also. Even in Royal courts, it began to receive move and move appreciations. Ravan Bodh Bhaona was performed on occasion of the visit of the Rajas of Cachar and Manipur to the Ahom court. Padmawati Haran was performed in the presence of of Gaurinath Singha by the sons of Na-Gosain and Rukmini Haran was staged in the presence of King Kamaleswar Singha under the direction of Mahanta of Bareghar Sattra, Nazira. Now it gains its momentum. In case of his contribution towards literature and Ankia Naat that has been playing a pivotal role in upliftment of the society in different spheres of life of the society. His literary contributions are :- Kirttana, Dasam, Harichandra Upakhyan Kavya, Rukmini Harana Kavya, Balicalan Kavya, Amrit Manthan Kavya, Ajamil Upakhyan and Kurukhetra Kavya. His devotional scriptures are :- Bhakti Pradeep, Bhakti Ratnakar (Sanskrit), Niminawa Sidha Sambad, Anadi Paton, some chapters translated to Assamese from Bhagawat Puran, and Utarakanda Ramayan.

In addition to above, his contributions in arts and crafts need to be mentioned. The Vrindabani Vastra, where the scenes of seven Baikunthas are woven and that valuable cloth is now preserved in London Museum. Sri Madhavadeva was his ardent and dependable devotee all-through his life time and even in the last moment of his life, he bestowed his position as his next heir. In this way Sri Sankaradeva has immense contribution towards the Assamese society. These are only few among thousands.

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The Unique Pronunciation of the word ‘Sankaradeva’ in Assamese

Assamese Language has a very ancient history and has a very unique /x/ sound/pronunciation. This sound is absent in its origin Sanskrit and other New Indo Aryan languages. The exact origin of this sound is debatable, but the British historians and linguists found that this unique /x/ is phonetically is similar to some sounds in Greek, German (e.g Bach) or Scottish (e.g. Loch). Phonetically, this /x/ sound is pronounced somewhat in between the sounds /s/, /kh/ and /h/. This is a unique characteristic of the Assamese language. Sankaradeva is actually pronounced as 'Xankardev' (X stand for the above phonetic) in Assamese. Similarly Sattra is pronounced 'Xattra', Sattriya is 'Xattriya', etc.

Ankiya Nat :- Patni Prosad, Kaliya Daman, Keligopal, Rukmini Haran, Parijat Haran and Ram Vijoy Naat.

Editor’s Box Geet :- Borgeet, Bhatima, Totoy, Copay and Gunamala.

Article

Prafulla Ch Baruah

Sri Sri Dham Ram Rai Kuthi Satra And Madhupur Satra

Mr Prafulla Chandra Baruah is a retired Engineer of Irrigation Department, Govt of Assam. He has written many articles related to Sankaradeva and Sattras in all major newspapers published from Assam. Present article was published in Assamese in the weekly Magazine "Purbachal" on 3rd March 2013 under the caption "Axomor dukhan prachin Xattrar somu itihas".

Mahapurush Srimanta Sankaradeva was a versatile genius and a great Vaishnavite saint of medieval Assam. By dint of his magnanimity and catholic outlook he sowed the seed of democracy, human rights in the religion and society. Sri Sankaradeva’s teachings have eternal value in the lives of the people of Assam. Social and political impediments and varied historical events could not dampen the unique massive religio-cultural and social movement of the great saint. At the present context of social degradation and erosion of values, the teachings of Sankaradeva are even more relevant. The institutions like Namgharas and Sattras founded by the great saint were not only the centers of preaching religious activities but were at the same time centers of learning. The doctrine of equality and brotherhood of man, which Sri Sankaradeva preached, is his greatest contribution to human society and made him an eminent world citizen. Sattras of Assam are the cradle of Assamese culture and centers of new vaishnavite movement. The famous vaishnavite shrines of Vela Modhupur Sattra and Shri Shri Dham Ram Rai Kuthi Sattra were founded by Srimanta Sankaradeva about 500 years back. Both the Sattras have a glorious past and were important centers of Bhakti Movement in the medieval Assam. . Many Vaishnavite Saints of Ek Saran Nava Vasihnava Bhagawati Dharma prpogated vaishnavism from these two Satras including great Vaishnavite saint Shrimanta Sakaradeva and Shri Shri Madhavadeva. Many of the fabulous literary works contributed by Sri Sankar Deva and Sri Madhab Deva to the Assamese literature and culture were done while they were staying in these two Satras. Shri Shri Ram Rai Kuthi Satra is situated in the Dhubri district of Assam about two hours journey by bus from Dhuburi Town. The Sattra is situated just by the side of the international border between India and Bangladesh and the barbed wire fencing erected between the two country can be seen from near the Satra campus. Modhupur Sattra is situated in Koch Behar district of West Bengal about half an hour journey by car from Konh Behar Town.

The people of Assam, especially the followers of Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Sankaradeva, possess an ardent desire to have a pilgrimage to these holy places Ram Rai Kuthi Sattra and Modhupur Sattra which have a glorious past. When a visitor enters the campus of Shri Shri Ram Rai Kuth Sattra, he will certainly be awed by the solemn bearing and grandeur of the place. The beautifully constructed cement concrete main entrance gate, designed in Sankari art, is situated by the side of the main road. There is a small Batsora (Small road side rest house) inside the campus. Just behind the Batsara, the main campus of the Sattra starts. In the Sattra campus, there is a big old Namghar facing towards west and a Guru Griha by the side of it facing towards east. It is said that as the saint was sitting facing towards the east the Guru Griha was constructed facing towards east. The Monikut of the main Namghar is situated in the same place where Srimanta Sankaradeva placed the Bhagawat Grantha and lighted an earthen lamp to solemnize the marriage of his niece Bhuboneswari Devi with the prince Sukladhwaja of Koch royal family. Prince Suklodhwaja, popularly known as Silarai was the brother of Koch king Naranarayana of Koch Behar. The story of the Sattra relates back to about 1550 AD. Crossing varied unpleasant environment and hostile attitude in propagating Ek Saran Bhagawati Dharma in the Ahom Kingdom of eastern Assam, Sri Sankardeva retreated back towards Koch Kingdom of western Assam and waited at Dhuyanhata of present Borpeta district for an auspicious time to enter in the Konch Kingdom where he expected to get a congenial atmosphere to propogate Vaishnavism from the judicious and liberal Konch royal family. Sri Daityari Thakur, a vaishnavite saint and a disciple of Sri Sankaradeva, narrated about the event beautifully: Naranaryana name asey eaka raja | Parama pondita dharma pale proja || Suklodhwaja tana bhai suva hoya |

Dhuyanhanta hontee sune luka samastay || Gitaa,kabitta guna sunoya rajar | Tareo rajye jaibey mota samastwa projar || At the time when Srimanta Sankaradeva was at Dhuyanhata; Prince Suklodhawaja , the chief army commander of Koch Royal Army and brother of king Naranarayana , after being defeated by Ahom king was staying in a fort near Barpeta . The prince heard about the beautiful, talented and clever daughter Bhuboneswari Devi of Sri Jagatananda Doloi, the cousin brother of Sri Sri Sankaradeva and sent marriage proposal to Sri Doloi. On receiving the marriage proposal, Sri Jagatananda Doloi was in a dilemma whether to accept or reject the proposal . As the proposal came from the royal family, it was like a royal order and was not an easy matter to be refused or turned down and on the other hand the society perhaps might not accept an inter-cast marriage between a respectable Kayastha Bhuyan bride with a Koch bridegroom. However, Sri Sankaradeva, who was working to eradicate class system and advocating for social equality and brotherhood of man, persuaded Sri Jagatananda Doloi in accepting the marriage proposal. Again , a problem arose regarding the venue of solemnizing the marriage ceremony as it was not customary for the bridegroom of a royal family to marry a bride by going in to the house of their subjects . On the other hand, it was a question of prestige for a respectable Kayastha Bhuyan to take their bride to the bridegroom’s place and solemnize the marriage there. Sri Sankaradeva again sorted out the problem of selecting the venue for solemnizing the marriage in such a way that honour and prestige of both the families remains intact. It was decided that both the parties, the bridegroom and the bride, will start towards each other on an auspicious day and in the place where they will meet each other , will solemnize the marriage. According to the decision, both the parties started towards each other on an auspicious and convenient day. Sri Sankaradeva with his cousin brother Sri Jagatananda Doloi, niece Bhuboneswari Devi and other relatives and followers started towards Koch Behar first by the river Brahamputra and then by river Sonkoch. Similarly, the Prince Suklodhwaja started from Koch Behar towards Barpeta via Sonkoch River with royal dignity and gaiety. Both the parties met at a place called Kharibari in the present Dhubri district. Here, Sri Sankerdeva placed the Bhagawat grantha and lighted an earthen lamp in a suitable place and solemnized the marriage with much gaiety. The marriage was of historic importance as after this marriage with the support and patronization of Koch royal family the Nava Vaishnava Bhagawati

