Shankardeva: The singer, lyricist, musicologist of medieval India and the creator of Borgeet.


Borgeets are known as a devotional song of Vaishnava which has no resemblance with other songs of same series because of its unique exceptionality. The melody and the lyrical quality of Borgeets lead everyone to the transcendental oneness. Though the Borgeets are devotional in nature but some sociological revolutionary tendencies are also found in them.This article contains such subjects in detail.

Shankardeva: The singer, lyricist and musicologist of medieval India and the creator of Borgeet.
Deepak Bhuyan.

About the Singer Shankardeva


Music was totally an approach of spirituality in the medieval period of India. In the growth of such musical genres we find many forms of songs and music. The content of the lyrics and the style of music of medieval period was attached to the spiritualism alienating the enjoyment of lunatic success. In these categories we can count at least 4000 songs written during the period of 6th century to 12th century by the Vaishnavite Alluwars of Northern India and the Acharjyas. But in later period it has changed its nature and culture according to the depth and desires of modern assessments being assimilated with various stream of music such as Iranian, Afghanistani, Kasmiri and so on. Musicology`s history of medieval India relates that the period from 13th century to the last decades of 16th century, can be said as the corm of Indian music. It is observed that Sangeet Ratnakara, the great book on musicology was written during the said period. The medieval Indian music can be categorized as Northern Indian and Eastern Indian music where the names of musicians like Swami Haridas(1512 – 1607), Tansen(1506 – 1586) and Baiju Bhawra(1542 – 1613) is to be taken as performers and innovators of Northern Indian music and the name of the great Saint Shankardeva(1449 – 1568) is to be taken for the same cause of performance and innovation of Medieval Eastern Indian music. Swami Haridas, Tansen and Baiju Bhawra were almost contemporary musicians, instrumentalist and singers with Shankardeva. Shankardeva invented new raagas (melodic modes), taals (beats) and musical forms as well as the most valuable musical instrument Assamese Khol. The themes of his songs were based on spiritual attainment being backed by practical life.
The songs which were composed by Shankardeva is known as Borgeet among the people of Assam. Bar or Bor means superior and geet means the song. So Borgeet or Bargeet can be said as superior song, celestial, great or holy song. These are treated superior because of its spiritual content and classical melody. Borgeets are composed in Vajrawali language. Though the reason of naming the songs of Shankardeva as Borgeet is not apparent enough but it is popular with the said name. It is stated in the Guru Charit (a kind of Biographical writings) that Shankardeva composed 240 Borgeets. Kamala Gayan of Borpeta, a disciple of Shankardeva fetched the script of his master`s songs for practicing the same, but unfortunately Kamala Gayan`s house was caught by fire and the script of 240 Borgeets had totally burnt up. The Borgeets which are available now these are recalls of the persons practicing in that period. But the recollection of 240 Borgeets was not possible at all. Recollection of 34 Borgeets from the disciples of Shankardeva was made possible by Madhabdeva through which the said numbers of Borgeets are available till today. The name Borgeet was not mentioned by Shankardeva , it was a denotation of later period done by the disciples of Shankardeva for keeping his songs in a reverend position. In this context many scholars are giving comments to define Borgeet from their stand point but these are not perfectly explanatory of the subject concerned. Dr. Dilip Kr Dutta, Deptt. of Mathematics, Road island University, Kingstone America, elaborated that Borgeet means a stream of music devised by Shankardeva which was nurtured in later period by his disciples with more creations of such songs and music. The subject matter of these songs are Vaishnavite based on Shankarian culture. The comment of Dr. Dutta is acceptable from all sides of analytical view point. Shankardeva gave up the effort of composing Borgeets after the loss of his song`s script and advised Madhabdeva to compose on his design. Madhabdeva composed around 157 songs and later the other disciples increase its numbers with qualities of consequence. Today all the songs are known as Borgeet.
