Bordowa Than

Batadrava or Bordowa is a picturesque and pristine village situated at  26 o24’51”N Lattitude and 92o32’22”E Longitude at a distance of 15.42 km towards north east from the district HQr of the central Assam district of Nagaon in the State of Assam. The mysticism, the vibrant cultural and traditional heritage enchants the vaishnavites to this place.

Connectivity:

Bardowa is well connected by train and bus. The Kalongpar Express runs every day from Guwahati to Nagaon and regular bus and taxis are available from Nagaon. The Batadrava Road Railway Station , the nearest Railway Station is at a distance of 5 km from Bardowa. However, due to gauge conversion regular train service is not available. One can come to Bardowa from  Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport (Barjhar ,  Guwahati) , which is the nearest Airport about 140 km away.

 

Infrastructure:

Bardowa has one   Degree College, one Higher Secondary School, one Girls High School, one Mini Health Centre and a Police Station. There is one tourist lodge with six rooms.

Restaurants: Good quality restaurants are available in Nagaon . However in Bardowa, restaurants serving standard quality Indian food are lacking.

HISTORY:

The great vaishnavite saint of Assam,  Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva was born at Bardowa in the year 1449 AD. Different stories have been narrated in various texts regarding the origin of Bardowa. In one such story,  Baraha, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu,  while trailing on the ground in the Satya Yuga, a pit (Kunda)   was created. One skin hair fell down on the bank of that pit, where in due course of time one ‘Bata Briksha” grew.  The saint Chyavana established one “Ashrama” in that place.  Another story narrates that in “Dwapara” Yuga, Lord Krishna, while travelling from Dwaraka to Kundil (present Sadiya in upper Assam )with Bedanidhi to marry Rukmini, Bedanidhi lost his senses. Lord Krishna kept his “ Sharanga dhanu” (the arch of Lord Krishna) in reclined position on the Bata Briksha and went to fetch water from the brook nearby. Bedanidhi got to his senses thereafter but in the meantime the arch fell down. He made a sign over there and left. On his return after marrying Rukmini Devi , Lord Krishna took rest near the “Bata Briksha” on the bank of a brook  and had betel nut. The lime pot (temi) was found dry and so Rukmini Devi went to take water from the nearby brook. It fell down in the water and from that period the brook had been known as “Tembuani Jan”. Srimanta Sankardeva  referred this “ Jan” at several places in his writings, to give his introduction. In one such literary compositions Rukmini Harana Kavya, Sankaradeva  gave an account of his roots:

 

“Tembuani Bandhe  Basila Prabandhe

Bardowa Yara Nama

Durlava Narayane  Yaka Bahumane

Dila Devidasa Nama”

(The King Durlava Naraina gave the name Devidasa with honour  and settled at  Tembuani Bandha, which is known as Bardowa ) .

Srimanta Sankardeva in his book “ Harichandra Upakhyan wrote:

“Tembuani Bandhe Gram Barduwa Jara Nama

Lohityara Ati Anukul

Bhaila  shei Grameswar Jara Nama Rajadhar

Dane Mane Jara Nahi Tul”

(Rajadhar was the village chief of Barduwa , which was known as Tembuani Bundh near the River Lohitya (Brahmaputra) and he was a un paralleled  respectable and benevolent chief).

The forefathers of Srimanta Sankardeva came from Kanauj and were in “Gauda” kingdom in the thirteenth century. At the time of Gauda Raj Durlav Naraina, there was a battle between him and Kamateswar Dharma Naraina. A Treaty was executed between the two kings and as per the condition Gauda Raj gave seven Brahmin Pundits and seven Kayastha Pundits to Kamateswar. Amongst the Kayastha Pundits  Chandibar was one of them.  He was given the status of “Shiromoni  Bhuyan (Chief)  as a recognition of his scholarship and gave the name Devidas. Although, originally they were settled at Lengamaguri, later many of them had to flee away due to attack of Bhutiyas from the north. A group under the leadership of Chandivara shifted to the bank of Tembuani Jan on the south bank of the river Brahmaputra (Sri sri Sankardeva and Sri sri Madhavdeva ,page 5, by Lakshinath Bezbaruah).

In Uttarakanda Ramayana, Sankaradeva wrote

baradowā nāme grāma                sasye matsye anupāma

louhityara āti anukula

bhoilā sei grameswara                yāra nāma rājadhara

kāyastha kulara padmaphula

tāna putra suryyavara                mahābara desadhara

dāni māni mahāyasi sista

yāra yasa ebhu jwalai                          jayanta mādhava dalai

duyo bhāi yāhāra kanistha

tānte hante bhoilā jāta                samaste desate khyāta

prasiddha kusuma yāra nāma

dāne māne bhoilā chara              bhaumika madhyata sāra

ekogune nāhike upāma

tāhāna santati āti                         jnāna-sunya sisumati

kesavara kinkara sankara

dirgha hrasva nānā chande         biracilā  padabandhe

sesakathā uttarakāndara .

(The village Bardowā by name, unparalleled in richness of crops and fishes, situated very near to the Lauhitya. A potentate named Rājadhara ruled there, the lotus of the Kāyastha clan. His son was Suryyavara, owner of lands, generous, highly honored, most renowned and gentle, whose fame still shines. His brothers were Jayanta and Mādhava Dalai. From him was born the renowned Kusumavara known throughout the length and breadth of the country, who excelled and the chief among the bhaumikas (landed-chiefs).. His son, Sankara, quite lacking in wisdom and knowledge and utterly childish, the servant of Keśava, composed the final events of the Uttarakānda in long and short verses).

