Sattras of Assam

News: In poll-bound Assam, the campaigns are sought to be held in the Bartadrava Than/ Sattra (monastery) in Nagaon, which is the birthplace of renowned Vaishnavite saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardeva.

What are Sattras?

  • Sattras are monastic institutions created as part of the 16th century Neo-Vaishnavite reformist movement started by Vaishnavite saint-reformer Srimanta Sankaradeva (1449-1596).
  • These Sattras/Thans were established as centres of religious, social and cultural reforms in the 16th century across Assam.
  • Sattras promulgate Sankardeva’s unique “worship through art” approach with music (borgeet), dance (xattriya) and theatre (bhauna).
  • Each Sattra has a naamghar (worship hall) as its nucleus and is headed by an influential “Sattradhikar”. Monks, known as bhakats, are inducted into Sattras at a young age. They may or may not be celibate, depending on the kind of Sattra they are inducted into.
  • Each Sattra has a naamghar (worship hall) as its nucleus and is headed by an influential “Sattradhikar”.
  • Monks, known as bhakats, are inducted into Sattras at a young age.
  • They may or may not be celibate, depending on the kind of Sattra they are inducted into.
  • During the Ahom reign, the Sattras received a lot of donations in the form of land or money from the kings.
  • Unlike temples, Sattras did not require patronage because they were self-sufficient, grew their own food and could sustain themselves.
  • However, today, it is different. Annual grants from the state and central government are doled out to Sattras, in the hope of political support. While Sattra votes may not decide the outcome of an election, it is undeniable that the Sattras and Sattradhikars have a lot of influence.
  • There are especially Sattra-based constituencies like Nagaon, Kaliabor, Majuli, Barpeta, Bartadadrva etc.
  • Assamese families usually have ties with one Sattra, or the other.
  • That is why politicians — regardless of party are often seen visiting Sattra.

What is Sankardeva’s philosophy?

  • Sankardeva propagated a form of Bhakti called eka-sharana-naam-dhrama, and espoused a society based on equality and fraternity, free from caste differences, orthodox Brahmanical rituals and sacrifices.
  • His teaching focused on prayer and chanting (naam) instead of idol worship. His dharma was based on the four components of deva (god), naam (prayers), bhakats (devotees), and guru (teacher).