Early Life of Madhavadeva
An outstanding figure of Assamese Vaisnavite movement is Madhavadeva, the favourite disciple of Sankaradeva. He blazed across the literary firmament of Assam, a spectacular phenomenon. He was born in 1492 at Letekuphkhuri in Lakhimpur. He was originally a Sakta, but when he came in contact with Sahkaradeva, the latter completely won him over to his cult. From then Madhavadeva became Sahkaradeva's shadow, his most accomplished and faithful follower. The Vaisnavite movement gained a great impetus by his conversion, for in him was a remarkable force of intellect and strength of character, imperative requisites for a great social and religious-reformer. A master of the traditional learning of the time, he was also a mellifluous singer. Almost against the wishes of Sankaradeva Madhavadeva remained a celibate throughout his life, and his ideal brought into being a monastic order called Kewaliyas (life-celibates)
Contribution of Madhavadeva
In fact Madhavadeva is regarded as the real founder of the Satra institution, for he placed it on a firmer footing and introduced a very rigorous and disciplined monastic code. Further, he advocated complete allegiance to his guru Sahkaradeva, and enjoined the vow of chastity and poverty. After Sahkaradeva's death, when the apostolic mantle fell on him, the rigorous monastic life strictly enjoined by Madhavadeva on all aca ryas and disciples became a cause of rift and schism in the Mahapurushiya community. The first literary work of Madhavadeva is Janmarahasya, a small poem on the creation and destruction of the world based on the Puranic theory.
He was an uncommon singer and composer, an innovative choreographer, as well as an actor and writer-producer of Vaishnava mythological drama. Arjuna-bhanjana i.e. 'Uprooting the arjuna Trees', Chordbam i.e. 'Thief-catching', Pimpara-guchuwa i.e. 'Removing the Ants', Bhushana-herowa i.e. 'Losing the Ornaments', and Bhumi-letowa i.e. 'Besmearing Mud' are the plays written by him. A few others ascribed to him are of doubtful authorship. Only one, Arjuna-bhanjana, is in the full-fledged Ankiya Nat format. The rest belong to a less elaborate sub-genre called Jhumura.
Some hagiographic biographies describe Madhavadeva's staging of a few other plays, the texts of which are not available. Nrisimha-yatra or 'NrisirnhaYatra', Govardbana-yatra or 'Govardhana Yatra', and Rama-bhaona i.e. 'Enacting Rama' are some of them. In Nrisimba-yatra, for example, Madhavadeva himself took the role of Nrisimha, the Man-lion, and a turban dyed with puroi. Basella rubrri seeds were hidden under the jacket worn by the actor playing Hiranyakasipu. When Nrisimha pinned Hiranyakasipu down and took the red-dyed cloth out of his belly, people were shocked thinking that the Guru had killed the other man. With the production of these works the genius of Madhavadeva came of age. His writings ranged from the simplest and sweetest works of poetry to most difficult writings on abstruse metaphysical subjects. He marshalled all his varied powers born of his penetrative intellect, comprehensive knowledge and deep erudition to establish Sankaradevas' system on a firm and secure foundation.
Life View of Madhavadeva
Madhavadeva outlived Sankaradeva by twenty-eight years, during which he mostly stayed at Ganakkuchi and Sundaridiya Satras close to the principal Satra at Barpeta. Here, Madhavadeva came into conflict with Raghudeva, king of the Eastern Koch Kingdom. It was reported to the king that Madhavadeva was preaching against the worship of Kamaksya, the guardian deity of the Koch kings. So Raghudeva brought him to his court at Vijayanagara as a prisoner. The allegations, however, proved false and the preceptor was released with due respect. Madhavadeva, thereafter, stayed for some time at Hajo, near the present Hayagriva Madhava temple. But here also he could not live in peace on account of the hostile activities of both the King and the Brahmanas, and therefore left for Cooch Behar, the capital of the Western Koch Kingdom ruled then by Laksminarayana, son of Naranarayana.
King Laksminarayana received him with due honour and got him and his disciples settled at childhood. He says that whenever there is deep and unalloyed love, there is the Lord's true worship. There is something in the small face of the child which captivates one and all. He says that whenever there is deep and unalloyed love, there is the Lord's true worship. There is something in the small face of the child which captivates one and all. This attempt to grapple with Beauty has often led men into forest recesses. Yogis have given up food and rest in search of this Beauty. But the mother gets that ambrosial and peerless Beauty in the face of the slip of a thing in her lap. In these songs, therefore, Yasoda's son becomes merged with one's own son; the universal is reduced to the particular. The Lord of heaven has deliberately merged himself in the human child only to draw us nearer to Himself.
Madhavadeva came to be a very popular figure in the Vaisnavite movement through his Bar Gits. His piety found full expression in these impassioned devotional songs. Many of his Bargits strike deep notes of contrition and humility born of knowledge of the original sin, and of the spirit of self-surrender and consecration which alone can purge off the sin. Some of them contain idyllic descriptions of Vrnda: van with Child Krsna as the focus. These lyrics of Madhavadeva furnish lovely portraits of the childhood and adolescence of Krishna, and they reflect the thoughts and sentiments which animate childhood and youth. The supernatural and extraordinary personality of the Lord Krishna of the Bhagavata becomes quite human and simple in these Bargits. The incidents in Child Krishna's life, associated as they were with Nature's beauty, here become more lively and apposite
The model of the performance hall of the Namghar type developed out of the rangiyal ghar i.e. ranga-griha or 'theatre-house' or natuwa-ghar or 'players' room'. This was first built by Madhavadeva after Sankaradeva's death. The pillars, lintels, and walls were decorated with carvings and other embellishments, features found in many a Namghar even today. Madhavadeva died in 1596.
(Last Updated on : 09-04-2013)
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