Secret Meditation Place of The Monks Lost

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Archaeological Department of India Pays No Heed To Loss

In Eastern India, the history of Axom (that is, the state of Assam) bears a glory of glazing places since pre-historic period. Of the places, “Jogighopa”, in the Goalpara district in western part ranks in the rare line, which is one of the hypnotizing holy places that have been captivating people of all ranks.

Jogighopa is only a small hillock, which stands on the south-bank of the hilly red river, Tsangpo (locally called – Lohit or Luit or Brahmaputra). This river originates from the holy lake of Mount Kailash, known as – Manas Sarobar. Manas Sarobar falls from the southwestern part of Tibet, now under the control of China. The river flows through the very heart of Assam State, touching all noted places of this sector, which is full of wakeful wonders.

Cave 01
A view of a cave, where a boy offers puja (in a cave) at Jogighopa in the Northeast Indian State, Assam’s Goalpara district, where the saints sat for their religious purposes, to peacefully chant the names of gods.

Photo: Shib Shankar Chatterjee.

How the name of this place became Jogighopa, nobody knows. According to some historians, the word Jogighopa has been derived from two Sanskrit words. ‘Jogi’ – means ascetic or sage and ‘Ghopa’ – means cave or abode. Therefore, Jogi plus Ghopa, jointly call – Jogighopa – means, the cave of the sages, who used to come here to attain salvation.

On the other hand, according to some Hindu scholars, these ascetics used to come here, with a view to perceiving the Ista, that is, truth. The sages need lonely places far from the humdrum of day-to-day life. These secluded caves in the hills, whose feet are bathed by the holy water of the ever flowing river, Brahmaputra. The sages chose this lonely place, the abode of peace and performance of ‘meditation’, also, to know the supreme spirit and gather knowledge of metaphysical science.

At present, none is more captivating than this hill of catching caves, which bear the legendary history of ancient Kamrup – also known as Pragjyotishpur due to the astrology [Jyotish Shashtra] practices that prevailed in this part of the country during ancient times. In the Epic, Assam was known as Kamarupa or Pragjyotish. In the Mahabharata, the Purana, the Tantra, there are references to the kingdom known as Kamrup, of the then greater India. These are losing their luster due to the apathy of the Indian Government, both central and state.

Cave 02
A boy offers puja (in a cave) at Jogighopa in the Northeast Indian State, Assam’s Goalpara district, where the saints sat for their religious purposes, to peacefully chant the names of gods.

The people also lacked the initiative to preserve these ancient monuments and relics, which would then allow them to invite people to enjoy and appreciate the workmanship of the ancient artists, architects and nature’s magnanimity.

In fact, these small and large stony hillock caves to which the sages came, are now in very poor condition. The sages excavated them to live and meditate in, concealing themselves from the people interested in material life.

It is known that, at that time, the monks were highly hypnotized by the surpassing natural beauty of Jogighopa and stayed there to perform their divine completion. The monks, who came this place surrounded by hills, considered it an ideal place for attaining salvation through various penance.

Local observers pointed out, “Harshabardhan, the greatest monarch of Northern India had an opportunity to entertain the famous Buddhist monks and travelers. Harshabardhan had a friendly relation with Bhaskar Varman, the renowned ruler of Kamrup (the ancient state of India, Assam) in 594 AD – 650 AD, who was also a contemporary of Harshavardhan (606 AD – 648 AD). It was at his request, in 640 AD, that Harshabardhan sent a group of Buddhist monks to Kamrup to visit the court of Bhaskar Varman with the famous Chinese pilgrim-scholar – Hieu-En-Tsang and had attended the court of the king, Bhaskar Varman. Those Buddhist monks were highly hypnotized by the surpassing natural beauty of Jogighopa and stayed here to perform divine completion. The Buddhist monks, who came to Kamrup considered the well known Dudhnath-Hill as an ideal place for attaining salvation through various penance.

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A boy sees a cave at Jogighopa in the Northeast Indian State, Assam’s Goalpara district, where the saints sat for their religious purposes, to peacefully chant the names of gods.

It was with this view in sight, that these monks took shelter in a few caves and some dug some caves upon the shoulder of the hills and started their holy performance. They later preached Buddhism in and around the Assam-valley or Brahmaputra-valley, amd they were followed by ascetics or saints of various sects. These holy personalities over the course of time made a number of caves in these hills”.

