The ideals of Srimanta Sankardeva and Azan Peer will live forever: Satyen Mahanta

SWAYAM_AN APPROACH (SWAYAM _EK PRAYX) is a platform to promote the rich culture of Northeast India and explore the possibilities of applying Srimanta Sankardeva’s teachings as tool of social conflict management. Satyen Mahanta, founder member of the ngo speaks to The Thumb Print on the way ahead
Do you think we will be able keep alive the ideal of Sankar Azan alive in Assam ?

No ideals can die down totally. There will always be people to carry it forward. So I am confident that the ideals of Srimanta Sankaradeva and Azan Peer will alive forever.

What do you think about government’s move to restore satra lands?

Satra land need to be protected and restored. However,  simultaneously we need to explore why and how  the land were being encroached and occupied whether there was any lacuna from Satras part too. The research  should unbiased, logical and beyond political agenda to sustain the journey of Srimanta Sankardeva’s legacy.

What has been the role of Swayam in keeping Srimanta Sankardeva’s ideals alive?

We are a small initiative so our endeavour is very insignificant. We need everybody’s support and guidance to make it a sustainable journey. We are working on five themes
a) Srimanta Sankardeva – a great journey towards humanity. We believe the core essence of Gurujana’s entire works was an approach towards renaissance – socially,  spiritually, culturally and economically. Renaissance is always happen to glorify and re-evaluate the unprivileged class of people.

b) Our people our culture our pride
Though we often talk about the Northeast but we hardly know the rich culture, community behaviour of different ethnicities of the region. Our approach is to learn, spread and  create awareness to increase bonding among people.

c) Mati Akhara – an approach towards healthy living

Though Mati – Akhara( ground exercises) resembles with Yoga but its a localised form purely developed by Srimanta Sankardeva with various hand and  body gestures to perform Sattriya Dance. We have also observed that the performers were mainly celibates in Udaxin Xattras lead a healthy life with flexible body because of the mandatory  practice of  Mati -Akhara. So a thought has developed that an awareness campaign can be developed towards  Mati – Akhara practice beyond dance arena among all ages.

d) Lets save us – behave with nature
People nowadays heavily promoting ‘Save Nature ‘ kind of slogan. Which I find very funny because Nature has its own course and evolved accordingly. If we meddle with nature through various activities like deforestration, big dams, pollution, mass use of plastics etc so on then the consequences have to be faced by us only.  So we organize Swayamor Mel where we discuss with participants about restricting our relationship with Nature  for minimal damage.

e) Agri awareness – organic way

Northeast India  was by default organic but we have lost that tag by extensive use of artificial manure resulted multi dimensional damage to us. We organize SWAYAMOR MEL at various places to revive the organic cultivation and its benefit. All themes evolve through the teaching of Srimanta Sankardeva only as all are co-related and help us to move in a inclusive way.

Swayam_An approach(ek prayax) was formed in 2013 by 5 insignificant people with a zeal to work for sustainable human bonding. We have undertaken a project Swam Xanskriti Bikax Prakalpa (SXBP) in 2013 itself and started our first chapter at Moran Gaon then in Potiagaon both are in Jorhat district.  Then in 2014 we have started our chapter  in Serpai Gaon, a remopte village in Majuli and then in 2016  extend our works by establishing another chapter at Sri  Sri Tokoubari Xattra, Majuli. We used to teach Mati akhara, Xattriya Nritya, Borgeet, Jatiyo Xangeet, Jhumur and  Gumraag dance so far and we discuss with students about different ethnicities and their rich  tradition with reference to the journey of  Srimanta Sankardeva’s legacy how various  indigenous elements had been included  in various aspects his teachings. We have organised workshops on Mati akhara, Borgeet and have plans to  organise activities on various cultural aspects of NE people. We also worked as a connect among various orgnic farmers and try to motivate people to take up agriculture as means of livelihood.

4. How is communal harmony maintained at a place like Patekebori Satra? Is it possible to emulate this example in other Satras in Assam?

Sri Sri Alipukhuri Patekibori Thaan is  birth place of Srimanta Sankardeva (though a case is going on at Honorable High court, Guwahati  to decide the Birthplace dispute between Patekibori and Bordua Thaan but many  devotees consider Patekibori as birthplace and Bordua as activity place)  a great example of communal harmony because its premise is totally surrounded by Bengali-speaking Muslims also known as Miyas. And its great inspiration that  a Muslim family is in service of Thaan for last three generations. While I spoke to the living generation members, they told me since they are poor and can’t for Haj hence they consider this as their pilgrim spot. Inspite of being surrounded by 100% Muslims the Thaan has experienced no communal violence even during most sensitive time during Assam agitation. Family of Mansoor Ali has given full protection to the Satradhikars and other Bhakats residing in the Thaan. We are inspired by this best example of bonding, decided to take some strategicl steps to highlight the human bonding beyond religion and have organised a workshop on Xattriya Nritya, Mati Akhara, Borgeet & Khol badan from 16th July to 31st, 2016. It was a huge challenge for us as the  communication is very poor and road condition is very pathetic. Student participation was also mix of Hindu and Muslim.

5. What were the main teachings of Srimanta Sankardeva which the common people must understand and follow?

Prathome Pranamu brhama rupi xanatana, xarba avataror karon narayana … the first two lines of Kirtan puthi where he has demystified the philosophy of  universe –  he bows down to Brahma – whom he glorifies as xanatan and Narayan – whom  he referred  as  the  only supreme power. The most  simplified and easy way to  explore and submit to the Supreme power.

Kukura Shrigalo Gadarbharu Atma ram, janiya xabaku koriba pranam – this was a simple approach to respect and treat all equally and his creation NAAMGHAR was a unique platform where anybody enter and we can definitely call it as a low cost  approach for socio spiritual renaissance with unique architecture. His teachings were meant for  underprivileged class who had no access to the holy scripts and its vast knowledge.

He has taught that no ritualistic extravaganza need to perform to connect to supreme power and its only Harinaam which can rescue people from this materialistic affairs. He bought a confidence , a sense of submission without any cost involved. That’s why we consider  his movement as a great journey of humanity.

6. What do you have to say about the unsavoury incident at Athkhelia naamghor in Golaghat? 

When a Naamghar is rebuilt  with huge money and materials involved with  an objective to make it  appealing then it become a huge construction with no purity intact bound to bounce back with  materialistic compulsion of  greed and  intention of individual benefit. Athkhelia is just an example only and this may happen with any Naamghar where the core essence of Srimanta Sankardeva’s teachings have been lost .

7. A satra was set up in USA recently. How do you think Srimanta Sankardeva can be taken to a global platform?

A Naamghar was set up recently. However, Srimanta Sankardeva can’t be taken to global fora by simply set up Naamghar but by propagating his message of humanity among people. He was a genius who had established a unique establishment called Satra with a vision to propagate and preserve the value of humanity through missionary zeal by teaching spiritual requirement, cultural practice and self-sustained economy. 

8. Do you think Sattriya dance is getting its due?

There is nothing like due, you have to establish its space  globally by practicing it  in its  pure form lest it will lost its form and its due essence.