Dharma propagated by Sri Monta Sankerdeva flourished along with the Assamese literature and culture all over the eastern region.of India. As a symbol of recognition of the marriage, the king Naranarayana gifted the place Khoribari to Sri Jagatananda Doloi, so as to settle there permanently and continue the regular affairs of the Sattra . It is believed that three generations of Jagatananda Doloi resided here till to the time of invasion by Mughal general Mirjumla. The Sattra derived the name Ram Rai Kuthi Satra after the name Ram Rai Jagata Nanda Doloi and the place as Satrasal.later, when the Koch kingdom was divided; the Sattra came under the ruler of Gouripur. The Gouripur royal family donated about 1429 bighas of land to the Sattra but now only 29 bighas of land are available in the name of the Sattra. In the Sattra’s custody there are many valued items which have both historical and archaeological importance like the Monikut of the Namghar stands in the place where Srimanta Sankara Guru placed the Bhagawat Grantha to solemnize the marriage, Akshya Bonti(Earthen lamp burning continuously), said to be lighted by Sri Sankardeva, Original hand-written copies of ‘Gunamala’ ,’Bhakti Ratnakar’ of Srimanta Sankaradeva, original hand written copy’ Bhakti Ratnawali ‘ by Sri Madhavadeva all on sanchi leaves , Saturbhuja Murti (Idol of lord Bishnu) donated by the Koch Royal family, Padasila (Foot prints) of Bhagawan Sri Ram Chandra of Tetra Yoga brought by Sri Sankaradeva from Badri Nath Dham, Bowl made of bell metal used by Sri Sankaradeva, Silver coin donated to the Sattra by the royal family of Gouripur, a very beautiful Ratha (Brass Chariot )having wheels to move around, about 10feet high donated to the Sattra by Koch king Naranarayana.The chariot having beautiful engravings on it, is kept in a glass house in the open courtyard so that visitors can take a look at it. Besides the above, the old beautiful carvings made on wooden doors and windows of the namghar are valuable properties of the Satra having both historical and artistic importance. The Satra management committee runs the affairs of the Satra and celebrates all the three Bihus of Assam and birth and death anniversaries of all the Vaishnav Gurus, Doul Utsav etc enthusiastically. On the day of Ratha Yatra of Sri Sri Jagannath Deva in the Assamese month of Aahar (May-June), the idol of Sri Krishna, Bolorama and their sister Subhadra are placed on the Ratha (Chariot) and move round the Namghar seven times with pomp and gaiety and then kept the ratha in the Ghnusabari located a few yards away from the main Namghar and kept there for a specified period .The Chariot is returned back to the original place after completion of the

period with the same enthusiasm. Thousands of people coming from different parts from Assam & North Bengal take part in the Ratha Yatra by chanting and dancing according to Vaishnavite culture and tradition. The annual Ratha Yatra is said to be unique and is considered as a big festival for the people of the border areas. Pulling of the rope connected with the Chariot is considered to be a pious job by the devotees. After the royal marriage, Sri Madhavadeva along with the other followers went to Puri on a pilgrimage. While returning back from the pilgrimage they rested at a beautiful place by the side of Tursha River. While taking rest Sri Sankaradeva, for physical and mental recreation of the tired disciples, narrated the most interesting and devotional Raas Lila (Dance programme with the gopis) performed at Vrindavana near Gakula by Lord Krishna on a full moon night of autumn. Just at the time of completion of narrating the unique devotional episode, honey started falling from the tree, under which they were taking rest, so as to feed the thirsty and hungry devotees. Sri Sankaradeva, noticing this miraculous event, named the place as Madhupur after the name Madhu which means honey and made a forecast that this auspicious place will be turned in to a famous holy place in near future. From here, Sri Sankaradeva went to Patbausi of Barpeta and started preaching his Ek Saran Bhagawati Dharma. In the royal palace, Prince Suklodhwaja was mesmerized on hearing the beautiful Bargeet composed by Sri Sankaradeva ‘Monoo Meri Ram Saranehi Lagoo‘ and recited by Bhubaneswari Devi in Dhanasree Raaga with her melodious voice. On realizing the talent and supernatural qualities possessed by Sri Sankaradeva, Silarai turned in to a great disciple of the saint. On the other hand, in the royal court, the priestly section who believed in Karma Kando (Vedic rituals) , fearing loss of their influence in the society, conspired against Sankaradeva and brought some false allegations and poisoned the ears of the king in such a way that the king sent his soldiers to Patbausi to arrest Sri Sankaradeva and bring him to the royal court for trial.

Sri Sankaradeva from Patbausi and kept him hidden in a place near to his palace. Later, when the situation became normal, Silarai narrated to the king about the greatness and supernatural powers of Sankaradeva and suggested him to give a chance to the Guru to falsify all the allegations brought against him and throw light on his ideology in the court. On hearing about the saint from his brother Silarai, the king realized and repented for his mistake and had sent a messenger to Sri Sankaradeva, inviting him with honour to the court to clarify all the allegations brought against him by the priests. As per invitation of the king, Sri Sankaradeva entered in to the royal court majestically reciting his famous Tutoy ‘Modhu Danava Darana Deeva Borong, Boro Barija Lusono Sakra Dharang’ with his unique inspiring voice. In the court the saint repudiated all the allegations brought against him with scriptural reference from holy books Bhagawata, Geeta, Purana’s etc . The king now convinced about the greatness of Sankaradeva and made him the chief Priest( Sava Pandit) of the court. Sri Sankaradeva had wrote the voluminous Bhagawat Grantha in a few pages and presented to the king in a small wooden box having a figure of elephant on the top of it. This event was termed as ‘Bhurukat Hati Bharuwa’ means a big elephant kept in a small box. As per request of the king, Sri Sankaradeva wove a cloth of 120 haat (one haat is more than one ft.) long and 60 haat breath through weavers under his direction and supervision having Krishna Lilas on it and presented to the king. The cloth is known as Vrindawani Vastra and some pieces of this cloth are still available in some of the British Museums. While Sankaradeva was at Madhupur, a Muslim tailor met the saint and became his admirer and presented a shirt stitched by him having four hands as he had seen the saint with four arms in the form of reverend Saturbhuja Vishnu. Sri Sankara Guru stayed for about two and half years at Madhupur. The King wanted to be a disciple (Sarana) of Sri Sankaradeva.. But Sankaradeva refrained from making the king his disciple (Shishya) as it was against his ideals. Raja Stree Karmokandi Brahmana sobar

Kaibarta Kalita Brahmana somostai

Kadasitu Aami Guru nohoo iswabar.

Ekelage khai chira kala jata

But, when the king requested him repeatedly to make him his disciple (Shishya) , getting no other alternative, he sat in mohasamadhi on the bank of river Toursa and breathed his last. His last rituals were performed in a place called Kakat kuta in presence of king Naranarayana in a royal manner. The grief- stricken king was present bare footed in the last rituals through out the time of cremation. Modhupur Sattra is not only famous for Sri Sankaradeva, but other Vaishnavite saints like Sri Madhavadeva, Sri Damodardeva,

Brahmanaru guru kaita deuta upadesa (The fisherman, the Kalitas, the Koch, the Brahmans assemble to take lunch and use to give advice to the Brahmans) When, Silarai got the news of sending soldiers for arresting the saint, he secretly brought

Daityari Thakur, Govinda Atoi, Bishnu Aata, Mothura Das Aata, Badula Padma Aata visited this place and composed many valuable literary works from here.

Poetry

In the Sattra’s custody, there are many items having historical and literary importance like ‘ Gunamala’, Daswam Skondha Bhagawat,’ Kirtana- Ghosa’ written by Sri Sankaradeva,’ Nam-Ghosa ‘ , Bhakti Ratnawali’ written by Sri Madhavadeva all in original form written on Sanshi leaves, ‘Paduka’ made of sandal wood belonging to Sri Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva, Ashes( Sita Bhashma) of Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva etc. The management authority of the Sattra Observes all the birth and death anniversaries of the Vaishnav Gurus (Abirvab & Tirubhab tithis), Bohag Bihu the Assamese new year, Magh Bihu and Kati Bihu etc with much gaiety..

Silpi Borah

Besides being seats of Vashnavite art and culture, both the sattras have great historical importance and they act as a bridge between Assamese and Bengali Culture. Many Bengali people liberally contribute financial help to these Sattras and visit these two Sattras with faith and respect. It’s an irony that such historical sites which can give the state an important place in the archeological, historical and literary map of the world are not getting due importance either from the government of Assam or from the Bengal government, which they so rightfully deserve. The authorities are not paying sufficient attention towards the conservation and preservation of the monuments of these two Sattras as desired. The Government of Assam should renovate the dilapidated condition of the Sattra to attract more and more tourist and preserve the Sattra’s original manuscripts of Assamese literature scientifically.

Blossom in Autumn When the cold hands Of the ruthless rulers Strangulated the masses, When the winter of barbarism was dominant When the bones of humanity Was exposed nude, Your human manifestation Was like a blossom in the autumn. You taught more of humanity, You ceaselessly sang, The glory of lord. You lit the light in the Highest altar of human hearts, Endowed us with sacred books, The scent of your blossoms Infused in the air Of mandir and masjid.

Like a sculptor Craved a new face of greater Assam, Diluting the differences of Heterogeneous society, You gave birth to new spiritual fold. You were magnificent, For you gave us dharma, Inspired in us good karma, You were the glacier, From where the stream culture began to take its roots. You added wings to The queen of dance and drama, Mesmerizing the folks. But as time rolled by The winter rolled in, The essence of your Blossoms Is lost to time, Tyranny is getting lose again, Shattering greater Assam into pieces. Showers of bullets, Rain in the lands, Oh! The doors of heaven please open, Send our messenger again Guru! please help us to endure.

~-~ Silpi Borah, an Engineer by professional, is an avid writer and wrote her first book about her childhood experiences when she wasin just class seven. She has written many poems and currently on the process of publishing a novel named “Silver Bizzare”.

Article

Tridip Kataky

The Torch Bearer Of The Culture Of Mahpurusha (Dr Bhupen Hazarika)

Tridip Kataky is a retired Advisor to the Drilling Board of Directors of Oil in Delhi and considered as one of the best drilling experts in the history of Oil India Limited. He has authored “Ratanpurar Budhu” and many small Novels on Coal Mines, Tea Gardens and also various articles which were published in newspapers from Assam. One of his articles explaining that the Garba of Gujarat is an alternate version of Raas in Assam brought by Usha of Tezpur to Gujarat drew lot of attention of Gujrati writers’.

