Monday, December 25, 2017

5th Dr Minati Hazarika Memorial Annual Lecture

5th Dr Minati Hazarika Memorial Annual Lecture

 Dr. Rita Moni Baishya, Associate Professor of Hindi, Gauhati University delivered the 5th Dr Minati Hazarika Memorial Annual Lecture on December 27, 2017 in VKIC’s W.M. Auditorium. She spoke on ‘Assam’s contribution to the Indian Bhakti Movement.’

According to her the Indian Bhakti Movement was a great process that contributed to the religious and spiritual emancipation of a large mass of people. There are many reasons for its emergence and subsequent growth. One of the reasons cited was the threat of Islamic aggression, which was not the main reason. In the literature and philosophy of the movement one can find much more than a mere response to a particular situation.

The men behind the movement dwelled in different parts of India, and through their words, gave us Bhakti, philosophy as well as literature. 

There were many saints and seekers in India of that time among which were Ramananda, Kabir, Chaitanya who had influence over different parts of Bharat. Many of them are well known throughout the country. However, not much is known about Assam’s Vaishnavite Movement in the same way.

There are two main Margs in the broad Bhakti Movement – the Nirguna and the Saguna. Kabir and Jaishi were among the most famous who believed in the former path. There was also a Sufi tradition in which there existed a relation of love between the devotee and the divine.

He celebrated Gyan and Prem, and considered them integral in his literature. Although there is no such consensus it can still be argued that the Vaishnavites of Sankardeva’s time can be considered as a Sampradaya. Like Sampradayas that grew around other Bhakti traditions, the Vaishnavites of Assam do possess common features spelled out in their beliefs and teachings.

When the contemporary Bhakti saints are compared it is seen that Kabir in particular was very critical of some practices of Hindus and Muslims of his times. He possessed a deep social consciousness. Guru Nanak too had a strong message of devotion for his followers which he expressed through his writings in three languages.

Some of the saints did not write books, which can be found today. But Tulsi Das did write at least eight very important books; some of course believe that he wrote more.

What sets Sankardeva apart from his contemporaries was his strong belief in the idea of Bharatvarsha. His significant writings are replete with references to this land. In times much older, Valmiki did write about events in different parts of Bharat, but the notion of Bharatvarsha as a nation finds mention only in the writings of Sankardeva.  He was foremost in mentioning Assam as a part of Bharat. He was the guru of all the Assamese saints and seekers in the Bhakti tradition.

In the sphere of cultural activities, Srimanta Sankardeva was peerless due to his wide range of contributions. Apart from being a great saint in the Vaishnav tradition, he was a social unifier, great poet, painter, actor, and who also wrote songs and developed a dance form. His output and merit in literature is yet to be fully appreciated.

In order to promote an understanding of the Assamese Bhakti Movement, there is a need for it to be understood by more people in the country. One of the ways could be to have the literature of Assam’s Bhakti movement translated into other languages. It is essential that they are made available in Hindi, so that they can subsequently be translated into other Indian languages.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

VKIC Newsletter, April 2017-September,2017

From the Director’s Desk

Human lives have since time immemorial been shaped by forces of Nature, more than by any other power made by their will and efforts. Settlements grew near forest lands where fruits and flesh were not scarce for hunter gatherers. The first of the civilisations took root in the valleys of rivers where water was copious. Long migration routes unfolded through natural mountain passes connecting ancient societies enabling trade and commerce. In India too, natural spaces evolved over thousands of years and created a rich tapestry of community life where Nature determines or influences the rhythm of life. Our Adivasi communities, or Vanbasi communities exemplify such a Nature-reliant, Nature-inspired lifestyle, which from another perspective can be understood as a deeper appreciation of something sublime. Amid their day to day activities they adhere to traditions, rites and rituals which in a way pays obeisance to one forest deity or another. A sense of gratitude towards Nature is evident in even many of their mundane activities.

