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Renaissance guru gets due
- Finally, an institution will be named after Madhabdev

Guwahati, Feb. 26: The unsung custodian of 15th century saint-reformer Srimanta Sankardev's legacy has finally found his place in the sun.

Minister of state for finance Himanta Biswa Sarma today announced that a kshetra (culture complex) and an official award would be named after Mahapurush Madhabdev (1522-1596), who is credited with propagating and improving on the basic ideas and Vaishnavite principles propounded by his guru.

The cultural centre will be similar to the Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati and the Su Ka Fa Samannay Kshetra in Jorhat.

The announcement came at Madhabdev's birthplace, in Lakhimpur district, during a function to honour two of Assam's culture and literary icons, Keshab Mahanta and Birendranath Dutta. Both were conferred the first Mahapurush Sri Sri Madhabdev Bata (award), instituted by an NGO, Sadichcha. The duo received Rs 50,000 each.

'The kshetra dedicated to Madhabdev will come up in Narayanpur, where he was born. We will also institute an award in his name next year. We will soon complete the nitty-gritty and a formal announcement in this regard will be made by the chief minister in Guwahati. Narayanpur will become a major centre for religious tourism,' Sarma said.

Speaker Prithibi Majhi, another special invitee to the function, said he could not fathom why no government had thought of instituting an award in Madhabdev's name when almost every famous person from the state seemed to have been honoured in that manner. ' Why should a scholar like him be left out' he asked.

Sadichcha chairperson Bhupen Bora said he was happy that the NGO's campaign since 1998, the year it was established, had paid off. 'It (the government's announcement) was long overdue but we are nevertheless happy,' he said.

Poet Rajesh Joshi, Tezpur MP Mani Kumar Subba and Lakhikanta Bora, cultural secretary of the All Assam Students' Union, were in the audience.

The central Assam town of Tezpur was one of the choices for the proposed Madhabdev Kshetra with a sub-centre in Narayanpur. ' Had that been accepted, both local sentiments and the objective of preservation and promotion of Madhabdev's legacy in the true sense of the term would have been taken care of,' an official said.

Madhabdev religiously carried forward his guru's legacy, establishing several satras (monasteries) that have served as the foundation of moderate thoughts and beliefs for centuries. Srimanta Sankardev preferred him over his two sons to carry the Vaishnavite movement forward and together they united the region ' from Sadiya to Cooch Behar ' into a composite whole with a common cultural milieu. ' The two gurus triggered a cultural renaissance. The satras, namghars (community prayer halls), kirtan and borgeet are there because of them,' an official of the art and culture department said.

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