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Assam
Location of Assam in India
Coordinates 26°09′N 91°46′E / 26.15°N 91.77°E / 26.15; 91.77
Country  India
District(s) 27
Established 15 August 1947
Capital Dispur
Largest city Guwahati
Governor J B Patnaik
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi
Legislature (seats) Unicameral (126)
Population
Density
26655528 (14th)
340 /km2 (881 /sq mi)
Official languages Assamese, Bengali (in the three districts of Barak Valley)
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
Area 78550 km2 (30328 sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 IN-AS
Website assam.gov.in
Seal of Assam

Assam About this sound pronunciation (Assamese: অসম Ôxôm [ɔxɔm], Hindi: आसाम, and also Hindi: असम) is a northeastern state of India with its capital at Dispur located in the city of Guwahati. Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys along with the Karbi Anglong and the North Cachar Hills with an area of 30,285 square miles (78,438 km²). Assam is surrounded by six of the other Seven Sister States: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. These states are connected to the rest of India via a narrow strip in West Bengal called the Siliguri Corridor or "Chicken's Neck".[1] Assam also shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh; and cultures, peoples and climate with South-East Asia - important elements in India’s Look East policy.

Assam became a part of India after the British occupied the region following the Treaty of Yandaboo of 1826. It is known for Assam tea, large and old petroleum resources, Assam silk and for its rich biodiversity. Assam has successfully conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. It is becoming an increasingly popular destination for wild-life tourism, and Kaziranga and Manas are both World Heritage Sites.[2] Assam was also known for its Sal tree forests and forest products, much depleted now. A land of high rainfall, Assam is endowed with lush greenery and the mighty river Brahmaputra, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a unique hydro-geomorphic and aesthetic environment.

Contents

Etymology

Assam was known as Pragjyotisha in the Mahabharata; and Kamarupa in the 1st millennium. “While the Shan invaders called themselves Tai, they came to be referred to as Āsām, Āsam and sometimes as Acam by the indigenous people of the country. The modern Assamese word Āhom by which the Tai people are known is derived from Āsām or Āsam. The epithet applied to the Shan conquerors was subsequently transferred to the country over which they ruled and thus the name Kāmarūpa was replaced by Āsām,which ultimately took the Sanskritized form Asama, meaning ‘unequalled, peerless or uneven’”</ref> The British province after 1838 and the Indian state after 1947 came to be known as Assam..

On February 27, 2006 the Government of Assam started a process to change the name of the state to Asom,[3] a controversial move that has been opposed by the people and political organizations.[4]

Physical geography

A view of the river Brahmaputra

Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the life-line of Assam is a paleo-river; older than the Himalayas. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradesh entering Assam, becomes a braided river (at times 10 mi/16 km wide) and with tributaries, creates a flood plain (Brahmaputra Valley: 50-60 mi/80–100 km wide, 600 mi/1000 km long).[5] The hills of Karbi Anglong, North Cachar and those in and close to Guwahati (also Khasi-Garo Hills) now eroded and dissected are originally parts of the South Indian Plateau system.[5] In the south, the Barak originating in the Barail Range (Assam-Nagaland border), flows through the Cachar district with a 25–30 miles (40–50 km) wide valley and enters Bangladesh with the name Surma.

Assam and its Environs: As per the plate tectonics, Assam is in the eastern-most projection of the Indian Plate, where the plate is thrusting underneath the Eurasian Plate creating a subduction zone and the Himalayas.[6] Therefore, Assam possesses a unique geomorphic environment, with plains, dissected hills of the South Indian Plateau system and with the Himalayas all around its north, north-east and east.

Assam is endowed with petroleum, natural gas, coal, limestone and other minor minerals such as magnetic quartzite, kaolin, sillimanites, clay and feldspar.[7] A small quantity of iron ore is available in western districts.[7] Discovered in 1889, all the major petroleum-gas reserves are in Upper parts. A recent USGS estimate shows 399 million barrels (63,400,000 m3) of oil, 1,178 billion cubic feet (3.34×1010 m3) of gas and 67 million barrels (10,700,000 m3) of natural gas liquids in the Assam Geologic Province.[8]

With the “Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate”, Assam is temperate (summer max. at 95-100°F or 35-38°C and winter min. at 43-46 °F or 6-8 °C) and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity.[5][9] The climate is characterized by heavy monsoon downpours reducing summer temperatures and affecting foggy nights and mornings in winters. Thunderstorms known as Bordoicila are frequent during the afternoons. Spring (Mar-Apr) and Autumn (Sept-Oct) are usually pleasant with moderate rainfall and temperature.

