SRIMANTA SANKARDEVA KALAKSHETRA
Exposition of diversity
Feature by: Ankita Adhikary
Dated: 24 Sept, 2011
The Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra is the reflection of the life and culture of the people of North East India’s seven sister States. It is a grand exposition of its diverse ethnic groups and sub-groups who have created the cultural mosaic, the essence of North East India in general and Assam in particular, in respect of its beauty and splendour.
The Kalakshetra is named after the great Vaishnava saint Srimanta Sankardeva, who was born in 1449 in a village called Alipukhuri near Borduwa in Nagaon district. Grandmother Khersuti looked after the saint after he lost his parents at a very tender age.
In reverence to his personality, teachings and legacy, he is called the ‘Mahapurush’ (great man). At the age of 32, he left for a pilgrimage which took him to Puri, Mathura, Dwaraka, Vrindavan, Gaya, Rameshwaram and almost all the other major seats of the Vaishnavite religion in India.
The philosophy of Mahapuruxiya Dharma, founded by Sankardeva was Vaishnavism. The saint faced a lot of struggle while spreading the new religion and thereby caused a huge social revolution by repulsing anti-social practices like casteism. For, he initiated people of all castes and religions.
Sankardeva produced a large body of work. His literary works include the Bhagavata Purana, Harishchandra upakhyana (his first work), Bhakta pradip and so on. Kirtana Ghosha, Rukmini Harana, Bali-chalana, Kurukshetra Yatra and so forth were his Poetic works, while Ankia Nat was a form of religious theatre created by Sankardeva. Borgeets are devotional songs written in Brajabali language set to music and sung in various raga styles. Sankardeva is the creator of the Satriya dance, which is now among the classical dance forms of India.
In 1568, after leading a most eventful life dedicated to enlightening the humanity, the Mahapurusha died at the remarkable age of 120 years, at Bheladonga, Koch Bihar.
The Kalakshetra society attempts to capture and convey the great legend’s spirit, who preached the message of unity in diversity and the universal brotherhood of man.
Spread over a sprawling 40-acre campus at Panjabari in Guwahati, ‘Kalakshetra’ was conceived way back in 1986 and its foundation was laid on 2nd February, 1988. The beautiful campus was designed by National Informatics Centre Services Incorporative.
On 9th November 1998, the then President, KR Narayanan dedicated the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra to the nation.
As you enter the Kalakshetra premises you are welcomed by the Heritage Park, situated amid the beautifully cultivated and artistically designed lawns and the sculptures related to traditional Assamese society and culture, with two sides bounded by the walls having murals depicting the cultural heritage of the State. A replica of Rang Ghar at the centre of the park is a major attraction. There is also a replica of a naamghar (prayer house) at the top of a hillock on the Kalakshetra premises which symbolizes the true Sankari culture.
Being North-East India’s largest cultural congregation, the Kalakshetra is also a major tourist spot. It houses the Purbajyoti Sangrahalay, an ethnographic heritage museum. At present, the cultural museum holds over 4500 artefacts, collection of Sattriya masks, traditional musical instruments, rare, hand-made pottery items of the State along with a model of Assamese cottage industry.
The Sahitya and Sangeet Natak Bhawan conducts cultural and literary programs including seminars and workshops. The first floor of the Sahitya and Sangeet Natak Bhawan houses the Portrait Gallery, which has a collection of 46 portraits along with rare specimen handwriting of the prominent figures in the field of Assamese literature and culture.
Made for the benefit of children of the region, the Shishu Ban Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia Children’s Park covers an area of 12 bighas and consists of a library, petrochemical gallery, solar hut, doll museum, sky train, solar waterfalls, auditorium – specially meant for holding various programmes for the intellectual as well as the cultural growth of children – and many other interesting amusements.
The International Conventio, n Centre is for holding regular music, dance and drama programmes both at the State and national level. The Open Air Theatre with 2000 capacity and the Rang Ghar Bakori Manch provide a grand space for holding regular open air shows and programmes on folk festivals and traditional dance and drama.
The Dr Bhupen Hazarika Cultural Museum is the pride of Kalakshetra campus. It is a tribute to the legend, Asom Ratna Dr Bhupen Hazarika. The museum is artistically designed, where you will be fascinated by the large photographs, huge collection of awards and felicitations, a model of Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s living room and bedroom along with some beautiful traditional dresses. Documentaries on him are also shown there.
The Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra is the outcome of the ‘Assam Accord’ which was signed in 1985. The accord was aimed at providing “Constitutional, Legislative and Administrative safeguard … to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”. It has emerged as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Guwahati, which is a blend of cultural life and entertainment striving to conserve and promote the culture of Assam in particular and North East India in general.
Ankita Adhikary has Graduated in Journalism & Mass Communication under SMU (Third Eye College, Guwahati centre)