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by Rupam Kumar Boro

Hagiography is a treasure-trove of moral values and a correct path of leading one’s life, among others, as shown by the saints themselves. Saints occupy a prominent place of worship and is treated as an incarnation of God. When the lives of the saints are penned down in the form of the above genre, the devotees as well as the admirers tune in with the words inscribed on it.

The chief aspect in a hagiography is the element of unquestioning factor. Astounding events and miracles form one of the constituents of this genre. Hagiographers are often direct devotee or disciple. This world of spirituality is an access to enlightening journey for someone while someone may be a doubting Thomas.

In Assamese culture, Gurucharit occupies a significant place in knowing the lives of Srimanta Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva. We however notice three root causes that hinders in reading the Gurucharit. Firstly, unless required for academic purpose, we do not feel any urge to contemplate on this hagiography. Secondly, our traditional notion that Gurucharit, a sacred book, ought to be read in our “ripe old age” as it will lead us to adore spirituality to the core. Thirdly, the various written forms available perplex readers in terms of names and events. Materials appearing in a confusing way can demagnetize an ordinary reader. Under such circumstances a doubt arises regarding the authenticity of the descriptions.

In the midst of these bewilderment and orthodoxically held views, we are glad to receive the book Purnanga Katha Gurucharit, written by Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti. It is a completely research-oriented book, which requires an insightful reading. The writer has focussed his thoughts and sharp observations for several decades towards our Vaishnavite culture in terms of assessing Gurujana’s works. The present book consisting of one hundred ninety five chapters (excluding reference and bibliographical sections) is the result of Borkakoti’s years long devotion and hard work. This is a magnum opus in comprehending our religious life and culture along with diving into the life of the saint.

As events unfold from the cup of the writer’s pen, we receive a halo of the descriptions which were previously smeared with baffling elements. The writer adopts an unique but painstaking efforts in writing this book. For the convenience of the readers, he has cited each event as described by different hagiographers and then it is followed by a comparative study leading to a definite conclusion. This method allows us to visualize the incidents properly, leaving no room for any vague idea. Another interesting aspect which we cannot overlook is the academic background of our writer. Being a student of science, he has done ample justice to the book. Throughout the Gurucharit, readers would notice the procedure in calculation of dates, scientific analysis and deciphering of events thereby giving a hallmark to the book.

The second noteworthy factor is the construction of the language which is done in modern Assamese prosaic form. This indeed helps reader to read with ease and get attuned with the events. We personally offer our gratitude in this regard for such diligence of work aimed with the sole purpose of knowing our culture in its pristine form.

Thirdly, the presence of miracles is always seen to be an unattachable element in hagiography. We cannot question the range of extraordinary events happening around the life of the saints and devotees. Making an attempt to comprehend them catapults us into a cobweb of haziness. For it is the ‘faith’ that reigns supreme. In Purnanga Katha Gurucharit, we can obviously assume this precarious situation faced by the author.  For a scientific bent of mind, these may appear tough to accept. In finding solution to such difficulties the writer reaches out for practical analysis in order to gain a concrete reply. In events where rationality fails to seek the concrete truth, the writer honestly admits the boundary. The very boundary where spirituality inhibits logic and allows only theological aspects as the ultimate way to know the “absolute truth”. We do not find any single trace of forced views from the author. One can go through the chapters "Srimanta Sankaradevar Janma", " Srimanta Sankaradevar Aloukik Shakti aru Brahmanhakalar Bhandami", "Eshware Nije Drabya Khuji Khale" in this regard.

