Madhavadeva: Biography [1]

Madhavadeva was born to Govindagiri and Manoramā Devi, in Jyaistha, 1411 Saka (May-June, 1489 AD) in a village at a small distance from the town of Nārāyanpur, in the present district of Lakhimpur, Assam. The name of the birth-place of Madhavadeva is Ujir’s Tol, Rangājān, situated in Lakhimpur’s Bihpuriā.

Intelligent and good-natured from his childhood, Madhava was loved by everybody around him. He spent a gay and playful early life while living with Harisingā Barā’s family. He was so sharp-witted, fearless and good-hearted that people believed him to be a child with super-natural powers. Madhava often accompanied the Barā (the Ujir) and showed his skill in helping collection of taxes from the villagers.

Early Life in Adversity

Govindagiri who had moved to a new house in the village, was struck with a disease (jikāri), and his small savings were soon exhausted. Moreover, there was a devastating famine in the country. As a consequence, the family was plunged into poverty and Govindagiri found himself wandering from place to place in search of succour. Madhavadeva, then but a boy, tried to support the family on his own strength. The early days of Madhavadeva passed in adversity and was full of struggle. The family found it very difficult to stay at Leteku-pukhuri, where they had no relatives to come to their aid.

Often the family had to live by begging, particularly during the time of the famine. Sometimes they had to satisfy their hunger by eating wild fruits. The ill-health of his father meant that young Madhava had to put his shoulders in a manly way to the yoke of maintenance of the family by his own labour. In such a state of helplessness, he along with his ailing father, went to the doors of his relatives in the hope of getting some relief, but the cold reception disappointed them. Finding no way out, Govindagiri took his family eastward to Hābung where an old friend of his, the boatman Ghāghari Mājhi, welcomed him with delight. The poor family at last found warm shelter and their bad days seemed gradually to come to an end.

Govindagiri stayed with the Mājhi for several years. Madhavadeva, now in his youth, engaged himself in cultivation of various crops on the advice of the Mājhi. The Mājhi arranged the function of Madhavadeva’s upanayana in a joyful atmosphere; the festival covered complete five days. Madhava’s sister, Urvasi, was born at the Mājhi’s house, and soon attained marriageable age. Govindagiri collected some money and left the Mājhi’s house in search of a Kāyastha village as it was now time to find out a groom for young Urvasi. Madhavadeva was now in his nineteenth year.

The family rowed down the Brahmaputra and stayed in Rautā-Tembuāni, where the girl was married to Gayāpāni, a noble Bhuyan (Kāyastha) youth of Hokorākuci. She would become the mother of Rāmacarana, the earliest biographer of Sankaradeva and a great personality of the Neo-Vaisnavite Movement. Gayāpāni took his father-in-law’s family to his own house. Sometime after this, Govindagiri and Madhava, now in his twenties, went to Bāndukā.