Mahapurush Sri Sri Madhabdev, the chief disciple of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev was one of the great Vaisnavite saints of Assam ,who left undeniable mark in the social life of Assam through his philosophy of Vaisnaism and excellent literary works.
Madhabdev was born in 1489 at Letekupukhuri, Narayanpur, situated at the western part of Lakhimpur District of Assam. His parents GovindGiri Bhuyan and Manorama spent a life of adversity before the birth of Madhabdev. Gobind Giri was a descendent of Hari Bhuyan who accompanied Candivara Bhuyanin the 14th century as a part of exchange between Dharmanarayana of Gauda and Durlavnarayan of Kamrupa. According to Katha Gurucharit, “the father and other ancestors of Madhadev were Krishna Bhuyan, Brishnu, Gopal, Kripal, Janardan, Sri ram and Mukunda’’ Gobinda Giri served as Majinder at Banduk and established his family there. He was known as Dighal puria Giri, RamkanaiGiri, Borkona Giri etc.But due to the death of his wife, Anusita, he shifted to Bardowa of Nowgaon District with his son Damudar and met with Srimanta Sankardev. In due course he married his second wife Manorama, cousin of Sankardev, of Bar-Bhuyan Clan. But during the warfare between Bar Bhuyans and Kacharis, he became homeless and wandered in the upper part of Brahaputra valley and out of fear took shelter near Harisingia Bora, an official of Ahom Kingdom where Madhabdev was born in 1489.regarding exact date of his birth, many scholar mentioned different date. Harisingia Bora arranged for Madhadev’s early education at Narayanpur as his parents were still lead a life of misery and poverty. Later on Madhabdev along with his parents settled permanently at Letekuphukhuri under the guidance of Harisingia Bora .His education continued in Banduka under Rajendra Adhyapak after the family shifted to their original place. Being a meritious student, Madhabdev studied Purans, Tantras, Tarka Sastras and other Sakta literature. While he was with Rajendra Adhyapak, his father passed away. After completing his education, Madhabdev was got engaged to a girl of Negheriting ,his ring ceremony was solemnized. Till this period of his youthful days, Madhabdev was a stern believer of Gods and Goddess who practiced his wisdom of Vedas and Upanishads to achieve success in life.
When Madhabdev was full of vigour, indomitable courage and extra ordinary oratory capability at the youthful age of 32, he met Sankardev at Dhuwahaat Beleguri Satra. Both are scholars in their respective religious doctrines and so argued a thought provoking debate on the issue of the superiority of the cult of Bhakti and Sakti. After a long four and half hour, however, Madhabdev bowed down to Sankardev and acknowledged the power of Lord Krishna as omnificent when Sankardev uttered a sloka from the Bhawagata :
Pranopaharac ca yathendriyanam tathaiva
Madhabdev accepted Sankardeva as Guru and became a preceptor of Ek Saran Naam Dhrama of Bhaktism. Srimanta Sankardev also regarded him as-‘Prana-bandhaba’ (Soul friend)and later on appointed him as his successor. This meeting point, better known as Moni Kanchan Sangjog was a milestone for spreading of ek saran dharma in medieval Assam. He remained unmarried inspite of his ring ceremony for his wholehearted devotion to Ek Saran Naam Dharma .Madhabdev died in 1596 at Bhela Satra,Coach Behar at the age of 108.
Literary Work of Madhabdev
Mahapurush Madhabdev was both a preacher and a saint-poet par excellence.The literary works of Mahapurush Madhabdev may be classified into four main divisions-namely, I) Anecdotal , II) Philosophical, III) Dramatic performance IV) Holy Songs
1) Anecdotal Book
This part of Madhabdev’s literary creation contains a)Adi kanda Ramayana b) Rajasuya Yagna. Madhabdev composed the Adi kanda Ramayana. Instead of literal rendering of Valmiki’s Ramayana , he extracted its quintessence and with it composed the religious book in a lucid Assamese language. Herein, one sees the poet’s control of imagination, lucidity of language and the judicious use of the familiar similes.
