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3. Manuscript (or printed) chronicles in Assamese language & script

jeudi 12 juin 2008, par F. Jacquesson

Assamese sources are more numerous and easier to find. Several of them have been published by a great Assamese scholar, Surya Kumar Bhuyan, in the collection of the Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies (D.H.A.S.), which he created and of which he was the first director. But very few of these Assamese texts have been translated into another language. This is the reson why we try to do that

Since the 17th century, the Tai-Ahom language died out. Experts kept on writing it, priest went on reciting formulas for rituals, but in everyday life the language was dead : children had shifted to Assamese. Moreover, Ahom families never had a very exclusive behaviour. Mixed marriages were quite welcome, and the chronicles openly describe the fusion process. Therefore, after the 17th century, historical narratives are written in Assamese language (and Assamese script). The older chronicles are translated (or adapted) into Assamese, and the new chapters are written directly in Assamese. Some of these Assamese chronicles, in full, in parts or in anthologies were published by Bhuyan. Such as

1929 Assamese historical literature

1930 Assam buranji

1930 Kamrupar buranji

1932 Report on the work of the DHAS

1932 Deodhai Assam buranji, with several shorter chronicles

1933 Tungkhungkia buranji

1936 Kachari buranji

1938 Tripura buranji

Most of these editions have been printed again and again, thanks to DHAS. Surya Kumar Bhuyan devised his editions for a rather wide Assamese audience. His purpose was scientific and pedagogical as well, in the line of Indian social workers. This choice had two consequences. 1/ His texts are no philological editions, at all. He freely chose among important manuscripts, and rarely compared them systematically. However, he often precisely indicated his sources, as far as it was possible in his time (remember he was the first to collect manuscripts and name them) ; and he also cleverly summed up the matters. The more you study his editions, the more you know about India at that period, and the more you come to admire S. K. Bhuyan. 2/ He translated only one text into English, the Tungkhungia buranji. Images below show S. K. Bhuyan (rather young, about the time when he wrote his delightful London Memories) and the Tungkhungia Buranji, in Assamese on the left, in English on the right - modern editions published by DHAS.

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Tungkhungia assamais
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S. K. Bhuyan
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Tungkhungia anglais

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