Tuesday January 23, 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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Facts about Indian Railways you can’t miss

India proudly boasts of world's largest railway network. Not only that, but the India railways itself can boast as the biggest employer in the India. 

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Facts about Indian Railways you shouldn't miss. Wikimedia Common
Facts about Indian Railways you shouldn't miss. Wikimedia Common

India proudly boasts of world’s largest railway network. Not only that, but the India railways itself can boast as the biggest employer in India.

Railways is a major part of India, not only because of its importance as a means of transportation but also because of its political and economic significance.

Here are some interesting facts about Indian Railways which might surprise you :

  • The New Delhi-Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India. The train runs at an average speed of 91 kmph and touches a top speed of 150 kmph on the 195 km Delhi-Agra stretch. The Nilgiri Express with an average speed of 10 kmph is said to be India’s slowest train.
Indian Railways is one of the most important and controversial transport in India. Wikimedia Commons
Indian Railways is one of the most important and controversial transports in India. Wikimedia Commons
  •  Indian Railways-owned the longest railway platform in the world at Kharagpur with a length of 2,733 feet. Now, breaking the record, Gorakhpur station has recently taken its place with a length of 4,430 feet.
  • Two historical railway elements are included in the UNESCO’ World Heritage site list – the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and the Indian Mountain Railways.The Indian Mountain Railways includes three railways – the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, Nilgiri Mountain Railways and Kalka Shimla Railway. All three trains have been functional for some 100 years. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is famous for its classic fusion of Gothic art with Indian architecture.
Indian Railways is on UNESCO list too. Wikimedia Commons.
Indian Railways is on UNESCO list too. Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Vivek Express (Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari) travels the longest distance of 4273 km. The shortest run is taken by a few scheduled services between Nagpur and Ajni – a total of 3 kms.
  • Mathura junction has the maximum number of routes emerging from it. The 7 of them include – Broad Gauge (BG) line to Agra Cantt, BG line to Bharatpur, BG line to Alwar, BG line to Delhi, Metre Gauge (MG) line to Achnera, MG line to Vrindavan and MG line to Hathras.
  • The railways function on a high operating ratio of 94%, that is, it spends 94 paise on every rupee that it earns.
  • The mascot for Indian Railways is Bholuor Bholu the guard elephant, which was designed by National Institute of Design. It was introduced on 16th April 2002.

    Bholu - the elephant guard was revealed in 2002. Wikimedia Commons
    Bholu – the elephant guard was revealed in 2002. Wikimedia Commons
  • The oldest working Indian locomotive still in use is the Fairy Queen, which worked with a steam engine.
  • India has eight Railway Museums – in Delhi, Pune, Kanpur, Mysore, Kolkata, Chennai, Ghum, and Tiruchirappalli. The National Railway Museum in Delhi is the largest rail museum in Asia.
  • Toilets were introduced in 1909 in the lower classes of trains, after a letter by certain Okhil Babu that described the ordeal he faced due to the absence of lavatories.