Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Purpose of so much Writing by Sankaradeva

Sankaradeva Studies is interesting sure. But a study of Sankaradeva Studies promises to be no less engrossing. It would throw up several interesting facts.

The Sankaradeva Movement was multi-dimensional in its nature and it left practically no aspect of Assamese culture untouched. The reason behind this all-embracing character is not far to seek. Much of it has to do with the personality of Sankaradeva, the founder as well as the foremost exponent, himself a polymath. [A polymath is a Renaissance Man ‘whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas’, who is ‘of wide-ranging knowledge and learning’.]

In the famous words of Vasudev Sharan Agrawal, Sankaradeva was ‘like the glorious sun under whose warmth of mind Assam blossomed like a lotus of thousand petals (sahasradala kamala). It is difficult to imagine how deep and widespread was the influence of Sankaradeva on the cultural renaissance that burst forth in Medieval Assam’.

‘Sankaradeva rebuilt the poetry of the Assamese language in its classical perfection. He himself wrote in several styles. He was the master of music, drama and musical instruments, and had a wonderful genius for creating musical performances which go by the name of Ankiya Nat’.

But (as has also been so beautifully pointed out by Vasudev Sharan Agrawal in the same essay), Sankaradeva was first and foremost a Teacher, a great devotee as well as unerring scholar, one of the greatest teacher-preacher-leaders in the social and religious history of India. Literature, for Sankaradeva, is not for literature's sake, culture not for culture's sake. There is a higher, more sublime, aim.

Madhavadeva, terming his Guru as ‘the mine of all virtues’ (sarvagunakara), says in his Guru Bhatima:
As the Guru he (Sankaradeva) taught devotion to devotees, and loved them better than his sons. By delivering his people by spreading Bhakti, he built the Bridge of God’s Name. So that in the Iron Age all people can cross the sea of sin.
The purpose of so much writing by Sankaradeva is summed up by Ramacarana Thakura in his Assamese version of the Bhakti-Ratnakara thus:
prathamate kahu grantha karibāra hetu
bāndhilā Sankaradeve mahādharma-setu
Krishnese parama deva Nāma-Dharma sāra
ihāka karibe mātra lokata pracāra
The cause of so much writing by Sankaradeva is the construction of the Bridge of the Great Religion. The aim was to propagate (the message), Krishna is the Supreme Deity and Nāma Dharma, the essence of all religions.

It would be interesting to have some kind of a meta-study of the modern literature on the Sankaradeva Movement, to see what aspects and ideals of Sankaradeva have the modern authors mostly touched and focused upon.

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