Fourthly, in giving a comprehensive account of the Gurucharit, the author does extensive study for it. Readers could see the explanations coming from various fields of study. Psychoanalytical study of dreams, Yogic Arts, Literature, Climatic study, Medical Science, Mechanical aspects and others -- comes within one umbrella occupying a strong foothold of authenticity. Interestingly this critical way of studying indeed allows us to receive a more accurate and concrete understanding of the events. For instance, in the chapter "Palnam Aru Aakaxigongar Sristi", the explanation of the event by bringing in the concept of 'artesian well' has a sound reason and is worth-reading. In "Brindabani Bastra Toiyar", one can come to a conclusive point regarding the actual measurement of this precious cloth. The description given by the author regarding the process involved in weaving cannot be missed out. Similarly, in "Ramanandar Bilap aru Shrimanta Sankaradevar Baikuntha Prayan", the convincing reason of Gurujana's death, that is chicken pox, is acceptable when one goes through the reasons cited but provided in an organized way of thinking. At the same time, we are assured from the writer's analysis that there were instances of partiality, haphazardness and a lack of scientific temperament among earlier hagiographers that eventually led to twisting of events including historical aspects.

Fifthly, the step taken for ‘field study’ strengthens the gravity of the book. In “Madangopalar Murti Pratistha”, one can witness this evidence. Similarly, readers can visualize in most of the descriptions about the distance of the places cited by the author. The chapter “Shrimanta Sankardevar Upari Puruxhakal” reveals an insight of Gurujana’s lineage methodically arranged and thereby giving us a sense of reliability. Most importantly is the location of Sankaradeva’s birth place, where the disputable instance is refuted with the aid of various evidences. At this point we are pleased to watch that the author has brought new light of confirmation which we can agree on a unanimous note.

Purnanga Katha Gurucharit requires serious study. A few of the “truth(s)” are still open for interpretation, thus retaining an intense curiosity for us. As most of the exaggerations and misinformations are sorted out with concrete evidences and demonstrations, readers will feel the palpability of authenticity in reading. The seeds of the author's fruitful research will help us in knowing Sankaradeva to the core. In it one will see him as a leading humanist figure. His entire life journey, philosophy and literary contributions will draw us a step closer to him.

One important aspect which we cannot overlook is the factor of impartiality rippled in the book. The author himself has stated clearly of adopting this vision in the preface. This tool has indeed become very effective. For the readers will not find any trace of "'I' ness" associated with the writings. No doubt he is open to all ideas but careful enough in meticulously judging them through field study and with scientific parameters. This not only helps the writer but the readers as well who could simultaneously observe this healthy underlying force. The “I”ness has been transformed into ‘Oneness’.

As a result, we get to read this Gurucharit in a unique way. This however does not obstruct our eagerness. It rather invites us to walk on an illuminating journey where at each step truth, religion and philosophy of Sankaradeva envelopes us profoundly.

With this one can proceed the Gurucharit on a new flavour and insight. Published by Aank Baak the cover of the book impels to revisit fifteenth century admiring the days Sankaradeva lived by and our yearning for it! Readers will definitely feel a sense of pride to have a copy of it in their home library.

[Published in The Sentinel, 26 May, 2024]

by Krishnasarana Bhakat (Edgar Faingor)

I am originally from Moscow, Russia, born in a non-religious family. From my early teenage years I was interested in spirituality, as I had pressing questions regarding the nature of our being, and the meaning of life. As Russia is historically and predominantly a Christian country, naturally at first I was exploring Christianity, and joined a course in a Catholic Church. Later on, I felt the need to study other spiritual paths, and therefore engaged in long-term studies of Hinduism and then Buddhism. While still in Moscow, I became interested in the teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and  Vedanta, and visited the Hare Krishna temple as well as Ramakrishna Mission centre.... more

