Sarana and Bhajana: From Scientific Perspective

Joyraj Kalita

Sarana and Bhajana are two initiation ceremonies of the Vaisnavas of Assam commonly known as the Sankaris or Mahapurushiyas. The Sarana ceremony is regarded as an entry to the Mahapurushiya sect. The word Sarana traces it origin to the Bhagavad Gita (18.66) where it is found:

sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah

Sarana is different from Diksa as Sarana gives more importance to complete surrender to the Supreme Godhead and listening to (Sravana) and reciting (Kirttana) of the Lord’s Name. According to Ramacarana Thakura, after the staging of the Cihna Yatra, many aspirants came up to be initiated:

bolanta amaka tumi sarana karayo nama guru bhakta deva amaka dekhayo

Sankaradeva immediately translated the text from the Tenth Canto of Bhagavata Purana as the Gopi Uddhava Samvada. This Text was placed in the altar to initiate the neophytes to the Cari-Vastu or the Four Reals.

Bhajana or second initiation is followed after Sarana. Senior devotees are initiated into Bhajana. Similarly, in some Satras, third, fourth initiation (saru-bhagi-mala-vastu, bar-bhagi-mala-vastu) are also followed.

After Sankaradeva, many new factors were included which made Sarana and Bhajana not only a gateway to the Lord but also to hygienic and healthy practices.

In various Satras the rituals of Sarana are different, varying across different sub-sects or samhatis; still, many practices followed by the Bhaktas are found to be common.

I have tried to focus on some of them in brief:

There are many other practices followed by the Bhaktas, differing across Satras and samhatis. Unknowingly these were all based on scientific principles. Though today most of these have been edited or omitted, following a minimum standard would surely help the devotee live in a better, healthy way.

[For other documents and articles on the Sankaradeva Movement, visit]