Manikonwar is one of the oldest ballads in Assamese literature. It is very simple and direct in style and represents different stages in Assamese society.
Manikonwar is possibly the oldest existing ballad in Assamese literature. It is quite unlike the medieval metrical romances like the Harana and Vadha Kavyas in that it is compact in spirit and lucid and direct in style. The ballad Manikonwar, full of digressions, is about Sankaladiva's son Prince Mani. Although attempts have been made by scholars to try and fix the period of rule of this king, there is no authentic record available in respect of Sankaladiva's reigning time, except a nominal reference in Ferishta's History. There are interesting digressions in Manikonwar, especially one on the virtues of an ideal wife and the various sentiments associated with it. Child Manikonwar maturing into adulthood married Kanchanmati. It is here that the balladist introduces social glimpses of the time. Although there is no special reason for a presumption of this kind except that the hero of the latter poem is said to be the posthumous son of the former, the Manikonwar ballad seems to grow into the Phulkonwar ballad; it is a popular song noted for its poignancy of emotion.
'My father is carried away
By the white elephant,
And enthroned monarch of his dominion;
My mother is taken away
By the marine merchant.'
Though the style is more often than not digressive, the poem contains some fine descriptive snapshots. The ballad is full of innocence and simplicity. The authors' genius for depicting life and visualizing scenes of the remote past is admirably exhibited in the ballad. Manikonwar grew through the ages as is evident from the pictures in the poems depicting the different stages of social growth. What remained possibly a trifle at the beginning grew into a full-fledged work of imagination as time passed. In both the ballads, Manikonwar as well as Phulkonwar the story is told swiftly and lucidly without any superficial austerity.
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