 

This Tembuani Jan is Shantijan as is called today.  Chandivara’s son was Rajadhara, (lotus of the race of Kayastha, as stated by Srimanta Sankardeva in his writtings). His son was Suryavara and Suryavara’s son Kusumvara was a renowned Bhuyan Chief. Srimanta Sankardeva was born to father Kusumbar Bhuyan and mother Satyasandhya Devi in 1449 AD in the family of “Shirumani Bhuyan” (chief) at Bardowa, which was the administrative head quarter of “ Bara Bhuyan”.  The “Guru” lived in Barduwa up to 67 years and left the place with his kinsmen to escape from the Kachari’s attack .

 

The History of Bardowa is the history of Srimanta Sankardeva and the Sattras associated with it. Sri Sri Sankardeva propagated the faith of Neo-Vaishnavite  Bhaktivada vis-vis “Ek Sarana Namdharma”in the Northern India through the institution of Sattras from Bardowa. He  lived  up to his age of  67 years at Bardowa, developed distinctive language of” Brajabuli” ,  a language specially created by introducing words from other contemporary Indian languages and gave the local touch to create distinctive literature for the purpose of propagation of Bhaktivada and to eradicate the social evils  .Sankara attended chatrasaal  under Mahendra Kandali, who changed his name to ‘Sankdardeva’ at school from Sankara . Srimanta Sankaradeva used to write scriptures sitting below one Shilikha tree
including  “Kirtan and Dasham” and many other kavyas in lucid poetry with devotional fervor to attract all sections of the masses. He developed the culture of   praying and chanting Lord Krishna and Lord Rama , the deities of Vaishnavism in dhrupadi style with “raga and taala”.  Sankardeva institutionalized the system through Sattra, which was developed in the line of  Bhagavada Purana , where,  ‘Suta’  recited the Bhagavada   in the Naimisha Kshetra in presence of twenty eight thousand Rishis (savants)  for thousand years. Srimanta Sankaradeva set up the first ever Namghar here in 1468 ,which is the centre stage of the Sattras for recital. He also built the ‘Cari-Hati’ (four clusters of quarters) for accommodation of his disciples. This full-fledged Than complex came up in 1509. Simhasana or Guru Asana (altar of God) was placed in the Monikut with the holy scripture ‘Bhagavata’. Coupled with this, he staged the dramatic show in the form of “Chihnayatra” at Bardowa. With the   introduction of initiation (Sarana) ,  the great social and religious reforms started under the “guru” from Bardowa.

 

Bardowa is famous for Shantijan, then a rivulet of river Brahmaputra. Earlier known as Tembuani Jan , it caused damage to crops. The subjects of Bara Bhuyan prayed to Shiromani Bhuyan Sankardeva . Srimanta Sankardeva appealed to all people to identify  one “sati “ ( chaste woman) saying that she had to bring one pot full of water to build the dam in a “Polo” ( a basket with three bamboo sticks for catching fish)  . While the wives of Brahmins failed in their attempts, a Nadial woman named Radhika  attempted and was successful. The other people also participated thereafter to bring earth and the Tembuani Jan was diverted to the south. Bardowa got a new name Tembuani Bandh thenceforth. The social evils of division by sex and caste have no place in Sankardeva’s philosophy.

 

In the north of Namghar a half moon shaped lake believed to be brought down by Srimanta Sankardeva in the midnight to mitigate the deficiency of water of his devotee creates a serene atmosphere. The devotees believed that it was the place where the saint Chyavana got back his youth.

 

Bardowa became deserted from 1515 AD to 1655 AD till it was rediscovered by Mahapurusha Sankardeva’s granddaughter –in- law Aai  Kanaklata( Aai Lakshi) with the assistance and support  provided by Ahom King Jayadhwaj Singha through Tangachu Phukan. In her mission she was accompanied by Damodar Ata.The landmarks of Bardowa viz  Shantijan, Akashi Ganga and Daul (the high stage), as heard from her grandmother-in –law Kalindi Aai made her task easy to locate Bardowa.

The present Bardowa than has two Satras, one founded by Ata Damodar,the Narowa group of Satras and the other Salaguri group of Satras founded by Ananta Ram Ata, grandson of Chaturbhuj Thakur, the youngest grandson of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva. During the reign of Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha there was property dispute between Ramdeva Ata and Ramcharan Ata, descendents of Damodardeva and Ananta Ram Ata.  Ahom King sent Ministers Purnananda Bura Gohaign, Bhadra Kt Barua and Lambodar Dolakasharia to settle the dispute. The property of than got divided and two Satras and two Namghars came into existence. The two Namghars were made into one Namghar following intervention of doyens of Assamese litterateur, freedom fighters, politicians of repute and the devotees of Srimanta Sankardeva in 1958. Since then Bardowa Than is managed by Sri Sri Batadrava Than Parichalana Samittee . The Samity was registered on 30/4/65.

 

Bardowa Than is considered by the vaishnavite devotees of Ek Sarana Namdharma as the holiest place, the second heavenly abode and a Shrine. The historic memorials of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva in Kirtanghar, Manikut, Silikha Briksha Akashi Ganga , Shantijan and Daul Mandir are attracting devotees and scholars to  Bardowa  Than. The foot print (Padshila)  of  Mahapurush Srimanta Sankedeva  is the place of humble salutation of the devotees to the Guru. It is therefore known as Batadrava Sthan or Than not a Sattra alone although it has all the inherent qualities of the Sattra.

 

by H K Dev Mahanta, IAS

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