By Dr Rajiv Chandra Dev Goswami
Xatras of Assam are always known as home for serenity, the hub of traditiol Assamese knowledge and immensely serving society to sustain our rich heritage, culture and religion. It is the persistent effort by Xatras to unite this greater Assamese society through “Ek Sara am Dharma”; i.e. through the Vaishva religion”. Xatras of Assam are constantly projecting our vast Assamese society with an unparallel legacy and playing a crucial role in promoting music, art, culture, dance and traditions of Assam. These spiritual institutions provide the cultural base to promote Vaishava religion with the essence of am Dharma and Vakti Dhara (The serving attitude) with its beautiful sacred orments including Xattriya music and Borgeets to praise mighty lord Vishnu. But it is very unfortute that today Xatras of Assam are facing massive trouble of struggle for existence for severe land encroachment, flood issues, including avoidance and lack of strong plans and policies by Government. The head of a Xatra is the Xattradhikar/ Adhikar, who is the principal authority and there exists a Xatriya committee, sometimes by devotees and disciples of Xatra, for its smooth running. The Xatras are actually self sufficient divine institutions having its own Vakatas or disciples/devotees, who live under Xatriya culture and influence to promote Vaishva religion among all the people from different social background. The Xatras of Assam are regularly practicing and promoting Vaishva traditions and stands out by delivering a key role in the present society by providing an ambiance for spirituality and devotion toward Lord Vishnu.
It is unfortute that we see a few major flaws in Government policies and future perspectives, regarding welfare and advancement of Xatras of Assam. From ancient days a lot of youths and students are taking active vibrant roles participating in Xatriya music, art and dance including “Bhaos” (religious plays/dramas). But in reality, the graph of involvement of many brilliant Assamese youths in Xatriya culture is declining. We feel, this detachment is may be due to the lack of recognized certificate courses from Xatras and Government appointed permanent eminent faculties/trainers/Xatriya individuals for Xatra, who may guide, direct and conduct these religious activities among the youths. But more often it is seen that a few regular time bound workshops/semirs, which are funded by various funding agencies are held in Xatras. Besides the Adhikars, there are no permanently employed, Government salaried and recognized teaching/training facilities available or appropriately designed academic courses/syllabuses prepared or made available by the Government for all Xatras of Assam. As a result, we sense that if a child, who has Xatriya background or descendents of a Xatradhikar, may have two options presently; number one, he may come out of Xatra for higher education for academic purpose and have degrees up to university level to get an employment and establish in our self-styled civic society or he may completely dedicate and contribute his life towards Xatriya religion, practicing and performing Xattryia inheritance through all its orments and devotion with concrete commitment. So the question arises here is, what is the trend line of Xatra traditions and its influence today? If our youths are in fact sensitively involved with Xatra? Or maintaining the dignity, pride and prestige of being a Xatriya Gossain/devotee/disciple? But surprisingly, why would a child would choose to remain in Xatriya influence, if there is no or minimal scope for fincial security for his family in future. Lastly ignorance from Government, is this not punishing for his family too? It is mentioble that most of the Xattradhikars/Adhikars including the disciples, who follow doctrine of Sankarian neovaishvism, are deprived of Government funds, scholarships, salaries or pension schemes.
Earlier Xatras are bestowed with massive land resources, which were proven by copper plates doted by many Ahom kings and Xatras earn their income through cropping fields, vegetations, fisheries and dairies from domestic cows, buffalos, goats etc. But today the scerio differ and depicts that major number of Xatras are under the grip of severe land encroachments, flood issues and robbery cases, due to improper fencings, boundary walls, security facilities. There are loss of valuable ancient writings, books, priceless architects, invaluable wooden and clay objects, due to improper storage and no scientific preservation till date. Many Xatras are under the threat of extinction, as there is no body to look after and lack of interest concerning Xattriya culture is becoming lethal due to indecent policies by Government. The economic conditions of majority of Xatras are so devastating that Xatradhikars, disciples are deprived of basic human amenities like health and ambulance facilities, provision of 24 hrs help line numbers, regular healthy diet for the family members, well connectivity to the outer world, invitations/intimations to various global/tiol religious functions, semirs, workshops etc. Lastly they deprived of a secured fincial status, equipped with touch of information and technology to promote the Vaishva religion worldwide.
