Barpeta

Some information about Barpeta

Historical background

Barpeta has been a place of great religious importance. Known by various names like Tatikuchi, Porabhita, Mathura, Vrindavan, Choukhutisthan, Nabaratna-Sabha, Icchakuchi, Pushpak Vimana, Kampur and Barpeta. It was Koch King Naranarayan who founded Barnagar (Sorbhog). The present District formed an integral part of the Koch-Hajo and the Ahom Kingdom till British Administration took over. From the ancient period Barpeta witnessed the rule of the Varmans (380-654) the Salasthamas (655-985) the Palas (985-1260) the Kamatas (1260-1509) & the Koches from 1509. During the Kamata & Koch rule major historical development took place. During this period large number of local feudatory-chiefs who are primarily land lords called ‘Bhuyans’ ruled the region. Number of villages constituted a ‘Chakla’ placed under a Bhuyan was patronised by the Kamatas. These Bhuyans arrived from eastern part of India like Kanauj, Gauda and Bengal who in passage of time became general Assamese caste and accepted the Vaishnava faith under influence of Shrimanta Sankardeva.
Koch King Naranarayan established his temporary capital at Barnagar. Here he met Shrimanta Sankardeva and his renowned disciple and sub-sequently accepted Vaishnavism when Sankardeva was invited by the monarch to Koch- Bihar. It was during king Naranarayan’s regime at Barnagar the great saint established Satra at Patbaushi to spread his Socio-religious faith. The Koch rule ended with annexation by the Mughals. The valiant Ahom fought a number of battles against the invading Mughals. Some of the well-known battles were fought at Jakhlikhana, Bhabanipur and Bhatekuchi. Ahoms were defeated and Mughals took over the Administration and systematised the entire revenue administration. Kamrupa became a Sarkar, which was divided into Parganas. Barpeta, Khetri, Bajali, Barnagar, Bahbari and Bijni became Parganas. A Gomasta was appointed to run the ‘Tapa’ and a number of Tapas became a Pargana. For administrative convenience the Parganas were divided into Taluks, lats and villages. Parganas were placed under Barbaruas and Choudhuries. Taluks remained under Talukdar. They were assisted by Thakurias, Patwaries, Kakati, Gaon barika etc. who kept the revenue accounts. Judges in Parganas were called Shikdar, whereas Amin and Kanango were responsible for land-survey, assessment and collection of revenue.
With the advent of Shrimanta Sankardeva, this region turned into a religious place dotted with numerous satras and in fact Barpeta town came to be called ‘Boikunthapuri Dham’. As a part of providing patronage to various religious-places irrespective of religions, the Ahom rulers provided a large number of land-grants to the Satras. Dr. Maheswar Neog in his edited work” Prasya Sasanawali” has mentioned a large number of land-grants during the region of Shiva Singha, Rajeswar Singha, Lakshmi Singha, Gaurinath Singha and Chandra Kanta Singha. Grants were made to Muslim-Darghas of Shah Madar at Baushi, Shah Fakir at Barnagar, Panch Peer at Khetri, Syed Shahnur Dewan Fakir at Bhella, where Chandra Kanta Singha granted 100 bighas la khiraj land. Grants were made to Devalaya also. These grants were made in copper-plate inscriptions which are invaluable source of history.
Widespread destruction of life and property took place when the Maans invaded from Myanmar. Even the Barpeta Satra was razed to the ground during this invasion. To restore peace British army entered Barpeta to drove-off all the invaders. With the advent of British rule Mouzadari system came into effect. In 1841 Barpeta became a Civil Sub Division and John Batlor became the first administrator. As a part of policy of exploitation, land-revenue rates were suddenly enhanced which resulted in a number of peasant unrest in between 1893-94 particularly in Bajali and Sarukhetri area. Large number of arrests was carried out to foil attempts of unrest. The Lachima up rising is one such shining example of peasant revolt against British rule. Raijor Sabha constituted during this period raised the banner of revolt.
During the struggle for independence large number of people participated and was jailed. Madan Chandra Barman and Rauta Koch were first martyrs to sacrifice their lives during Quit India Movement of 1942. Some of the important Congress leaders who lead the Freedom-struggle are Umesh Chandra Brahmachari, Dhaniram Talukdar, Ganesh Lal Choudhury, Debendra Nath Uzir, Akshay Kumar Das, Bongshidhar Choudhury, Nanamohan Mazumdar, Golak Pathak, Sonaram Choudhury, Dr. Jinaram Das, Biswanath Das, Praneswar Das, Ambikagiri Raichoudhury, Mahendra Mohan Choudhury, Madhusudan Das, Upendra Chandra Das, Janardan Das Debendra Sharma, Naranarayan Goswami, Kabiraj Ghanashyam Das, and Chandraprava Saikiani. Mahatma Gandhi visited Barpeta in 1934. So did Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937.

