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.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early Assamese (6th to 15th century)
- 1.2 Middle Assamese (17th to 19th century)
- 1.3 Modern Assamese
- 2 See also
- 3 External links
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
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 Kamarupa inscriptions betray an underlying Pakrit in the pre-12th century period, scarce examples of the language exist. The Charyapadas, the Buddhist ballads of 8th-10th century some of whose composers were from Kamarupa and the language of which bear strong affitinities with Assamese (beside Bengali and Oriya), are considered the first examples of Assamese literature. The spirit of the Charyapadas are found in later-day Deh-Bicaror Geet and other aphorisms; and some of the ragas found their way to the 15th-16th century Borgeets. 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. 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.
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) 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, which at that time was a small kingdom in the east, and describes the undivided Lakhimpur region, and in Lava-Kushar Yuddha he departs from the original and describes local customs for Rama and Sita's pumsavana ceremony. 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 in the court of a 14th-century Barahi-Kachari king Mahamanikya (Mahamanikpha) who ruled either in the Nagaon or the Golaghat region. 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. 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". 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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:
|“||...the people complain, and in my opinion with much reason, of the substitution of Bengalee for the Vernacular Assamese. Bengalee is the language of the court, not of their popular books and shashtras, and there is a strong prejudice to its general use. …Assamese is described by Mr. Brown, the best scholar in the province, as a beautiful, simple language, differing in more respects from, than agreeing with, Bengalee, and I think we made a great mistake in directing that all business should be transacted in Bengalee, and that the Assamese must acquire it. It is too late now to retrace our steps, but I would strongly recommend Anandaram Phukan’s proposition to the favourable consideration of the Council of Education, viz., the substitution of the vernacular language in lieu of Bengalee, and completion of the course of the Vernacular education in Bengalee. I feel persuaded that a youth will, under this system of tuition, learn more in two than he now acquires in four years. An English youth is not taught in Latin until he is well grounded in English, and in the same manner, an Assamese should not be taught in a foreign language until he knows his own.||”|
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 1891, Padmabati Debi Phukanani published the first Assamese novel Sudharmar Upakhyan. Rajanikanta Bordoloi published the famous novel Mirijiyori(মিৰি জীয়ৰী) much later..
The modern Assamese literature has been enriched by the works of Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla, Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Birinchi Kumar Barua, Hem Barua, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Nalini Bala Devi, Navakanta Barua, Bhabananda Deka, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Lakshmi Nandan Bora, Homen Borgohain, Nirupama Borgohain, Kanchan Baruah, Saurabh Kumar Chaliha, Mamoni Raisom Goswami, Nalini Prava Deka, Dhrubajyoti Bora and others. Moreover, as regards the spreading of Assamese literature outside Assam, Principal Bhabananda Deka translated the timeless Assamese classic Kirtana Ghosa of Srimanta Sankardev into lucid English prose. First few chapters of his monumental translated works had been published in 2006 under the editorship of award winning short-storywriter and novelist Arnab Jan Deka. Meanwhile, Madhabdev's Naam Ghosa had been translated into English poetry by several translators including Purnananda Saikia and Pranabananda Pathak. Some literary works of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala has been translated into Hindi by Devi Prasad Bagrodia. Bagrodia has also translated Shrimanta Shankardev's Gunamala into Hindi. Principal Bhabananda Deka also authored the first English comprehensive authoritative book introducing Assamese language-literature for the common English readers titled Assamese Language & Literature & Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa along with three of his associates, which was first published in 1968 and was officially released by the then President of India Dr Zakir Hussain on 24 Nov 1968 in New Delhi. An enlarged and re-edited edition of the book edited by Arnab Jan Deka was published on 4 Dec 2014 by London-based 'Luit to Thames' journal editor Dr Karuna Sagar Das on the occasion of 8th death anniversary of its author and 150th birth anniversary of Lakshminath Bezbaroa.
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 Assamese writers include Nalini Prava Deka, Arupa Patangia Kalita, Sameer Tanti, Sananta Tanti, Arnab Jan Deka, Neelim Kumar, Dhanada Debi, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Monikuntala Bhattacharya, Mousumi Kondoli, Monalisa Saikia and several others.
- List of Assamese writers with their pen names
- Oxomiya Bhaxa Unnati Xadhini Xobha
- Assamese short story
- Assamese Poetry
- List of Assamese poets
- Indian literature
- List of Sahitya Akademi Award winners for Assamese
- (Sharma 1978, pp. 0.24-0.29)
- (Saikia 1997, p. 5)
- (Saikia 1997, p. 5)
- 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"
- 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)
- (Neog 1953, p. 35)
- (Neog 1953, p. 39)
- 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).
- (Neog 1953, pp. 24–26)
- (Saikia 1997, p. 7)
- purvakavi apramadi madhav kandali adi
pade virachila rama katha
hastira dekhiya lada sasa yena phure marga
mora bhaila tenhaya avastha.
- (Sastry 1988, p. 1694)
- (Saikia 1997, p. 8)
- (Neog 1953, p. 46)
- Brown, Nathan (1848). Grammatical Notices of the Assamese Language. American Baptist Missionary Press, Sibsagor, Assam
- Mills, A.G. Moffat (1853). Report of A.G. Moffat Mills, Judge, Sudder Court, Mymensingh dated 24th July 1853, on the province of Assam
- Kakati, Banikanta, ed. (1953), Aspects of Early Assamese Literature, Gauhati: Gauhati University
- Barpujari, H K, ed. (1990). "Language and Literature". The Comprehensive History of Assam 1. Guwahati: Publication Board.
- Neog, Maheshwar (1953), "Assamese Literature before Sankaradeva", in Kakati, Banikanta, Aspects of Early Assamese Literature, Gauhati: Gauhati University
- Sastry, Biswanarayan (1988). "Influence: Sanskrit (Assamese)". In Datta, Amaresh. Encyclopedia of Indian Literature 2. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. pp. 1692–1694.
- Saikia, Nagen (1997). "Medieval Assamese Literature". In Ayyappa Panicker, K. Medieval Indian Literature: Assamese, Bengali and Dogri 1. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. pp. 3–20.
- Sharma, Mukunda Madhava (1978). Inscriptions of Ancient Assam. Guwahati, Assam: Gauhati University.