It has been an accepted facts that when there is predominance of blind faith, bad culture, infighting on baseless reasons and hatred amongst community the birth of a Mahapurusha takes place. Lord Vishnu also had ten incarnations namely Matchya, Kurma, Narasimha, Bamana, Parashurama, Holiram, Barah, Sri Ram, Buddha, Kalki etc. We cannot consider these as mythology. There are abundance of proof of incarnation of Sri Rama, Parashurama. Incarnation of Buddha is a history. During such a time when the society of Assam was saturated with blind faith, bad culture, infighting amongst communities the birth of Mahapurusha Sankaradeva took place in Bardowa around the period of 1449. His father was Kusumbar and mother was Satyasandhya. Though in his childhood he was admitted in a Gurukul under the guidance of Mahendra Kandali for education, his mind was somewhere else. In his childhood itself he could realize that in the name of religion there are infighting amongst community and the people were about to loose faith in religion. He went out for pilgrimage and visited all the important religious places in India to find out the real meaning of religion. After his return he had the opportunity to go through Bhagawata in details and realised that “ Kewal Bhakti Matra Tusta Honta Hari “Without going through the complexities of elaborate arrangements in the name of religion it is best to worship Lord Vishnu only who is the supreme. Mahapurusha Sankaradeva published his philosophy through various narrations in the form of religious stories namely Harichandra Upakhyan, Rukmini Haran, Ajamil Upakhyan etc. He had translated the various chapters of Bhagawata. He wrote many dramas such as Parijat Haran, Keli Gopal, Ram Bijay etc. Amongst his compositions of religious songs Bargeet surpasses all. Kirtana-Ghosa is one of the media through which the Mahapurusha

introduced Nam Prasango in Assamese society. The above creations and system introduced by the Mahapurusha made a radical change in the Assamese society. Infighting in the name of religion stopped. A congenial atmosphere was established within the society. Mahapurusha Madhavadeva came in contact with Mahapurusha Sankaradeva through his son-in – law Ramdas. Initially there were lots of difference of opinion between Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva mainly on the concept of Sankaradeva’s teaching of religion i.e EK DEV EK SEV. But later Madhavdeva became an inseparable part. Madhavadeva also wrote many stories, dramas, articles but his Bargeets has an unique place. In the state of Gujarat and Maharashtra there is a great influence of the culture and religion spreaded by Swaminarayan. There are many trusts throughout the world running temples like Aksardham, Educational institutions in the name of Swamy Narayan. Swamy Narayan was also born in UP and came to Gujarat to spread his philosophy on religion. Most of the deciples of Swamy Narayan believes that he was the incarnation of lord Vishnu after Buddha. If that philosophy is correct, there is no room for doubt that we the people of Assam consider Shankardev as one of the incarnations of Vishnu with Madhavdeva as Balaram. Whatever we interpretate, one thing is certain that Mahapurusha Sankaradeva was the social and religious reformer for all of us. Dr Bhupen Hazarika was born in the year 1926 at Sadia, the eastern most part of Assam. As a young boy of age of 9 in the year 1935 when Bhupen Hazarika sang a Bargeet in Tezpur on the occasion of Sankaradeva Tithi, Jyoti Prasad Agarwal and Bishnu Prasad Rabha understood that this young boy one day shall shake the whole world with his voice. They never thought that he will be a composer and will be able to produce so many songs with his own composition and

tune. They advised Bhupen Hazarika to sing songs composed and tuned by them. Bhupen Hazarika did the same and came very close to Jyoti Prasad Agarwal and Bishnu Prasad Rabha. In the year 1936 Bhupen Hazarika composed his first song “Kusumbar Putra Sri Sankar guruwe”. There is a controversy that some section says “Agni Yugar Firingati Moi”. His first own compose was Kusumbar Putra and his first stage performance started with a Bargeet composed by Sankaradeva .It is evident from his compositions of each and every song that it always carries a message for mutual co operation and reform for the Assamese society.

“Rongakoi golapor koli Hiralale kar bukut sojai dibo Prithibir bibek osohai hole kar phale lowori jabo” The above are few examples only. If it is analysed it can be established without any doubt that the way all the writings of Mahapurusha Sankaradeva has a message to the community and the society , similarly all the writings of Dr Hazarika has also carries a message to the society. The only difference is the mode of sending the messages. Sankaradeva through his writing tried to reform the society of that time. In the same way Bhupen Hazarika also tried to reform the present society through his writing and songs.

In Bargeet Sankaradeva described the beauty of lord Vishnu as follows: “Kamala nayanesu aju pekhlu mayee Govinda pekite nayana jurayee Shayamala anga pisongo pichora Moyura mukuto bonayee “ If we observe the composition of Bhupen Hazarika describing the beauty of Assam, he wrote:

We have realised the sacrifice of Mahapurusha Sankaradeva very late. However efforts are in hand to recognize his sacrifice. We should also try to recognize the sacrifice of the torch bearer of Mahapurusha Sankaradeva who is the Late Dr Bhupen Hazarika. The way people of Assam sang, still singing and shall sing forever the Borgit of Mahapurusha Sankaradeva, “Athiro Dhono Jono, AthiroJauvana.....”, in the same way the creation of Dr Bhupen Hazarikas “ Manuhe Manuhor Babe , Jodihe Akono Nebhabe....” shall remain in the minds of the people of Assam forever.

“Asomi aai rupohi gunoro nai shes Bharotore purbo disor surya utha desh” The only difference was the object. Mahapurusha Sankaradeva described beauty of Lord Vishnu because of his love for Vishnu, where as Bhupen Hazarika described the beauty of Assam because of his love for his place of birth. There are other instances also. On the death of Sankaradeva, his closely attached follower Madhavadeva wrote: “Alo moyee ki koho bo dukha” Dr Hazarika also wrote heart breaking songs at the time of death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru:

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Gallery

Doul Utsav at Barpeta Sattra

Doul utsava was started by Mahapurusha Sankaradeva after his great work cihna yatra and wrote some holigeets too. Mathura Das Bura Ata first celebrated doul festival in Barpeta Sattra in late 16th century in the model of Vaikuntha (heaven) because doul utsava was first celebrated in heaven. Thereafter, doul festival has been celebrated with sattriya tradition till today at Barpeta sattra. Barpeta sattra is called Dwitiya Vaikuntha (second paradise) also. This photograph is captured by Uddipta Sankar Pathak (About Uddipta on Page no 48)

Personal View

Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Taking Srimanta Sankaradeva to Global Arena

Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti is a post graduate from JNU, Delhi and holds a PhD in Industrial Economics. He has been a leading columnist and author of Sankaradeva Studies. He has published 26 books on the great saint in both English and Assamese Languages. He is also a leader in bringing Srimanta Sankaradeva over internet using various blogging and social networking websites.

I

have always considered Srimanta Sankaradeva as my role model. His multi-faceted

contributions fascinate me. Our socio-cuItural lives are permeated by his influence even now. I feel proud that he was born in Assam. But very little was known about him outside Assam. It has therefore been my endeavour to let people know about him and his unparalleled works. I have written what I have learnt about his life, works and philosophy. Till date 26 books about the saint have been published from my pen in both English and Assamese. I have written in Times of India, Prabuddha Bharata, Bhavan’s Journal etc about the saint. My personal blog http://borkakoti.blogspot.in/ has details of these works. But sometimes I feel that all these are meaningless as people are gradually giving up reading books or journals, because of either change in taste or professional compulsions. However at the same time I was impressed by the way my book ‘Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva’ (Bani Mandir, Guwahati, 2005) was accepted globally. The publishers gave this book as gift to many persons. This book was displayed in the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006. After that it was procured by several libraries across the world. About 30 international level libraries have procured this book. Library of Congress listed it. They had earlier listed my book ‘Sri Sri Sankardeva’ also. Universities like Chicago, Heidelberg, Boston, Toronto etc collected the book ‘Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva’ of their own accord and I came to know about it only through internet. This gave me confidence. Back home, there was almost no discussion on my books, because of which I was a bit uncomfortable. But I knew that it would take years to have evaluation of my works as I started analyzing the saint’s works from completely new perspectives. The acceptance abroad was a boost for me. When Department of Vaishnavism in University of Madras incorporated Srimanta Sankaradeva in their curriculum, they too relied on this book. In the mean time I observed that the young generations were taking the internet as the sole

source of knowledge. It was this observation that made me explore new ways to spread the life, works and philosophy of Srimanta Sankaradeva. I chose the social networking site Facebook for that. On February 23, 2011, I created the group 'Followers of Srimanta Sankaradeva' (FSS) in Facebook. I designed it in such a way that it soon became an international group of people dedicated to spreading the message of Srimanta Sankaradeva globally. The multi-faceted works of the saint in diverse fields like religion, literature, music, dance, drama, architecture, social reconstruction etc are highlighted in numerous articles preserved as document files in this group. There is no barrier of caste, creed, sex or religion in this group. People from all religions and all countries are added here as members with equal status. This group has succeeded in uniting different factions among the traditional followers of Srimanta Sankaradeva. Upholding the Sankari principles is a priority of the group. Many precious photographs of Thans and Sattras and their cultural resources have been posted in the wall of the group with detail information about each item. One can get a comprehensive picture of the Srimanta Sankaradeva legacy in this group of around 7000 members. There are more than 1200 valuable photos and videos, some exclusive photo albums and about 70 documents of articles in this group. Most of the articles are research-based. The FSS members have to abide by a set of principles regarding posts, uploads, comments etc. Thus it is a much disciplined group. A few members of 'Followers of Srimanta Sankaradeva' founded a real body to promote the goal of this group as well as to supplement its effort. This real body is ‘Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva’. The members of 'Followers of Srimanta Sankaradeva' extend all possible helps to ‘Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva’ in its real activities. It has organized events, conferences and published books, brochures etc. It published 'Great Songs', which is translation of Srimanta Sankaradeva’s unique lyric composition, Bargeet. The Society also brought out English translation of Srimanta Sankaradeva's holy book 'Gunamala'. Of late the book 'Great Songs' has been made available globally as an ebook.

