Carit Tola - Narration of the Saint's Biography
There is a custom, prevalent amongst the Vaisnavite devotees of Assam, especially in the Satras, to discuss or read a few chapters from the biography of their Guru . This is done just after the recitation of the Holy Name (nama-kirtana) according to their daily routine. The elder monks (budha bhakats) read aloud the passages from the biographies of Sankaradeva and the other assembled members, consisting of the other bhakats and the laity, listen in rapt attention.
This custom, known as carit tola, was traditionally handed down to the budha bhakats, but who introduced the custom and when and how ?
The Origin of the Custom
During the lifetime of Sankaradeva, only the incarnatory deeds of Lord Krishna were related after the recital of the Holy Name. In one of the biographies, it is said :
From Batadrava (Bardowa) to Patbausi the procedure was this: After the recital of the Holy Name, the devotees asked about the incarnatory deeds of Krishna and Balabhadra. Saint Sankaradeva discussed with them the ten and twenty - two incarnations of Krishna alongwith the activities of His brother Balabhadra and they listened to it in rapt attention and with great devotion.
But after Sankaradeva, according to his direction, it is said in the biography, Madhavadeva began to narrate the biography of his preceptor Sankaradeva, amongst the devotees, after their daily recitals.
Thenceforth the system came to be prevalent in the Vaisnavite monasteries of Assam and the telling of the story of the Guru and listening to it became a part of the daily religious duty of the Satra clerics,
A living tradition was thus created, and this has brought down to us many of the minutest details of the lives of the Master and his apostles.