Monday, 26 October 2015

American Evangelist Nathan Brown first publisher of books in Assamese language - colonial India

Numerous missionaries, during the colonial period, across Europe and America came to India on a mission to spead Christianity. Among them, many missionaries ended up spending their time more on researching the Indian langauages than in their chosen field of spreading the message of Christ. What made them choose the Indian languages, altogether a different field ? They were struck by their richness, beauty and orderly advanced grammar
Rev Nathan Brown.American Baptist missionary to India

Eliza Brown was Nathan's wife and partner in
Doctor Nathan Brown and his family  along with Rev. Oliver Cutter  came  to Assam in 1836 from Burma as a Christian Missionary.  Brown was born in New Ipswich,  New Hampshire on June 22, 1807. Rev.  Brown was impressed by the Assamese language and gained considerable practical .knowledge. He and his wife  and Rev Cutter  first arrived in Sadiya, eastern most part of Assam. Knowing the importance of native tongue in education, they started schools in Assamese and Khaamti languages, spoken in that region. They carried a portable printing machine with them which was quite helpful. So they authored not only the text books,  but also translated 'New Testament' to Assamese.  In 1839 it was a tough time for them due to Khamti rebellions, so, they moved over to Jaipur, now in Rajasthan. Both Brown and  Cutter  did not keep quiet there and carried on their publication work in Assamese with same vigor.

When Assam came back to normal, both Brown and Cutter families returned there, this time they settled in Sibsagar.  One of the major contributions to Assamese language by Brown is 'Grammatical Notes of Assamese language'. It was printed at the Americal Baptist Mission Press in 1848, Sibsagar and published by Americal Baptist Missionary Union, Nowgong, Assam,1893. Both Brown and Cutter were instrumental in publishing the first  Assamese magazine 'Orunodoi' in 1846.  Brown was editor of the magazine for 9 long years. Brown printed and published some of the important books in Assamese language.  'Axhaam Buronji'(Assam's History) by Kashinath Phukan in 1844, 'Mathematics' two parts by Bokul Kayastha in 1845, 'Chutiya Buronji' in 1850, etc are worthy of mention.  Mrs. Eliza Brown who assisted her husband in every possible way, on her part, published a story book, a Mathematics book and a Geography book for children, besides the Brown family adopted a child from Gohpur, Assam. Their adopted  son named  Nidhi Libai Farwale  helped the Browns in their missionary works. In 1848 the complete translation of 'New Testament' was first published  as 'Amaar Traankorta Jisu Christor Natun Niyom'. In 1854 he published 'Christor Biworon and Xhubho Bartaa'. 

Upon his return to the US in 1850, Brown was actively involved in the movement for abolition of slaves and established a name. Later he went to Japan and founded a first Baptist church in Tokyo.  Brown died in Yokohama on January 1, 1886 in the middle of his missionary work.

Dr. Brown took the honor of printing and publishing many early works in Assamese language. Invariably many missionaries during the colonial period in India played a key role in bringing out the grandeur and beauty of several literary works in various Indian languages, in particular Tamil and Telugu. The pioneering works of Dr. Brown and his associate Rev. Cutter form an important mile stone in the history of Assamese language.