The Namghor at Borpeta, Assam
The famed Namghor at Borpeta was built by Madhava Deva, the most celebrated disciple of Sankara Deva. After the reformer Sankara Deva was banished from Nagaon in Central Assam by the Ahom King of the time, he had fled to to PaatBauxi, and established a xotra (a religious school) there first and then in
Xundaridia. Sankara Deva had met a Brahmin priest by the name Madhava Deva and had impressed him so much with his spirituality that Madhava Deva had given up his religion to become a follower of Sankara.
The Borpeta Namghor is one of the two most famous Namghors in Assam, the other one being in the town of Borduwa where Sankara Deva was born and spent his initial days as a leader of the Reformation Movement. Below is a description of the physcial characteristics of the Namghor at Borpeta.
The main door of a Namghor may have some architectural importance in many Xotras. They are very colorfully decorated. In the Borpeta Xotra, the Ghai Duwar (main door) is decorated with the scenes from Bhagawat (mainly Krishna Leela, childhood miracles displayed by Lord Krishna). The upper portion of the door (called Kaapelee) is silver plated. The outside walls of the main Namghor are decorated very colorfully with the scenes from entire Bhagawad. The main Namghor of this Xotra is called Kirtan Ghar.
On both sides of the main door there are ten statues dipicting Dasavataar on the wall. These statues were initially colored with hangool haitaal (native coloring material obtained from trees), now of course the artists use modern paint. Inside the Ghai Namghor there are three Guru Aasans (distiguished seats) named after Sankar Dev, Madhav Dev and Mathura Das BurhaAta (first Xotradhikar or spiritual leader of this xotra). These Aasans have unique characteristics in terms of their structure. They have statues of lion, elephants and other animals. These statues are very similar to some oriental relligious statues. Local artists still make similar Guru-Aasans. There is no idol on these Aasans, instead there are three religious tomes translated into Assamese: KirtanGhosa, NaamGhosa and Bhagawat.
There is only one idol of Bishnu placed in the adjacent room. The idol is black so it is called Koliyaa Thakur. That idol was placed in the Ghai Namghor much after it was built. Near that idol there is Akhyay Bonti (continuous lamp). In front of these Aasans there are several Gasaas (lamp stands), where hundreds of earthen lamps are put. Inside the Ghai Namghor there are two huge Ghai Khutas (wooden). People say they are pine (saral) and Madhav Dev found them on the bank of some river. When this Xotra was originally built under his supervision. Last time this xotra was renovated in early 20th century to its present form by local Borpetia artists. The front portion of the main room and the outside varanda are used for Naam Prasanga (open service) and Bhagawat Paath (reading of the Bhagavad).
The Borpeta Xotra has three main gates, Ghai Duwar, Uttarhaati Duwar, Dakshinhaati Duwar surrounding its compound. The people of Borpeta celebrate tithis (the death anniversaries) of Sankar Deva, Madhav Deva and Mathura Das Bhurha Ata in Aug/Sept (Bhaada Maah) in the Xotra compound. The biggest festival there is Daul (Holi) in spring, when the Koliya Thakur idol is taken to Ganak-Kuchi Xatra (established by Madhav Dev) for a day. There is done in the similar manner like Ratha jatra in Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa.
A photograph of the Kirton Ghor or The Recitation Hall in Borpeta appears at the top of this article. It is the current incarnation of the namghor in which Sankara Deva's primary disciple Madhava Deva held his early services. It is in the compound of the Borpeta Xatra or monastery.. Next, you see a photograh of one of the gates of the Kirton Ghor in Borpeta Xatra. Finally, you see photograph of the Doul Mondir at the xotra in the town of Borpeta. It is not really Namghor, but a temple that was built later inside the compound of the xotra.All photographs were taken from a calendar for the year 1989 published by Rashtriya Shankardev Vikash Samaj, Danish Road, Pan Bazar, Guwahati 78001. The photographs were taken by Tapan Das. The calendar was also sponsored by The Gauhati Co-Operative Town Bank Limited (established 1906), Danish Road, Pan Bazar, Guwahati 781001.
Lalita Kalita, Manhattan, Kansas, USA and Jugal Kalita, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
April 10, 1998.