Notes on Assamese Literature

Assam is the north eastern most state in modern India. In the Mahabharta and Ramayana and other Puranas of  ancient times, it was known by the name PragJoytish. The modern name is associated with Ahom, the Shan tribe which invaded the Assam in 1229 AD and ruled it for many centuries. Earliest specimens of the use of language are traced to name and places inscriptions on copper plates in the reign of Kamarupa kings. Earliest form of  language is in the form of Baudha Gan O Doha, a work on Yogic practices in the 8th to 10th century can be considered as the formative phase.

The literature seems to have begun in the reign of Durlabhnarayana who was the king of Kamatapur in 13th century beginning. First Assamese book called “Prahlad Charitra” was composed by Hema Saraswati. It was in the rhyme and borrowed the inspiration from Sanskrit literature. After the Durlabhnarayana, in the reign of his son Indranarayana, two poets Harihar Vipra and Kaviratna Saraswati composed verse narratives also. Harihara’s notable work was Babrubahanar Yuddha  and Kaviratna wrote Jaidaratha Badha Kavya. The influence of Aryan literature in North West India is very clear.

Madhav Kandali, in the reign of Kachari king Mahamankiya in the 13th century, undertook the stupendous task of translating Ramayana into Assamese. Due to this effort, he was given the title of Kaviraj and called as Kaviraj Kandali. While being honest to the original text,his work is very lucid and less Sanskrit laden. He freed the literature from the Sanskrit and added the local flavor.

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