Assamese Literature

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Assamese Literature


the literature of the Assamese, a people living in the northeast part of India (the state of Assam).

Assamese literature developed on the basis of folk oral creative works (tales, ballads, and work, festival, and cradle songs). Some conception of the prewritten state of Assamese literature is provided by present-day Assamese folklore. Written literature appeared in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. In the early stage of its development Assamese literature intensively assimilated its rich classical heritage. The translations and adaptations of the Sanskrit epics and puranas into Assamese usually introduced elements of everyday reality and of Assamese folklore into the traditional plots. During the 15th and 16th centuries Assamese literature reflected ideas which had developed in Northern India within the antifeudal, religious reform bhakti movement, whose ideologist in Assam was the talented poet and founder of Assamese drama, Sankardeb. The idea of the equality of people before god was characteristic of the works of Assamese literature during this period—narrative poems, plays, and hymns in honor of Vishnu. In the 17th and 18th centuries a prominent place in Assamese literature was occupied by courtly historical chronicles, buranji, in prose and in verse—for example, the Assamese Chronicle, 1681, and the Chronicle of Kamarupa, 1700—and by biographies of religious figures, charitaputhi, which were written in the temples of Vishnu. The language of the latter was often intentionally complicated.

Internecine feudal wars, the devastating invasions by the Burmese, and the century-long domination by the British (from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century) held back the development of Assamese literature. In 1836 the use of Assamese was forbidden in schools and government institutions, but in this same year an American Baptist mission, which preached in Assamese, established the journal Arunodoi (“Dawn”). During the first half of the 19th century publications in Assamese consisted primarily of textbooks, religious texts, and translations of the works of Western European writers.

During the second half of the 19th century there was a flowering of culture; a national press appeared, and new literary genres arose—the short story, the historical novel (by writers such as L. Bezbarua and R. Bardoloi), and the social novel. Secular themes were asserted, and there was a break with the old aesthetic views and a departure from the norms of Sanskrit poetics. Assamese literature assimilated Western European aesthetic views, and numerous translations from English and other European languages appeared. In 1889 the journal Jonaki (Lightning Bug) was established in Calcutta; it attracted the young writers who had received a European education. Bengali literature had a considerable influence upon the creative work of Assamese writers. At the same time greater attention was being paid to the national folklore; the literary heritage of the Assamese people was studied (for example, by B. Kakati and B. K. Barua).

During the 1930’s two trends appeared in Assamese literature: one was progressive, scourging capitalist exploitation and demanding social transformations; the other maintained the slogan “art for art’s sake.” For Assamese literature the period of struggle against British colonialism was characterized by patriotic motifs, for example, P. Chaudhury’s Flaming Songs. A sharp sense of social problems, a mature understanding of psychology, and a realistic depiction of actuality mark the creative work of such leading writers of present-day Assamese literature as S. A. Malik, C. K. Gogoi, B. K. Bhattacharya (the novel), Dinanath Sarma (the short story), and P. Phukan (drama).


Sukhochev, A. S. “Kratkii ocherk istorii assamskoi literatury.” In the collection Poeziia narodov Indii. Moscow, 1962.
Istoriia indiiskoi literatury. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from English.)
Barua, B. K. Assamskaia literatura: kratkii ocherk. Moscow, 1968 (Bibliography, pp. 128–32).
Barua, B. K. Assamese Literature. Bombay, [1941].
Barua, B. K. Modern Assamese Literature. Gauhati, 1957.
Literatures in Modern Indian Languages. Delhi, 1957.


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Similarly, Dai's novel reveals a dialogue between the Native Arunachalee world where he grew up and the world of Assamese literature and culture he acquired.
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