Though the antiquity of the Assamese language can be traced back to the 17th century A.D. it sprouted literary forms only in the 13th century. Rudra Kandali's translation of Dronaparva (of the Mahabharata) and Madhava Kandali's rendering of the Ramayana are two works of classical eminence in the early period.
The Vaishnavite movement in the 15th century A.D. gave an impetus to the vernacular literature. Sankara Dev(1449-1568), during his long life, popularized the movement by his great poetic compositions, dramas and lyrics.
The great name that should be remembered are Bhattadev (1558-1638) who popularized Assamese prose, Damodara Dev who wrote important biographies, and Purrushottam Thakur who wrote important grammatical works. The Buranjis constitute a glorious chapter in Assamese literature. Actually modern Assamese prose emerges from the Buranjis. In the 17th century a prose version of the Ramayana was written. Literature also broke out into secular channels.
The last three-quarters of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century remained in whole a barren period. For a period of about 40 years (1836-72) Bengali language dominated in Assam especially in administration and education; but that came to an end especially when the Christian missionaries started compiling dictionaries and writing grammar in Assamese and translating Bible into simple prose. The translation of the whole Bible into Assamese and its publication in 1813 was an important event.
The leaders of renaissance in Assamese literature are Chandrakumar Agarwalla (1858-1938), Lakshminath Bezbarua (1867-1938), and Hemachandra Goswami (1872-1928). The monthly jonaki which ushered in the romantic movement was founded by them. The leading novelists of the 19th century were Padmanath Gohain Barua and Rajnikanth Bardoloi. Both of them have written quite a few historical novels.
In the field of social novels, the important names are Dadinath Kalita, Daiba chandra Talukdar and Bina Barua. In the post-independence period the more important fiction writers are Syed Abdul Malik (b.1919), Jogesh Das (b.1927) and Briendra Kumar Bhattacharya (b.1924), the last one has annexed the Jnanpith award (1979) for the novel Mrutunjaya. Besides social novels, Assamese also has a good number of regional and biographical novels.
Western literature has considerably influenced contemporary writings. The influence of French symbolists and English poets like T.S.Eliot is quite patent.
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