                                    प्रो. वीरेन्द्र कुमार अलंकारः, संस्कृत विभाग, पंजाब विश्वविद्यालय, चण्डीगढ


नाट्यकृद् भक्तिविल्लोकसंस्कारकृत्

गीतसंगीतकाव्येष्वधीती  सुधीः।

धर्मविद्   भेदभिन्नृत्यकृद्   गायकः

देवदेवो हृदा स्तूयते शङ्करः।।१।।


लेभे  यो  वै  जनुः  श्रीप्रसिद्धेऽसमे

घोरकालेऽपि यो भास्वरो भायुतः।

मेने  ह्येकं  हि  धर्मं  सदा  जीवने  ... more


by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Dear friends from North America, I am highly priviledged to address you today on the life and works of Srimanta Sankaradeva, especially how he was a spiritual humanist. I am grateful to Naamghar Association of America for this great opportunity. The members of this Association deserve accolades for their sincerity in preserving and spreading the legacy of Srimanta Sankaradeva in foreign shore. Discussion about the saint is very scanty. Naamghar Association of America has done a commendable job by organising this dialogue. ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

The Thân or Sattrainstitution is a living heritage bequeathed to the posterity by Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449 AD - 1568 AD). Unlike most heritages, which are long dead, the Thân or Sattrainstitution continues to be a vibrant one. Earlier, it was known only as Thân. Later on the name Sattra also came to be used. The religious order Eka Sarana Nâma Dharma of Srimanta Sankaradeva sustained itself for more than five centuries on the strength of the Thân or Sattra. ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568), the founder of the Vaishnavite order Eka Sarana Nāma Dharmawas a multi-faceted person whose works had different dimensions. In spite of being a religious preceptor, he included aesthetic activities like Sattriyādance, Bargeetsong, Sankari music, Ankiyāplays, painting and sculpture in his scheme of things. Needless to say, all these were his own compositions. Even mundane activities like agricultural production found place in this pattern. Obviously he was a man of the world as well as man for the world. He wanted to make life good and beautiful for people around him. Therein lay his aesthetic approach to life. One who finds beauty in life cares for the quality of other peoples’ lives. Srimanta Sankaradeva did that. He cared for the quality of life for people around him.... more

by Rohit Venkateshwaran

(Continued from part I)

भकततपरेमइनिचिन्तोहोआन ll १८२९
I forever am enshrined in the heart of My devotees. Devotees, forever are enshrined in My Heart! My devotees think of nothing but Me, and I, nothing but them!"


Now compare the above with Abhang 2622 from Sant Eknath's collection. The language is nectarine Marathi: ... more

by Rohit Venkateshwaran


Sant Eknath was an epoch-making saint, social reformer as well as literary figure in the Vaishnavite Bhakti Movement of Maharashtra. Like our Mahaguru Srimanta Sankaradeva, he too was a poet par excellence who rendered the essence of the Srimad Bhagavatam in the language of the masses: Marathi.


With all humility, I render in English the most widely quoted part of Gurujana's "Kirtana Ghosha": the 4th Kirtan of the 26th Section "Sri Krishnar Vaikuntha Prayan", and compare it with Abhang no' 2622 of Sant Eknath’s collection (the “Eknathi Gatha”). Both are magnificent pieces of poetry which encompass Lord Sri Krishna's final teachings to Uddhava (in the 11th Canto of the Bhagavatam) before He ascended to Vaikuntha. This will be a long read, but the experience for sure, will be delightful! ... more

by Dr Pabitrapran Goswami,

We find altogether 36 ragas attached to the Bargits and the Ankar gits: Ahir, Asowari, Barari, Basanta, Belowar, Bhatiyali, Bhupali, Dhanasri, Gandhar, Gauri, Kalyan, Kamod, Kanara, Kau, Kau-Kalyan-Sindhura, Kedar, Karunyakedar, Lalit, Mahur or Maur, Mahur-Dhanasri, Mallar, Nat, Nat-Mallar, Purbi, Saranga, Sindhura, Sri, Sri-Gandhar, Sri-Gauri, Sripayar, Suhai, Syam, Syamgera, Tur, Tur-Basanta and Tur-Bhatiyali. Out of these some are unitary in character and some others are of mixed or compound nature, involving the fusion of two or more ragas. ... more

by Dr Pabitrapran Goswami

Prabandha Gana:

