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Assamese literature

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Title: Assamese literature  
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Subject: Assam, Assamese poetry, List of Assamese writers with their pen names, Hindi literature, Human rights abuses in Assam
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Assamese literature

Assamese literature (Assamese: অসমীয়া সাহিত্য) is the entire corpus of poetry, novels, short stories, documents and other writings in the Assamese language. It also includes popular ballads in the older forms of the language during its evolution to the contemporary form. The literary heritage of the Assamese language can be traced back to the c. 9-10th century in the Charyapada, where the earliest elements of the language can be discerned.


The history of the Assamese literature may be broadly divided into three periods:

Early Assamese (6th to 15th century)

Even though systematic errors in the Sanskrit of [2] In the 12th-14th century period the works of Ramai Pundit (Sunya Puran), Boru Chandidas (Krishna Kirtan), Sukur Mamud (Gopichandrar Gan), Durllava Mullik (Gobindachandrar Git) and Bhavani Das (Mainamatir Gan) bear strong grammatical relationship to Assamese; and their expressions and their use of adi-rasa are found in the later Panchali works of Mankar and Pitambar.[3] These works too are claimed as examples of Bengali literature. After this period of shared legacy a fully differentiated Assamese literature finally emerged in the 14th century.

Pre-Sankardeva period

This period saw the flourishing of two kinds of literary activity: translations and adaptations, and choral songs.

Translations and Adaptations

Harivara Vipra, a court poet of Durlabhnarayana (1330–1350) of Kamata, with his work Vavruvahanar Yuddha (based on the Mahabharata)[4] and Lava-Kuxar Yuddha (based on the Ramayana) provides the first date-able examples of Assamese literature. Though translated works, they contain local descriptions and embellishments, a feature that describes all translated work of this period. His Vavruvahanar Yuddha, for instance makes references to articles of the Ahom kingdom,[5] which at that time was a small kingdom in the east, and describes the undivided Lakhimpur region,[6] and in Lava-Kushar Yuddha he departs from the original and describes local customs for Rama and Sita's pumsavana ceremony.[7] Other works in this class and period are Hema Saraswati's Prahlada-caritra and Hara-Gauri-Samvada; Kaviratna Saravati's Jayadratha-vadha; Rudra Kandali's Satyaki-pravesa. All these works are associated with Durlabhanarayan of Kamata and his immediate successors.

The major work from this period that left a lasting impression is Saptakanda Ramayana, composed by Madhava Kandali, and recited[8] in the court of a 14th-century Barahi-Kachari king Mahamanikya (Mahamanikpha) who ruled either in the Nagaon or the Golaghat region.[9] In chronology, among vernacular translations of the original Sanskrit, Kandali's Ramayana comes after Kamban's (Tamil), and ahead of Kirttivas' (Bengali, 15th century), Tulsidas' (Awadhi, 16th century), Balaram Das' (Oriya) etc.[10] The literary language (as opposed to the colloquial Assamese) this work adopted became the standard literary language for much of the following periods, till the rise of new literature in the 19th century. That his work was a major influence can be inferred from Sankardeva's tribute to the "unerring predecessor poet".[11] The pada form of metrical verse (14 syllables in each verse with identical two syllables at the end of each foot in a couplet) became a standard in Assamese kavya works, something that continued till the modern times. Though a translated work, it is infused with local color, and instead of the heroic, Kandali instead emphasized the homely issues of relationships etc. Among the two kinds of alamkara's, arthalankaras were used extensively, with similes and metaphors taken from the local milieu even though the original works are set in foreign lands; whereas the shabdalankara (alliteration etc.) were rarely used.[12]

Choral songs

Choral songs composed for a popular form of narration-performances called Oja-pali, a precursor to theater and theatrical performances, came to be known as Panchali works.[13] Though some of these works are contemporaneous to Sankardeva's, they hark back to older forms free of Sankardeva's influences and so are considered pre-Sankardeva literature.[14]

Middle Assamese (17th to 19th century)

This is a period of the prose chronicles (Buranji) of the Ahom court. The Ahoms had brought with them an instinct for historical writings. In the Ahom court, historical chronicles were at first composed in their original Tibetan-Chinese language, but when the Ahom rulers adopted Assamese as the court language, historical chronicles began to be written in Assamese. From the beginning of the 17th century onwards, court chronicles were written in large numbers. These chronicles or buranjis, as they were called by the Ahoms, broke away from the style of the religious writers. The language is essentially modern except for slight alterations in grammar and spelling.

