Women broke another glass ceiling when led by Assam Governor JB Patnaik they entered the Vaishnavite 'satra' at Barpeta in Assam last week where they were barred entry for centuries.
The Governor during a visit to the Patbausi Satra of Barpeta on April 4 was shocked to find that women were prevented from entering the seats of Vaishnavite culture initiated around 15th century AD by the revered Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciple Madhabdeva.
Patnaik, a Sanskrit scholar, convinced the Satradhikar, the spiritual head of the Patbausi satra, of the injustice meted out to women for ages by arguing that there was no such bar as Srimanta Sankaradeva himself, as records would say, favoured women's participation in rituals.
"I found women standing in groups at the entrance of the satra. They told me they are barred from entering the satra. I convinced the Satradhikar of the unjustness of the practice by arguing that Sankaradeva never objected to it. So I took 20 women inside and performed traditional prayers,'' Patnaik said.
However, Dhirendra Nath Bayan, president of the Satra Management Committee of Patbausi Satra, said that in 1991 a resolution was passed by the committee to allow women inside the satras, but women themselves preferred not to enter fearing social backlash.
Patnaik immediately after taking over as Governor visited most of the satras in the state including those at Majuli, Asia's largest river island, and Batadraba Than, birthplace of the great saint.
A day after Patnaik showed the way, five women entered the Namghar (prayer room) of the satra on April five and donated Rs 51,000 and 100 US dollars to the management.
They were Birajmoyee Mohanta, Mira Choudhuri, Jyotshna Baruah, all from Guwahati, Karabi Mukherjee from Kolkata and NRI Tita Bhuyan Mehta who stays in US.
Gyanpeeth award winner and noted Assamese litterateur Mamoni Raison Goswami met the Governor and thanked him for the 'historic step'.
Goswami told Patnaik that she and noted writer Amrita Pritam were prevented by the local women from entering the Satra.
The Governor's action has earned universal praise. Prominent intellectuals like former editor of local daily "Dainik Asom", Prafulla Baruah, Hembhai, noted Gandhian, Ram Niranjan Goenka, and president of the Fancy Bazaar Sahitya Sabha hailed the governor for showing the way.