        Dhrupadaand Kirttana or Kriti are the earliest forms of music extant today in the Hindusthani and the Karnatik systems. The Prabandha Gana evidently represented a stage in the evolution of Indian music prior to that of Dhrupada and Kirttana, a stage till which perhaps the ragas and the talas enjoyed uniformity in almost all parts of India.   sarngadeva, the 13th century scholar cum musician, in his encyclopaedic work Sangita Ratnakara, speaks of three chief types of Prabandha, viz., Suda, Ali and Biprakirna and of two chief sub-divisions of Suda-Prabandha : suddha-suda and Salaga-suda... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Srimanta Sankaradeva is generally remembered as a religious preceptor, who founded the Eka Sarana Nâma Dharma order. But that is not his only identity. His activities were not confined to the realm of religion alone. His activities were multi-dimensional. He contributed so many things to the society, or to be more precise to the humanity. He created many new things, new type of building structure, new social structure, new type of social management, new educational system, new food, new health care, new musical instrument, new music, new dance form, new form of play, new form of textile art, new form of painting and so on. There was innovation in almost all his activities. Very often he did not follow the beaten track. He charted his own path. His new path was always so attractive and suitable that people soon started to follow him in the new path.... more

by Dr Pabitrapran Goswami

            Nothing can be definitely said about the exact form of Assamese music in the pre-Sankaradeva time. However, scholars have often tried to trace back the lineage of classical art and music in Assam right from the days of Bharata’sNatya sastra. Out of the four different forms of drama, viz., Daksinatya, Awanti, Pancal-Madhyama andOdra-Magadhi, referred to  in the Natyasastra, the form called Odra-Magadhi was, according to Bharata, in vogue in the entire north-eastern region covering Anga, Banga, Kalinga, Magadh, Nepal and Pragjyotispur (ancient Assam). During those days dance and music were indispensable parts of a drama.... more

Admin Feb 19 '17

By Dr Pabitrapran Goswami

The name Bargit is popularly ascribed to a special set of devotional songs composed during the late 15th and the early 16th centuries A.D. by Srimanta Sankaradeva and his disciple Sri Sri Madhavadeva, the two chief exponents of Vaishnavism in Assam. According to the Carita Puthis1, Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva referred to their songs as git only. The adjectival prefix Bar2, therefore, must have been a later reverential addition by the devout disciples of the two Vaishnava priests, which might bear upon the musical grandeur3 of the songs too. ... more

Admin Feb 16 '17
by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti 

Study about the life and works of Srimanta Sankaradeva is of great academic importance in Assam. The father of Assamese nation, Srimanta Sankaradeva is revered by people from all walks of life in Assam. 

The literary and cultural contributions by the saint continue to influence the modern creative works. But strangely very little is known about him outside the state. ... more


Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Srimanta Sankaradeva was one of the foremost religious philosophers in the world. His religion Eka Sharana Nâma Dharma laid the foundation for a new religious philosophy. The present author has named this philosophy as Vivartanavâda as it facilitates the elevation of the Jîva from the primary dual state to the non-dual state of identity with Brahma. The pertinent features of this philosophy are : ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Srimanta Sankaradeva was the first playwright in all modern Indian languages. It started with his play Chihna-yatra, which was enacted in 1468 AD at Bordowa in front of 10,000 audience. His plays are known as Ankiya play. Enactment of the Ankiya plays authored by Srimanta Sankaradeva and his successor-disciple Madhavadeva is called Bhaona. Many plays have been written since then by different Assamese playwrights in the style of the Ankiya plays. But these later compositions are not called Ankiya play. So Ankiya Bhaona means the enactment of only the Ankiya plays authored by Srimanta Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva. ... more