Famous one horned Indian Rhinoceros at a National Park

Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world and consists of tropical rainforests,[10] deciduous forests, riverine grasslands,[11] bamboo[12] orchards and numerous wetland[13] ecosystems; Many are now protected as national parks and reserved forests. The Kaziranga, home of the rare Indian Rhinoceros, and Manas are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Assam. The state is the last refuge for numerous other endangered species such as the Golden Langur (Presbetis geei), White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh (Cairina scutulata), Bengal Florican, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Pygmy Hog, Greater Adjutant and so on. Some other endangered species with significant population in Assam are the Tiger, Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Jerdon's Babbler and so on to name a few. Assam is also known for orchids.[14]

The region is prone to natural disasters with annual floods and frequent mild earthquakes. Strong earthquakes are rare; three of which were recorded in 1869, 1897 (8.1 on the Richter scale); and in 1950 (8.6).

History

Pre-history

Assam and adjoining regions have evidences of human settlements from all the periods of the Stone ages. The hills at the height of 1500–2000 feet (460 to 615 m) were popular habitats probably due to availability of exposed doleritic basalt useful for tool-making.[15]

According to the Kalika Purana (c.17th-18th AD), written in Assam, the earliest ruler of Assam was Mahiranga followed by Hatak, Sambar, Ratna and Ghatak; Naraka removed this line of rulers and established his own dynasty. It mentions that the last of the Naraka-bhauma rulers, Narak, was slain by Krishna. Naraka's son Bhagadatta, mentioned in the Mahabharata, fought for the Kauravas in the battle of Kurushetra with an army of kiratas, chinas and dwellers of the eastern coast. Later rulers of Kamarupa frequently drew their lineage from the Naraka rulers. However, there are lots of evidences to say that Mahayana Buddhism was prominent in ancient Assam. After Huen Shang's visit Mahayana Buddhism came to Assam. Relics of Tezpur, Malini Than, Kamakhya and Madan Kam Dev Temple are the evidences of Mahayana Buddhism.

Ancient and medieval

The Ahom Kingdom, c1826.
A typical octagonal Ahom coin of Ahom Dynasty
A ferocious lion excavated in Madan Kamdev close to Baihata Chariali in Assam representing the powerful Kamarupa-Palas (c. 9th-10th century AD).
Rang Ghar, a pavilion built by Pramatta Singha (also Sunenpha; 1744–1751 A.D.) in Ahom capital Rongpur, now Sibsagar; the Rang Ghar is one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in South Asia.
Assam till 1950s; The new states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram formed in the 1960-70s. From Shillong, the capital of Assam was shifted to Dispur, now a part of Guwahati. After the Indo-China war in 1962, Arunachal Pradesh was also separated out.

Ancient Assam, known as Kamarupa was ruled by powerful dynasties: the Varmanas (c.350-650 A.D.), the Salstambhas (Xalostombho, c.655-900 A.D.) and the Kamarupa-Palas (c.900-1100 A.D.). In the reign of the Varman king, Bhaskaravarman (c.600–650 A.D.), the Chinese traveler Xuan Zang visited the region and recorded his travels. Later, after weakening and disintegration (after the Kamarupa-Palas), the Kamarupa tradition was somewhat extended till c.1255 A.D. by the Lunar I (c.1120-1185 A.D.) and Lunar II (c.1155-1255 A.D.) dynasties.[15]

Two later dynasties, the Ahoms and the Koch left larger impacts. The Ahoms, a Tai group, ruled Assam for nearly 600 years (1228–1826 A.D.) and the Koch, a Tibeto-Burmese, established sovereignty in c.1510 A.D. The Koch kingdom in western Assam and present North Bengal was at its zenith in the early reign of Naranarayana (c.1540-1587 A.D.). It split into two in c.1581 A.D., the western part as a Moghul vassal and the eastern as an Ahom satellite state. Since c.13th A.D., the nerve centre of Ahom polity was upper Assam; the kingdom was gradually extended till Karatoya River in the c.17th-18th A.D. It was at its zenith during the reign of Sukhrungpha or Sworgodeu Rudra Simha (c.1696-1714 A.D.). Among other dynasties, the Chutiyas ruled north-eastern Assam and parts of present Arunachal Pradesh and the Kacharis ruled from Dikhow River to central and southern Assam. With expansion of Ahom kingdom, by c.1520 A.D. the Chutiya areas were annexed and since c.1536 A.D. Kacharis remained only in Cachar and North Cachar more as an Ahom ally then a competing force. Despite numerous invasions, mostly by the Muslim rulers, no western power ruled Assam until the arrival of the British. The most successful invader Mir Jumla, a governor of Aurangzeb, briefly occupied Garhgaon (c.1662–63 A.D.), the then capital, but found it difficult to control people making guerrilla attacks on his forces, forcing them to leave. The decisive victory of the Assamese led by the great general Lachit Borphukan on the Mughals, then under command of Raja Ram Singha at Saraighat (1671) had almost ended Mughal ambitions in this region. Mughals were finally expelled in c.1682 A.D. from lower Assam.

