Assam scholar’s essay on saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva in Harvard course material

Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, an industrial economist based in central Assam’s Nagaon, has been a researcher of medieval Assamese literature and various aspects of Sankari culture steeped in the variant of Vaishnavism that Sankaradeva propagated

Updated - May 04, 2020 11:12 am IST

Published - May 04, 2020 11:11 am IST - GUWAHATI

Professor Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti.

Professor Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti.

An Assamese scholar’s essay on 15th-century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva has been included as part of the course material for the Harvard University’s Department of Religion.

Sanjib Kumar Borkakoti, an industrial economist based in central Assam’s Nagaon, has been a researcher of medieval Assamese literature and various aspects of Sankari culture steeped in the variant of Vaishnavism that Sankaradeva propagated.

A decade ago, he had uploaded his essay ‘Unique features of Srimanta Sankaradeva’s religious philosophy Vivaratanvâda: Comparison with other Sanâtana Hindu philosophies’ on a blog dedicated to the saint-reformer who was also a scholar, poet and playwright.

“I am not sure for how long Harvard University’s Department of Religion has been using the essay that was in the public domain. But I found out last week when the university uploaded a part of the treatise as Religion S-1010 probably because of pandemic-related online dissemination of course,” Dr. Borkakoti told The Hindu from Nagaon, about 125 km east of Guwahati.

“Except for the Jawaharlal Nehru University from where I did my post-graduation in 1983, Indian universities do not use acknowledged scholastic works as study material unlike Harvard or other Western universities,” said the 60-year-old Associate Professor of Economics at Nagaon’s A.D.P. College.

Sankaradeva was born in Nagaon district’s Batadrava, also spelt Bordowa, in September 1449. He lived for 119 years and died at Bheladonga, now in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district.

According to Dr. Borkakoti, who has written several books on Sankaradeva, the saint-reformer founded a new Vaishnavite order within Hinduism.

“I named his philosophy Vivartanavâda as it facilitates the elevation of the creature from the primary dual state to the non-dual state of identity with Brahma. There are eight distinct features of this philosophy,” Dr. Borkakoti said.

Harvard’s Department of Religion, he added, offered a range of religious traditions from ancient Zoroastrian tradition to modern Christian liberation movements, Islamic and Jewish philosophies, Buddhist social movements and Hindu arts and culture.

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