The Sankaradeva Movement: Efflorescence of Great Literature

Early Assamese Literature is practically a product of the Neo-Vaisnavite Movement of Sankaradeva. The task of rendering Sanskrit scriptures into Assamese started by Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva continued unabated till the modern times under the inspiration and guidance of the heads of the different Satras.

Theological Works

There are several works of theological nature with special reference to the Bhakti path. The superiority of the Bhakti path over all other paths, devotion to Visnu-Krishna, types and elements of Bhakti, necessity of the Guru and of initiation (sarana), merit of holy association and such other topics have been dealt with in all the other works of this class.

Sankaradeva's Bhakti-Ratnākara and Bhakati-Pradip mark the beginning of this type of literature. Madhavadeva's translation of the Bhakti-Ratnāvali by Visnupuri, Bhattadeva's Bhakti-Viveka and Bhakti-Sāra, Rāmacarana Thākur's Bhakti-Ratnākara (Assamese), Narottama Thākur's Bhakti-Premāvali are popular and highly esteemed works. Except Sankaradeva's Bhakti-Ratnākara and Bhattadeva's Bhakti-Viveka, the rest are in Assamese verses. Madhavadeva's Nām-Ghosā and Gopāla Misra's Ghosā-Ratna are important works and deal with all aspects of Vaisnavism.

All these works are of the nature of compilation. Devotional verses collected from the Purānas mainly from the Bhāgavata, have been classified and re-arranged according to the subject-matter into different chapters.

1. Sankaradeva Bhakti-Ratnākara, Bhakati-Pradip;
2. Madhavadeva Bhakti-Ratnāvali;
3. Bhattadeva Bhakti-Viveka, Bhakti-Sāra;
4. Rāmacarana Thākur Bhakti-Ratnākara (Assamese);
5. Narottama Thākur Bhakti-Premāvali;
Translations and Adaptations

The Bhāgavata Purāna and parts of other Purānas were translated into Assamese verse. The Bhāgavata Purāna, in particular, had been most consistently drawn upon as the treasure-house of stories and incidents, which provided materials for kāvyas, dramas and songs. Sankaradeva himself rendered more than half of the Bhāgavata Purāna of which the Dasama (Book X) is the most popular. His followers of the 17th and the 18th centuries continued the tradition.

The Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyana were also translated into metrical Assamese and scores of kāvyas came to be written on the basis of some incidents of the great epic.

Besides Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva, special mention may be made of Ananta Kandali, Rāma Saraswati, Gopālacarana Dvija, Aniruddha Kāyastha, Bhāgavata Misra, Kesava Kāyastha, Visnu Bhārati and Ratnākara Misra and Govinda Misra. Gopālacarana Dvija's translation of the Harivamsa and Visnu-Bhārati's translation of the Visnu-Purāna also deserve notice. All these writers were directly or indirectly connected with the Satras.

Some of them translated Sanskrit works residing within the Satra precincts and others derived inspiration or received orders (ājnā) from the religious heads of the Satras. The entire Bhāgavata and the Gitā were rendered into Assamese prose by Bhattadeva, the head of the Pātbāusi Satra, in the last decade of the 16th century. Episodes of the Visnuite Purānas were also developed into independent kāvyas by the Vaisnava poets.

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