History of the Assamese Language

Though predominantly spoken in the state of Assam, Assamese is also used as a means of communication in some parts of Arunachal Pradesh and other northeast Indian states. There isn't much information on early writings and history of the language, though it is an established fact that Assamese, Bengali, Oriya and Maithili stem from Magadhi Prakrit - the language from which four Apabrahmsa dialects came about.

Assamese Literature

The earliest Assamese writer was Hema Saraswati, who wrote Prahlada Charita in the late 13th century A.D. Madhava Kandhali was another prominent figure in Assamese literature in the 14th century and he wrote a vernacular version of the Ramayana. Other well-known works of 15th century Assamese writers include Giti Ramayana by Durgavara, Mantras (author unknown) and canticles from the Puranas by Manakara and Pitambara.

Between 1228 and 1824, the Ahoms of Burma ruled Assam and contributed a collection of a unique style of prose called Buranjis. Technical literature on a host of different subjects including medicine, astrology, music, dancing and mathematics also flourished. Although Bengali seemed to be elbowing out Assamese during later years, the Christian missionaries Nathan Brown and Miles Bronson helped revive Assamese literature.

Today, Assam is known for its contribution of poets and novelists like Rajanikanta Bardaloi, Hiteshwar Bezbarua, Benudhar Raj Khowa and Chandra Kumar Agarwal apart from a host of contemporary authors like Phul Goswami, Indira Goswami, Harendra Kumar Bhuyan and Arupa Patangia Kalita.

Assamese Style and Grammar

A variant of the eastern Nagari script, Assamese has its roots in the Gupta script. Originally written on the bark of the saanchi tree, its religious texts and chronicles were preserved this way. Assamese was not a phonetic language initially, but Hemkosh (the second dictionary of Assamese) introduced Sanskrit based spellings, which have standardized the language today.

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