GUWAHATI, Nov 6 � The role of women in Namghar has been significant since the time the sacred institution came into existence. It has enabled women to have deep faith in their culture and religion. However, women from the younger generation have not shown much interest in the Namghar as they are not fully informed about its spiritually and culturally emancipating role.
This was a view expressed by noted Sattriya scholar Dr Joyjyoti Goswami during a lecture-cum-interactive session on the Namghar, organized by the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture, Guwahati on November 3.
Dr Goswami, who has extensively researched issues related to the Vaishnavite culture of Assam, focussed on the manner in which the Namghar gave valuable space for women to pursue religious and spiritual interests, and over time has helped them to become experts in many areas, including music and arts. In many parts of Assam, women in the Namghar kept alive traditions and cultural values first introduced by Saint Sankardeva.
The Saint and his closest disciple Saint Madhavdeva, Dr Goswami said, played key roles in encouraging women to come together in an atmosphere in which there was no divide of caste and creed. In the Namghar they listened to religious discourses and also created a wide range of songs and verses. In some places they became expert weavers, singers and artistes, revealing their innate talents.
Dr Goswami mentioned that some Namghars, although open to women, have restrictions on the roles they can play. According to a recent survey carried out by researchers in Gauhati University, several Namghars still do not permit the involvement of women to the extent that male devotees are allowed. But in due course, as awareness spreads, such limitations would be removed, she hoped.
Speaking as the moderator, Dr Nirupama Mahanta, an expert in Sattriya culture said that women can gain a lot by their association with a Namghar.