For more than six centuries, Srimanta Sankaradeva, the propagator of ‘eksarana naamdharma’ or Mahapurshiya dharma (a Vaishnava faith), playwright, poet, composer, litterateur, painter, communicator and his works have been influencing the Assamese way of life, both religious and socio-cultural. This multifaceted genius adopted the technique of propagating his faith through music, art and literature which ushered in a socio-cultural renaissance in Assam in 15th-16th centuries.

Born in 1449, Sankaradeva set out on a 12-year long pilgrimage at the age of 32 years to northern India during which he visited many temples and other pilgrim centres and got introduced to neo-Vishnavite movement that was emerging then.

Back home after the long sojourn with vast knowledge, Sankaradeva used his creative talents to propagate his own school of thought of Bhakti (the religion of love) in simple language. It cast a magic spell on those who listened to him in such religious congregations and more and more people got attracted to his doctrine of ‘eksarana naamdharma’, the essence of which is shelter in one God — Vishnu in the incarnation of Lord Krishna and utterances of names (Naam in Assamese) of the God in devotion through singing of songs in his glorification.

Sattriya tradition

The tradition of Sattriya Dances, the ones that evolved from Ankia Nat, or Bhaona (one-act play), created through the interlacing of music, dance and drama by Sankaradeva, Madhavdeva and their apostles during the neo-Vaishnavite movement in Assam between the 15th and 17th centuries, and the ones that evolved independently, is a living tradition practiced, preserved, performed and developed by the Sattras.

This book by Bimal Phukan takes the readers through the life of the Vaishnava saint and reveals how this multifaceted genius brought about a socio-cultural awakening in Assamese society and enriched the Assamese language, literature, culture with his literary works, composition of songs and verses, writing of plays and the unique institutions of the Sattra and Naamghar (prayer hall).

The author has done painstaking works of giving shape to the book as a compilation of materials which he sourced from books and writings on Sankaradeva and his works by some renowned scholars. He has used simple prose making it easier for a layman to know Sankaradeva. The photographs included in the book allows the readers to have a glimpse of the religious and cultural practices associated with eksarana naamdharma preached by Sankaradeva.

Srimanta Sankaradeva - Vaishnava Saint of Assam: Bimal Phukan; Kaziranga Books, 601, Surya Apartments, Dr. S.K.Bhuyan Roa