The move of the State Government to develop the historic Batadrava Thaan at Bordowa in Nagaon district along the lines of Amritsar’s Golden Temple is a welcome development. The ambitious project aims to develop the thaan located at Bordowa, the birthplace of Srimanta Sankaradeva, as an ideal religious and cultural tourism destination. Indeed, this can be a fitting tribute to the great 15th-century Vaishnavite saint-reformer who played a stellar role in effecting a socio-religious and cultural renaissance in medieval Assam. With Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday ceremonially starting the construction work of the Rs 188-crore Sankaradeva cultural complex at Batadrava, the first step towards the goal has been taken and the State Government needs to expedite things for timely conclusion of the project. Shah also harped on the genius of Sankaradeva, emphasizing on how the social reformer ‘connected Assam with mainstream India’ through his unique creations of art, culture and literature. However, much more than that, Sankaradeva was instrumental in shaping a liberal and progressive socio-religious identity for Assam and that ethos has endured the test of time. In no way can the significance of this contribution be diluted by making undue emphasis on his ‘mainstreaming’ Assam with India. India is an astoundingly diverse entity with distinct socio-cultural identities of its varied populaces and unfortunately, the BJP has been seen making a strong push for a somewhat mono-cultural India by injecting an overdose of cultural nationalism on the country’s diverse constituents. All these years the multi-cultural fabric of the country has remained intact, testifying to its resilient unity-in-diversity ethos but any attempt at weakening the pluralistic bonding can be counterproductive. Shah also inaugurated the Shivalinga-shaped Maha Mritunjay Mandir, claimed to be the largest Shiva temple in Asia, at Bherbheri in Nagaon. This shrine can also be effectively used to promote religio-cultural tourism in the State.

The State abounds in monuments and relics of a bygone era that can be promoted as tourist attractions. Places such as Sivasagar and Majuli offer the best prospects of such heritage tourism promotion. A planned approach can go a long way in preserving the land’s ancient identity and showcasing it as a global destination. The State’s wealth of historical and archaeological heritage in the form of monuments and relics testifies to its diversity and grandeur and efforts should be initiated to tap these potentials. Sadly, the neglect meted out to many of our languishing historical sites and monuments despite there being government authorities mandated with a responsibility for the same is a poor reflection on our heritage management. With the winds of globalization effecting irreversible changes in our traditional lifestyles, it is all the more imperative that we preserve the remnants of our past heritage for posterity.