The Society collaborated with Batadrava Than to construct and maintain their website www.bordowathan.com. It is a joint initiative of the Society and Bardowa Than. It was launched on Aug 19, 2012. The Society was associated with a website on Barpeta Than www.barpetasatra.com, which was prepared by the Devotees Forum of Barpeta Sattra. The official website of ‘Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva’ is www.sankaradeva.com. It was launched on January 1, 2012. It is dedicated to spreading the message of Srimanta Sankaradeva globally. It is also a social networking site, where any one can register as member. About 500 persons have registered in our website. They can upload matters in the website themselves. We screen these posts daily so that nothing irrelevant gets posted. All these three sites have been designed by Ashim Dutta, a New Delhi based web designer. Other two important figures in our Society are Pradip Hazarika, a banker and Dr Mukut Gohain, South Africa based scientist.

Sankaradeva, which enriched the social, cultural and spiritual lives of Indian people, especially the people of Assam. This book has brought out the pioneering role played by the saint in the socio-cultural arena. The all-round impact of Srimanta Sankaradeva on the Assamese society, culture and literature is the central theme of this book. As a whole, I tried to bring out the unique characters of Srimanta Sankaradeva’s contributions in diverse disciplines.

Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva has kept Majuli in its objective since this island is nervecentre of Sankari culture. We have assisted the preparation of dossier for UNESCO to apply for WHS status for Majuli. We held an International conference on Majuli on July 8, 2012. It was organized in collaboration with several international bodies - Core Professional GroupBrahmaputra, Friends of Assam and Seven Sisters (FASS) International (USA), Assam Society of America Foundation (USA), and Majuli Cultural Landscape Management Authority (MCLMA). The Society has done some other innovative works. It held a workshop in Dibrugarh University at Centre for Management Studies (CMS) on September 24, 2011 on the topic ‘Relevance of Sankaradeva Legacy in Management’, in association with the Centre for Management Studies. This workshop threw light on a new dimension of Sankaradeva study.

Interestingly, I have always got very positive responses for all my activities people outside Assam. I feel proud that each and every non-Assamese person has been overawed by the great contributions of the saint and expressed his/her gratitude for letting know about the genius who had pioneered feminism in the world, who was the pioneer of drama movement in India. Though I was questioned about my venture of taking the saint to global for a through internet, yet nothing stopped us because we knew what we were doing. We have tolerated all false propaganda and today we feel very lucky to be the global carriers of the saint’s message.

Apart from works through the Society for Srimanta Sankaradeva, I have published several English titles on Srimanta Sankaradeva, which I believe have helped people outside Assam and India learn about Srimanta Sankaradeva. Some of these are Sarvagunakara Srimanta Sankaradeva (2000), Saint Srimanta Sankaradeva (2008), Place of Srimanta Sankaradeva in all India perspective (2007), unique contributions of Srimanta Sankaradeva in religion and culture (2006), Namghosha: an oriental gem (2006). The book ‘Namghosha: an oriental gem’ is English rendering of Madhavadeva’s Namghosha. I sent the book Sarvagunakara Srimanta Sankaradeva to several scholars abroad as gift. Then came my book 'Srimanta Sankaradeva : an epoch-maker' in late 2011. It discusses the multi-faceted contributions of

In 2012, the German publishing house Lambert Academic Publishing published my book on Srimanta Sankaradeva. It was titled Srimanta Sankaradeva’s Contributions. The articles included in this book deal with the multi-faceted contributions of Srimanta Sankaradeva. These have brought out the pioneering role played by the saint in both philosophical as well as socio-cultural arena.

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Personal View

Subhalakshmi Khan

The Social Relevance of Gurujona’s Teachings

Subhalakshmi Khan is the wife of Sarod Legend and India’s pride Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, who has given a new wing to the Sankaradeva Movement (alongwith his wife) with his precious involvement. Born to a renowned family of Assam as Subhalakshmi Borooah, she is an accomplished artiste by herself. Making a distinction in Manipuri Style of dancing in her early days, she moved to Madras to join the most prestigious dance institution ‘Kalakshetra’ in ‘60s. She got trained there in ‘Bharatnatyam’ under famous dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale to become an eminent dancer of her times. In this writing she expresses the impact of Srimanata Sankaradeva on her life and the importance of his teachings in modern times towards a better world.

Since the age of eight I have spent most of my life outside Assam. But being an Assamese I have strong roots with Assam and the Assamese society. Especially I have seen my family elevating the true colours of Assamese society. Although our family business was Tea, My father Late Shri Phunu Borooah (Parashuram Borooah) a veteran actor, by hobby, was the hero of the first Assamese film "Joymoti". My grandfather Late Sangeetachaya Shri. Lakhmiram Borooah was a renowned Assamese music composer, who could write and read the western notations at that time. He wrote two books on music, "Sangeet Kauns" and "Sangeet Sadhana". Uncle Late Shri Prafulla Chandra Borooah (Former Member of Parliament) was the first Assamese gramaphone record singer. Such family cultures deeply shaped my upbringing. Srimanata Sankaradeva's influences on Assamese society are enormous. By birth, I was also very much influenced by Gurujona's teachings. My whole family was inspired by his great values. Among the countless contributions by Mahapurush Sankaradeva, I would like to name one institution established by him as very unique and relevant even today. That institution is “Namghar”, an institution very close the hearts of every Assamese. Srimanata Sankaradeva's religious and social movement, which surmounted any social barriers of casteism, religion or rich-poor, is really enchanting. My marriage with my life partner "Khan Saheb" (Ustad Amjad Ali Khan) is a very special event in my life. The orthodox social boundaries of those times really created some tough barriers to this marriage. But my own mental strength and my family's broad vision overcame all the barriers. My deep belief of “Art knows no barriers of religion” had made me admire Khan Saheb’s neutral approach to the spiritual practice of life. Infact that has been our common ground of togetherness.

The way Assamese society embraced our marriage, it was really a rare illustration. The amount of love and admiration Khan Saheb has got in Assam is truly gives a sense of belonging. Infact sometimes I jestingly tell him that he has earned the most fame by blending Bihu in his Sarod's melody. Khan Saheb has equally accepted the culture of Assamese society soulfully. I would definitely consider this as an instance of liberal social and religious view of Assamese society. This is just an example of a personal life from social perspective. I believe the faith of equality in both society and religion grounded by the Gurujona is very much relevant in today's world too. His endeavors of keeping the society away from the narrow boundaries of castes and creeds five centuries ago, is an epitome of his discreet vision. The cause behind the social bedlams seen in the modern times is nothing but the self-induced attitude of "Me" in every person. I do conceive that the day our society begins believing in "Ourselves" above the constriction of the "Me-self", our world will be endearing to us. I strongly believe “Refinement of Life is fine arts”. The world will be a better place to live in if we can follow the path shown by the Mahapurusha.

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Personal View

Dr Ankuran Kakoti

Why Do I Always Remember Sankaradeva?

Dr. Ankuran Kakoti, a Surgeon in England, is a proponet of Sankaradeva’s teachings and culture. He has established a Sattra in England to spread the saint’s words at the western world. He has written many articles on Sankaradeva’s life and ideology.

Personally I feel everyone needs a guru, but not everyone is lucky to realise and have a guru like Srimanta Sankaradeva. Before I proceed I should make it clear that I am not here to criticise other gurus. They are all respectable, provided they are not one of the businesses oriented once - commonly seen today. Gurus are rather like the light we switch on when we are surrounded by darkness. In other words they should possess the light to show us the way when we are surrounded by grief and darkness of this modern age when we are surrounded by machines and computers. Having started a relatively successful Surgical career in England – I decided to change my career to General Practice to balance my family life along with my professional and spiritual life. Saying that I still love surgery to bits – but when there is a comparison with the great guru I have no regrets to be in the bliss of his influence and to be absorbed in his admiration. I am not the only one to have this feeling. The love, the passion for what little I have been able to do without any monetary help from others – have also been termed inspirational by some well-known people in India and abroad. Yet by his grace I have managed to keep aside a house in London to start a monastery. There is a little website to follow www.podumsattra.com along with a Facebook account by the name of Podum Sattra. There are some paintings I have collected and commissioned; these are already on the website and also on the Facebook site as mentioned. However my favourite theme “Srimanta Sankaradeva and the white elephant “, which depicts the incident where Sankaradeva was asked by the king “Khura Raja” (the Ahom king ruling Assam at that time), to be part of the mission of trapping the rare white elephant. According to legend, once the messengers of Khura Raja brought the news that there was a majestic white elephant in the forest of Majuli (District Jorhat, Assam; the world’s largest river island), who leads a strong herd. The king was informed that he would look majestic when he rides it and that no other king had such

an elephant in their palace. A huge enclosure was made and many crops like sugarcane, banana, etc. were planted in the enclosure. It had four exits and the king ordered his toughest men to guard them. But it is not easy to get men who would stand in front of a herd of wild elephants. In the meantime the king was informed that Sankaradeva is a strong man and also an expert in martial arts. His Bhuyan guards were also very strong and the perfect solution for this problem. On the request of the king, Sankaradeva agreed. Sankaradeva and his guards were given the task of guarding the north exit. However he also took his prime disciple Madhavdeva along with Harideva. The herd of elephants along with their leader, the white one, were being chased into the enclosure by men with fire, drums, trumpets and noise. Soon the herd realized that they were trapped. Sankaradeva not only had humans as his followers but also animals. It seemed the white elephant made a prayer to Sankaradeva and in return Sankaradeva asked it to use his northern exit to escape. Madhavadeva was surprised at this. He realized that the king is going to send for Sankaradeva any moment but Sankaradeva did not seemed to be concerned and waited to face the king’s army. Here again it becomes clear that Sankaradeva could face the king’s army if need arose. Sankaradeva always keeps the request of his devotees. Even on this occasion Sankaradeva kept the request of leaving the place, after repeated persuasion from his pupil Madhavadeva. I have made an effort to tell this inspiring story via a painting and I feel very proud that popular English painter Mr R Cartwright has taken up the task to bring this moment of history back to life. I did take some time to realise the greatness of Srimanta Sankaradeva and to understand that there is only one person to claim the title of Sarvagunakara i.e. the person with all great qualities to the level of perfection. He is already renowned as a dancer and has founded a classical Indian dance (Sattria Dance). His composition and writings has given us great songs (Bargeet) and books like the one with collection of prayers (Kirtan). As a dramatist his plays took place about

hundred years before Shakespeare. Still the world regards Shakespeare as the first to have started drama. When the whole of India was burning with issues of ill-treatment of women, ladies in the northeast India and Assam in particular were almost unknown to practices like Sati and Dowry. The root cause was again found to be the impact of Sankaradeva. Still there seems to be more praise for social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy (who was born some three hundred years after Srimanta Sankaradeva).