Borgeets are also known as a devotional song of Vaishnava which has no resemblance with other songs of same series because of its unique exceptionalies. The melody and the lyrical quality lead everyone to the transcendental oneness. There is no any hard and fast rule of instrumental accompaniment in Borgeet performance. However the use of instruments like khol, taal(cymbal), khuti taal (palm size cymbal), flutes are used in time of Borgeet performances. Shankardeva composed Borgeets depending on the situations faced by him as a man. When the Ahom king executed the capital punishment of his son in law Hari (Hari junwai) without having any crime, he composed the following Borgeet where the truth of Krishna culture is observed.
Xuna Xunare, xura bairi promana, nixasara nasha nidana
Rama nama jama samaraka xaji, xomodole koyali payana
Thata prokota patu kauti kauti kopi
Giri goro goro padoghawe I
Baridhi tiro tori kore guru toro giri
Dhari dhari Xomoroka dhawe II
Substance :- Listen O the enemy of Saint, the enhancer of darkness, listen the message of your decapitation. – Ram as the gigantic Yama (king of death) is coming to fight and in the marching steps of corers of monkey solders the hills and mountains are trembling.
Hata ghata bohu Bata biyapi
Chowgore berholi Lanka I
Guru Ghana Ghana ghuxo Ghorixana garjana
Shravane janamoya Shanka II
Substance :- Spreading over thousands of miles they are barricading the Lanka. In their gallops the hills and mountains are making sounds of thunders which make fearful to be heard.
Dhira bira xura Shekhara Raghava
Ravana tuwa pori jhampe I
Xura Nara Kinnara Phana dhara thara thara
Mahidhara taroxi prokampe II
Substance :- O Ravana , the great Hero Rama will jump on you and you will be killed. Deities, Men, Kinnar, the serpents and the owner of mountains all are trembling observing the fearful situation .
Andha mugudha dasakandha papo budha
Janokika shirata sorai I
Raghupati padaboro Dhara rajaniswara
Shankara kahotu upai II
Substance :- O block head, blind ,sinner and ten headed Ravana, carry Janaki (Sita) on your head and hand over to Lord Rama. O the God of darkness, submit yourself to the lotus feet of Raghupati , that`s the only way for you. Shankara says.
Borgeets are generally known as devotional songs of Vaishnavite culture. It carries the sense of devotion to the almighty surrendering everything of the worldly affairs. But observing some aspects of Borgeet it can be mentioned that the Borgeets of Shankardeva carries some other aspects too. After the loss of 240 Borgeets the discussions on thematic aspects of Shankardeva`s borgeet will not carry the essence of required mark. However it must be noted that all Borgeets are not entirely devotional in its nature. We get this essence in the above mentioned Borgeet. In the said Borgeet everyone will observes the explicit check of Shankardeva to the King because of his injustice, through depicting the story of Rama and Ravana, instead of devotion to the supreme. The subject matter and the expression of this Borgeet carry some aspects of socio-cultural alertness and the mournful result of Kings who practice injustice and inequality. The tune of antique Krishna culture showed by Srimad Bhagawat Geeta can be heard here too. As Geeta says:-
Yada Yadahi Dharmashya Glani Bhawati Bharata
Abuthanama Dharmashya Tadatmanam Srijamahyam
Paritranaya Sadhunam Binasaya sa Duskritam
Dharma Sansthapanathaya Sambhawami Youge Youge.
Substance :- When the righteousness declines and the unrighteousness captures power , to establish the righteousness and for destruction of evils, for the sake of Saints and Sermons, for the dissolution of devil minders, I myself take birth age after age.
So it must be stated here that there could have been more Borgeets like the stated, which were unfortunately burnt up. Borgeets are devotional in nature but some sorts of sociological revolutionary tendencies are also found in them. It was mentioned before that the themes of his songs were based on spiritual attainment being backed by practical life. It means that spirituality will have to be attained through pragmatic life not through escaping from it. We have an another important example in support of this fact. Shankardeva`s play Kaliya Damana gives us an allegorical expression of victory of people`s culture over anti-culture. Through the defeat of deleterious Kali (King Serpent) the fear of being imbalanced or fainted from base things like intolerance, impiety, cruelty has been removed and the domination of such power is encouraged. It is the Kaliya which resides in every man. On the other hand the Kaliya which creates unexpected and unbelievable atrocities in society depending on power and greed of unbounded gaining is also to be defeated by the uniting effort of mass people who will be known as Krishna in time of the battle against the evils. Be the victory of Krishna culture over all deeds of devils which obstruct the path of liberation. That`s the message carried by the Borgeets of Shankardeva in the lyrical form which shows the path of spiritual attainment through scientific social attachment and commitment.


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