Religions have been around for thousands of years. Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva of Assam is one such religious leader who reflected deeply on Vaishnavism. A polymath, Sankardeva was also a saint-scholar, poet, playwright, and social-religious reformer.
His Ekasarana Dharma thought (Krishna as the only God) seems discernible in his various works. Even though Sankardeva breathed his last in 1568, the neo-Vaishnavite religion which he propagated has left behind strong footprints in Assam.
Coming to religious scriptures, Khanikar Puthi (the copy of which is available only in Khanikar Village in Golaghat district of Assam) is a mix of kirtan ghosha written by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva and naam ghosha written by Mahapurush Madhavdeva. It is a magnificent holy book – pure truth with matchless value. This divine puthi, it is said, has a “divine touch” – unheard prayers are fulfilled.
Throwing light on the historical angle of the divine book, Bhobesh Baruah of Khanikar Village, who is the custodian of the puthi, stated, “Khanikar Puthi was written 500 years back during the days of Sankardeva in Xaasipaat (read Brajawali language). A skin of Xaasi tree was used for writing the puthi and the skin was properly treated with medicines to ensure that insects do not infest it. During the three Burmese (Maan) invasions of Assam between 1817 and 1826, it is said that the Burmese soldiers while plundering the villages found the Khanikar Puthi tied inside a bundle. Thinking that the bundle contained valuables, they bought it along with them and later when they discovered that it was only a religious book, they dumped the same at Khanikar Village in Misamara area of Golaghat district in Assam. Hence, the divine book came to be known as Khanikar Puthi. Nowhere in the religious book has it been mentioned as to who compiled the puthi.”
Purnima Baruah, daughter-in-law of Bhobesh Baruah, informed, “Only three copies of Khanikar Puthi are left – the kirtan and the gosha and one copy of the kirtan. One copy remains permanently in the Khanikar Puthi Namghar and a copy of the kirtan and the gosha travels all over Assam.” Misamara is a historically rich area. It is full of ponds dating back to the era of the kings, mot and maidam. The propagation of Vaishnavism and Sankari culture is also prevalent in the area.
Why does the Khanikar Puthi travel all over Assam? Bhabesh Baruah further informed, “People from all over the State have unflinching faith in the puthi. They believe that if the puthi is kept in their households for a day or two, unfulfilled wishes are fulfilled. People truly swear by the divine book – the stork has visited childless couples, delayed marriages have resulted in wedding bells ringing and several ailing people have got cured.”
Purnima Baruah further elaborated, “Since people consider the puthi to be very sacred, so, whenever any people or village/town namghars put in request asking for the religious text, people from Khanikar Village or nearby villages (bhakat-kind) carry the book on their heads by turns and walks all the way – be it to far off places like Guwahati or Duliajan or nearby places like Jorhat. The same counts even for villages or namghars – far-flung corners of Assam or places skirting Khanikar Village. The puthi is never carried in a vehicle as a mark of reverence. When night dawns, the bhakats stay in the various namghars.”
Says Mahendra Khound, a retired planter who has settled in Golaghat, “The puthi is considered very sacred. During the time of examinations, students can be seen flocking to the Khanikar Puthi Namghar to offer their prayers.” Pinky Khound, a teacher of DPS Numaligarh, said that the people who carry the puthi on their heads never get tired though they walk such long distances. Shantanu Hazarika, another planter of Golaghat area, said that he has seen many a times people bowing in reverence whenever the sacred book is carried by the bhakats on their heads. Lore has it that the forefathers of the Baruah household kept the puthi in their prayer room since the Maan aggression and such was the effect of the holy book, that even if rice was cooked, “it became double the amount cooked”.
Arun Bikash Baruah, husband of Purnima Baruah, puts in, “The respective households/namghars, who put in requests for the holy book, pay the people who carry the puthi on their heads by turns. People keep the puthi in their house for a day or two and read the holy text the whole night. Naam/kirtan is also performed night long and a lot of rituals have to be observed while keeping the religious scripture.”
He further stated that the Khanikar Puthi has been sourced by people from all over Assam – Guwahati, Nagaon, Kaziranga, Kohora, Jagiroad, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, areas in and around Golaghat, Jorhat, Moran, Teok, Sivasagar, Nazira, Amguri, Duliajan and Dibrugarh.
His wife Purnima remarked, “The tradition of sourcing the puthi dates 500 years back. But, of late, people’s faith in the holy book has grown even more as their wishes are getting fulfilled. The copies of the holy book are hardly there in the Khanikar Puthi Namghar and have been booked till July 2019.” The Baruah household maintains a register wherein people who come asking for the holy book have to put in all details.
The Khanikar Puthi Namghar was set up in the year 1997 and the Khanikar Puthi was formally kept in the Namghar in the year 2000. Every day people throng the namghar due to the “divine effect” of the puthi. It is said that the heavenly book is the most influential book not only in the Missamara area but in the whole of Assam – miracle with no equal, beyond the capacity of human.