Today, the scenario is rapidly changing across the world; India being no exception. The winds of globalization and accompanying economic onslaught are sweeping the developing world in particular. Age old practices, centred on reverence towards Nature are being buffeted by forces of consumerism where naturally occurring objects are seen through the lens of resource exploitation. With its extensive experience of building ties with indigenous communities of North East India, VKIC is well appraised about these developments and, therefore, has taken up initiatives which will enable us to have deeper insights about the Nature-Human inter-linkages. One such attempt is to unravel this hitherto ignored treasure trove of knowledge and practices is our ongoing series of lectures on Forest-Community Interface. Through the lectures a number of issues relating to forests, their ecosystem services, degradation of natural landscapes and water bodies and strategies to conserve Nature are coming to the fore. Experts who have worked with such issues have shared knowledge that has led to better understanding of the fact – we all have much to learn from the communities who have dwelled in and around forests since time that predates our oldest written chronicles. It is our hope that VKIC will be able to justify before you how our fate is finally linked to that of the state of our forests and the way we perceive and treat them. 

                                                                                           Dr Parimal Ch. Bhattacharjee

Monday, December 4, 2017

A talk on Sister Nivedita

A talk on Sister Nivedita was organised by Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture at Assam Institute of Management on 4th December at 11 A.M. Mananeeya Shraddha Vays Patil from Mumbai delivered the oration which centered on the subject- "Sister Nivedita and Indian Women"



Sixty eight management students along with four karyakartas were taking part in the event.To spread the message of Swami Vivekananda the book "Vijay Hi Vijay" distributed to the student.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Gita Jayanti Celebration

Gita Jayanti was solemnly organised in VKIC on Thursday, November 30 at its own auditorium with a large number of people taking part in the event. Sri Govindramji Sharma from Belda, Haridwar delivered the oration which centered on the subject – What Gita tells about Karma-yoga. The elder Gita Pracharak mentioned that although many physical developments were happening all around us, there was an absence of peace. “People are doing Karma, but is that in accordance with what the Gita says?”


The development we see around us has not contributed to the welfare of all. Working for one’s own narrow interest is not Karma yoga, our saints and visionaries make us learn that one has to go much beyond.They are remembered and worshiped because they worked for the good of others, the welfare of society and the nation. Swami Vivekananda had aid, “Expansion is life. Contraction is death,” and we have to abide by this.


Karma yoga also entails that whatever is performed is in tune with 
Swadharma. Equanimity is one of the greatest of quality that the Gita 
upholds. The wise person sees no difference among various life forms.
The behavior may vary according to the relationships they have, but 
they will perceive everyone as equal. From this viewpoint of 

equanimity they try to work with no attachment and seek to bring in 
welfare for all.

A VKIC publication on Sister Nivedita – the ardent disciple of Swami 

Vivekananda – was released on the occasion. The Editor of the book, Dr 

Mukunda Rajbongshi spoke briefly about the life of the great Indian 

nationalist who also made significant contributions to girls’ 


Wednesday, October 25, 2017



on 1st November’17 (Wednesday)

To be participated by major Energy Companies operating in the region & the students from selected Engineering Colleges of Assam.

Organized by-"Vivekananda Kendra Skill Development Group"

Venue: Vivekananda Institute of Culture, Uzan Bazar, Guwahati-781001. 
Date & Time: 1st November’17. 9.30 AM - 5.30 PM    
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                                                        In Support with
Government of India, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Department of Youth Affairs.
(Under National Programme for Youth and Adolescent Development Scheme)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Volunteer Blood Donation Camp

Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari,Assam Pranta has organized a volunteer blood donation camp in association with GMCH blood bank at Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture at Uzanbazar on 15th August 2017.Swami Vikramananda of Ramakrishna Mission Guwahati along with Dr.Ramen Talukdar superintendent of GMCH inaugurated the camp.Swami Vikramananda also donated blood and  thirty four volunteer blood  donors donated blood in the  camp and the Karyakartas of VKIC are standing with him.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Intellectual Property Rights and its Status in Karbi Anglong

