A Very Short Introduction


[For a longer introduction, see this article.]

Sankaradeva-artist's impression

The propagator of the religion known as eka sarana hari nama in the 15th century in Assam, Sankardev (1449-1568 CE) was a spiritual and social reformer and a versatile figure.

Sankardev preached the ideology of Eka Sarana and pure devotion to Krsna in a variety of literary genres. His primary oeuvre undoubtedly is the rendering of the Bhagavata Purana into Assamese verse.

The Kirttana Ghosa is the magnum opus of Sankardev. It is the book of devotional songs or “kirttana” written primarily for the purpose of congregational prayer. His Bhakti Ratnakara has been termed as a “compilation of the essence” of all scriptures.

An image of a manuscript copy of Sankaradeva's Bhakti Ratnakara in Sanskrit.

The pioneering work of Sankardev in respect of music was “Baragita.” The Saint and his foremost disciple Madhavadeva composed a large number of devotional lyrics. Sankardev also created “Ankiya Nata” and wrote many popular plays as a means of spreading the ideology of Eka Sarana among his people.

The Gunamala written by Sankardev is a magnificent composition capturing in racy, rhyming and sonorous verses, the essence of the Bhagavata Purana. It is a sacred text and is often placed in the “Guru Asana” (Seat of the Guru) in the Nama Ghara as the object of veneration.

The philosophy of Sankardev considers Krsna—God referred to in his immanent capacity—to be supremely conscious and the supreme truth. According to this philosophy, the living beings are also, in truth, pure personalities (purusas) like Krsna.

Eka Sarana” propagated by Sankardev is a monotheistic religion having Krsna as its sole worshipable entity and sole-refuge (eka sarana) in him as the only means to his grace. Strongly bhaktic in character with pure devotion (nama, bhajana) to Krsna being the sole practice advocated, it rejects Vedic karmic practices. It is endowed with a strong immanent spirit; it worships God not in idols but within the microcosm.

The “Nama Ghara” is a prayer-house where the devotees, present as the congregation, sing the names of God. It is in fact a permanent feature of almost every village, town and city of Assam. This has made Sankardev’s religion a living religion.

Editor’s Note
[The name “শঙ্কৰদেৱ” is most appropriately transliterated into Latin as “Sankaradeva” (IAST Śaṅkaradeva). It is a lossless transliteration that does not omit the “a” sound after the “r” and the “v.” It is the policy of to adhere to this scheme of transliteration (i.e. IAST without diacritical marks). However, in print and on the web, the name of the saint is frequently found transliterated as “Sankardev” or “Sankardeva.” While searching on the internet, many people use these two transliterations. Google seems not to recognize these two terms as pointing to “Sankaradeva.” As a result, fares rather poorly in the Google search listings for “Sankardev” and “Sankardeva.” It is in order to remedy this problem that, in this page, we have departed from our policy and adopted the transliteration “Sankardev.”]

[For other documents and articles on the Sankaradeva Movement, visit]