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Monday, May 20, 2024

Assamese Romanticism & Need Of Scientific Literature (1590)

Romanticism in Assamese literature is a completely new concept or creation even for Indian. It is imported from the west, especially the United Kingdom. There were many readers of Kalidas’ Abhignan Sakuntalom or Meghdoot in Assam. Likewise lovelorn songs of Sankerdev’s Keligopal or Parijat horon are not characterized as such part of romantic literature. These literatures are mixed of spirituality with a purpose to establish supremacy of God.

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By: Arup Saikia

Romanticism in Assamese literature is a completely new concept or creation even for Indian. It is imported from the west, especially the United Kingdom. There were many readers of Kalidas’ Abhignan Sakuntalom or Meghdoot in Assam. Likewise lovelorn songs of Sankerdev’s Keligopal or Parijat horon are not characterized as such part of romantic literature. These literatures are mixed of spirituality with a purpose to establish supremacy of God.

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The emergence of romantic literature in England started in early nineteenth century through poets like Shelly, Wordsworth, and Coleridge etc. But this is basically revival of romanticism, because the romantic period of English literature already started with creations of dramatist Shakespeare. The period of first quarter in nineteenth century is really dawn of Assamese literature never happened before.

Start of modern literature:

Assamese language resurfaced after long thirty six years of dormant period .It was for effort of Orunodoi (Sunrise) and Jonaki (Moonlight). Both the magazines are two hands of Assamese literary empire. The first one had established the throne and second one fortified the kingdom.

Orunodoi (first Assamese magazine)published in 1846 by Baptist Christian Missionaries lasted upto 1883.Although main motive of this magazine was to establish Christianity, but modern literary figures are gift of this magazine.They are notably Gunabhi Baruah, Hemchandra Baruah, Anandaram Dhekial phukan etc. But modern fantasy of Assamese literature started with Jonaki (Moon light) magazine only.

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Jonaki period:

Chandra Kumar Aggarwal (1867-1938), Lakshminath Bezbaruah (1864-1938) and Hemchandra Goswami (1872-1928) are said to be Trinity (Trimurthy) of Assamese renaissance. The tempest of new Assamese literary renaissance came to Assam via Bengal in 1826. Being situated geographically and politically in remote area, Assam got touch of outsiders after fall of Ahom dynasty through Yandaboo pact.

The publication of Jonaki in 1889 is the birth of the golden literary period of Assam. ‘Asomiya Bhasha Unnati Xadhini Sabha’ a literary organization of Calcutta based Assamese, sponsored the Jonaki. Noted promising romantic litterateur Chandra Kumar Aggarwal was its secretary. Chandra Kumar Aggarwal was master of the theme on which emotive response and feelings of romanticism are based. Literary Assamese romanticism is a flowing river. Charioteer of Assamese literature Lakshmi Nath Bezbaruah was himself a boat crises crossing all paths. Chandra Kumar Aggarwal and Hem Chanda Goswami obviously handled the oars. Chandra Kumar’s poems of unbounded emotions like Bankuwari (jungle nymph), Niyar (Dew drop) Sundar (Beautiful), Prakriti (Nature) echoes poetry of Keats.Somewhere he enlivened nature. Lakshminath Bezbaruah was Assamese literary genius. From poetry (Kadam Kali) in 1913, short stories (Jonbiri, Surabhi) in 1909/1913 to historical dramas – Joymati Kunwari, Chakradhwaj Singha, he sprinkled golden water everywhere. Hemchandra Goswami credited as first composer of Assamese sonnet, Priyatomor Chithi, (letter of beloved) besides being prolific poet, critic, and essayist.

Assam literary movement or Assamese intellectual sensibilities was of Bengal or Kolkata base. The regressive and antagonistic attitude of Bengali people towards Assamese literature and language in that time is well known. That had catalyzed to awaken literary nationalism among Assamese Diaspora. Not only Assamese, all modern regional literature of India is the prototype of Europe. Later region wise developed depending on milieu.

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Romantic trend:

Sankari or post Sankari literature is more about divinity. Religio-ethical mood was prevalent method of writing. Setting aside typical Assamese ideals tried to emancipate fantasy of thoughts. Assamese literature was in general had thinking of homogeneity, commingling of same tendencies. With advent of western literature there was conflict between flying and restraint literary system. The achievements of Assamese literature materialized when the feelings, thoughts, moods became susceptible to poetic impulses. Natural and expressive freedom of lyrics is important trait of romantic literature.

Revolutionary write up only can emancipate literature from old grip. This is kind of literary freedom struggle symbolically to establish romanticism. Except few prominent litterateurs, many in Assam hadn’t cooperated with the inevitable change of new literary stream. Assamese elites were unable to penetrate among commoners for various reasons. .Calcutta being hub of Assamese romanticism may be one reason for not touching the remote hinterland of Assam. It’s false that we don’t have any traditional base or ingredients for romantic literature. Traditional popular song, Bongeet (jungle song), is one of the oldest Assamese song prevalent among rural youngsters, farmers, woodcutters etc. It is said the origin of ‘Bihu’ songs or tunes were also changed form of Bongeet. Deplorably our romantic literature couldn’t sustain or inherit the legacy of most emotive longing lyrics for poetic expression. But anyway Assamese romanticism held sway over urbanized localities of Assam unlike Bengal or rustic-throb Bongeet.


