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Sankaradeva is to be particularly valued as a poet for his devotional songs included in his Kīrttana Ghośā and Bõrgīts. Amongst the 189 kīrttanas, each of which has a ghośā or refrain, there are songs which are some of the finest things in Assamese poetry. As a whole, they constitute the “Psalter of Assamese Vaiśnavism”. Philosophically, they are among the best of the religious poetry of medieval India. In the Kīrttana Ghośā, beginning as “trāhi Rāma, nirākāra, niranjana Hari”, the saint affirms:

Thou art in animals and birds, gods and demons, trees and shrubs. Only the ignorant take Thee as different from the universe.

What is striking in his devotional poems is that he places bhakti above mukti or salvation and does not value devotion as a means of liberation :

I desire not happiness and I have no need for salvation. Let me only love Thy feet.

Bõrgīts - Noble Numbers

The diction of the Bõrgīts, the Assamese Vrajawali, gives them a music of their own and it is a pity that only 34 of his innumerable songs (numbering 240) in this class have survived.
Sankara's Dāsya Bhāva leads the poet in him to be often stricken with a sense of sin and, in some cases, an agony of repentance, very much on display in these 'songs celestial'. The well known Bõrgīt, Nārāyan, kāhe bhakati karu terā is one such song :

Say, Nārāyana, how can I offer Thee my bhakti? My sinful heart cannot shun evil.

And even in the midst of this haunting sense of sin, the poet has faith in the Lord's infinite compasion :

Thy name is my hope, and Thy grace can redeem me.

And in the Bõrgīts, he is a true vedantist, believing in the presence of the Lord in his creation :

Thou art in all things like the wide sky in all pitchers.

A Rich Legacy..

Sankaradeva intended his episodic poems to be part of the nāma-kīrttana of the Lord, the episodes being revelations of His lilā, His descent into time for His love of man. Every story is meant to be a miracle, a bringer of the word of God to man. This is as true of his translations of the Bhāgavata-Purāna and the Uttarkānda of the Rāmāyana as of his upakhyāna kāvyas and plays.

But, what is striking in the history of Assamese literature is that it has been so enriched by the work of one man, who had no literary ambitions and whose only object as a writer was to bring his faith to the masses.

His command on Vrajawali is remarkable and in this he and also his disciple Madhavadeva have no distinguished follower. As a writer in Assamese, he was master of a new diction, introduced a style and a rhythm which were a model for a generation of poets and, above all, discovered the beauty of plain homely Assamese which is the ambition of all writers in the language to master.

Innumerable successors were directly influenced by Sankaradeva's ideas and poetic style, characterized by novelty of expression, rhythmic fluency and and good characterization. No less valuable is his contribution to the formation of the Assamese literary language. Not too many religious poets of the world have done as much for the language in which they wrote.

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