Sometimes back one of my friends asked, “Tumalokar Barpeta Satrar katha kiyo nilikha?” i.e. Why did not you write about your Barpeta Satra? I was silent for some time. Then I told him, “I do not know how to write about it.” Of course, he did not believe me as I am quite defensive about anything but Barpeta Satra or as we fondly call it, Barpeta Kirtanghar.
So what is a kirtanghar? More important, what is Barpeta kirtanghar/ Barpeta Satra? Anyone, who is born in brought up in Assam, has heard about it. It is one of the Satra or a kind of monastery that practices Vaishnav religion and culture. A Satra can be termed as the epitome of Assamese culture and traditions. They were established by Saint Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankardeva and Mahapurusha Madhabdeva, the great preachers and social reformers of Assam in the 15th century. Satras were initially established to preach the Vaishnav religion but gradually they were transformed to be social and cultural organization. The Satra at Barpeta (By the way, it is where I was born and brought up) was established by SriSri Madhabdeva. Barpeta Sattra, which we Barpetiyas (resident of Barpeta) fondly call Barpeta kirtanghar, is one of the important ones among the Sattras.
If you ask any Barpetiya, do you love your Kirtanghar? You can get a stare that can turn your blood into ice. Tell them any unpleasant thing about it and you were doomed. You may not be physically harmed but mentally, I can not take any risk. Yes, to that extent, we love our kirtanghar. That’s the reason when I was asked to write about it, I was speechless. How can you pen down a feeling which is in your blood? Our kirtanghar is the core of our existence. The whole life cycle of a Barpetiya revolves around the kirtanghar. Be it a newborn baby, on your marriage day, after your death, you are connected to it. It is as necessary for us as to take a breath. Wherever we go, we carry it in our heart. Ask any Barpetiya who lives outside Barpeta, what festival he misses most. The answer will be Doul Utsav (Holi) in Kirtanghar. How can I write all these feelings in a single article? Barpeta kirtanghar is the very essence of my existence. When I finally decided that I am going to write about it, I did not want to write the obvious things about our kirtanghar. My love and devotion for Barpeta kirtanghar are beyond description just like any other Barpetiya. So, here are seven facts that you do not know about this famous Sattra.
7 Things that You Don’t Know About Barpeta Satra
Do you know that Barpeta Satra has an earthen lamp which is lit for last 500 years? Yes, you read it correct. Since the establishment of the kirtanghar, an earthen lamp was lit and till this very moment, it has enlightened our hearts. Extra care is taken to keep the lamp lit and it is amazing that we have not failed it for a single moment. After the establishment of the kirtanghar, it was almost destroyed by forest fire but the wife of the first Sattradhikar personally took care of the earthen lamp and did not fail in that duty. Even during the infamous Maan invasion of Assam, the earthen lamp was enlightened.
Do you know Barpeta Satra is connected to the great epic Mahabharata? That is too with the legend of Rukmini Haran by Srikrishna? Yes. There is a spot in the northeast corner of the main prayer hall of the Sattra where oil like substance springs from the earth constantly. The legend says that it is the spot where the messenger of Rukmini got unconscious after a tiring journey from Dwarka with Srikrishna. To bring him back to consciousness, Srikrishna struck the earth with his arrow and a spring of water emerged with which, he nursed the poor Bednidhi deu (messenger of Rukmini). The very spot still springs a substance which is oily in texture.
Do you know the main prayer hall of Barpeta Satra has two pillars made of Tulsi plant?. Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a plant which grows in the Indian subcontinent and widely known for its aroma and medicinal properties. Generally, it grows up to only 12-14 inch. But the main pillars of the prayer hall are at least 17-18 feet and the circumference is more than 4 feet. It is said that both the pillars were found in a river during the flood. It is really a miracle as nowhere in the earth grows a tulsi plant as huge as those pillars.
Do you know whole Barpeta Satra has wooden as well as solid sculptures in its walls? The main prayer hall even has such wooden sculptures which are more than 100 years old. All the sculptures depict scene from the Bhagavata.
Do you know, Barpeta Satra has a Rangial phool which is also almost 500 years old? The flower was planted by Mahapurusha SriSri Madhabadeba himself. The plant still blooms in plenty and its leaves and flowers are used as nirmali or blessings in the kirtanghar.
Do you know, the devotees or the visitors are asked only to bring just a small amount of salt or mustard oil to the kirtanghar? It is believed by our forefathers that economic equality should prevail among the devotees and they should not be judged by their economic status in visiting the kirtanghar.
Do you know, Barpeta Satra is the first democratic institution of Greater Assam? Yes, since its establishment, the head of the Sattra or Sattradhikar is elected by an election.
These are the facts about Barpeta Satra which often remains under the veil. Barpeta kirtanghar will always be dear to our hearts. It is the reason for which even after leaving Barpeta, even after marrying a non-Barpetiya, I remain Barpetiya at the core just like any other girl from my hometown. It is the center of my devotion, my pride as a soul who was born in that holy land called Barpeta.
How to go to Barpeta Satra?
Barpeta Satra is situated at Barpeta, a town on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra. Barpeta is situated approximately 90 KM from Guwahati and can be reached via road and railway. The nearest railway station is Barpeta Road from where you can take any public transport to reach Barpeta.
When to visit Barpeta Satra?
Any time of the year is a good time to Barpeta Satra as the holy rituals are performed daily here. However, if you want to get the maximum exposure to the culture and euphoria of the people to Barpeta Satra, then you must visit it during the Doul Utsav or Holi (March every year) as it popularly known outside Assam. The other time to get another glimpse of Satriya culture is during the death anniversaries of Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva and SriSri Madhabadeva (September, every year). You can also have a good time during Bohag/Rongali Bihu (April 15th every year).
Where to stay during Barpeta Satra visit
Barpeta Satra has a guesthouse where you can stay with prior permission. Other commercial places for fooding and lodging are-
- Prashanti Tourist Lodge, Barpeta. Phone no- 094350 25288
- Hotel Diya-Disha, Barpeta. Phone no-094354 01111
Koila Baba ki Joy!!!!!