Modern Assamese

Effect of British rule

The British imposed Bengali in 1836 in Assam after the state was occupied in 1826. Due to a sustained campaign, Assamese was reinstated in 1873 as the state language. Since the initial printing and literary activity occurred in eastern Assam, the Eastern dialect was introduced in schools, courts and offices and soon came to be formally recognized as the Standard Assamese. In recent times, with the growth of Guwahati as the political and commercial center of Assam, the Standard Assamese has moved away from its roots in the Eastern dialect.

Influence of Missionaries

The modern Assamese period began with the publication of the Bible in Assamese prose by the American Baptist missionaries in 1819. The currently prevalent standard Asamiya has its roots in the Sibsagar dialect of Eastern Assam. As mentioned in Bani Kanta Kakati's "Assamese, its Formation and Development" (1941, Published by Sree Khagendra Narayan Dutta Baruah, LBS Publications, G.N. Bordoloi Road, Gauhati-1, Assam, India) – " The Missionaries made Sibsagar in Eastern Assam the centre of their activities and used the dialect of Sibsagar for their literary purposes". The American Baptist Missionaries were the first to use this dialect in translating the Bible in 1813.

The Missionaries established the first printing press in Sibsagar in 1836 and started using the local Asamiya dialect for writing purposes. In 1846 they started a monthly periodical called Arunodoi, and in 1848, Nathan Brown published the first book on Assamese grammar. The Missionaries published the first Assamese-English Dictionary compiled by M. Bronson in 1867. One of the major contributions of the American Baptist missionaries to the Assamese language is the reintroduction of Assamese as the official language in Assam. In 1848 missionary Nathan Brown published a treatise on the Assamese language.[15] This treatise gave a strong impetus towards reintroducing Assamese the official language in Assam. In his 1853 official report on the province of Assam, British official Moffat Mills wrote:

Beginning of Modern Literature

The period of modern literature began with the publication the Assamese journal Jonaki (জোনাকী) (1889), which introduced the short story form first by Lakshminath Bezbaroa. Thus began the Jonaki period of Assamese literature. In 1894 Rajanikanta Bordoloi published the first Assamese novel Mirijiyori (মিৰি জীয়ৰী).

The modern Assamese literature has been enriched by the works of Kanchan Baruah, Saurabh Kumar Chaliha and others. Moreover, as regards the spreading of Assamese literature outside Assam, the complete work of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala has been translated into Hindi to reach a wider audience by Devi Prasad Bagrodia. Bagrodia has also translated Shrimanta Shankardev's 'Gunamala' into Hindi.

In 1917 the Oxom Xahityo Xobha (অসম সাহিত্য সভা) was formed as a guardian of the Assamese society and the forum for the development of Assamese language and literature. Padmanath Gohain Baruah was the first president of the society.

Contemporary literature

Contemporary writers include Arupa Patangia Kalita,Monikuntala Bhattacharya,Mousumi Kondoli, Monalisa Saikia.

See also

External links

  • Life and Works of Bhattadeva, the Father of Assamese Prose
  • Assamese proverbs, published 1896


  1. ^ (Sharma 1978, pp. 0.24-0.29)
  2. ^ (Saikia 1997, p. 5)
  3. ^ (Saikia 1997, p. 5)
  4. ^ example of language:
    age yena manusye laware kharatari
    chaga buli baghar galata ache dhari
    manusye erante galara nere baghe

    "if a man runs fast
    and catches hold of the neck of a tiger thinking it is only a goat
    and then tries to leave it, the tiger would not let him go"
  5. ^ References to camua (verse 176), cor (verse 57), and phura (verse 70) indicated that Vipra was either acquainted with the Ahom Kingdom, or even belonged there. (Neog 1953, p. 34)
  6. ^ (Neog 1953, p. 35)
  7. ^ (Neog 1953, p. 39)
  8. ^ The text indicates change overs from time to time (madhava bolanta aita acho ehimana, let me leave this here) and that the poet directed the course of the narration as the courtiers desired (Neog 1953, p. 27).
  9. ^ (Neog 1953, pp. 24–26)
  10. ^ (Saikia 1997, p. 7)
  11. ^ purvakavi apramadi madhav kandali adi
    pade virachila rama katha
    hastira dekhiya lada sasa yena phure marga
    mora bhaila tenhaya avastha.
  12. ^ (Sastry 1988, p. 1694)
  13. ^ (Saikia 1997, p. 8)
  14. ^ (Neog 1953, p. 46)
  15. ^ Brown, Nathan (1848). Grammatical Notices of the Assamese Language. American Baptist Missionary Press, Sibsagor, Assam
  16. ^ Mills, A.G. Moffat (1853). Report of A.G. Moffat Mills, Judge, Sudder Court, Mymensingh dated 24th July 1853, on the province of Assam


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