By NAVANIL BARUA
I have the habit of talking on different issues while operating, it helps me concentrate better. One day, while talking of our Gurujona – Srimanta Sankardeva, a nursing assistant of mine quipped that I am very fortunate. I could not understand her comment and asked for an explanation. She told me that I am lucky to belong to Nagaon for that is the district where Srimanta Sankardeva was born! That indeed explains the reverence with which Assamese, specially Vaishnavites, hold Bordowa – the birthplace of our Guru.
Thousands visit Bordowa every year – some for pilgrimage, others for curiosity. Being not very far from Guwahati city, a visit to Bordowa is relatively easy. The requirement was that one cannot enter its premises with something made of leather on him or her. One had to leave behind shoes, belts and purses made of leather to gain access. That was fine in the sense that leather being made of cow hide, it was against the Vaishnavite ideals of cow slaughter, cow being so close to Lord Krishna. However, I still used to wonder how did they allow the khol or Doba, which uses animal skin.
The management of the Bordowa Than have now imposed a new dress code. A woman has to wear an Assamese traditional dress like Mekhala sador in order to enter Bordowa. So far so good as most women do so on their own volition. However, one needs to understand that a women travelling to that part in any regular attire, may desire to visit the same as an afterthought. Where is she going to procure one from? Secondly, non-Assamese tourists may want to visit it, why should they be subjected to a dress code as long it is not vulgar or unbecoming of a religious place?
The male dress code imposed is a dhoti. One needs to wear one or hire at a cost of Rs 10/-. That itself is not only strange but very anti-Assamese! I do not mind anyone entering Bordowa wearing a dhoti but making it mandatory is beyond my understanding. By what logic? Is it a backdoor effort to impose a pan-Indian culture on us Assamese – very much against the essence of our great country – ‘unity in diversity’ ?
Dhoti is a garment worn by men in many states. It came to Assam with the import of Bengali babus and workers by British India after Assam was annexed into India through Yandaboo treaty. Assamese men used two types of garments in their lower body – potlung of the Ahoms and Suriya by both Ahoms and non-Ahoms. Potlung was an import from Thailand which the Ahoms gradually gave up in the process of assimilation. The essential difference of Dhoti and Suriya is that the later is no frills and has no unnecessary folds and was just below knee-length. Hence, dhoti never was Assamese dress. Then, why use dhoti to enter Bordowa? Did Sankardeva or Madhabdev wear dhotis? Or they wore the Suriya? Is the dress code a reflection of some of the management committee member’s political leaning towards Hindutva imperialism?
Delving further into it, what happens if one decides to enter Bordowa in a lungi or a tribal type lengti? Can they be restrained? If they are, then isn’t that against the teachings of Gurujona? When Chandsai made the “Chandrataap” and presented it to Gurujona, wasn’t he wearing a Islamic style Lungi? When Garo Gobinda went to meet the Gurujona, wasn’t he attired in a tribal dress? Is there any record of Srimanta Sankardeva insisting that they wear a Dhoti?
It is time that such nefarious elements be removed from the managing committee of Bordowa than. People associated with institutions associated with Srimanta Sankardeva should raise their voices and remove such banal restrictions. Jai Guru Sankar!
(The views expressed by the writer are his own).