|Tarun Gogoi at the Madhupur Dham (above) in Cooch Behar on Wednesday. Pictures by Main Uddin Chisti
Cooch Behar, April 25: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today visited Madhupur Dham, renewing a more than 600-year-old bond with Vaishnavism that came from the neighbouring state.
Gogoi said his government would set up an academy to study philosophy, literature and folk culture at the dham dedicated to the 15th Century Vaishnavite preacher Srimanta Sankardev. He said Rs 50 lakh had been sanctioned for the academy to come up on the 22 acres that houses a temple and an ashram for the devotees.
The chief minister arrived here today with wife Dolly, Assam cultural affairs minister Pranati Phukan and officials by the Rajdhani Express from Guwahati.
“The dham has many problems like irregular drinking water supply. We have sanctioned Rs 50 lakh for the development of the spot as well as the construction of a Sutriya Academy where research on Vaishnavism preached by Sankardev would be carried out,” Gogoi told the gathering.
Local historian and secretary of the Cooch Behar Heritage Society Arupjyoti Majumdar said Vaishnavism preached by Sankardev was followed all over north Bengal, Assam and Manipur.
“The significance of having an academy is important as Sankardev was not only a religious preacher but a dramatist, song writer and philosopher as well,” said Majumdar.
Shankardev was born in Borodoya in Assam’s Nagaon district in 1449 and passed away in 1568. He was driven out of Assam by the kings because he preached a different creed, the historian said.
The preacher was given shelter in Cooch Behar by Maharaja Naranarayan (1540-1584).
“The king’s brother and commander of the royal army, Chila Roy, married Sankardev’s niece, Bhubaneswari Devi,” Majumdar said.
Madhupur Dham was set up in 1560 as Sankaradev’s seat of learning. He went around propounding his version of the Bhagavat Puranas and other Vaishnavite texts.
“Around 1850, Maharaja Narendra Narayan set up a temple at Madhupur Dham dedicated to the preacher. That temple was concretised by the last official Maharaja of Cooch Behar, Jagatdippendra Narayan, with the co-operation of the Assam government that looks after the trust which was set up there,” Majumdar said.
The head priest of Madhupur Dham, Lakshmi Kanta Mahanta, said this place was a union of the religion shared by both Bengal and Assam.
“We are happy that an academy will be set up to research into the Bhakti dharma that Srimanta Sankardev had propounded with all his erudition and skills,” he said.
Minister Pranati Phukan said the Assam government had already spent about Rs 60 lakh to develop Madhupur Dham.
“The establishment of an academy would help enrich the common religious tradition that Bengal and Assam share.”