Friday July 20, 2018

Assamese – a bright spot in Indian regional languages scene

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By Harshmeet Singh

There aren’t many better examples of India’s diverse culture than its linguistic diversity. The country is home to 780 languages with over 120 of them holding the ‘official’ status. But the other side of the story is that India currently heads the list of UNESCO’s world’s languages in danger.

The constitution, in its eighth schedule, lists 22 languages as the official regional languages in the country. This series of articles is an attempt to focus on these 22 languages, their pasts and present, and cherish our linguistic diversity. We start the series today with Assamese.

The official language of the state of Assam, Assamese has more than 13 million native speakers. Apart from Assam, it also finds a considerable number of speakers in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and even Bangladesh and Bhutan. It is widely regarded as the easternmost language of the Indo-Aryan family.

Unlike most other Indian languages, Assamese doesn’t trace its origins to Sanskrit. But due to the migration of people in large numbers from north India to the northeastern parts of the country, the language came under the influence of Sanskrit. The script of the language is very similar to the scripts of Maithili and Bengali languages.

The northeast region boasts of a strong literary history and tradition. Archeologists have recovered a number of copper plates and edicts dating back to the medieval times. In Assam, ancient religious texts were usually written on saanchi tree’s bark. Since then, the language has evolved considerably. A number of spellings in the Assamese language don’t follow the rules of phonetics. Hemkosh, an Assamese dictionary based on the Sanskrit spellings of words, was compiled by Hemchandra Barua in the year 1900. It has come to be known as the standard reference for the language.

Assamese remains one of the few regional languages in the country which has managed to hold its own over the centuries. Just earlier this week, the famous Tezpur University, in collaboration with the century old Asomia Club, decided to teach Assamese language to the students, researchers and officials coming to the state from different parts of the country. It would help break the linguistic barriers between the locals and the outside people residing in the state.

One of the organizers behind the initiative, Hemanta Lahkar, told TOI, “Our aim is to popularize Assamese among the people who are spending time in the state and will go to other parts of the country in the years to come. Learning Assamese will certainly bridge a lot of gaps. We believe this would act as a bond among people in this diverse country.”

Initiatives such as these combined with a sustained pride of the Assamese people in their mother tongue would ensure that Assamese thrives further in the times to come.

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10 Indian Sites That Got UNESCO World Heritage Tag

Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India

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10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag
10 Indian sites that got UNESCO World Heritage tag. IANS

— By Sonali Pimputkar 

Mumbai’s rich bunch of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the Fort and Marine Drive precinct on Saturday, June 30, got the UNESCO World Heritage tag, giving India its 37th site. The precinct was added to the global list at the 42nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Manama, Bahrain. It covers an area of 66 hectares with Oval Maidan at the centre and includes a row of 19th-century Victorian buildings on one side while the 20th-century art deco structures on the other. There has been a universal praise for the team who represented Mumbai’s case to UNESCO. With this Mumbai gets its third UNESCO heritage tag – joining the Elephanta Caves and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (headquarters of the Central Railway). Maharashtra now has a total of five sites – more than any other state in India – including the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad. India is home to 37 World Heritage Sites approved by UNESCO which brings cultural and natural glory to the country. Here’s a look at 10 heritage sites of India that got the UNESCO world heritage tag before the Mumbai Art Deco buildings.

  • Capitol Complex of buildings, ChandigarhChandigarh Capital Complex is a government compound designed by the architect Le Corbusier and is spread over an area of around 100 acres. It comprises of three buildings, three monuments and a lake, including the Palace of Assembly, Secretariat, the signature Open Hand Monument, Geometric Hill, Tower of Shadows and Punjab and Haryana High Court building. The site got the UNESCO World Heritage tag in 2016.
  • Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

    Located 45 km South of Bhopal at the Southern edge of the Vindhya hills, the area is covered with thick vegetation, natural shelters and rich flora and fauna. The shelters were discovered in 1957 and were added to heritage list in 2003. The name ‘Bhimbetka’ has been associated with ‘Bhima’, the hero-diety of Mahabharata and the name literally means ‘sitting place of Bhima’. The place is a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters. These paintings depict man’s experimentation with creativity and belong to different prehistoric periods, including Late Paleolithic Period i.e. Old Stone Age that consists of large representations of rhinoceroses and bears. Paintings from Mesolithic i.e. Middle Stone Age consists of animals and human activities, Chalcolithic i.e. early Bronze Age consists of agriculture, early historic and medieval consists of religious motifs and tree gods.

    Bhimbetka
    Bhimbetka. IANS
  • Rani ki Vav, Gujarat

    Located on the banks of Saraswati river, Rani ki Vav (Queen’s step well) was built in 11th century AD in memory of King Bhimdev I. Stepwells are a distinctive form of water storage systems that have been in existence since the 3rd millennium BC. Rani ki Vav is designed into seven levels of stairs with more than 500 principle sculptures and over thousand mythological and religious works. The site has also been felicitated with the ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ title by the Indian Sanitation Conference (INDOSAN) in October 2016.

  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat

    Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is located around the Pavagadh hill and is known for its archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties. The history of this site dates back from the 8th to 14th centuries. The park is studded with eleven different types of buildings including temples, mosques, tombs, wells, walls and more.

     

  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka

    The heritage site is named as ‘Group of Monuments at Pattadakal’ by UNESCO as it houses nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary that portrays an amalgamation of architectural features of Northern (Nagara) and Southern (Dravida) India. Eight among the nine temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the ninth is Papanatha Temple, a Shaivite sanctuary. Apart from the major temples, several small Shiva shrines are seen here.

    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka
    Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka. IANS
  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya PradeshKhajuraho Group of Monuments are popular for its artistic magnificence rather than religious aspects. The site comprises of 22 temples. It is said that initially there were about 82 temples built. The temples belong to the Hindu and Jain community and have an amazing fusion of sculpture and architecture. Every evening the Khajuraho temple complex organises a light and sound show in the open lawns in English and Hindi. Besides, The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February that features classical Indian dances.
  • Khangchendzonga National Park, SikkimKhangchendzonga National Park (former Kanchenjunga National Park) also known as Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is the first ‘Mixed Heritage’ site of India. Located in the Himalayan range, the park is home to plains, glaciers, lakes, and valleys. Animals like snow leopard, red panda, and musk deer are spotted here regularly. Besides, the park is home to several rare and threatened plants and animals.
  • Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara, BiharThe ancient Nalanda University or a large Buddhist monastery located in the Southeast of Patna was a centre for learning in the seventh century. The site comprises of stupas, shrines, viharas and several artworks in metal and stone. The site stands out as the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. It is also said that the site was an organised mediation of knowledge for over 800 years. The historical development of the site proves the development of Buddhism into a religion and its educational traditions.
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand

    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
    Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand. IANS
  • The heritage sites comprise of two core areas -Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park -about 20 km apart. The Valley of Flowers is popular for its natural beauty and endemic alpine flowers. While the Nanda Devi National Park is known for its wilderness and spectacular topographical features including glaciers and moraines. Both the parks are blessed with a high diversity of flora and fauna, with a notable number of globally threatened species including Himalayan musk deer and various plant species.

    Also read: Indian Railways Will Promote Heritage Tourism By Preserving Its Metre-Gauge Tracks

 

  • Jantar Mantar, Rajasthan
  • Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734, Jantar Mantar got the World Heritage tag in 2010. The cultural property has been inscribed as ‘an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.’ Jai Singh II had constructed five Jantar Mantars at different locations – New Delhi, Jaipur, Mathura, Varanasi, and Ujjain.