Heritage & Culture

The heritage and culture of Barpeta District is predominated by the remarkable work of the great Assamese renaissance figure and reformer Mahapurush Shrimanta Sankardeva who laid the foundation of Assamese culture and heritage in and around the district. Subsequently the great saints disciples namely Madhabdev, Haridev, Damodardev and their devotees followed the good-works of the great figure.

Sataras
A good number of Satras were founded by these great saints and scholars that are considered regio-cultural institutions or monasteries that had a deep impact on the Social, political, economy etc.of the region. Although the Satra institutions were established for the propagation of Vaishnavite faith but with passage of time these institutions gradually transformed into open universities to become all-embracing socio-cultural centers covering numerous subject including education, music, dance, sculpture, drama, fine-art, Ivory-works etc.
Some of the important satras are:
Patbaushi
Ganakkuchi
Jania
Sundaridia
Barpeta
Baradi
Kanara

Patbaushi Satra
The Satra at Patbaushi was established by Shrimanta Sankardeva. His Vaishnava faith was spread by the guru’s able disciples Shri Madhav Deva, Shri Damodar Deva and Shri Hari Deva. It was from this satra that Srimanta Sankardeva spread his faith, literature, music art-forms, culture and work-culture to its fullest form. Here the guru spent 18 years of his life with remarkable achievement including completion of the ‘Kirtan Ghosa’ and composition of 20 number of invaluable Borgeets. Some of the items used by these Gurus and Sachipat puthis are well-preserved here. The Satra is located about 2 km north of Barpeta town.

Ganakkuchi Satra
This satra was founded by Sri Madhab Deva for which the land was purchased by Shrimanta Sankardeva for 1 Tola (about 10gm) Gold and nominated his close disciple Shri Madhab Deva as the satradhikar to stay here to spread his faith and he went on to stay here for 18 long years. Some of the items used by the guru and Sachipat puthis are well-preserved here. The Satra is located within the Barpeta town area.

Jania Satra
This Satra was established by Sankardeva’s disciple Shri Narayan Das Thakur Ata. He composed a large number of devotional songs here. This Satras located at a distance of 8 km from Barpeta in Barpeta Jania Road.
Sundaridiya Satra
The Satra was established by Shri Madhab Deva after leaving Ganakkuchi Satra. The first satradhikar of Barpeta Satra Sri Mathura Das Burha Ata initially come to this Satra and became a disciple of Shri Madhab Deva. It was here that Paal Nam and Beer Nam or Thiya Nam was created by sri Madhab Deva. A large number of items used by the guru including Sachipat-puthis are preserved here.

Baradi Satra
This satra was also established by Sri Madhab Deva and stayed here for a very short period.Baradi Satra is the”Adi Satra” of Madhab deb.The Sankarite culture spread far and wide from Baradi making it a centre for learning. The place is located about 2 km east of Barpeta town.Holi”fakua”is one of the most holly festival of Baradi Satra.

Satra Kanara
Established by Sri Sri Narayan Das Thakur Ata. This Satra is damaged by natural calamities. Floods creates problem for running the Satra. As a result the original habitants of this place shifted to Gajia and Ganakkuchi in Barpeta. The Satra is located at a distance of 16 km from Barpeta.

Markaz
Barpeta District Head Markaz, Howly, is also one of the leading Markazs in Barpeta district. For the Muslim community, this is the only centre for ethnic education.[citation needed] Howly Head Markaz has some branches in all Barpeta district as Barpeta Town Markz Mosque, Barpeta Road Zame Mosque, Majgaon Markaz, Bhella Zame Mosque, Mandia Zame Mosque, Gomafulbari Tittle Madrassa, Balikuri Zame Mosque, Keotkuchi Zame Mosque.

Cultural Art Forms

The Barpeta District is rich in cultural art from both ethnic and non-ethnic. The great cultural ambassador Srimanta Sankardeva contributed a great deal in creating different art forms that became integral part of Assamese culture.

