Home > Tradition > Classical Tradition >

Sankardeva Movement

Sankardeva Movements:

There was the efflorescence of great literature in the wake of the Sankaradeva movement of Assam. Sankara and Madhava themselves composed a good number of songs, dramas , verse narratives and other types of literature , wherein they expounded and elaborated the teachings of the faith they sought to propagate. A host of poets, writers and scholars like Ananta Kandali, Rama Sarasvati, Vaikunthanatha Kaviratna, Sridhara Kandali, Gopaladeva of Bhavanipur, Ramacarana Thakura, Daityari Thakura, Gopalacarana Dvija, flocked under the banner of bhakti and formed into a vigorous literary movement. It was the age of one ideal, that of bhakti, of one god, Visnu-Krsna, of one leadership, that of Sankaradeva , of one book, the Bhagabata-purana. All other types of matter almost invariably taken from some visnuite text, were brought under the dictates of the Bhagabata-purana. The Vaisnaya writer's adherence to the sanction of scriptural authority amounted to a limitation upon their creative ability and a curb upon their poetic genius . Non -the-less, the literary output of Sankara and Madhava alone is considerable, and is characterized by a rare power of rendering the sprit of the original in unimpaired beauty and by occasional flights of creative imagination. Their literary works acted as the chief machinery of propaganda of the faith and afforded both enlightenment and pleasure to the people. Sankardeva is said to have rendered eight out of the twelve books of theBhagabata-purana, and this was done at the teeth of much opposition. It was Ramananda of northern India, we might remember, who mooted the idea of preaching in a modern Indian language. As a legacy from the Assamese poets preceding him , he received a literary form of language with much poise and beauty, as also a few verse-forms. The immediately preceding period of Assamese literature exhibited a zeal for story-telling and the two Indian epics and some tracts from the puranas were done into the language. But this period hardly represents a literary movement, a movement with a definite ideal. The age of Sankaradeva marks a literary and cultural resurgence.

In his early works, Hariscandra-upakhyana and Rukmini-harana. Sankaradeva exhibits the same narrative zeal as was evident in the preceding period of Assamese poetry. In his renderings from the Bhagavanta-purana and other puranas no particular attention is paid to literary from and in places remain formless fermenting verbiage" but the teaching of bhakti therein is not be missed. The Bhakti pradipa denounces the worship of other deities in preference to Krishna bhakti. Each of the 25 sections of the Kirtana-ghosa, the most popular and importang goes to relate a story or expound as subject. The Anadipatana is an account of cosmology and cosmology, philosophy and theology a tiny work of six kirtanas of jingling verses is a remarkable feat of mental speed and brevity of expression.


Some of the writings of Sankara and Madhava are complementary in character Madhava rendered the Balakananda, while Sankara makes an adaptation of the final kanda of the Ramayana, divesting it of all intervening episodes and added them to the central four books, translated by the predecessor Kandali. Sankara composed 34 songs, later known as Bargita. Madhava complementing them with 157 of his composition. Sankara's songs sing of the futility of human efforts, and urges upon listeners the need for bhakti some of them are prayer songs, pure and simple and didactic verses, Madhava's songs breathe an open-air atmosphere, and excel in the description of Krsna's child life and the bringing out of the eternal mother in Yasoda. Both these saints wrote a number of songs called bhatima (panegyrics) in praise of the worshipful Lord, Sankara making two in praise of King Narayaana and Madhava on to his guru. The dramas (ankanata or nataks, popularly ankiya nata) of both are a type by themselves and do not follow any model. Sanskrit, Prakrit or otherwise. These are no act or scene -division in them. The suttradhara, taken from the classical drama, is the central character, conducting the whole action with songs, dances and explanatory commentary. The plays are in an artificial literary dialect used in the bargit and bhatima songs also . Later known as Brajawalibhasa or Brajabuli with a queer mixture of Assamese. Maithili and Hindi and a tincture of other elements. A like idiom was used by the Vaisnava lyricists of Bengal and Orissa perhaps a little later. Sankara has left us six ankas Patniprasada, Kalidaman, Kelogopala, Rukminiharana , Parijatharan and Ramavijaya. The younger poet differs from his Master in his dramatic technique just a little, his playets (jhumura) being more operatic in pattern. As in his lyric, so in his plays he is preoccupied with Krisna of Vindabana more than anything else . He wrote Arjunabhanjan Cordhara Pimparaguchuwa. Bhumilutiwa and Bhojanavyavahara four others. Brahmamohan, Bhusanaharana , Rasajhumura and Kotorakhelowa, being also ascribed to him. He rendered only a small part of the tenth book of the Bhagavata-purana describing Yudhisthira rajasuya. But the greatest contribution of this saint poet to Assamese poetry and thought is the Namaghosa which excels in giving lucid and musical expression to his inner experience as well.


The literature that was now born in the wake of the Vaisnava movement included many translations and adaptions from the two epics, the Bhagavad-gita, the Bhagabata and other puranas, and the Gita-govinda. A rich biographical literature, giving detailed accounts of the movement centering round the activities of the Masters, soon had its growth. In the Assamese versions of the Mahabharata, particularly by Rama Sarasvati a large mass of new matter has been thrust upon the original Sarasvatis Bhimacarita and Sridhara Kandali's Kankhowa have an independent story construction, perhaps inspired by folk form and content.


After the Assamese Brajabali pross of Sankara and Madhava came the rhythmic prose of Vaikunthanatha Kaviratna in his Bhagavanta katha (c 1594-96) and Gitakatha (c 1597-98) and of Gopalacarana Dvija in his Bhaktiratnakara-katha (c 1600) in which the two writers adopted the literary language of the poets. A more real prose with a dignified tone is that of the anonymous vaisnava-caritas the vogue of which started about the same time as the ethronicles of the Ahoms in a realistic prose of everyday use. In point of date this growth of a prose literature in the easternmost member of modern Indo-Aryan language is very remarkable indeed.


In Assam in certain Vaisnava circles no sattra about could justify his appointment without writing a drama in the style of the Masters. This gave rise to a strong theatre movement, although the performance of a drama of the Masters was prize4d everwhere the most , Numerous songs in the style of bargit and Namaghosa also came to be composed sometimes merely as a work of routine by the divines. For the most part of course the dramas and songs of the late Sankaradeva period do not have any outstanding merit to commend themselves. The ideals of Vaisnava poetry were so universally acknowledged that the Sakta literature of the 18th and centuries, and even the political annals of the Ahoms and the Koces came to be modeled on the poetry.


Home | About us | Tradition | Setubandha | Personalities | Views Room | Rediscovering the core | Assam at a Click | Editorial | New & Events | Photos | M@il |

Copyright Srimanta.org. All Rights Reserved.

 Quick Contact