What is a Namghar
Namghar is a congregation of devotees singing the name of Gods. In the state of Assam Namghar is present in every village, town or cities. The main feature of a Satra is Namghar. It is an identity of Assamese culture and has made Sankardeva’s religion a Living Religion in Assam.
Namghar is generally a large open hall for offering mass prayers. The actual shrine where the sacred scripture is kept is called Manikut.
The Assamese word ‘Namghar’ is formed with two main word phrases. One is ‘Nam’ and the other is ‘Ghar’. ‘Nam’ consists of the meaning of prayer to Hindu’s supreme God ‘Vishnu’ and ‘Ghar’ consists of the meaning of the house (where prayer is done). Simply, in one short sentence, it consists of the prayer house, where people come to pray to Lord Vishnu.
Namghar’s Contribution to society
The Namghar is a living institution and for over 500 years, its impact on Assamese society and culture has been tremendous. It diffused a high degree of enlightenment among the masses of the people. It should be noted that Vaishnavism in Assam is a religion as well as an institution, and even today, it exercises a very great and good influence on the social and communal life of the Assamese people. The doors of the Namghar are open to all, no matter what caste or gender one belongs to
Namghar as Village Panchayat
Namghar not only acts as a religious place but also as a place where problems of life, philosophy and are discussed and debated; and the village people learn here what they did not know before and receive new ideas and experiences. The Nāmghars served and are serving still now, as a panchayat-hall, where the villagers gather also to discuss many current problems of the village and community life and political as well as economic and social subjects. This institution helps to impart unity to Assamese village life.
Through this blog we shall highlight one very famous and revered namghar called the Bharali Namghar.
Watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szwld-Vmu_Y&t=28s
Situated at Hatbar, Bharali village, 67 km away from Nagaon district , 37km from Tezpur district and 5km from Jakholabandha. As the history goes, this Namghar was burnt down during Burmese invasion of Assam and was rebuilt by the local people
One interesting facet of this Namghar is that the ‘laikhuta’ , the pain pillar, is made from Tulsi tree (Holy Basil). One belief is- if you pray for a wish, your prayer won’t go unanswered. We will not verify the veracity of this belief but it has been in existence since time in memorial.
Magh Purnima or Makar Sankranti is considered as a very auspicious day and scores of people gather here to pray to fulfil their wishes.
Spirituality lies in the sound of Doba and Borkaah(instruments to play during prayer) that removes negative power and welcomes the positive. To perform ‘Naam-Prasanga'(communal prayer)and ‘Bhaona'(theatrical performance) in Srimanta Sankardeva(Vaishnava guru) Tithi (observatory day)and Shree Shree Madavdeva (Vaishnava guru and disciple of Srimanta Sankardev)Tithi is a tradition in Bharali Naamghar. If folklores are to be believed there are many such instances here and the stories are – if a child is unable to walk in time people offer bamboo stick to the Naamghar, if someone lost his cow people offer Diya(oil lamp), as a remedy of late marriage devotees visit with Diya and Sarai(raw fruits,Maah -Prasad as offering). We won’t debate if this is correct or incorrect but lets live with the stories and also tell our future generation. Even there are certain myths which are beyond the understanding of Science.
Last but not the least, Bharali Namghar is the melting point of different cultures. Bharali Nammghar is a well known pilgrimage for the people in Assam. To strengthen religious harmony and mingling of different religions including Hindu, Muslim, Christianity, Sikh in a religious site, to feel the strength in unity, to see Assamese culture Bharali Naamghar is the right place to visit.
Photos contributed by Priyanka and Vidyut