The Nāmghar is a prayer-house where the devotees, present as the congregation,
sing the Names of God. In the Satras, the main feature is the Nāmghar. It is in
fact the permanent feature of every village, town and city of Assam. This has
made Sankaradeva's religion a living religion.
The Nāmghar is a large open hall for the purpose of offering mass prayer.
Originally constructed with bamboo, reeds and thatch, the Nāmghar is even now a
humble structure without any outward show or ostentation.
It has gabled roofs, the western facade being apsidal. A Nāmghar of the ancient
type (the modern Nāmghar is simply an open rectangular hall) consists of a nave
and side aisles with rows of wooden pillars separating the nave from the aisles.
The size of the Nāmghar may vary according to the number of bhakats or disciples
it has to accommodate.
The actual shrine where the sacred scripture is kept is called manikut. It is a
smaller structure than the Nāmghar and is generally attached to the latter
adjoining the eastern end. In addition to the sacred scripture, all the precious
things dedicated to the Deity are kept in the manikut. It is the sanctum
-sanctorum of the entire establishment and as the sacred scripture and all the
valuables of the Satra are kept here, it is called manikut, literally the house
The Guru Asana:
The sacred scripture is placed on the Guru Āsana. The Guru Āsana, literally the
Seat of the Guru is a seven-tiered, triangular, wooden throne adorned by the
tortoise-elephant-lion motif and other decorative woodwork.
Idol worship is absent in a Nāmghar and no idol is worshipped, even that of
Krishna, in any form. The only object of veneration being the sacred text placed
on the top-most tier of the Guru Āsana. The scripture is the vāngmay image of
the Lord; it represents Bhagavanta, the Supreme Being or Mahāpurusa who
manifests Himself as Visnu or Krishna; it also represents the Guru, his message
as well as the highest truth propounded by him.
In this ordered set-up, the devotees perform Nām Kirttana or the
prayer-services, on a regular basis. The service itself is referred to as
Nām-Prasanga or simply, Nām, and the leader of the chant is called nām lagowā.
The seating arrangement in the Nāmghar, with the congregation in two facing rows
in front of the Guru Āsana, is such that when the congregation bow down in
worship to God, they are at the same time bowing down in worship to one another.
The verses sung during the service consist of strings of the many names of God.
First, verses from Madhavadeva's Nām Ghosā are recited, followed by Kirttanas
from Sankaradeva's Kirttana Ghosā.
The offering or prasad is looked on as devotion objectified. In the preparation
of the offering, the ingredients are offered in fours or multiples of four -
four handfuls of (uncooked) rice, four handfuls of pulse, four or eight slices
of coconut, etc - and the following words uttered for each: Guru, Deva, Nama,
Contribution to Society:
The Namghar is a living institution and for over 500 years, its impact on
Assamese society and culture has been tremendous. It diffused a high degree of
enlightenment among the masses of the people. It should be noted that Vaisnavism
in Assam is a religion as well as an institution, and even today, it exercises a
very great and good influence on the social and communal life of the Assamese
people. The doors of the Namghar are open to all, no matter what caste or gender
one belongs to.
The Namghar is a common feature of every Assamese village. In the villages, in
addition to serving as the common prayer hall, it also serves as the village
stage and the meeting place of the village panchayat. It has continued to be the
centre of social and religious activities.
The influence of the Namghar can well be imagined from the fact that even in
villages where the inhabitants are entirely Saktas, it has become a permanent
Here, not only sāstras and literary masterpieces are recited, but great problems
of life, philosophy and religion are discussed and debated; and the village
people learn here what they did not know before and receive new ideas and
experiences. The Nāmghars served and are serving still now, as a panchayat-hall,
where the villagers gather also to discuss many current problems of the village
and community life and political as well as economic and social subjects. This
institution helps to impart unity to Assamese village life.
বৰনামঘৰ সৰ্ম্পকে প্রবন্ধ