A discussion cum knowledge sharing programme on 'Intellectual Property Rights and its Status in Karbi Anglong' was initiated by Minakshi Goswami, Research Fellow, VKIC. The programme was organized on 13th August, 2017 at Desoi Homestay, Diphu, by People’s Initiative for Indigenous Culture & Tradition Consciousness (PIICATC). Fourteen people including members of Karbi Farmers Association, Trinity Hills Society, government employees, weavers, researchers and few more attended and participated in the programme. The main aim of this event was to generate awareness on the meaning and importance of IPR for a traditionally and culturally rich district like Karbi Anglong. Pointing to the substandard quality of traditional Karbi attires that has now flooded the local markets, the people present agreed that the cultural richness of Karbi Anglong is exposed to the threats of extinction. In this gathering the importance of documentation on the traditional knowledge and practices of the Karbis was acknowledged and the local people agreed to provide necessary assistance to VKIC in this endeavor.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

4th Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture at VKIC.

Padma Shri Ravindra Kumar Sinha delivered a Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture at VKIC on August 8, 2017. The senior scientist spoke on riverine ecosystems with special reference to threats facing Gangetic river dolphins and River Ganga. According to him rampant human interventions have throttled the river, which is revered by all Hindus. The river in the middle and upper reaches has been polluted by human and industrial waste and sustained efforts will be needed to improve the situation. It is no surprise that the population of Gangetic river dolphin has nosedived over decades. Not just the animal, but many ecosystems depending on the river water have been adversely affected. The River Brahmaputra too needs the attention of the authorities concerned; unplanned development in the river’s proximity. Protecting existing vegetation on the river’s bordering areas is just as important as planting new trees, he added.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sri Punit Kialita spoke on the topic Namghar

Audience at Mangaldoi on the topic Namghar 

Sri Pulin Kalita, senior journalist of Dainik Asam, delivered a lecture on July 16, 2017 at Mangaldoi on the topic Namghar as a cultural school (Namghar Eti Sanskritik Sikhyaloy). Since its beginning as a Harigriha in the time of Mahapurush Sankardeva, the Namghar has been the center of spirituality and culture. It acted as a platform where the faithful could share equal space regardless of their social and economic background. It was thus a great initiative promoting Sanatana Dharma and at the same time establishing social equity.

Namghar Eti Sanskritik Sikhyaloy

 However, it also has carried out a role of spreading cultural awareness through many events held at the venue. The Nam Sankirtans, bhaona, to name a few were great cultural feats which were kept alive in the Namghar across the State. Thus a religious place, in essence, has been a silent facilitator of forming the Assamese cultural identity. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Yoga Pratiman

VKIC has recently started offering Yoga Modules for different sections of society. These highly appreciated modules developed by Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari have attracted many people to practice yoga as a means of holistic personal development.

Yoga Pratiman Modules

    Pratimans for Professionals     Pratimans for Learners
            *  Swananda                      *  Pariksha De Haste 
*  Sahayog                         *  Haste
*  Samarth                          *  Tejas

Swananda is meant for busy executives and professionals.
Sahayog benefits young and working couples.
Samarth stimulates teaching professionals.
Pariksha De Haste Haste is designed to bring focus and motivations to high school and college students.

Tejas is a module keeping in mind the requirements of 8th to 12th standard students.

Apart from these VKIC offers regular Yoga sessions beginning on the first day of every month. The ten-day introductory training can be followed up by regular practice in VKIC. 

VKIC’s initiative on Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property (IP), a product of human intellect, includes writings, designs, inventions, symbols, names, songs etc. IP allows the creator or owner to enjoy benefits of his or her creation. Protections under the IP regime allow the inventors to exclude others from using, dealing or tampering with his or her product without prior permission.

The NER comprising eight North Eastern States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura is a great treasure trove of diverse cultures, social practices, and languages. The traditional methods practiced by the locals for preservation of food, preparation of medicines and a sustainable use of the available resources is a great source of knowledge. The knowledge and diverse practices of the communities is a fit subject for protection under the domain of Intellectual Property.

