The great visionary Shrimant Shankardev had brought the nectar of Bhakti movement to Assam. The sattra institution he envisioned draws inspiration from the Bhagwat Purana. It combines the concept of a holy assembly for religious learning with democratic norms and solidarity between the preceptor and the disciples. With its spiritual base, a sattra is an ideal model of an extended family with the potential to realise the dream of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
Since it can become a source of economic sustenance because of its inherent self-sufficient qualities and it illustrates the method of generating artha (money) through dharma, the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture (VKIC), Guwahati, has taken up the sattra as one of the areas of study since 2003. Majuli in Assam, the largest river island in the world, is the nerve-centre of this tradition. It was from here that the sattra institution took roots, flourished and spread throughout Assam. Today there are more than 700 sattras in Assam and because of their inherent self-sufficiency each of these can become an economic power-centre and illustrate the method of generating means for sustenance based on the scientific principles of inter-connectedness and inter-dependence.
The sattras are basically active centres for sustaining the tradition of religious learning and the socio-economic life born of the Bhakti movement. They soon became the nerve-centres of wide-ranging activities such as painting, sculpture, mask-making, Sattriya dance, (which has recently been recognised as a classical dance form), dramatics, literature, cane and bamboo work, agriculture and weaving. The sattras thus inculcate the overall sense of working for the welfare of all and a collective consciousness for the collective good of the entire society.
Since the year 2003, the VKIC has undertaken various activities such as documentation, talks and discussions, workshops, training programmes to understand the relevance of the sattra institution. So far, 18 talks and discussions on various aspects of the sattra tradition have been organised. Scholars including the spiritual heads of the sattras (sattradhikars) deliberated upon the relevant topics. A workshop-cum-training on traditional methods of mask-making and manuscript (Sacipat) preparation was also organised. Study of different aspects of sattras is also going on.
In order to further understand, appreciate and harness this potential for sustainable development, the VKIC is going to organise a seminal programme in New Delhi. Entitled ?Sattra Darshan?Celebrating the Sattra Institution of Assam?, it will be held at Satya Sai Auditorium and Chinmaya Mission Auditorium, Lodhi Road, on November 25 and 26 respectively. Besides Shri D.N. Bezbarua, noted journalist of Assam, Gen. S.K. Sinha, Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, and Shri Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam, Shri P. Parmeswaran, Director, Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, noted saint Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Gokulananda of Ramakrishna Mission will also attend the meet. Apart from all the four heads of the leading sattra of Assam, various intellectuals and academicians of Delhi will also attend the two-day meet.
According to Shri Dipok Kumar Barthakur, chairman of VKIC, re-establishment of links amongst organisations such as the sattras, spiritual leaders and intelligentsia of the north-east is the prime objective of the two-day meet. To work out the methodology for strengthening continuity to the systems evolved by the centuries-old sattras and also to link the Assamese people based in Delhi with these efforts are among the other objectives of the meet. ?We want the people of Delhi to think about the culture of the north-east and promote it,? he said adding that the sattra institution is so strong that it can create miracle in the whole north-east if all the sattra heads come together. The event is also an effort to apprise the youth of the north-east of their roots and also to give them exposure. Shri I.P. Gupta, former Governor of Andamans and Nicobar Islands and director of Vivekananda Kendra, New Delhi, is looking after the preparations of the event in Delhi.