Kaminikanto : The First Assamese Novel
SRI HEMANTA KUMAR SARMA
Novel is a unique production of western literature. Imitating the western literature it has been written in Indian literature too. It was not composed in Indian literature beforehand, what was written, was an allego- rical story, similaring tale, fable and the like. Although in an allegory, tale, or fable a history is found, yet it is not so dilative and thorough or vivid as the history of a novel. Unlike novel in them the painting of real picture of social life and conflicting characters is not seen. The expression of the intense feeling that awakes in the heart of man when the conscious and sub- conscious soul is wounded by outside occurrence is the business of a novel. In short, novel is a variegated expression of different feelings of life full of struggle. Thus says Henry James "A novel is a personal direct impression of life".
At the root of the production of novel in Assamese literature, like the literatures of the other provinces of India, lies the influence and pattern of novel composed in western literature. Even they read foreign novels in the beginning, who gave birth to Assamese novel. Mention may be made of Rajani Bordoloi, Gohain Baruah and others in this context.
It can be said that Assamese novel-literature is yet in the stage of infancy. Till now late Padmawoty Devi Phukonani's "Sudharmar Uppa- khyana' is taken to be the first novel in Assamese language. This was published in the year 1880. Though "Sudharmar Uppakhyana" is consi- dered to be the first Assamese novel, yet all the elements of a novel are not found in it. In it there is a history, a social picture, but no original elements of novel, no portrait of the secret place of man's heart. In spite of the absence of the radical materials if "Sudharmar Uppakhyana" is considered as the first novel in Assamese literature it will be more just to take "Kamini- kanta" to be the first Assamese novel excepting "Sudharmar Uppakhyana". For "Kaminikanta" was published in 1877 through the munificence of the American Baptist Missionaries of Sibsagar. At that time there was an American Mission press at Sibsagar and "Kaminikanta" was published from this very press. Fortunately in getting the book to read a general discussion is given below. This is the story of the novel :