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Changing Notions of “Ideal” Monkhood: A Case Study from a Satra of Majuli


All religions were initially founded with the aim of purifying men and women and helping them to lead ethical lives through prayers. However, unfortunately religion evolved to be a force reinforcing discrimination diverted from the original motive of religion. The Vaishnavite faith initiated by the 15th century Guru, Mahapurush Srimanta Shankardeva, in the region of Assam was also based on egalitarian and humanitarian values. The ideal monkhood in a Satra is to lead a life devoid of material pleasures and offer oneself to God by taking his name all the time. The various sects that have emerged after the demise of the Guru are the proofs that the main objective of an egalitarian society has collapsed. The social hierarchy is still maintained even if the Satras claim to have removed it. The unique culture of the Satra is its liturgical training, which includes dance, drama, music and poetry. The performing art forms were specifically for the monks to be performed only within the premises of the Satra, which are now staged and have become the sources of income for many monks. The monks are more known as performing artists than religious beings or leaders. The media is a socializing agent in itself, which has changed the concept of monkhood. Ideal monkhood is still a question, and this article is an academic effort to throw light on this question. It would try to bring forth the different ways as to how the ideologies of Neo-Vaishnavism has changed with time and how the monks have adjusted to the transformation. The findings are based on both primary and secondary data using ethnographic approach.


Assam, Vaishnavism, Ethnography, Monastery, Modernity


Author Biography

Pranalee Sharma

PhD scholar, Department of human Development and childhood Studies, Lady Irwin College, Lady Irwin College, Sikandra Road, Delhi-110001, University of delhi

Asha Singh

Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Childhood Studies, Lady Irwin College, Sikandra Road, Delhi-110001


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