world will rise to a level where great saint like Srimanta Sankaradeva will get his due respect and acknowledgement.

As a musician he was matched only to the likes of Tansen who could get rainfall with his famous raga “Megh Malhar” or light fire with his raga “Deepak”. In the case of Sankaradeva the facts like the Guinness world record of 14833 musicians playing the instrument (The Khol) introduced by him (Jan 2013 Titabor- Assam) are self-explanatory. But, these are nothing if one reads his biography mentioning lord Vishnu`s visit to hear him sing. It also describes of the evidence of an unseen extremely large feather of lord Vishnu’s console Garund which adds on to the fact of lord Vishnu`s visit. If I start to describe or mention all of his other great feats and achievements I will cross the limit given to me, i.e. of writing a few words. But as a surgeon or medical practitioner I prefer to see his contributions in these fields. This is not because I want to disregard the rest but because I may understand these slightly better. There has been huge publicity on the need of having fibres in the diet. There has been a huge research on the subject and there has also been many guidelines suggesting the benefits of it. There are suggestions that one should have “5 a day”. Yes that is 5 fruits and vegetables a day. But there has not been much praise of the person who has introduced this concept some 600 years ago by introducing a dish with soaked Chickpeas, Moong, few soaked rice with roots like ginger and fruits. But there seem to be no worldwide admiration for this as yet. He has used and advised the use of earth from the depth of over 90cm as modern day soap to wash hands for cleanliness. He also advised the covering of mouth with a cloth while distributing food in public services. These explain his understanding of the concept of asepsis and hand hygiene which is thought to a modern day concept. These concepts are thought to be the result of lot of research after spending billions of dollars and pounds. But there seem to be no due admiration for this great son of mother earth. It is indeed sad to know that despite all these contributions Srimanta Sankaradeva is still not a world figure. The answer is not easy and also not very clear. But I do believe that this

Mr Cartwright creating a picture on the legend of Sankaradeva and White Elephant

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Personal View

Lovely Dutta Prusty

Srimanta Sankaradeva….His Presence In My Life

Lovely Dutta Prusty did schooling from Shillong; post graduated in English Literature from Dibrugarh University and completed Cambridge Diploma in Teaching and training. She has been a freelance writer for over 15 years and a Radio Jockey for five years. Currently, she works at The Deens Academy Whitefield as the Head of the English Department and is the editor of the school magazine, ’Orio- Confetti’. Ms. Dutta is also a Rotarian and Editor of ‘Subhiksha’, the newsletter of Rotary Bangalore IT Corridor.

The Assamese society in Shillong, in the 1900s was a close knit group of people…tied

but how did it bring about equality?

strongly together by cultural and religious bonds. They had established a strong presence in the beautiful sun-kissed valley of Shillong by setting up Namghars and organizing Bihu festivals. While they became a part and parcel of the local fabric they carefully nourished their own cultural roots. It made us, children of the plains but bred in the hills, a proud lot. We were happy to be Axomiya….happy to celebrate Bihu, participate in ‘Husori’, in dance competitions, in watching Assamese plays and movies and singing ‘Mukti To nis priho Jitu’ (prayer) in the altar at home. The Namghar was a pivot on which our small social group rotated.

The annual event in the Namghar that every Assamese in Shillong awaited, besides Bihu, was the ‘Bhaona’ held in the month of December. Only the men enacted the different roles, whether masculine or feminine. Each year an episode from the great Epics, the Ramayan or the Mahabharata, would be dramatized. There would be a lot of anticipation as to who would bag the different roles. Being a tall, robust man, Deuta often got to play ‘Brahma’ or ‘Vishnu’ and sometimes a ‘Rishi-muni’, though he always wanted to be a king so he could enact a ‘fight scene’ with a bow and arrow!! I thought that the role of the ‘Sutradhar’ was more important as he was the narrator. After the Bhaona ended people would sit in the corridors outside the great hall to feast on delicious ‘khichri’. The memory of its aroma still teases my senses!

Every Thursday evening, after office hours, my Deuta (Father) would go to the Namghar on Dhankheti road, dressed in a spotless dhoti kurta, with a gamocha around his neck. I would often accompany him and be a part of the ‘Nam Kirtan’ and the Bhagwat reading sessions. Being too young, I understood very little but I could feel that it was of immense importance to my father and the other men, young and old, who congregated there regularly. I enjoyed listening to the different voices reading from the Bhagwat Geeta and would clap along with everyone when they sang hymns, the sound of our claps rising in a crescendo. On Sunday mornings I sometimes went with my mother to the Namghar for Nam Kirtan, performed to the accompaniment of huge cymbals. The sound reverberated through the pillared hall, filling me with a sense of awe. The children learned to sit through these sessions but when they got restless they would run out and play in the garden. My friends and I would look forward to the ‘prasad’ that would be distributed on plantain leaves. I found the ‘prasad’ an interesting mixture of green moong dal, grams, coconut, little bit of soaked rice, thin slices of ginger, and sometimes groundnuts. Deuta explained to me the importance of this ….it was designed to bring about equality among people of all social levels. Moreover, it was affordable for the poor, besides being healthy too. I could understand the health aspect of it, The answer to that query was to be my first lesson on the religion that my family followed…Vaishnavism! It was also my first step towards knowing the Saint who propagated Vaishnavism in Assam and whose teachings guided us ….Srimanta Sankaradeva. The stories of his life fascinated my young mind and I often asked my parents to explain to

Thus, as I grew up, I learnt that the Namghar and the activities held in its premises was the bonding ground for the people of our community. The songs and the prayers that were fervently sung in its hallowed portals lifted us to a higher plane of spiritual consciousness while keeping us rooted to our culture, the uncooked ‘prasad’ served on plantain leaves made us humble and it united us making us realise that God is One and all of us are equal before Him.

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Creation of a Genius

Drama

This photograph of Bhaona is captured by Mr Raj Ahmed. Raj, an MBA, has left his job in a reputed company only to chase the dream of highlighting the rich culture of Assam in front of the world. He has recently directed a music video of Singer Joi Barua which gives a glimpse of Naam Kirtana. His future plan is to create a commercial film on the genesis of Sankari culture.

Ankiya Bhaona or Ankiya Naat, created by Srimanta Sankaradeva is a milestone of the great Assamese renaissance. The Bhaona brought about elements of the popular rural theatre into to the classical Sanskrit tradition. First staged and produced at the age of only 19, named Cihna Yatra, Sankaradeva brought in a culture of Ankiya Naats, probably first ever open-air theatrical performances in the history of the world. The Ankiya Naat (the play) and Jhumuras (playlets) composed by Sankaradeva were essentially for dramatic presentation to be performed with total devotion. Innovations like the presence of a Sutradhara (narrator) on the stage, use of masks and infusion of various art forms like dance, music etc. made Bhaona a masterpiece creation of the genius. Written in Brajavali language, these oneact play creations make the Mahapurusha the first playwright of India. The Ankiya Bhaona culture has been heart of Sattra and Assamese culture for centuries till today.

Creation of a Genius

Dance

This beautiful capture of Sattriya dance performed by Ghana Kanta Bora Borbayan’s group is taken by Ramesh Lalwani. Ramesh Lalwani, an amateur photographer, is a retired ex officio Addtional Secretary to Govt.of India. He has published a few books on his photography works, eminent of them are "Tribal and Folk Dances of India" and "Monuments in Seven Cities of Delhi"

Sattriya, a dance form created by Srimanta Sankaradeva as an accompaniment to Ankiya Naat. The Sangeet Natak Akademi of India has recognised as one of the classical dance forms of India, alongside the other seven forms. Sankardev created Sattriya Nritya as an accompaniment to the Ankiya-Nat. Sankaradeva also created very special unique constumes of each characters of the dance form. The costumes vary from white colour Sutradhar to very bright coloured Gopis. For make-up, colours prepared from vegetable dyes are used, and in most cases characters can be identified by the colours they wear. The grammar in the Sattriya dance is not found to be in written form. It is verbally handed down to generations although attempts have been made in recent years to prepare formal grammar. The Sattriya dance is very popular in Modern Assam and the dancers undergo training through rigorous syllabic process. (Refer article at page 25 for more information)

Creation of a Genius

Music

This photograph is captured by Mr Uddipta Sankar Pathak. Mr Uddipta is a freelance photojournalist working with some of the National News Agencies of India. He also has field experience with the UB Photos (A leading News Photo and Visual Service Agency of North East). According to Uddipta, his ultimate objective in photography is to convey his feelings and emotions through his photographs.

