ASSAM..... Journey to the Green Land
Arts and Handicraft
As Assam is a state of many ethnic groups of
people, it is also a state of many religions. It represents in full the religious diversity of the country. Besides the major
religions, some of the tribes also follow animism, and worships nature in its various manifestations. Worship of trees, mountains
and rocks are common among tribes such as the Dimasas of North Cachar Hills in the south.
|The temple of Kamakhya
The Hindus, who constitute a majority of the population, themselves practise
different diciplines of Hinduism. Sakti temples such as the Kamakhya shrine at Guwahati and the Kechaikhati temple at Sadiya
stands testimony to a past in which tantricism was the predominant form of Hinduism. This was followed by its modified
form Saktaism, a primitive faith which like tantricism worshipped the female form of God.
The Vaisnava revival of the Middle Ages brought to the limelight the great
Vaisnavite saint Srimanta Sankardeva (1449-1568) who developed and propagated Eka-sarana-namadharma (a faith
of allegiance to one God) which was part of the neo-Vaisnavite movement of India and is characterized by absence of the
rituals practised by the Saktas and the principle of eqauality which annuled all caste barriers.
|The Vaisnava way
Mahapurush Sri Sri Sankaradeva, as he is known in the State,
composed hymns (borgeet), dance-dramas (ankianaat) and recitals, and with the help of his desciples, set up
sattras (monasteries) and namghars (community prayer halls) for the propagation of the new faith which soon gained
large-scale acceptance. Thus, Assam developed its own form of Vaisnavism which is today the predominant faith among the Hindus.
So much so that borgeets, ankianaats and many other Vaisnavite art-forms and social norms are now considered
to be integral parts of the Assamese culture.
Saivaism which holds the procreative energy of males in reverence
and is related to the worship of God Shiva as well as Saktaism are other forms of Hinduism still practised in the State.
Islam and Christainity are the two other religions which have a considerable
number of followers in Assam.
|Where they pary together: Poa Macca
The reformation movement of the Muslim saint and missionary Shah Miran, popularly
known as Ajan Fakir, deserves special mention in this context. Ajan Fakir came to Assam from the Middle East about two hundred
years after Shankardeva and found that the Muslims who had come and settled in the land as early as in the 13th Century A.D.
were practising a form of Islam somewhat distorted by elements of the local Hindu religion. He set out to reinforce Islamic
ideals and religious practices, and composed religious songs (known as Jikirs and Jaris) in the spoken language
much in the same style as the Borgeets of Sankardeva. Very soon he gained popularity and gathered a large following, and Zikirs
and Jaris remain unique elements of Islam in Assam.
There are scattered populations of Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains in different
parts of the State notable among which are the Buddhists among the Khamti tribes and the Assamese Sikhs of Borkhola in the
district of Nagaon.