For VKIC, the research institute that works with the moto of strengthening the indigenous communities of NE, Intellectual Property is of much significance and relevance. This year, few members from the core team of IPR went to Diphu, Karbi Anglong for an IPR sensitization programme with the locals. It was realized that Karbi Anglong, with its rich natural resources, traditional knowledge and practices is facing the threat of bio-piracy and misappropriation.

Presently a study on the designs used by the Karbi people in their traditional attire and the scope of protecting Jambili Athon (the most significant design used by them) under the domain of Geographical Indication or GI (one of the areas of IP) is being carried on. The grassroots level contacts which are being made are vital elements in awareness generation among communities who need to know the basics of IPR and related issues.

Initial surveys by VKIC point towards an emerging situation in which a number of communities having unique traditional designs, practices and methods are totally ignorant about IPR and the benefits its use can bring them. It is now time that the State's authorities concerned, as well as others cognizant of the issue make efforts to inform, educate and communicate with community elders in vulnerable areas. Better synergy among multiple state and non-state agencies would make this endeavour more fruitful.  

In the context of VKIC's IPR activities Minakshi Goswami of VKIC attended the International Earth Science Conference (IESC) in University of Science and Technology, Meghalaya and presented a paper titled Sharing Secrets: A study on the challenges to traditional knowledge protection. Goswami, a Research Fellow of VKIC also participated in a workshop-cum-training on Patent Search and Analysis organized by Tezpur University Intellectual Property Rights Cell. On both the occasions VKIC's initiatives on IPR were shared among the participants.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture at VKIC on April 22, 2017.

Sri Jayanta Sarma spoke in  Sanskriti Anveshak

Noted conservation activist Sri Jayanta Sarma spoke about leveraging traditional knowledge for development in NE India in a Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture at VKIC on April 22, 2017. With information gleaned through extensive tours of NE India, Sri Sarma revealed some of the remarkable facts about indigenous communities coping with nature. Away from urban access to technology, they have collected huge amounts of information on forests, soil, farming methods and architecture. A common element of their ways of life is a respect for Nature and sustainable use of natural resources. Unfortunately, many of their traditional knowledge and practices are yet to be scientifically documented. Humanity has much to learn from them and make use of such information and skills spread over this part of the country. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Second Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture on Forest Community Interface

Community participation with support from NGOs and the Forest Department has triggered successful conservation efforts, as witnessed in many ecologically sensitive areas across the world. In parts of North East India also, local community involvement has enabled the emergence of positive environmental stories, according to Dr Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar, a noted conservationist from Assam.

Speaking on the topic ‘Contribution of Local Communities to Conservation,’ in the Second Sanskriti Anveshak Lecture on February 13, Dr Lahkar pointed to Protected Areas in Western Assam in particular where local communities are now helping preserve Manas National Park and neighbouring Reserve Forests.

“Once a community identifies themselves with a forest, and realises its value for them, they make efforts to protect the flora and fauna therein,” said the IUCN’s World Heritage Hero (People’s Choice), 2016.

It is, however, a challenge to motivate the communities to do that. It may take years before local people become aware about their dependence on a forest, before they act in a strong and cohesive manner to save it.

Dr Lahkar, who has been working in the Manas landscape for the NGO, Aaaranyak for close to two decades first stepped inside Manas to carry out research work for his Ph. D on the grassland ecosystem of the National Park. 

Manas was devastated during a violent phase in which armed extremists carried out massive tree felling inside the Park, decimating vegetation that had evolved over hundreds of years. Rampant poaching obliterated tiger and rhino population. Forest Department infrastructure was burnt down.

In its aftermath, Dr. Lahkar faced difficulties in building ties with members of local Bodo community. He started interacting with some of the youths, who he trained in wildlife observation. The boys, in time, became knowledgeable to act as guides to visitors and researchers. Some of them were encouraged to form an ecotourism society, a first for Manas National Park.

