Unraveling the Linguistic Legacy of Kali Ram Medhi

Kali Ram Medhi:

  • Medhi was born in village Ramdia near Hajo in the present Kamrup (Rural) district on October 18, 1878, to Bhukoli Medhi and Sontara Medhi. 

  • Kali Ram Medhi, an eminent linguist, is a prominent name in the history of Assamese literature.

  • His outstanding contributions to the scientific study of Assamese language and literature would always mesmerise the academic as well as intellectual fraternity of Assam.

  • He could read Kaitheli books while he was a school student.

  • In 1903, he completed his MA, becoming the third Assamese student after Radha Nath Phukan (1897), and Annadacharan Bhattacharyya to obtain an MA degree. 

  • He was the first Assamese scholar who could analyse and assess the origin, growth and development of Assamese drama.

Vaishnavite Influence:

  • Ramdia, one of the important centres of Vaishnavite learning, had a great influence on the Medhi family.

  • Sontara Medhi, the illiterate mother of Kali Ram, could recite the verses of Kirtan and Dasham, Ramayana and Mahabharata fluently.

  • From his early childhood, Kali Ram Medhi developed a deep sense of association with Vaishnavism and owing to the influence of his mother, he became a man of discipline, simplicity and benevolence.

Assamese language and literature:

  • His first write-up was published in the journal Jonaki edited by Satyanath Bora. It was an essay titled Pralay.

  • Illuminating essays like Axomiya Nat, Helir Nejal Tara, Gaurav and Likhar Xajuli written by him were published in Axam Bandhava edited by Taranath Chakraborty.

  • Gaurav was his popular essay, which could draw admiration from the Assamese readership. This essay was included in the Assamese textbook for Class X prescribed by SEBA for many decades and Assamese students studying in high school during that period still reverently recall the profound literary beauty of that essay.

  • Three of his valued and illustrative articles The Kalitas, Philosophical Aspect of the

  • Assamese Brajavali Literature and The Brajavali of Assam – were published in the research journal of the Kamrup Anusandhan Samity in serial order.

  • Axomiya Vyakarana aru Bhasha Twatta was another extraordinary work by him. Published in 1936, this book contains 439 pages. A preface of 124 pages has also been added to this book. This book established Medhi as a prominent linguist in Assam.

  • Asomiya Bhashar Mul is another thought-provoking book written by Medhi where he pointed out the defects inherent in the books on Assamese grammar written by foreign writers. Thus, he laid stress on writing and following Assamese grammar written on scientific lines.

Books related to Vaishnivism:

  • Medhi edited Prahlad Charitra composed by Hem Saraswati, one of the pre-Vaishnavite scholars of Assam. 

  • This was a pioneering work because he applied the ‘text review method’ in editing such an old book for the first time in Assamese literature.

  • In subsequent times, Dr Maheswar Neog, Dr Birinchi Kumar Barua and Dr Satyendra Nath Sarma, professors of Gauhati University, started applying this method along the lines shown by Medhi, the versatile scholar

  • He wrote an immense book titled Mahapurush Sankardevar Bani containing 346 pages. This book can also be regarded as the first ‘quotation dictionary’ of Sankaradeva’s literary works.

  • Ankavali is another of his significant contributions, published in 1950, was the compilation of 21 ankiya naats composed by Sankaradeva, Madhavdeva, Gopal Ata, Ram Charan Thakur, Dwija Bhusan and Daityari Thakur.

  • Medhi collected those ankiya naats from sattras like Ramdia, Sualkuchi, Chamaria, Barpeta, Nowgong, Goalpara, etc., in writing this book.

  • A comprehensive scholarly preface containing  111 pages has been appended to the book. 

  • Dr Maheswar  Neog termed Ankavali as a “monumental piece of work.”


  • Medhi was a student of physics and wrote some fiction to popularise science education in Assam.

  • He contributed a good number of essays to the journal of the Assam Research Society.

Medhi’s book on Assamese grammar and language was no less precious than the epoch-making work of Dr Kakati’s ‘Assamese: Its Origin, Formation and Development’. Medhi delivered an extraordinary presidential speech in the third session of the Asam Sahitya Sabha held at Barpeta in December 1919. It could open new vistas of thought and analysis in Assamese literature. His tenure as president of the Sabha was one of the golden chapters in the history of Assamese literature.

Advait IAS