Than’ means a sacred place in Assamese society. Traditionally this word has been used to indicate a sacred place. It was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Sthan’ meaning place. Srimanta Sankaradeva used this indigenous Assamese word ‘Than’ to indicate the residential religious institution created by him. At that time the word ‘Satra’ was not used. Srimanta Sankaradeva himself used the word ‘Than’. It was only later that the word ‘Sattra’ started to be used.
Batadrava Than in Bordowa in the present Nagaon district of Assam is one of the best-known Thank founded by Srimanta Sankaradeva. It is named as SRI SRI BATADRAVA THAN. Srimanta Sankaradeva set up the first ever Kirtanghar here in 1468. The importance of this place is also derived from the fact that the saint was born at Alipukhuri – Bordowa in 1449. After returning from his 12-year long pilgrimage in 1493, he started preaching his Vaishnavite religious ideas here regularly and systematically. His ideas were based on Bhagavata Purana.
Batadrava Than is the first Than or the first institution set up by Srimanta Sankaradeva for the propagation of EKA SARANA NAMA DHARMA founded by him. He also built the ‘Monikut’ together with Kirtanghar or Namghar and the ‘Cari-Hati’ (four clusters of quarters) for accommodation of his disciples. This full-fledged Than complex came up in 1509. Simhasana or Guru Asana (altar of God) was placed in the Monikut with the holy scripture ‘Bhagavata’ on it without any idol.
Srimanta Sankaradeva used to practise Nama Prasanga regularly in the Kirtanghar along with his follower devotees. His religion EKA SARANA NAMA DHARMA is very simple. There is no unnecessary ritual in his order. Srimanta Sankaradeva advocated ‘EKA DEVA, EKA SEVA, EKA BINEY NAHI KEWA’, which means one should worship none but one God, who is Lord Krishna. Batadrava or Bordowa became the centre of his religious activities. As such, Batadrava has been regarded as the Dvitiya Vaikuntha (second heaven).
The Thans founded by Srimanta Sankaradeva are Gangmou, Belaguri, Patbausi, Kumarkuchi, Sunpora, and Madhupur. Later many Sattras were set up by his followers all over the Brahmaputra valley. All these were designed like Batadrava Than. But of all these Thans and Sattras, Batadrava Than is the unique one. Devotees visiting different Thans/Satras as well as the prominent sacred places and temples in Jaganath Puri, Brindavan, Badarikasram, Gaya, Kashi etc. consider Batadrava as one of the principal places of worship. Visit to this Than makes one’s holy journey complete.
Srimanta Sankaradeva used to write scriptures sitting below one Shilikha (Myrobalan) tree near the Kirtanghar. That tree is still alive even after five and half centuries, which is a wonder. Devotees from all over the world come here to see this sacred tree also.
Srimanta Sankaradeva left Bordowa in 1516 alongwith his followers consequent upon incessant conflicts between his kinsmen and some other people. He spent the remaining half of his life in Rowta, Gangmow, Dhuwahata, Patbausi, Kochbehar etc. Later his grandson Chaturbhuj’s wife Kanaklata rediscovered Batadrava Than with the help of Ahom and Tiwa people. She restored the Than to the previous glory. Over time, the management of the Than was divided between two families of the descendants, each setting up a Sattra. They are Narowa Sattra and Salaguri Sattra. They have been managing the affairs of the Bordowa Than with the help of devotees. A management committee is democratically elected by the devotees.