“The numbers of such caves were more than one hundred, but at present there exist only 5 to 10, which is bearing the glory of the past. These caves are known as : Mahadev-Cave, Jogi-Cave, Samsan-Cave, Chelcheli-Cave, Gupto-Cave, et cetera. There are some stone inscriptions or epistles also excavated on the walls of some caves.

Of these caves, the Chelcheli-cave and the Gupta-cave are the most significant. A little below them, there are some stone slabs and in those stone slabs are written scripts. These are written in pati (that is, local dialect) language, which was banned during the 6th century BC. A little distance away is another stone slab, where different types of zodiac signs are found visible. These signs are astronomical signs meant to read the positions of different planets or stars”, claimed academics.

“There is also a Kunda or spring of water containing a stream through, which water is blowing silently, known as : Swaraswati-Kunda. It is believed that Swaraswati, the daughter of Lord Shiba and Goddess Parvati was given in marriage to God, Brahma, here. The day before marriage Devi Swaraswati bathed in the pond after she had been rubbed off with Haldi (that is, Turmeric). The walls of these caves still bear the signs of Haldi, which was used for the purpose of rubbing”, according to religious experts and researchers.

This Jogighopa is also a place, where a Satra or Xatra (that is, religious abode of the pious people for pious purposes or an abode of prayer, peace and prosperity or so-called temple) of Shri Madhav Dev was erected with a view to spreading Ek Shwaran (that is, Vaishnab, a kind and way of Sanatan Religion of Hindu caste) occult of Srimanta Shankardev, the most fascinating personality, saint and saviour, who was the founder of satra) and the prophet of Ek-shwaran sect of Vaishnaba Movement in Eastern Indian States, Assam and West-Bengal (specially, North-Bengal areas). But, the said satra is more existed there. The images of Lord Shib and Parbati that have been excavated from the hilly shoulder of Jogighopa have now been taken to the Dudhnath temple.

One of the noted historians of Northeast India, Mrinal Kanti Chatterjee also pointed out, “In the beginning of the year, 1662, Mier Sumla (or Mir Jumla), an ambitious Persian from Ardistan of Iran and the commander-in-chief of the Mughal (that is, Mohammedan) Army of the Mughal Emperor – Aureng Zeb (or Aurangzeb), built a fort (during ‘Assam invasion’) in Dudhnath hill (which has lots of similar caves for the holy purposes both Hindu caste and Buddhist during the ancient time), which is adjoining Jogighopa”.

In this context, it can be mentioned here that though initially Mir Jumla led the mughal army and conquered Assam they faced a major set back later, at the hands of the Ahom (Assam) army. This was not only due to the thorny territory but also the malaria prone climate of the area, which took a heavy toll on the Mughal Army. This ultimately forced Mir Jumla to move back in 1663, without having fully accomplished the subjugation of Assam.

Before he could go back to his ancient ‘Bengal’, Mir Jumla suffered with malaria and died a premature death on a boat on 30th March, 1663 at Khizrpur near Mankachar. This was on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, and his body was buried on a hillock and his tomb has been maintained over the centuries.

Mankachar is now part of the district of Dhubri in the Indian State of Assam.

Note: Bengal was divided in 1905 by the then British Governor General Lord George Curzon. One of the portions known as East Bengal, locally called Purbo Bango or Purba Bangla under later East Pakistan of present Pakistan State, presently Bangladesh and the other portion known as – West Bengal, later locally called Paschim Bango or Paschim Bangla, now in India.

This hilly area was once full of deep jungles with various trees, plants, creepers, wild-animals, birds and lizards of wonderful shape, size and colour. Here by the Brahmaputra, the natural beauty of the blue sky and silvery water used to touch each other. All these things have now declined, and only a barren piece of stone now remains, standing as a specimen of past glory due to the apathy of government and thanks to illegal foreign nationals for their unabated illegal activities like illegal encroachment and forest destruction.

References:

Shib Shankar Chatterjee is a former BBC, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Statesman & The Telegraph Contributor-cum-Correspondent from Northeast India, who specializes in investigations of important issues affecting the people of South Asia, specially, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan & Myanmar.