(Last Updated on : 11/03/2011)
Hema Saraswati is one of the earliest literary figures of Assam
. In fact, it is often held that it is with Hema Saraswati, who lived and wrote in the 13th century, that Assamese literature
came to exist in its written form. From his autobiographical sketch in his famous work Prahlada Charita, it is evident that he won the patronage of King Durlabhnarayana of Kamatapura. It was in this King's court that in whose court teachers and learned men and artists of great acumen gathered. Thus Hema Saraswati started his career in the pre-Vaishnava period with Prahlada Charita which, in fact, marked the beginning of an era of recorded history in Assamese literature. Competent authorities believe that King Durlabhnarayana must have ruled in Kamatamandala during the closing years of the 13th century or during the beginning of the 14th. Whatever that may be, that Hema Saraswati was a well-known contemporary of this king, there is little or no doubt. Not only the date, but also the frontiers of Durlabhnarayana's kingdom Kamatamandala have not so far been finally established.
The story of Prahlada Charita, as the name suggests, is limited to the differing mental attitudes between the demon-king Hiranyakasipu and his Vishnuite son Prahlada. Although it is often claimed that this poem shows certain Vishnuite inclinations on the part of its author and that it helps to put down the Vamanaya cult, there is no concrete proof so as to conclude that Hema Saraswati was an ardent Vishnuite. In fact, hudging from Hara-Gauri Samvada, a poem on which Hema Saraswati's claim to poetic recognition lies more firmly, it can be said that the poet's spiritual affiliations cannot be clearly defined. On the other hand, this poem shows the poet's predilections for Sakta-Saiva worship.
Hema Saraswati employed a type of rhymed couplet for his literary composition. He also made an extensive use of the Dulari metre which attained a high level of excellence in the hands of Sankaradeva and Madhavdeva of the subsequent period. There are certain ancient, primitive expressions in the Prahlada Charita that speak of the influence of Prakrit prevailing during the time.
Hema Saraswati was thus undoubtedly a most important figure in the history of Assamese literature. That he is a master of vivid narrative, howsoever stilted his style might be, cannot be doubted.