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Naamghar- Assam’s Centre of Harmony & Social Transformation

Naamghar- Assam’s Centre of Harmony & Social Transformation


A unique system of motivation, devotion and disciplined assembly in a designated prayer hall of a village, locality or town is what defines the crux of the Naamghar culture of Assam

Assam–the very word rings in vivid pictures of lush tea gardens, beautiful valleys and landscapes, oil fields, bamboo, national parks, silk, rich handlooms, ancient temples and the mighty river Brahmaputra.

For the uninitiated, Assam’s culture and tradition lies beyond Bihu dance and woven Eri-Muga silk – the valley has a notable religious philosophy “Ekasarana” and its centre “the Naamghar” that is the DNA of its society.

Of course, there’s much more to it for an explorer’s mind to learn about this north-eastern state that has its footprints in history since the Stone Age.

The people of the state – the Assamese community are known world-wide and around the country for their calm demeanour, simplicity, rich traditional and cultural constitution and deep-seated faith in community service.

Congregational worship or Naam at Bangalore Naamghar

All of these are mark of a society that has evolved with time and grown stronger bonds with the diaspora now spread across several continents and far off states within the country.

The central dogma of unity within any community doesn’t just lie with their proven ability to embrace and adapt to various cultures but also the streamlined effort to hold on to the foundational culture and faith and enhance it amidst modernism.

A unique system of motivation, devotion and disciplined assembly in designated prayer hall of a village, locality or town is what defines the crux of the Naamghar culture of Assam.

Naamghar which literally means Prayer House is a place of congregational worship in Assam where men and women assemble to hail the Supreme Being in the form of Lord Krishna and focus on Bhakti –based singing of Naam or devotional songs.

Naamghar or Kirtan ghar is the true representation of the  general make-up of most of the Assamese community that have been created with a futuristic idea of creating awareness in social, political and cultural  demands of the state, in a peaceful for-the-people approach.

The weaving of a social structure always has its roots deep in the past with massive contribution from social reformers and their tales of struggle to show light to the common man and the underprivileged section of the society.

Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva, one of such greats is the founder of the neo- Vaishnavite philosophy named Ekasarana Dharma, literary meaning of which is “Shelter in One Religion”, established and propagated the Naamghar-culture in Assam.

Naamghars not only function as centers of worship but serves as stronghold of social reformation and cultural activities like the Bhaona or dramatic performances based on the life and teachings of Lord Krishna .

They form the main functional hall amongst other structurally important construction in Sattras or monasteries of the Ekasarana religion.

The devotees or Bhakats offer prayers inside the Naamghar, paying their obeisance towards a small room named “Manikut” where all the holy scripts as well as the triangular shaped seven-tiered Guru-asana (symbolic sacred seat for the Guru) is placed, adorned by the traditional “Phulam gamusa” at its centre.

Naam at Bangalore Naamghar

Naamghars have had tremendous impact in bringing about social transformation and welcomed people from all backgrounds, thereby abolishing casteism, the much prevalent social evil in our country. Repulsion of animal sacrifice, the Brahman-tatva and non-idol worshipping marks the key elements of this philosophy till date.

The Bhakti movement that emanated from this ideology gave rise to new forms of literature, music (known as Borgeet), theatre(Ankiya naat) and Krishna-centric dance, popularly known as Sattriya, a major Indian classical form.

Naamghars follow a religious text written in Assamese script known as Srimad Bhagawat of Mahapuruxh Sankardeva based on the ancient Sanskrit scripture. This book has also been augmented by two other books of holy songs, Kirtan Ghoxa written by Mahapuruxh Sankardeva and Naam Ghoxa written by his disciple Mahapruxh Madhabdev.

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Devotional songs from these books are sung with a special tune by men and women, attired in their traditional dress of mekhela chador for ladies and Dhuti for men with a compulsory Assamese gamusa worn around their necks.

Such chantings or singing, often referred to as Naam and are accompanied by musical instruments like the Khol and Jaaptaal.

Well then, what’s the big deal?!!

It is the massive united human force bound by this strong philosophy that comes in the forefront when any natural calamity befalls the state and the country. The recent pandemic Covid-19 that has dislodged many Assam residents from other states of India, found relief coming from this institutionalized force in the form of all-possible initiative to rehabilitate the worst affected.

Srimanta Sankardeva’s vision of uniting the Assamese community for a larger benefit cannot be better exemplified than this and how……

That’s  a story for another day!


With inputs, photographs and video from Mrs. Pranjoli Baishya Pathak, Joint Secretary, Sreemanta Sankardeva Cultural Society, Bangalore

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