Community involvement was also witnessed in erecting an electric fence around a rural settlement to protect it from elephant depredation. Where once there were fatalities every year, today the community-maintained barrier has stopped human deaths caused by elephants which roam nearby.

Much can be achieved through community participation, because local people are more thoroughly aware about the prevailing environmental conditions than others who come for research and then move away. The Forest Department and line departments would be able to achieve much more if local communities are taken into confidence.

Referring to the present environmental situation in Assam and rest of the North East, Dr Lahkar said much remains to be done in areas such as conservation of sacred groves, preservation of seeds, watershed conservation, rescue and rehabilitation, and solid waste management, among others. These issues could also be better addressed with the collaboration of government agencies, NGOs and local communities.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide interacts with invitees

Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide, Vice President of Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari, interacted with a select gathering of people from varied backgrounds at VKIC on March 14, 2017. She was introduced to the audience by Prof. Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee, Director of Research Advisory Council. 

Prof. Bhattacharjee explained the purpose of the gathering, and after briefly mentioning about VKIC and its vision,  spoke about the tremendous scope of work that an organisation like VKIC can explore in the near future. He sought guidance of the assembled well-wishers of VKIC in framing the road map for the coming years. 

The programme was carried forward with a thematic presentation of VKIC by Dipankar Mahanta on the 20 years journey of VKIC. In his presentation, Sri  Mahanta referred to VKIC as a social enterprise and its founder Mananeeya Eknathji Ranade as a great social entrepreneur. 

After the presentation Prof. Kalyan Das, Honorary Associate Director of VKIC’s Research Advisory Council solicited views and suggestions from the audience to help formulate a roadmap for the future.

Some of the suggestions included: impact of digital India in cultural preservation, identification of vulnerable communities and how best to help their traditional culture, possible means to promote local cultural products. 

Summing up the discussion, Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide said that through VKIC’s role in engaging community members in its seminars and workshops the communities are benefited. When the community people are encouraged to speak about their traditions and customs, they are heard and appreciated, it builds confidence in them. It helps them realise that their traditional beliefs and practices are not outdated; but rather a matter of protection and preservation. Agreeing with what the noted economist S Gurumurthy refers to in his book 

Development through Culture, Mananeeya Nivedita ji concluded the speech with a remark that for real and sustainable economic development, the communities must be involved in the process. She also emphasised a core belief of VKIC, Culture Nurtures Unity.  

Foundation Day, 2017

VKIC celebrated its 21st Foundation Day on January 31st, 2017 at its Williamson Magor Auditorium in a solemn function. The main highlight of the programme was the conferring of VKIC Sanmaan 2017. Every year VKIC honours a person of distinction who has worked tirelessly for the promotion of indigenous faith and culture of his or her people on its Foundation Day. This year the award was conferred on Srimad Shyamananda Brahmachary of West Garo Hills. The Award comprised a selang chadar, citation, memento and a sum of Rs. 25,000.

In his welcome address, Dr. Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee, Director, Research Advisory Council, stated that the objective of VKIC is to find the commonalities existing within the different ethnic communities; focusing mainly on the cultural aspect of the communities. VKIC works with the belief that “Cultures nurtures Unity.”

Srimad Shyamananda Brahmachary, the spiritual leader of Borkona Ashram Dhubri, in his acceptance speech shared his experience of taking up the task of working for the uplift of people from various communities - Hajong, Koch, Garo and Rabha. He made an appeal to the people to support him in his struggle to retain the indigenous faith, traditions and culture of these ethnic communities. He said that lack of education and employment opportunities were compelling people to forsake their ancient beliefs, culture and heritage.

The Chief Guest of the Programme Prof. Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe made a power-point presentation on “Innovation: Key to India’s Transformation.” In his presentation Prof. Sahasrabudhe, currently the Chairman of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), showcased the rich innovative spirit and skills prevalent during ancient times, and stressed the need of encouraging “Innovation” among the younger generation of today. He also highlighted the steps taken up by the Government of India towards this end with projects like, an e-initiative for citizens to participate in innovative programmes. He, however, added that the ambience of creating an innovative atmosphere lies with the people and not just with the government.

