An astonishing discovery of Assamese scriptures dating as far as the fourth century at Dhupguri hill near Guwahati has turned years worth of discussions on the origins of the language upside down as it potentially means Assamese could become one of the oldest Indian languages.
As many as 10 Assamese alphabets of the Brahmi script can be clearly made out from the inscriptions that were discovered on Sunday at the Dhupguri hills in the Kamrup metropolitan district of Assam.
Linguists have been left baffled with some dating the inscription on walls to be more than 2,400 years old. Researchers have been able to identify as many as ten alphabets, এ, ব, ম, উ, ৰ, ৱ, য়, ই, and জ of the Assamese language and have dated the script to fourth century AD.
The scriptures are under scrutiny from experts from around the world for about two years now, and they have come to the understanding that the script in use is Brahmi. The letters ক, ব and ৱ were found to be similar to findings from the Piprahawa Stupa that was dated as far back as fifth century AD. It has also been established that the alphabets এ, ম, উ, ৰ, য়, ই, জ were similar to findings from emperor Ashoka’s time, dated around third century AD.
It is worth noting that the findings on Dhupguri hills is the first of its kind of stone inscriptions in Brahmi script found in Assam. Over the years, the flow of water has rubbed away a lot of inscriptions, however, the ones that were identifiable, have led to researchers reaching this conclusion.
The discovery has suddenly turned all works in this regard completely upside down and necessitated an entirely new line of study into the subject. Researchers have also mentioned that this discovery will open new avenues and shed new lights for further research and discussions into the beginnings of the Assamese language, and it could potentially be the single-most important discovery in the history of the language.
It will also prove that Assamese has not been derived from other scripts, but in fact it could be the base for scripts used during the time of emperor Ashoka. The findings were published in Asomiya Pratidin daily on May 1 and have caused a major stir among experts.
Ashok Sharma, a language expert who has been studying the findings for a long time, was of the opinion that since scripts do not come right after a new language is found, it can be safely said that the either the Brahmi script or the Dham script came to be in Assam at around the seventh or eighth century AD.
As it is thought that prior to emperor Ashoka’s writings, which were in completely developed scripts, there were no scripts in usage, so it is also safe to say that he might have taken the scripts from somewhere else. Hence, it can be concluded that early scriptures of the Assamese language were developed here in Assam, before they stood the test of time and evolved to reach the form that it is used today.
Prior to this path breaking discovery, experts argued that the Assamese script was developed from Bengali, due to their obvious similarities, but now, this also stands to be debunked. Further studies in this line will necessitate a complete overhaul of literature and works that have discussed the history of the language in Assam.
The sudden discovery has threatened the entire knowledge about existence of the language and it might turn out to be one of the most important discoveries in the history of the state.
Even as clamour over Hindi being a “superior” language and calls for incorporating it compulsorily into curriculums gain momentum in certain parts of the country and face flak in others, the discovery could jeopardize all claims of superiority that Hindi holds. Assamese language stands to be one of the oldest in the country, until further research into the findings of Dhupguri hills.