Sankardev Jayanti celebrated with gaiety in London

Christian Church goers of Southgate, North London were surprised to hear the Assamese Bartal, Naamkirtan, Bargeet and Sattriya Nritya at their Church hall in the afternoon of 2nd October last. The occasion was the celebration of the 556th birth anniversary of Sri Sri Sankardev under the auspices of Asam Sahitya Sabha UK(ASSUK) and the release of the 6th issue of its house magazine Poob-Paschim dedicated to Mahapurush Sankardev. People from all over the UK and Assam attended the function. This was stated in an e-mail received here.

The function began with naam-prasanga and ended with a cultural programme. The stage inside the hall was tastefully decorated under the Asam Sahitya Sabha pennant on the top and below the dais a fresh waist-high portrait of the saint. The namotees — Jeebankumari, Lahori, Urmi, Puspa, Bhabani, Rini, Surovi, Binu, Minu, Ranee, Bhan, Geetutpalla and others occupied the right side of the aisle on the ground floor where all the guests were seated. The male devotees- Khageswar, Dinesh, Gagon, Dilip, Sarada, Benu, Pratim, Anil, and a few others occupied the rear. At the conclusion of the prayers, mah-prasad were distributed amongst all those present.

The cultural scene began with a chorus by Pratim, Bhabani, Surovi, Sahida, Sarada, Puspa, Jeebankumari, Rini, Khageswar, Dinesh and Binu.

Dinesh Kakati, chairman of the Sankarjayanti celebration committee, welcomed the audience which included the newcomers and visitors from Assam to London. He stated that he felt proud to welcome all on the occasion celebrated since 1983 which had become the staple of the cultural life of the expatriate Assamese community in the United Kingdom.

He was followed by Gagon Hazarika, the president of ASSUK and the editor of the magazine Poob-Paschim who gave a short account of the life of Sri Sankaradev and emphasised that Sankardev’s teachings and ideology namely peace and non-violence are still relevant and could transform today’s volatile world we live in and all political and ideological problems should be looked through the magnifying glass of peace, persuasion and non-violence and not war and coercion.

He paid tribute to late Padma Kanta Dutta, late Subhadrabala Kakati and late Khageswar Saikia who inspired the expatriate Assamese community in the UK to celebrate Sankarajayanti in London in 1983, the tradition of which has not been broken since.

Releasing the journal Poob-Paschim, regularly published since 1999, Gagon Hazarika, the editor, described in a nutshell the contents of the 163-page profusely illustrated journal and also how the various weighty copyright materials were collected from various sources and hoped that the next generation of the expatriate Assamese and others would draw inspiration equally as their forefathers did over the last half a millennium.

The issue contained literary contributions by learned authors not only on various aspects of the Mahapurusha’s ideology but also write-ups on other cultural aspects, poems and short stories and news and views.

The next speaker Bhuban Baruah, the founder president of ASSUK, a collaborator with the editor since its inception dwelt on the hardship encountered in bringing out the magazine on time for various reasons.

He stated that it was a positive contribution to the existing lore of literature on the saint (an example was the feature on Vrindabani Bastra) besides innovating with new literary themes such as a graphic scene of golden silkworm (muga) rearing in a remote corner of Assam up the Brahmaputra in the guise of a murder story.

The highlight of the cultural scene was a sattriya dance by Rupali Barooah. Dr Siddhartha Sarma introduced Rupali to the house and explained succinctly the epic legend which inspired the dancer.

A number of bargeets and lokageets were presented by Suravi, Malabika, Bhabani and Sarada. Musical direction came from Mitam, Surovi played the harmonium and Dr Kukreja was on the tabla. Surovi also acted as compeer.

Dr Khageswar Lahon offered a vote of thanks to all concerned, in particular to Mitam Barooah, Iqbal Rasul, Premjit Singh and Geetutpalla Shah for their help in hall decoration and maintenance, to Bhabani Kakati and Jeebakumari Baruah for arranging savouries and mah-prasad and leading the Naam-prasanga.

Dr Pritam Chaudhury, chairman of the Cultural Committee informed that the next cultural item in the Sabha calendar was the Silpi Divas & Magh Bihu on 22nd January 2005 to which everybody was invited. After the Assamese national anthem sung in chorus everyone present was entertained with a sumptuous vegetarian dinner which ended the celebration.