Two lesser known ancient holy shrines of the north-east which have withstood the test of time to tell tales of the love story of Rukmini-Krishna. In this two part series we talk about Basudev Thaan
By Dr. Monideepa Das | Photographs by Sikha Bora
I have observed that the most common response evoked among people living in different parts of India at the mention of my home state Assam, is associating it as the land of the Kamakhya Temple – a Shakti Peeth dedicated to the worship of Mother Goddess Kamakhya, a divine form of Goddess Parvati. I have become more acutely aware of this ever since I moved out of Assam a decade back.
However, almost every district of Assam boasts of temples and holy shrines about which less has been told and even lesser documented. Most of these temples are associated with fascinating legends that are related to Indian mythology, predominantly the two epics or have bearings of historical facts. A few such legends may have been woven around local incidents or perhaps been fabricated.
Hindu mythology tells many stories about Lord Krishna’s daring escapades involving his marriage to Goddess Rukmini, his queen consort. Basudev Thaan and Malinithan / Malini Thaan are two ancient holy shrines located in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh respectively; both are related to the legends of ‘Rukmini-Krishna’.
SHRI SHRI BASUDEV THAAN is a highly revered, ancient temple situated in the Subansiri Tehsil of North Lakhimpur district in Assam, near Dhakuakhana – a historic town. The name Basudev Thaan (pronounced ‘Baaxudeb’ in Assamese) comes from the fact that the temple is dedicated to the worship of Lord Vishnu. Basudev is another name of Krishna/Narayan/Vishnu.
The Basudev Thaan was originally established in 14th century by the Chutia king Satyanarayan who donated the plot of land to Narayan Dwij for the purpose of Bishnu puja. The history of Basudev Thaan as told by Satriya Atul Chandra Deva Goswami Dev is that the idol of Basudev-Krishna was made way back in Dwapar Yug by the radiant and adorned princess Rukmini, daughter of King Bhismaka of Vidarbha, as an expression of her love and her desire to marry Lord Krishna.
But Rukmini’s brother Rukmi, wanted her to marry his friend Shishupala. However, pleased by her single-minded devotion, Lord Krishna abducted Rukmini at her behest and married her despite many hurdles and thus made her his first queen consort. Thereafter, the idol stood in Bhismaka Rajya as a testimony of the fulfillment of Rukmini’s love for Lord Krishna.
The Ahom king Jayadhwaj Singha heard about the glory of the idol and he wanted to establish it in his own Ahom kingdom. So, in mid-17th century during the later part of Kali Yug, he designated Damodar Aata, the grandson of Srimanta Shankardev, with the responsibility of relocating the idol of Basudev-Krishna from Kundil Nagara, Bhishmaka Rajya to Assam.
According to the legend, Lord Krishna appeared in King Jayadhwaj Singha’s dream prior to the shifting of the idol.
The Lord himself gave his consent for the relocation of his idol provided it was ceremonially established at a particular location known as the Subarna Peeth. The idol was thus brought to Assam by Damodar Aata and the temple was established by the Subansiri River. This shrine came to be known as Laumura Satra.
However, in the unfortunate event of destruction of the temple due to erosion by the river, the idol was subsequently shifted to the present site by Ramakanta Aata, son of Damodar Aata, where it came to be known as Narua Satra, (‘Na-’ means not and ‘-rua’ means staying/existing’). The shrine was so named because of the inconsistency of its site; having passed through many hands and lands.
The popular prevailing belief is that Basudev-Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu fulfils the wishes of all who offer prayers at this holy shrine. Hence, people from across the state come here to offer their prayers to Lord Krishna, the Dwapar Avatar of Lord Vishnu, thereby making Basudev Thaan a very popular place of worship.
On arrival, one cannot miss the numerous shops which provide dry ‘prasad’ items (maah-proxaad) and fresh fruits along with other puja essentials such as diyas and agarbatti (saaki-bonti, dhoop-dhunaa) and Gaamosaa. There is a large parking area for vehicles near the first gate. A little distance ahead, a beautifully sculptured gate (turon) welcomes visitors into the temple-complex. As per ritual, visitors wash their hands and feet at a tube well before proceeding to the entrance of the Naamghor.
It is heartening to see ladies dressed in Mekhelaa Saador – the traditional attire of Assam. Men and women alike invariably drape a Gaamosaa around the neck as the quintessentially Assamese symbol of respect.
Inside the Naamghor, on the left side close to the entrance, there is a counter where the offerings for the ‘xoraai’ are handed over. There is a special room known as ‘Saaki Joluwaa Ghor’ where ‘diyas’ and ‘agarbattis’ are lit by the visitors.
It is extremely common to catch sight of a very long queue of people lined up to catch a glimpse of and seek blessings from the idol of Basudev-Krishna, hosted in a sacred portion of the temple. If one reaches very early he/she may be fortunate to find a place in the front part of the long queue. Naam-kirtan takes place in the large Naamghor.
A matter of significance about Basudev Thaan which is worth mentioning is that, instead of mixing salt to the prasad (proxaad) which is the common tradition at Basudev Thaan, the prasad is mixed with sugar instead. This has become a signature tradition of Basudev Thaan and has been maintained over the years.
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Dr. Monideepa Das, with a Post-Graduate degree in Medicine from Assam Medical College Dibrugarh, she is a Physician by profession and a homemaker by choice. Penning down thoughts, ideas, experiences and travelogues is her passion. Travelling and cooking are her other deep interests.