Bargeet,

are a collection of lyrical songs

created by Srimanta Sankaradeva and later followed by his apostle Madhavadeva. These holy songs are part of the prayer sessions in Sattras and Namgharas. The Bargeets are set to a characteristic pattern of unique raga and tala created by Sankaradeva and later followed by his apostle Madhavadeva. Based on Indian Shastric tradition, they are higher forms of geets in their devotional, musical and literary virtuosity. A total number of thirty two ragas are found in rendition of Bargeets. Apart from creating unique ragas, Sankaradeva also invented instruments like Khol (in the picture), Tala, etc to accompany his music. The influence of Borgeets is seen in modern musical genius from Assam like Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Zubeen Garg, etc. (Refer article at page 37 for more information) Apart from Bargeets, Kirttanghosam, Bhatima and Totaka by Sankaradeva are rich musical corpus for successive generations.

Creation of a Genius

Painting and Sculpting

This photograph is captured by Paulus Veltman and Anja Brunt (About Paulus and Anja on Page no 24) from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, during their visit to a Satra in Majuli.

Mukhaa, hand-made masks made of clay and hay is another creative invention of Srimanta Sankaradeva. The usage of masks is an integral component of the Ankiya-Bhaona. Like the other art forms, this has also been a living tradition in many of the sattras. Masks are usually made for Gods and demons narrated in the bhaonas. His sculpting talent can be seen in mukha’s while his painting brilliance was depicted in the paintings of Sapta vaikuntha (seven paradises), which he painted for the special dance-drama he produced in his early age, called Cihna Yatra. Unfortunately those paintings were lost over the flow of time. Sankaradeva was a master painter with extensive knowledge art of book. He paintned a picture of an elephant with vermillion and yellow arsenic and pasted it on the wooden book case in which the manuscript of his famous Gunamala was placed.

Creation of a Genius

Tapestry Art

A photograph of the great Vrindavani Vastra currently preserved at British Museum. We are thankful to British Museum authority to provide us the copyright to publish this photograph.

Vrindavani Vastra, the cloth of Vrindavan, is another genius creation of Srimanta Sankaradeva. The 120 x 60 cubits tapestry of silk depicts the lilasmythical tales from the life of Lord Krishna at Vrindavan. Sankaradeva took up the project of weaving this exceptional cloth on request from the Prince Silarai of Koch Behar. The prince was enthralled, and wished to experience the heavenly childhood days of Lord Krishna after listening to the depictions from the mouth of Sankaradeva. So, genius Sankaradeva engaged the weavers of Tantikuchi, near Barpeta, to weave a forty-yard long tapestry panel to fulfill the wish of the prince. The Vastra was weaved on the designs and combination of colourful threads provided by the Mahapurusha himself. He personally supervised the weaving which took one year to complete. The cloth was lost in times from Madhupur Sattra and only re-discovered in early 20th century and re-confirmed a piece of creation in 1992 as Vrindavani Vastra. When the Vastra was re-discovered and unveiled for viewing, people were astounded to see the true-to-life creations of Krishna’s life, and exclaimed that the cloth must have come from the heavens, not from any human weavers. (Refer to article at page 12 for more information)

Creation of a Genius

Literature

This photograph is captured by Mr Raj Ahmed (About Raj on Page no 46). In the picture a monk is reciting the Kirtana Ghosha, a book which has become a house-hold necessity in every Assamese family.

Kirtana Ghosha,

a poetic book

written by Srimanta Sankaradeva is such an influential piece of work of the saint that it can over shadow any literary work ever created in Assamese. Gunamala, another masterpiece of his literary work created within just a night, is an abridged version of Bhagwata-Purana. He authored 10 kavyas (poetic books) and 6 books on Bhakti. He also translated 6 episodes of Bhagawata and 1 of Ramayana. His book Bhakti-Ratnakar written in Sanskrit shows his talent in the holy language. Apart from these, not to mention his Ankiya plays, lyrics of Bargeets, etc. Sankaradeva preserved his work of literature in an artistic way of manuscript paintings. He also became the father of a unique manuscript painting style that marks of beginning of Assamese tradition of literature during the Bhakti movement.

Creation of a Genius

Institutions

This photograph is captured by Catherine Marciniak of Australia (About Catherine on Page no 14). The picture shows a prayer hall (Namghar) interior at a Sattra in Majuli.

Namghar

and

Sattra

are two

institutions created by Srimanta Sankaradeva have been the backbone of the religious and cultural history of the Assamese people for last six centuries. Sankaradeva first started the tradition of Namghar, prayer house, and Sattra at Bardowa and later moved places establishing these traditions in respective places. Over time, Namghar has become the signature of every village or town in Assam and Sattras become the cultural and religious hub of Sattriya culture. These institutions started by the saint with a vision not only served as the heart of Vaishnavism but also institution of social reforms. Specially the namghars have been serving as the village panchayat and meeting place of the whole village. All socio-economic and political decisions of a village have been taken within a Namghar only for centuries.(Refer to article at page 15 for more information)

The Event

Shyamkanu Mahanta

Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement: An exciting journey

Mr. Shyamkanu Mahanta is a noted entrepreneur, Project Adviser to many Infrastructure Projects in North-east and Columnist to major dailies of Assam. Mr. Mahanta comes from an illustrious family of Assam and brought up in Sankari tradition in the Sattras. Mr. Mahanta is the driving force behind two of the iconic events promoted by Trend MMS; ‘Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement’ and ‘Samannay’.

For many years now, Assam and North East India have been in the news for wrong reasons. The geographical isolation, complex ethnic and tribal structure, underdevelopment and growing unemployment ensured that the region remained backward in comparison to rest of India. The act of violence by a very small percentage of people gets prominence in media creating a negative perception about Assam as well as the rest of North East India. However, the Assamese Society has a long history of communal harmony, social equality and a glorious history of literature and culture, which was initiated by Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva. Perhaps one of the most talented persons in the history of India, Sankaradeva was a poet, playwright, actor, traveller, musician, sculptor, weaver and most importantly a social engineer – all rolled into one. Sankaradeva succeded in unifying the heterogeneous society of Assam by bringing the various sects and classes into a spiritual fold. He introduced the concept of united “Bharatvarsha” which is becoming more relevant in the land locked State of Assam surrounded by Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Bhutan. However, this versatile personality and his contributions are not very well known outside the region. He hasn’t got the recognition he deserves. With an attempt to create an awareness about the principles of Sankaradeva and to highlight the egalitarian society of Assam, Trend MMS, the leading Socio- Cultural Trust of Assam have initiated Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement (SSM). Eminent Actor Victor Banerjee, who have spent his early years in Assam with a very strong emotional bonding is the Brand Ambassador of the Movement. Trend MMS is a not for profit, Socio Cultural Trust with some of the most well known cultural and literary personalities of Assam. The Trust has been trying to spread the universal equality message initiated by Sankaradeva. Within Assam, the Trust have initiated a Cultural Movement called “Samannay- A musical journey of Integration” wherein the leading singers of various tribes and communities joined hand to spread the message of co-existence.

Samanny event were organised across the State especially in the strife torn Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) areas to promote harmony and love between various communities. Samannay have become an iconic initiative with widespread support from public and intelligentsia. The event would be taken forward to the nook and corner of the region in the coming days. The first edition Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement was organised on 13th September, 2012 at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi in association with Assam Association, Delhi. The event was attended by leading Cultural personalities of Delhi and got widespread attention in the National media. The event was attended by Sri Tarun Gogoi, Hon’ble CM of Assam, Sri PS Ghatowar, Hon’ble DoNER Minister, then HRD minister Sri Kapil Sibal, noted actor and Shabana Azmi, officials of Government of India, other dignitaries and general public. National Schools of Drama (NSD) has provided the technical support for the event. Besides bringing a positive image of Assam in National media, the major outcome of Delhi edition was the declaration by Sri Kapil Sibal that a chapter on Sankaradeva will be included in NCERT course. During the event, a representation was submitted to HRD Minister signed by leading personalities of the State including Sri Homen Borgohain – eminent writer, Dr. Kesavananda Dev Goswami – Vaisnavi Pandit and recipient of Srimanta Sankaradeva Award, Sri Arun Sarma – Padmashri, Sahitya Academy Award and Sangeet Natak Academy award winner, Dr. Nirmal Kumar Chaudhury – Former VC, Gauhati University, Sri Lila Kanta Mahanta – President, Assam Sattra Mahasabha, Dr. Lakhinandan Bora - Ex – President Assam Sahitya Sabha & Sahitya Academy Award winner, Sri Hari Prasad Hazarika – Secretary General, Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha, Sjt Dayal Krishna Bora, President, Ek Saran Bhagawati Samaj. Since then, continuous follow up has been made from the SSM with the support of Hon’ble CM of Assam and Hon’ble Union DoNER Minister with Ministry of HRD, Government of India for early notification of the declaration made by Union HRD Minister. It is learnt that NCERT course goes for revision every 4-5 years and in the next revision in 2014-15 a Chapter on

Sankaradeva would be introduced. The Second edition of Sankaradeva Movement is organised in Bengaluru on 1st June, 2013 with the support of Assamese Community in Bengaluru. In this momentous occasion, we would like to offer our sincere gratitude to Legendary Sarod Maestro Amjad Ali Khan for being present and also to Ms Subhalakshmi Khan, noted dance exponent who have been a constant source encouragement. Our Brand Ambassador Mr Victor Banerjee is extremely passionate about SSM and has been promoting SSM is various platforms across the country. We are extremely grateful for the Assamese community in Bengaluru who have taken time off from their busy schedule and relentlessly working towards making Sankaradeva Movement- Bengaluru Initiative a success. We are extremely grateful to Hon’ble Chief Minister of Assam Mr. Tarun Gogoi and Hon’ble Union DoNER Minister Mr. P.S Ghatowar who have been the pillar of strength and support for SSM. We would strive to make SSM a sustainable and continuous journey. The next edition of SSM is planned in Mumbai in later part of the next year. Subsequently, SSM would be organized in London and other Indian cities. We are also working parrallally on various other facets of Sankaradeva especially for preservation and propagation. Our endeavor would be to take all stakeholders together and with the support of all concerned we are hopeful that we could proliferate Srimanta Sankaradeva into a world stage, which he deserves. Jai Guru Sankara Creation of Srimanta Sankaradeva by Pareejat Gogoi of Bangalore

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Pareejat writes, “Playing with colors is an expression and reflection of one's perception.A self-taught artist with an effort to portray female figures as a mark of respect and an emblem of purity and lush greenary using opulent hues to create a positive mind.It is a previledge to be a part of the the Sankaradeva movement and this artwork of mine is a token of respect to the pioneer of assamese culture.”