Rajsuya Yagna: This religious book on verse composed by madhabdev was based on the story as depicted in the 10th chapter of the bhagawat.In the words of eminent Assamese scholar, Kaliram Medhi , “Rajasuya Yagna reflects the lucid Assamese language and culture, delicacy of the verses, sweetness of the literary ornaments and the depth of thought and abundance in bhakti ras, has made it really pleasing to the heart.” An excellent book on verse “Rajasuya Yagna” is the finest testimony of his greatness as a poet.
2) Philosophical Work
To this category belongs Madhabdev’s prominent poetical works - a) Nam Ghosa b) Janma Rahashya c) Bhakti Ratnaswali d) Nam Malika
Nam Ghosa is Madhabdev’s monumental work. It is the lyrical manifestation of Madhabdev’s spiritual life. Since Nam Ghosa contains one thousand Ghosa(couplet), it is also called as Hezari Ghosa.(the Book of thousand couplets). Madbabdev composed this literary work at the last stage of his life. So, Dr.Banikanta Kakoti calls it as “ the song of the last journey to heaven.” According to Kakoti, Nam Ghosa symbolizes “holy verses-a living memory of Sankardeva and it reveals the self-abnegation of Madhabdev and the nobleness of devotion to lord Krishna.”
“ Mukti to Nispriha jitu sehi Bhokoroko Namo,
Rasamoyi magoho bhakoti”.
Thus NamGhosa signifies the poet’s intensity of spiritual union with the Almighty, Lord Krishna.
Bhakti Ratnawali, Madhabdev’s another remarkable philosophical work, is both impressive and expressive. Though, this religious book is deep in thought, the poet has tried to render it in a lucid language, intelligible to all. In the common parlance, Bhakti Ratnawali is known as Ratnawali.Among the four great books of Vaisnavite religion-Nam Ghosa and Bhakti Ratnawali are in the same place as Shankardev’s Kritan Ghosa and Dasam in terms of grandeur of thought and lucidity of expression. Janma Rahasya is his first literary work based on the creation and destruction of the world.
Madhabdev composed a good number of one act plays, known as Jhumuras in Brajawali language. These one act plays are consisted of music, drama and dance in religious form. Among them, mention may be made of 1) Arjun Bhanjan 2) Chordhora 3) Pimpora Guchua 4) Bhumi Letua 5) Bhojan Vyaher 6) Khotora Khela. These plays reflect the influence of South Indian Vainsnative saint Bilba Mangal. These plays illustrate the childhood period of Lord Krishna in a dramatic manner. The main theme of these plays is the glorification of lord Krishna. In this respect, it deserves mention that various efforts have been made to perform these dramas in different languages and thus this traditional dramatic performance of Assam has achieved global recognition. Very recently six of Madhabdev’s Ankia nat have been translated into English language .
Madhabdev’s bulk of songs are of two kinds- 1) Borgeet (Noble numbers) 2) Bhatima. Borgeets are a collection of lyrical songs of high order that are set to perform at a religious context. These songs are generally used to start prayer services in monasteries associated with Ek Sarana Naam Dharma.Madhabdev composed 191 borgeets or holy songs..Guru Bhatima is his long poem praising the glory of his Guru Srimanta Sankardev.
To sum up, it can be said that Mahapurush Madhabdev,whom Srimanta Sankardev considered as an indispensible part of himself ,brought a new dawn in medieval Assam through his philosophy of Neo-Vaisnavism, Humanitarian appeal and artistic brilliance. Suffice is to say that in the cultural and literary field of the contemporary period, Sri, Sri Madhabdev sometimes surpassed even his Guru and excelled through his finest spiritual works.
Author : Dikshita Bhuyan , Assistant Professor, English Department, Madhabdev College, Narayanpur