The Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems at IIT Guwahati recently hosted a conference on ‘Vaishnavaite Tradition and Practices of Northeast India’. The conference was organized in the memory of Pandit Hemchandra Goswami.
Pandit Goswami was a doyen in the field of Assamese literature and the 4th president of Asam Sahitya Sabha. The inauguration session was attended by prominent personalities. Prof. U.S. Dixit, the Head of the Center welcomed the dignitaries and briefed about the activities of the Center. He emphasized that apart from carrying out research on ancient Vedic knowledge of India, Center is also focusing on folk traditions of Northeast India. After that chief guest Dr. Naba Goswami, the chairman of Pandit Hemchandra Goswami Foundation and Prof. Krishnamoorthy, Dean of Industrial Initiatives and Special Interactions presided over the function. Dr. Naba Goswami emphasized the impact of the Pandit Goswami’s ideology on the growth of the cultural and spiritual heritage of Assam. He made special mention of the ongoing project on imparting science and technology among children and youth in rural Assam.
The session further immersed into the intellectual way of explanation by Prof. (rtd.) Archana Baruah, IIT, Guwahati on the concept of Eksarana Dharma and Naam ghar which strengthens the social capital by dismantling caste and class barriers.
The event witnessed the influence of Neo-Vaishnavism on music, drama, literature and society at large through Dr. Rahul Sankhayan Majumdar’s lecture. In today’s cosmopolitan world, the documentary on ‘Yugadrashtra’ produced by Swapnali Mahanta stands very relevant. Although Pitambar Dev Goswami headed a traditional institution like Satra, he was never motivated by social castigation because of his rock-solid views on emancipation of women through education, widow remarriage and compassion towards animals.
The audience was further energised by the former Director General of Assam Police, Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta’s lucid talk on the travel of Bhakti tradition in Assam underpinned by a humanistic approach. Citing examples from his real-life experiences in several Satras across the state, he further discusses its relevance in the modern era. The event had three talks by scholars centring on topics like the conservancy of Vaishnavite art forms through the perspective of Namghar, Customary Rehearsal System of Basanta Raas of Shri Govindaji Temple and the art of storytelling devoted to Vaishnavism among the Meiteis and its influence on the oral tradition of the Muslims in Manipur. It was chaired by Dr. Rituparna Bhattacharya and Dr. Suvrokamal Dutta followed by constructive inputs. The valedictory session witnessed the gracious presence of Mrinalini Devi, former Vice President of Asam Sahitya Sabha through revisiting roots and survival of Vaishnavaite tradition.
A documentary on Pt. Hemchandra Goswami was also showcased during the event. Conceptualised by Dr. Naba Goswami on the history of preserving and propagating Assamese culture and language, this event not only provided valuable insights but surely developed a fertile ground to ignite an urge to work on the logical and rational techniques of understanding Vaishnavaite tradition in tandem with modern practices of sustainability. Prof. Sukanya Sharma was the organizing secretary of the conference and Dr. Faladrum Sharma and Dr. Priyanka Tamta were the joint organizing secretaries. Partha Pratim Dasgupta, Senior Fellow of IITG TIDF and a veteran from corporate sector was also present in the occasion.