The Event

Victor Banerjee

Speech at Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement: Delhi Initiative 2012

Victor Banerjee is a renowned Indian actor who has appeared as lead role in many Hindi, English, Bengali and Assamese films. He has also acted in number of TV series in various languages. Apart from being a veteran actor, Victor Benerjee is also known for his social and humanitarian works. Grown up in Assam and North-East, Mr Banerjee is an ambassador of the Snakaradeva Movement and strong proponent of Srimanta Sankaradeva. Fellow Citizens of Bharatvarsha and Friends, Hari Om.

You might think this opening statement a pompous beginning to this evening’s proceedings, but as we go along I will endeavour to explain how this is one of the most illuminating ways to address one’s people and how that light shone in Assam over 500 years ago and its effulgence burns to this day in the hearts and minds of every Assamese. It is this spirit of enlightenment that we would like to present and radiate not just here, but throughout India, and to every corner of the globe where human and sincerely secular values have a meaning. In all my life, this is perhaps my proudest moment. At a time when Assam burns because you think we cannot tolerate people of other ethnicities, look at me; I point at myself and compel you to recognize honest secularism. I was born a Bengali, will always remain one, but I owe all that I am today, in every sphere, to my upbringing from a little toddler to an adult, in Assam. And in recognition of my passionate love for the mati and manuh, the soil and people of the valley, I stand before you, appointed the Brand Ambassador of a movement whose importance and relevance is unparalleled in modern Assamese and Indian cultural history. Bharatvarsha was a loosely applied term in the Mahabharat when Bharat of Hastinapura ruled over our subcontinent and regions he conquered that stretched from Northwest Tibet to Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. However, the very concept faded with time until a wandering philosopher from Assam walked across Northern India, to the source of the Ganges and returned to his people in the cloistered valley of Assam and called for a union of all our people in a united Bharatvarsha. So now, my addressing you as Citizens of Bhartvarsha will make sense from a deep-rooted Assamese revival of the term. He preached Eka-Sarana-Nama-Dharma a monotheistic doctrine based on the Bhagvata Purana, at a time when a young 24 year old Guru Nanak was also exploring his own vision of Eka-Sarana-Nama-Dharma which he went on to preach throughout the

world as “Ek Omkar Satnam”. It was the dawn of the Bhakti Era. The 15th and 16th Centuries of the Common Era were without doubt the greatest in terms of how they moulded and shaped the beliefs, thoughts and aesthetics of mankind. Michelangelo was creating the Pieta and his immortal ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while Leonardo created the world’s most famous painting the Mona Lisa and his incredible mural of the Last Supper. That was when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, challenged the authority of the Pope and attacked several key doctrines of the Catholic Church and proclaimed that Christians would be saved not by scrupulously following ritual practices, but by faith and faith alone, Bhakti. That was the time when Henry VIII led a scathing and vitriolic attack on Martin Luther and the Pope in Rome conferred the title of “Defender of the Faith”, upon Henry, for his allegiance. Not much later, that colourful monarch of England broke away from Catholicism and Rome to divorce his wife and marry Ann Boleyn. The Pope immediately excommunicated him, but the islanders of Britain conferred the same title of “Defender of the Faith” upon the King or Queen of England as their venerated leader of the Anglican Church. Calvin meanwhile reformed the church in France. That, friends, was the Reformation movement in Europe. And here in our subcontinent, at exactly the same time, there were the beginnings of our own social and religious reforms, the likes of which this land had never seen before and will probably not witness again. Let me give you a few names of people who lived at the same time, in Bharatvarsha. It will make you sit up in your chairs and wonder at an era that has made a difference to the lives of many of us present here this evening: Surdas, Chandidas, Kabir, Vidyapati the Maithili Poet and Lyricist, Mirabai, Narsi Mehta the poet saint and Bhakta from Gujarat, Vallabhacharya the devotional philosopher from Andhra,Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal, Guru Nanak the world renowned propagator of the Bhakti movement and Sikhism, and finally the reformer, saint and poet, creative genius and consummate artist that we are assembled to glorify today, Mahapurush Srimanto Shankaradeva of Naungaun, in Assam. Every one of these great souls is a household name in Bharatvarsha today and it fills our hearts with pride to reveal to you that the first modern, if medieval, visionary on our land, who ever called for a united

Bharatvarsha amongst his people, shunned casteism and idol worship, and whose Naam Ghars, to this day 500 years later, have housed nothing but a Scripture, The Bhagavad, was Assam’s neo-Vaishnav Guru, and social reformer, Srimanto Shankaradeva. A Nam Ghar is what you might call a temple or chapel,but it isn’t only that. Shanakaradeva built Naam Ghars where no idols would ever be worshiped, the inner sanctum would house a holy scripture, and where people of all faiths and castes and ethnicities would be welcomed as equals. In the morning the clash of Bortals, huge cymbals, to the soft accompaniment of the Mridnga, or khol, both designed specially by Shankaradeva, a Borgeet (a song celestial) would be softly sung to usher in a new day. The Naam Ghar became a meeting place for the community and social issues and problems were discussed there, and solved there. It was in many ways the first example of a Panchayat System. To this day, throughout the length and breadth of Assam, in the Northern and Southern banks of the great Brahmaputra, and on islands in its waters, in towns, in villages, in tea gardens and forests there is a Naam Ghar in almost every five square mile area, that preserves the Bhakti cult and rich culture of unique dance and music of Assam. It is the greatest living tribute to the saint Shankaradeva. But that’s just the beginning. Shankaradeva was equally fluent in Sanskrit, Assamese, and BrajaVali Bhasa or Brojobuli. As a little student, he composed a short poem using just consonants and the first vowel “Aw” and astonished his teacher. His gift for music and his sense of rhythm and movement astounded everybody. His teachers knew he was a special child. Years later, on his return from a twelve year pilgrimage that took him to Northern India and was influenced greatly by his visit to the Living Lord Jagganath in Puri, and Kabir in Banaras, Shankaradeva composed his first “Borgeet”, a hymn, in the Raga Dhanasri, in 1493 CE. Dhanasri is a lilting happy raga that is performed at a time of day when weary farmers rest in the shade of Pipals and Banyans. It provided the setting for hymns by Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev and Guru Tegh Bahadar, and forms an integral part of Guru Nanak’s Holy Guru Granth Sahib. Arguably, Shankaradeva’s Hymn was also, the first poem ever composed in Brajabuli Bhasa. But it was the Kirtan Ghosa that Shankaradeva is most remembered for. It has a place in every Assamese home and is written in verse. It is a magical and mind-blowing transcreation (not translation) of the Bhagavad, in simple language, with simple imageries, for simple and ordinary people, with a “ghosa”, a refrain, that everyone can recite. While in England and Europe Mystery plays based on the books of the Bible were being written for the stage, in Assam, Shankaradeva was writing dance dramas called Bhaonas and one act plays called

Ankiya Naat to be performed in the Naam Ghars. The Ankia Nat and the Jhumura popularized by Shakaradev’s chief Disciple and successor Madhabadev, were perhaps the first forms of cultural folk theatre in Bharatvarsha. The use of the Sutradhar was unique in its Brechtian stylization and the performances accompanied by antiphonal song, a “responsory” like a chorus speaking the mind of an audience. It was amazingly similar to what was evolving across the seven seas in Europe more than a hundred years before the Globe and Shakespeare.But going a step farther, Shakaradeva himself painted backdrops and used them as drop-scenes behind the players, thus creating stage sets for the very first time. In 1468 his first play Chinha Yatra was a huge success and his famous Kaaliya Daman is performed to this day in many parts of India, including I’m told, in the National School of Drama, in Delhi. There are only eight Classical Dance forms recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi: Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Kathakali, Manipuri and Sattriyaa. Only one of them can be. traced to an individual as opposed to a people or culture. The Sattriyaa, or Xattriyaa Dance form, was created solely by Srimanto Shakaradeva.He sang, he composed lyrics, painted sets and backdrops and also played the khol and even danced. His genius was undisputed and unparalleled in our nation’s cultural history. Today, we take the first step towards integrating his faith, his art and his music and dance with the rest of India and we humbly pray to you all to accept us as brethren who had been lost, not forsaken, in the northeastern realms of modern India. Let me end talking about imageries and motifs, like the simple ones on this gamucha I have around my neck. I think of Tibetan Silk Lampas that were donated to a British Museum in 1905 and remained collecting dust for 85 years, until a similar fragment went under the hammer at Christies for over US$100,000.00. During his years of persecution, and he had several, Shankaradeva spent a great deal of time in the Kingdom of Koch Behar, teaching scripture to the young Princes. One of them, Chilarai, was extremely fond of stories of the baby boy Krishna, and to please him, Shankaradeva promised to weave him a tapestry depicting all the stories of the naughty boy Krishna, in Vrindavan.Shankaradeva set about designing and doing all the artwork himself and then employed weavers in a village called Tantikuchi, near Barpeta, to weave a forty yard long panel that would one day be called the “Vrindavani Vastra”. Just before he died, Shankaradeva, presented the tapestry to Chilarai and the ruler, his brother, Naranarayana, but mysteriously the silk tapestry disappeared and a valuable work of art was lost for 400 years till a British Officer found it in Tibet and gave