Only poetry had opened the modern golden gate of Assamese literature. Human intellectual history is characteristically same in all the time. Like the birth of poetic aboriginal literature, poetry again also successfully led literary contingent to attain romanticism. The poetic stir was multifaceted .English poems were very innovative, full of love, affection, emotions and sentiments. Affinity towards natural feelings, spontaneous outburst without rigid authoritarian rule cater to grow poetry .Contemporary socio-political events had vital influence on writings of Shelley, Byron etc. There were few writer in that period who are directly or indirectly inspired or moved by French revolution. On the other hand political consciousness and national upheavals had very little impact on our poet. Rhythmic words of Chandra Kumar Aggarwal of course had open heart ebullience in ‘Bin  Boragi’.

Post-Jonaki period:

Agni kobi (fiery poet) Kamala Kanta Bhattacharya had visibly to some extent revolutionized sarcastic writing on present socio-political issues. Even some folk poetic lyrics or stories running verbally in Assamese traditional society had been reborn beautifully in new attire.

The artistic vision and imaginative power to transform general insignificant object into thoughts of modulation became rich insignia of poetry. Enthusiasts of this theory therefore wrote “Chapakhanar Bibaran” and “Manimuni Sak” by Dayaram Chetiya and Bhairav Khataniar respectively .Imaginative union or separation, the term “dream woman” longings and aspirations, pursuing infinity were slowly creeping in Assamese poetry. Apart from love and nature, school of mysticism also grew in poetry. The true mysticism represented by Nalini Bala Devi (1898-1977). Serenity in infinity, describing place of sojourn for soul, intuitive flying bespeak her mysticism. Another great spiritual mystic poet A. G. Rai Choudhary (1885-1967) had applied sensible cognizance to saturate in mysticism in eternity. Another renowned poet Jatin Duara (1892-1964) tested his poetic debut in ‘Banhi’ magazine (1909-1933).He owes his feelings to Omar Khayyam, Tennyson, Tagore etc. Known as poet of SEWALI, Ratna Barkakati (1897-1963) was a poet of tranquillity. Mystic thinker under a sunny sky. Nobody can forget young Ganesh Gogoi’s (1907-1938) poetic footsteps in the romantic arena blended with distinguished music and beauty of words.

Last part of Romanticism:

Narrative of Assamese last period of romanticism will remain incomplete if dramatic monologue of Deba Kanta Baruah is not discussed. He is product of “Aabahon” magazine published from Kolkata in 1929.He very boldly romanticized Assamese poetry owes to Virginia Wolf and Robert Browning during fourth decade of twentieth century. Modern or post-romanticism period began after that.

Western Indian impact:

Western sense is omnipresent. Be it technique of presentation or subject matter, all are like copy-cat of western influence. The Assamese romantic literature is not separated from that of Indian. Only time of arrival is varied. As mentioned earlier, besides having inherently amorous song, Indian literature hadn’t evolved or experienced transition. It is pole vaulting or catapulted from Europe to Indian end. The most perceptible effect of this stream is to grow lyric as branch or part itself. Modern education aesthetically molds people to be literary connoisseur.

Overall romantic literature:

Notwithstanding poetry, Assamese literary Trinity, Chandra Kumar, Lakshmi Nath, Hemchandra, forayed in other fields of literature also. In the initial period of romanticism itself Assamese readers got a glimpse of dramaturgy, novel, short story, essay etc.

As long as drama is concerned, Shakespeare’s comedy of errors famously translated as “Bhrama Ranga” in 1888.Translation was done by many jointly under guidance of L. N. Bezbaruah in Calcutta. This is kind of literary rendering, where characters and venue are of Assamese milieu, built path for indigenous creation.

Present and future of Assamese literature:

Human’s hobbies, tastes, interests and necessities are changing with time. Literature is also not exceptional. Small regional languages are under threat of diminishing or extinction. How do we preserve linguistic identity?

Obviously we have to search avenue of new literary theme. Where readers must have a natural appetite or compulsion to read. Scientific literature starting from geology to astronomy or from pisciculture to flora & fauna have to be a resourceful subject of creative literature now. Nowadays in a busy schedule very few people will spare reasoning to read monotonous prose or poetry however literary the genre may be. Mythologically or traditionally our literature about nature-trees, birds, river, sea etc are confined to describe beauty only. Now scientific evaluation is required to beautifully verify the quality of trees or planets and all other seen objects with added literary contents. Scientific literature will be of academic importance also for students and educationists.

Scientific literature & environmentalist Phatik Gogoi of Assam years ago wrote about Indian wild animals ‘in 1966. The same writer wrote about ‘cells of tree’. More recently Girimallika Saikia published a book ‘Ananya Aranya’ (unique forest). Here she very precisely presented biodiversity conservation through various Assamese short stories and dramas. This stream of literature has to be flown in a more expanded way in all subjects of universe. Finally this is the scientific period of post moon walking. Only decorated words of scientific reality matter for conscious readers. (The author is an alumni of Delhi University. He is noted cultural activist, actor, scriptwriter and poet who can be reached at 91-9954050690, arupsaikia07@gmail.com)

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