Government policies may include identification and recognition of major Xatras of Assam, which are fincially sound having adequate land resources and tourism prospects. They may take in certificate/degree courses for Xatriya music, art, dance, including acting, direction, script writings for Bhaos, reading/writing brajawalis and awarding Government recognized degrees for various Xatriya courses, which may be equivalent to college or University degree level. A student may thus avoid the insecurity and uncertainty he faces, while residing in Xatra. It’s a brutal truth that there is no reservation in academics and Government jobs for students, who have Xatriya ancestry and background, as they are regarded as higher caste. There should be a separate Government branch under cultural department and proper listing of major Xatras so that other minor Xatras with minimal land resources and man power may be included or undertaken by these main/major Xatras. The Government policies should include not only infrastructure development but also the technology input like internet facilities, surveillance cameras, and easy connectivity with police and administrations including periodic training programs for all disciples and devotees. It is also though provoking that if a few more Xatras can be made tourism and heritage sites; then also the present threatening survival status of many Xatras can be avoided as they are always known for keeping many historically significant materials/objects/scripts, which are useful for research purpose too.
Possibilities also include, if Xatra,s land resources may be granted with Government loans and youths could be engaged in cropping, fisheries and dairy industries, so that a Xatra can run smoothly without any economic crisis. If Xatras are regarded as institutions today then what is the Government’s future vision about Xatra? As it’s a complete dilemma whether Xatra is just a place to visit, worship and to give offering to god or it’s a place of serenity, where one can learn, practice and feel the sacred duties, gather knowledge about our history, heritage and traditions with the touch of spirituality. Why there is no survey, work plan and policies to recover deprived Xatras to save its tranquility and existence? There should be proper scientific survey and solution for flood and land encroachment related issues. Proper scientific preservations for all ancient antique items and properties of Xatras are too necessary. As the caste system prevails in our society then what should be the Government’s plan for children and youths, who belong to Satra; are they getting any priority or advantages in schools, colleges, Universities or in Government jobs? If Xatriya people are higher caste and are blue blooded then why they are seems suffering. Son of a Xatradhikar will not get a loan or credit from bank or Government by simply projecting his ancestral contributions and his belonging to Xatra. Grass root level of studies regarding fincial status of these Xatriya families may leave us in an astonishing outcome. Most of the families are devoid of a bank account and information and technology are far away from them.
The children born and bought up under Xatra environment should have an advantage in academics or they should have certificates of art, dance and music from a Government recognized board/committee/authority held by Xatra. It seems shocking that their ancestral contribution in creating and unifying this greater Assamese society by stupendous cultural and spiritual base is acknowledged through giving a dark future ahead. If Xatriya students do not obtain high marks and fight more, the present system will simply reject them. So the question arises, why people will engage in Xatriya heritage and confined to the territory of Xatra by learning all Xatriya skills and religious duties without any pay and due acknowledgment? Or should he come out and establish himself in corporate society for his own existence for fincial security of his family.
In spite of all anomalies, we feel proud to be a part of Xatra and its legacy. We sense the value of Xatra with all its multidimensiol contributions in Assamese society. But if this trend of detachment of youths towards Xatra continues, then surely the Xatras scattered all over the state will disappear gradually. Educated youths, young talents and creative minds will not be engaged and concerned further with this remarkable habitat of spirituality and heritage initiated by the saint Srimanta Sankardeva and will exist only in history books.
Our philosophy, spirituality, cultural knowledge and mere dedication towards sacred duties are always intellectual. Nobody wears a badge that Government can instantly identify one’s talents, abilities, creativity and giving the opportunity to sustain his life in a prominent way. Reality is, a lot of youths including sons and daughters of Xatradhikars are getting away from Xatra by going to distant places for job purpose and moreover there is no such altertive that Xatra may have adequate earning sources in future. Xatriya people and disciples who are actively involved in Xatriya practice, are seemed to deprived of Government schemes and facilities due to the improper policies and plans. Is it a hint, why avoidance, lack of interest and divergence of our youth from getting attached to Xatriya legacy?