Borgeet
Devotional songs composed by Shrimanta Sankardeva are still popular in this region.

Ankiya Geet
Shrimanta Sankardeva composed ankiyageet for ankiya-nats or plays. These are sung on special occessions like Doul festival,anniversaries of the two gurus and other festivals.

Holi Geet

Holigeet are the unique form of chorus songs that originated in Barpeta satra and spread throughout the state. These are sung during the Doul festival.

Loka Geet

Kamrupi Loka geet is popular form of folk music that expresses thoughts and emotion of the common people. These songs are sung from time immemorial by various people of earstwhile undivided Kamrup district. Beside this various forms of songs linking the day to day activities are also popular like biya(marriage) geet,now khelor(boat race) geet, maha-kheda (mosquito driveout)geet, lora-dhemalir(child’s play)geet, boroshibowa (fishing) geet, nisukoni (lallabye)geet and various forms of bihu geet.

Dances
Devadasi nritya was performed at Pari Hareswar Devalaya in Bajali. Deodhani nritya is another form that was popular during Middle Ages. Shrimanta Sankdardeva popularised the Satriya nritya among the common people. Other dance form that the guru popularised are Krishna nritya, Kalidaman nritya, Dasavatara nritya, Jhumura nritya, Sali nritya, Sutradhari nritya, Gopi nritya Raja Nritya, Rani nritya etc. which were performed in the Satras. Ojapali is a popular dance form among the people.

Drama and Theater
Sankardeva popularised ‘Bhaona’ or mythological plays that became the centre of attraction from the common masses. Colourful dresses were worn by the participants on the occasion. The modern dance form became popular with spreading of dramas. These dramas resulted in formation of professional theatre groups in and around the Pathsala region, leaving behind a unique cultural legacy. Large numbers of professional theatre groups enjoy popularity among the people of Assam. Theatre groups like Nataraj, Kohinoor, Abahan, and Aradhana from Pathsala have not only carved out a niche but also revolutionised this medium despite the challenge from Cinema Halls.

Traditional Crafts

Handicraft
Decorative items of daily use including furnitures,gift items, decoration items etc. are prepared by rural artisans out of cane and bamboo are wide spread in the district.

Bell and Brass Metal Industry
The renowned town of Sarthebari is well-known for the household bell and brass-metal industry. Traditional utensils and fancy items designed by the artisans are found in every Assamese household. Most popular utensils here prepared are xorai for offering as gift to namghars and bota on which paan and betel nuts served by hosts to guests.

Pottery
Pottery works are popular among the common people.The Hira community is engaged in this profession. Ethnic and traditional items of daily use are prepared by the artisans. Great mathematician Varahmihira is said to have stayed in a potter’s village of Lehi dongra(now eroded by river Brahmaputra).

Wooden Craft
Among the various articles preserved in the Satras, the decorative items made out of wood reflects the skilful artistry of the carpentars. The Guru Asana or the pedestral of the guru,various animals and birds figuring in mythology are aesthetically designed by the artisans.

Mask
Bhaonas or plays introduced by Shrimanta Sankardeva used masks which are made with tribal art and folk element. These are prepared with materials like terracotta,pith,metal,bamboo,wood etc.

Jewellery

Barpeta is famous centre for preparation of Traditional Assamese ornaments with Gold. The ornaments are stillas popular as during the medieval period among the female community.

Paintings
Paintings are traced back to the medieval period. Paintings available in the Satras reflect the skilful work of the painters.
Ivory Carvings
Materials including Ornaments,Toys, images of Gods and Goddessess,Animals, Comb etc are made by skilful artisans of Barpeta since the time of Shrimanta Sankardeva.

For more information about Barpeta, Please visit http://barpeta.wordpress.com and if you want to write something on it please mail us on barpeita@gmail.com

Facts & Figures of Barpeta District

Year of formation 1983
Area 3245 Sq. Km
Latitude 26°5′- 26°49′ North
Longitude 90°39′- 91°17′ East
Population (2001) 1642420
Male 846106
Female 796314
Population density 506 Per Sq. Km
Sex Ratio 941
Literacy Rate 61.65%
No. Of Sub-Division 2
No. Of Tehsil 9
No. Of Blocks 12
No. Of Villages 1086
Postal Code 781301
STD Code 03665