by Dr Madan Sarma

Translation has played a crucial role in the development of Assamese literature. In fact, translation and adaptation of important Sanskrit texts-both religious and secular-have helped the growth  and development of various forms/genres of literature in a number of Indian languages. ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Srimanta Sankaradeva created a new religion, Eka Sarana Nâma Dharma. But he was not a religious preceptor alone. He had multi-faceted talent in the disciplines of dance, music, drama, verses etc. He also created a new social structure. He may be placed among the all time greats in the world for his role in social reform alone. The time when he was born in was a time of terror and tyranny. ... more

by Dr Ananyaa Barua

Srimanta Sankaradeva's Eka Sarana Nama Dharma was an attempt to revive the pristine aspect of Gita's philosophy of complete self-surrender in Love. God to Srimanta Sankaradeva was above duality, above Purusha and Prakriti. 'There was none but One' was his creed. Mahapurushiya or Eka Sarana Nama Dharma centers round this core principle. In the Shvetashvataropanishad, it is found : ... more

by Dr Arshiya Sethi

The Sattras were born out of the Bhakti movement as it came to Assam. Like the Bhakti movements in many other parts of India, the Bhakti movement in Assam, called the Eka Sarana Nama Dharma, had a creative audio visual aspect for its propagation. Through his creative genius Sankaradeva was able to mould the Cultural life of Assam. The epicenter of the cultural life of Assam was the Sattra, which for five centuries has been the crucible of the Sattriya cultural tradition.  ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

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 till some time ago. 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. ... more

Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva and Guru Nanak : a comparative study


Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti


Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1568) and Guru Nanak (1469-1539) were both leading lights of medieval Bhakti movement in Bharatavarsha. They both left permanent marks on the society in the sub-continent in both religious and cultural spheres. There are many similarities in the religious principles preached by these two great social reformers. ... more

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti


India is a great country with great cultural wealth. But her enormity also means that dimensions of all her problems also happen to be very big. Her social system has been such that from time to time it has required the service of great reformers to do away with the undesired accumulations. Srimanta Sankaradeva and Swami Vivekananda were two such great reformers who redeemed the then societies of unwarranted growths. They had different approaches to the socio-religious problems, but had many common grounds, which make interesting reading. They are two rare religious leaders who made clear statements on the Chaturbarna system and its negative impact on the Indian society. Their concerns remain valid even now, long after they have passed away from the scene. ... more


by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

Madhavadeva's father Govinda Bhuyan was an accountant of Pratap Rai, the king of Banduka, presently in Rangpur district of Bangladesh. Forefather of Govinda had earlier migrated from Kannauj along with other Bhuyans. Govinda married a girl named Anuchita in Banduka. Anuchita died at an early age leaving an infant son, Damodar. When Damodar grew up, Govinda transferred his office to Damodar and set out for upper Assam with some merchandise. He reached Tembuwani and was glad to find the Bhuyans residing there. Srimanta Sankaradeva persuaded him to marry again and arranged a match with his cousin Manorama. Srimanta Sankaradeva also appointed Govinda as 'Bora' or a revenue officer of the Bhuyan kingdom at Rowta.... more

Vaishnava Literary Tradition of Assam

by Dr Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti

             Assam has a rich tradition of Vaishnavite literature. The majority of the people in Assam are believers of Vaishnavite faith. So the literary activities in Assam have been dominated by the Vaishnavite literature. The history of such literature goes back to the sixth century, when Puroshottama Gajapati authored a book named Deepikâ Sanda. An emperor of the Jitari dynasty, Puroshottama Gajapati can be called the pioneer of Vaishnavite literature in Assam. Ratnapura was the capital of his empire Kamarupa, the ancient name of Assam. He wrote this book by taking ingredients from different Sanskrit treatises like Hangsakâki, Jâmal Samhitâetc. He criticised the decadent Tantrik rituals in his book. But since he was not a theoretician, there was not much theoretical analysis in the book. He predicted that there would be dominance of unrighteousness in Bhâratavarsha. ... more

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