it to a museum. There can be no doubt that no one in our cultural history had so many facets, so many incomparable talents and above all a spirit to lift ordinary souls into the realms of divinity. Shankaradeva lived to the ripe old age of 119 and you’ll be amused to hear that his most productive years were after he turned a hundred.We’re used to being governed by old people in this country but don’t you wish our feuding Parliamentarians could dance and sing and preach a casteless equality so we could all live in harmony as Shankaradeva had propagated and achieved, not without adversary or difficulty, 500 years ago ? A few months ago I was asked by an Assamnese author to launch a book in Calcutta or Guwahati, I don’t remember which, but I had to turn down the request because I was busy doing something else of seemingly monumental importance at the time. Weeks later, I received a small parcel. But, busy as I always seem to be, the parcel remained unopened for a month. But life is stranger than one cares to admit and the powers that govern our fates are sometimes difficult to deny or ignore. A few weeks ago, I opened the parcel to discover Dr Bimal Phukan’s unbelievable, short and concise, and detailed and immensely readable biography of Srimanto Shankaradeva. 48 hours after I finished the book, I was made this incredible offer that has me standing here, before you, today. For someone like me who struts and frets through the vicissitudes of life, this is a perfect climax to the joys of an imperfect existence.

Eka Naama Saranam – Hari Om

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Veteran Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi (extreme left), Actor Victor Banerjee (second from left) and Shyamkanu Mahanta (third from left) at the Sankaradeva Movement Event in Delhi.

Imaginary creations of Sankaradeva by Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha

Unfortunately no painting or statue of Srimanta Sankaradeva’s portrait was created during his time. Many artists tried to put an imaginary picture of Sankaradeva on paitings, statues over time. The images of the paintings put here are creations of another Assamese genius of 20th century, Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha.

President’s Note

Olee Borah

The moment

Staging the Mahapurusha at Bangalore

remains fresh in my mind. I forget the date but it was on a late evening in

November last year when the idea was mooted. We - Naba Kumar Das, Dhrubajyoti Bhuyan, Yugantar Saikia, Jyoti Kurmi and yours truly – were sitting and chatting in the big living room of Yugantar’s home. On one corner was a sarai, which constantly reminded us of our birthplace, Assam. The topic veered to Srimanta Sankaradeva and his relevance in present times. I stuck out like a sore thumb sticking out among the group. Older by more than a decade than the others. A ignoramus as far as computer is concerned. The other four are in high posts in the IT sector. But what connected us were our thoughts about our motherland and its people. These IT professionals constantly obsess over how to contribute to their state and generate employment for the youth there. It is another thing that these dreams remain just that - dreams. The conversation that evening was tinged with regret, over the fact that Srimanta Sankaradeva and his message remains confined to the narrow limits of Assam, and guilt, for our failure to take our Guru beyond the state and bring him national, if not international, focus. He sought to spread the message of peace and harmonious co-existence; his acts like accepting a Muslim, Chandasai, as one of his primary disciples remain proof of it. We felt this was the need of the times. Last year, there was a virtual exodus of people from the Northeast from Karnataka in the fear of being targeted in communal violence. We tried our best to convince them otherwise. So did the then Government of Karnataka, and the various committees of mosques. They held sadhbhavana and milad-e-mehfil, just to reassure the Northeasterners that we will stand together as brothers. Those were the times when we understood how much Srimanta Sankaradeva could teach us and others. All these and our desire to do something coalesced that evening. It turned to a determination. Yugantar mentioned that an NGO, Trend MMS, was doing pioneering work in taking our Guru’s ideas to other parts of the country. I dithered. But Yugantar made it clear that he would go about it alone if need be. His wife, Dr Ranjita Adhikari, happens to be a descendent of the Guru’s family. With such an ultimatum, inevitably the die was cast. We would organize a function to highlight our Guru’s message, it was decided. We started our journey with Trend MMS. The Chief Coordinator of the NGO, Shyamkanu

Mahanta, is a close friend of Yugantar. The two took the role of coordinator and sorted out the various responsibilities within themselves. It involved taking care of the venue, lodging for visitors and food. Then there was the public relation aspect. There were invitation cards to be printed. The details were taken care of in an exhaustive manner. We formed a committee with Ghananil Phukan, who also happens to be the president of ABC Forum. Since ABC Forum can be confining and exclusive, he proposed the formation of a body that would be more inclusive so that organizations like Assam Society of Bangalore (ASOB) and Assam Association of Bangalore (AAOB) can be equal partners. Thus was born Sankaradeva Movement, Bengaluru Initiative, a common platform for all Assamese Bangaloreans. I was chosen as the President of this body. We were on a roll. An advisory body was formed. The members of the Advisory body were Dr B. M. Gogoi, Mr. Prakash Baruah, Mr. Niranjan Bordoloi, Mr. Deepak Sharmah, Col. Chidananda Medhi, Dr J. M. Debnath, Mr. Debeswar Neog, Mr M K Bharatee, Dr.Bijon Baruah, Mr. Phulaeswar Borah, Mr. Hemen Gogoi, Mr. Nurul Amin Bokshi, Mr. Amal Barua, Mrs. Kamalakshi Agarwala, Mr Lakhi Phukan, Mr. Lankeswar Nath, Col. Atul Chowdhury, Mr. Atul Thakuria, Mr. Bhagya Konwar. Since the inception till now, I can proudly claim that everyone did what they had to before a request was made, an order passed. Each one took on a well-defined role and carried out their work, letting neither the busy schedule so symptomatic of IT sector or ego hassles come in the way. Pollob Kishore Phukon and Dipankar Rajkhowa of AAOB, worked hand in hand with us. So did Niranjan Bordoloi, who took up a donation drive and constantly encouraged us. His retired life became a thing of the past and he was constantly on the go. The advice of Amal Barua, a member of the advisory committee, proved invaluable. Munin Bharatee showed us the way with his experiences. Sourav Moloy Borah, Rajdeep Kar, Jonali Saikia, Shah Alam, Mridu Mahendra Das, Durbadal Tamuli, Trinayan Bora, Bibhash Hazarika, Abhijit Borah, Jyotirmoy Saikia, Siddhratha Dutta, Rajiv Barman, Kaushik Baruah and Mr Kiran contributed to the most out of their busy lives. Trend MMS helped us get articles from renowned scholars from Assam. Thanks to Abhijit Borah, work on the handbook or souvenir – a reminder of the function on Sankardeva at Chowdiah Memorial Hall – was complete. There have been so many people, who have helped in making Sankaradeva Movement, Bangalore, what it is. Funds have flowed not only from our core members and some entrepreneurs, but from the Assamese people in general. Our near and dear ones have contributed their bit as well.

We, which includes Aparna Das, Preeti Bhuyan, Rinku Kurmi, Dr Ranjita Adhikari Saikia and I, arranged for the Deuboria Adda on NewsLive channel. It was an opportunity for Bangalorean Assamese to get together and share a laugh together. They all came up and contributed whole heartedly to the event. On Final Days, ASOB core members also joined our hands to give a complete face to our efforts. The journey has just started. But it has been possible because so many people have selflessly invested their time, money and expertise, not to talk of instilling positive energy. I express gratitude to all these people. Thank you all so much. You are the reason why Srimanta Sankardev is now known to more people than a year before. I take pride in it. I hope you do too. Thank you.

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“The various contributions of the great Guru Sankardeva towards the Assamese identity and culture” – A creation by Bideep Bezbaruah. Mr Bideep, a software professional, is an avid artist and nurtures his painting skills through both professional and self training.

Editor’s Note

The Beginning…. I want to take this opportunity to remember the unknown souls who have dedicated their lives whole heartedly following the footsteps of the “Greatest Human” ever in the history of Assam, Srimanta Sankaradeva. I am grateful to those unknown faces who have kept alive Sankaradeva, his holy culture, an honest society and the great institutions for six centuries; without whom we wouldn’t have been able to make a Souvenir-book like this. We need the innocence and honesty in the like of them to take a leap in this movement and introduce Sankaradeva to the whole world. This souvenir tries to modestly contribute to the great cause of Sankaradeva Movement. We will feel successful if we are able to throw a glimpse of light into Gurjona’s vast thinking and contributions. This is just the beginning of an ambition to recreate a world Sankaradeva’s dreamt of, a world of peace, honesty, love and devotion. We are especially very grateful to the respected authors and photographers out of Assam who contributed to this book without any hesitation and showed their love and excitement towards Srimanta Sankaradeva and the culture started by him. We humbly apologies for any unknown mistake we have done in this minuscule effort.

Abhijit Borah, Editor and Designer With suggestions and support from Mrs Olee Borah Mr Yugantar Saikia Special Thanks to Mr Shyamkanu Mahanta, Mrs Jonali Saikia Khasnabish, Mr Amal Baruah Mr Pollob Kishore Phukon, Mr Jyoti Kurmi, Mrs Mrigopriya Tamuli, Mr Sourav Moloy Borah & The Whole Team of Srimanta Sankradeva Movement, Bangalore Initiative

Please send any feedback or suggestion to borah.abhijit@gmail.com

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Copyright Š 2013, Srimanta Sankaradeva Movement, Bengaluru Initiative


Souvenir srimanta sankaradeva movement bangalore