Assamese or Ahomiya developed into a
literary language as late as 13AD. Spoken by nearly 60% of the
states population. The language has close affinities to
¤ The Famous Writers
Assamese is spoken all along the Brahmaputra valley and sounds quite
similar to Bengali, except for a few differences. In fact, the old
text Charya Padas is claimed by both Old Assamese and Old Bengali.
The oldest Assamese writer was perhaps Hema Saraswati, who wrote his
famous Prahlada Charita in the late 13th century AD.
Madhava Kandali (14th century) was the next well-known
figure, having written a vernacular Ramayana. Prominent among 15th
century works were Durgavaras Giti Ramayana, poems and songs
from the Puranas by Pitambara and Manakara and the mass of literature
called Mantras of unknown authorship.
¤ Advent of Bhakti Movement
The echoes of the Bhakti Movement of 15th century which
took over the whole of India were felt in Assam too under the
supervision of the poet Shankara Deva. Until now religion had meant
worshiping the Aryan gods, like the Mother Goddess for instance, who
was more dreaded than loved. Priest craft, magic and morbid rituals
like animal and human sacrifices dominated the scene.
The Bhakti Movement brought a healthy change with prayer,
praise and simple worship. In Assam, Vishnu or his incarnation Krishna
took the altar position as the God of Love and the Vaishnava
Shankara Deva wrote a host devotional songs and translations from the
Sanskrit canon. Rama Saraswatis lucid translation of the
Mahabharata and Vadha Kavyas (stories from the Puranas) were also very
popular. Everybody seemed to be doing the right thing at last
making literature easier for the common people.
¤ Buranjis -- A Unique Collection of Assamese Phrose
The Ahoms of Burma who ruled Assam and gradually settled here wrote
chronicles called Buranjis (1228 to 1824), a unique collection of
prose. A mass of technical literature on astrology, medicine,
mathematics, music, dancing and so on based on Sanskrit works was also
written. In the modern period the political upheavals were felt in the
literary scene too. Bengali tried to gain the upper hand for a while,
until the Christian missionaries Nathan Brown and Miles Bronson helped
resume writings in Assamese.
¤ 19th Century--The Era of Literary Activities
The later half of the 19th century witnessed a flood of
literary activities, the enthusiasm of which spilled over to the
present century. Dictionaries like Hema Chandra Baruwas Hema
Kosha were written and magazines like Arunodaya Samvad Patra (1846)
and Asam Bandhu (1885) were launched.
A fresh style of prose based on the spoken language was the order of
the day. Anandaram Dhekial Phukan (1829-96) and Gunabhiram Baruwa
(1837-95) were the two big daddies of this age.
Short poems and novels, dramas, lyrics and folk poetry pleased the
literary circles. A generation of novelists and poets like Rajanikanta
Bardalai (1867-1939), Hiteshwar Bezbarua (1871-1931), Chandra Kumar
Agarwala (1867-1938), Padmanath Gohain Baruwa (1871-1946), Benudhar
Raj Khowa (1872-1935) and their contemporary, Raghunath Chaudhari,
wrote profusely in an age of nationalism and social reforms.
Contemporary Assamese literature has a vibrant short-story genre.
Some of the best writers are Phul Goswami, Indira Goswami, Harendra
Kumar Bhuyan, Arupa Patangia Kalita and Manoj Kumar Goswami.