Silchar: Debate and oratory over the infiltration of Bangladeshis in Assam and their ever swelling number bares out the stark reality of how even Borduwa, the seat of Shankar Dev's Vaishnavism, is under siege. During the recent polls, no political party except BJP brought into sharp focus the threat to the famous holy shrine and its near extinction due to systematic and designed encroachment by Bangladeshis.
Borduwa, has come to be synonymous with Assamese religious and cultural philosophy, an epitome of Hinduism. There is no authentic record about the date of birth of the great saint and sage. All that can be said about this Great Soul is that he died in 1568 and lived a longer life. Contemporary historical events suggest 1486 as his probable date of birth. He was born in a village called Ali Pukhuri in the district of Nagaon.
After the death of his parents, Shankar Dev was brought up by his grand parents and well-educated in Sanskrit school and in the process developed Vedic mind and deep aesthetic sensibility. At the age of 19, he shifted with his family to Borduwa which became the seat of his holy teachings and preachings.
In order to propound and propagate his religious movement, Shankar Dev moved to Darrang district, then in North Lakhimpur, Barpeta and lastly to Majuli. Rupak Bordoloi, a resident of Borduwa, like many others of the area, is a witness to Bangladeshis encroaching upon a vast tract of the holy shrine. He said, ?Quite pathetic, though Borduwa as heritage site is on tourist destination of Assam, it is plunged into darkness after evening.
Purnachandra Dev Goswami, chief of the Narua Satra (Vaishnavite monastery), said besides Narua Satra, Rampur and Kubaikota satras have also been occupied by the illegal migrants. These satras are located in close proximity to Borduwa. Octogenerian Nav Kanta Thakuria bemeans to look at these monasteries founded by Shankar Dev himself. He recalls how Kubaikota satra was occupied by the Bangladeshis in 1983 when anti-foreigners? movement was at its peak. He asks ?Against whom did AASU then launch the movement??
The State of Assam instead of evicting these encroachers of holy shrine and monasteries have issued land pattas to them. Dev Goswami is entrusted with the responsibility of collecting revenues from them to make their settlements legal and permanent. Even 182 bighas of land given to Borduwa?than (managing committee) by the state for afforestation are gradually slipping into the hands of Bangladeshis. A member of the managing committee admitted 80 bighas have gone under illegal occupation. Still tragic, all that remains of Narua monastery is a small room used as place of worship. And of once thriving Kubaikota monastery, only nam-ghar (prayer hall) now stands there.
If Borduwa is lost, it will mean a great blow to the rich cultural and religious heritage of Assam. It was Shankar Dev who ushered in neo-Vaishnava renaissance which freed the Assamese society in the middle ages. His religious movement swept some of the tribes too.
Shankar Dev'scherished idea basically was to build up a harmonious society without caste, creed and cultural barriers. Many non-Aryans in Brahmaputra Valley gradually came into Vaishnav circle of their own. Shankar Dev'smessage went deep inside tribals from the hills under threat from the Christian missionaries. This brought out Narottam Ata, a Naga, Govinda Ata, a Garo, and Bolai Ata, a Mikir, among others, who took up cudgels against proselytisation and to protect their own faith and culture.
Shankar Dev was an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna whom he named as Madan Gopala and installed him in his prayer hall called nam-ghar. His keen interest in Bhagavat Gita, Markandeya Purana and Garuda Purana enriched his philosophy. His religion is known as Eka Sarania Dharma (religion of refuge in one God), quite akin to Buddhism. He went on pilgrimage to Gaya, Kashi, Puri, Vrindaban, Mathura, Kurukhetra, Pushkar, Dwarka, Rameshwar and other holy shrines to spread Vaishnavism. Through religious discourses and kirtans. Nothing can be more painful than to remain mute spectator to the sinking of Borduwa and the monasteries around into oblivion. Will the indigenous people of Assam rising above all means and petty considerations give little thought to save the holy shrine of Shankar Dev?