Sankaradeva—The Great Integrator

Due to the all-inclusive nature of the Sankaradeva Movement, the bond of friendship and fraternity among the tribals, such as the Tibeto-Burman peoples, and races, became solid and firm and the Assamese society became more extensive. In enumerating the tribes sanctified by the company of Vaisnavas in his translation of some of the verses of the Bhagavata Purana, Sankaradeva replaces the unfamiliar tribes by the tribes living in Assam. This was a response to the dharmic orthodoxy who had closed the door of salvation to the sudras, the outcastes and the tribals. He writes:

kirāta kachāri khāsi gāro miri yavana kanka govāla acama maluka rajaka turuka kuvāca mleccha candāla āno pāpi nara krishna sevakara sangata pavitra haya bhakati labhiyā samsāra tariyā vaikuntha sukhe labhaya

The original sloka:

kirata hunandhra pulinda pukkasa abhira kanka yavanakhasadayah yo anya ca papa yadurpasrayasrayah uddhayanti tasmai prabhavisnave namah

Sankaradeva’s religion embraced all peoples of society. His movement was indeed cosmopolitan and the Guru had Brahmins as also Muslims as pupils. One particular day each year in the Camariyā Sattra, there is a tradition of Hindus and Muslims partaking of the holy offering or prasada from the same basin.

These pleasingly positive traits of the Assamese social setup would not have been there but for the enduring benign influence of the greatest son of Assam, Srimanta Sankaradeva.

He unified the diverse racial, social and cultural elements with his wonderful capacity for synthesis. And it was he again who had imbued the newly-welded society with the spirit of liberalism and open-heartedness that have stood the test of time.