A cultural presentation by a Tiwa Cultural group concluded the programme. The Tiwas are among the many indigenous communities of Assam with rich traditions of customs, rituals and folk culture. They are known also for their melodious songs which celebrate Nature in its many forms. 

The performing artistes of the Tiwa community impressed the audience by presenting vignettes of their rural life, which including agricultural activities,marriage rituals, ceremonial naming of a child, and traditional community fishing, Today, Tiwa society, like many others in Assam,is undergoing transformation. However, many of them, particularly community elders, cherish and promote their traditional beliefs and pristine culture.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Panel Discussion on ‘Development Through Culture’

As part of VKIC Foundation Day celebration, a panel discussion on 'Development through Culture' was organized on January 29 at the conference hall of VKIC. It centred on the book by the same name by S. Gurumurthy, the noted economist.

Sri Gurumurthy had carried out field studies travelling across India trying to understand what made certain regions of the country excel in the field of production and export of industrial goods through mutual support or collaboration. His study of small towns like Tiruppur, Morbi and Ludhiana which emerged as premier production and export centres of industrial goods revealed that these successful local production systems are entirely driven by mature local institutions where personal and social relations ensure intra and inter community cooperation, trust as well as competition. He concludes that culture-driven model of development is the only sustainable model of development.

The panel discussion was undertaken to carry forward the philosophy behind S. Gurumurthy's book, and also to understand it better in the developmental context of India's North East taking into account the behavioural and cultural characteristics of the region for greater sustainability and well being of all.

The programme was moderated by Sri Kashi Nath Hazarika, former Chairman, NEDFi. The speakers were Prof. Kalyan Das, OKDISCD, Dr. Manjit Das, Associate Professor, Bodoland University and Shri Dipankar Mahanta, Member of Executive Council, VKIC.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika opened the session stating that the idea of initiating this discussion is to disseminate the concept that culture is an important aspect of development and not an impediment to development.  It is an attempt to sharpen our understanding of the imperatives that dictate development initiatives in the North East and also to reach out, generate and stimulate people at the policy level to design policy interventions attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Prof. Kalyan Das made a power point presentation on some of the important economic activities carried out in North Eastern states. Citing examples of the agricultural sector, he opined that agricultural sector faces huge challenges like lack of efficient irrigation system, land use change and others. In handloom sector too, weavers face the problem of getting silk yarn and have to pay high prices for procuring raw materials.

He was of the view that individual initiatives in the existing production spaces need to be recognized, and efforts of the people need to be complemented by infrastructure development. Technological and financial intervention, developing inter-firm relations and at the same time linking with the larger markets is essential. He concluded from his studies that for an industry to succeed, behavioural norms, social institutions, state actions and legislations need to complement each other.

Dr. Manjit Das through his power point presentation communicated the problems faced by the bell metal industries of Assam and what can be done to resolve those. Assam has three main bell metal centers namely in Raha, Nagaon and Titabor.  Five types of laborers are involved in the production process. Each village involved in the production process produces specific designs and shapes and no two villages come out with the same design. They mainly use second hand scrap imported from Pakistan as brand new raw materials are expensive.  The artisans suffer health hazards from constant working on the metals.

Sri Dipankar Mahanta spoke about his experiences and works undertaken by VKIC guided by the philosophy of development through culture. He said that North East abounds in natural resources but it has not been harnessed properly. For instance the region is a hub of bamboo and bamboo reflects the culture and way of life of the people. However, the policy adopted by the government for enhancement of bamboo production like the National Bamboo Mission and the National Mission for Bamboo Application failed as they are not represented by the people with indigenous traditional knowledge. Folk traditions also hold the key to ecology development and most of the folk songs, dances and cultural practices carry a message for ecological protection and sustainability.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika added that we lack entrepreneurs in this region and industries need to go beyond meeting the local needs. For sustainable development, competition as well as cooperation is required, and at the same time this should connect with the culture of the local people.