British Assam

Ahom palace intrigue and political turmoil due to the Moamoria rebellion aided the expansionist Burmese ruler of Ava to invade Assam and install a puppet king in 1821. With the Burmese having reached the East India Company’s borders, the First Anglo-Burmese War ensued. The war ended under the Treaty of Yandaboo[16] in 1826, with the Company taking control of Lower Assam and installing Purander Singh as king of Upper Assam in 1833. The arrangement lasted till 1838 and thereafter the British gradually annexed the entire region. Initially Assam was made a part of the Bengal Presidency, then in 1906 it was a part of Eastern Bengal and Assam province, and in 1912 it was reconstituted into a Chief Commissioners' province. In 1913, a Legislative Council and in 1937 the Assam Legislative Assembly was formed in Shillong, the erstwhile capital of the region. The British tea planters imported labour from central India adding to the demographic canvas. After few initial unsuccessful attempts to free Assam during the 1850s, the Assamese since early 20th century joined and actively supported the Indian National Congress against the British. In 1947, Assam including the present Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya became a state of the Union of India (princely states, Manipur and Tripura became Group C provinces) and a district of Assam, Sylhet chose to join Pakistan.

Post British

Since 1947, with increasing economic problems in the region, separatist groups began forming along ethnic lines, and demands for autonomy and sovereignty grew, resulting into fragmentation of Assam.

Since the mid-20th century, people from present Bangladesh have been migrating to Assam. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed a legislation making use of Assamese language compulsory. It had to be withdrawn later under pressure from Bengali speaking people in Cachar. In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valley saw a six-year Assam Agitation [17] triggered by the discovery of a sudden rise in registered voters on electoral rolls. It tried to force the government to identify and deport foreigners illegally migrating from neighboring Bangladesh and changing the demographics. The agitation ended after an accord between its leaders and the Union Government, which remained unimplemented, causing simmering discontent.[18]

The post 1970s experienced the growth of armed separatist groups like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) [17] and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). In November 1990, the Government of India deployed the Indian army, after which low-intensity military conflicts and political homicides have been continuing for more than a decade. In recent times, ethnicity based militant groups (UPDS,HPDC etc.) have also mushroomed. Regional autonomy has been ensured for Bodos in Bodoland Territorial Council Areas (BTC) and for the Karbis in Karbi Anglong after agitation of the communities due to sluggish rate of development and aspirations for self-government.

Current situation

The situation in Assam has turned very serious due to underlying ethnic tensions and internal violence due to the lack of development and indifferent attitude of the local government to the large ethnic/indigenous people. With differing belief systems and way of life, there is a widespread cultural clash in the region, fueled by radical groups that demand sovereignty from the government.

Tea history

This 1850 engraving shows the different stages in the process of making tea in Assam.

After discovery of Camellia sinensis (1834) in Assam followed by its tests in 1836-37 in London, the British allowed companies to rent land since 1839. Thereafter tea plantations mushroomed in Upper Assam, where the soil and the climate were most suitable. Problems with the imported laborers from China and hostilities of native Assamese resulted into migration of forced laborers from central-eastern parts of India. After initial trial and error with planting the Chinese and the Assamese-Chinese hybrid varieties, the planters later accepted the local Camellia assamica as the most suitable one for Assam. By 1850s, the industry started seeing some profits. Industry saw initial growth, when in 1861, investors were allowed to own land in Assam and it saw substantial progress with invention of new technologies and machinery for preparing processed tea during 1870s. The cost of Assam tea was lowered down manifold and became more competitive than its Chinese variant.

Despite the commercial success, tea laborers continued to be exploited, working and living under poor conditions. Fearful of greater government interference, the tea growers formed The Indian Tea Association in 1888 to lobby to retain the status quo. The organization was very successful in this, and even after India’s independence conditions of the laborers have improved very little.[19]

Subdivisions

Districts of Assam. Note that since 2001, four new districts have been created: Baksa, Chirag, Udalguri and Kamrup (Metropolitan); and Kamrup has been renamed Kamrup (rural).

Assam is divided into 27 administrative districts.[20] More than half of these districts were carved out during 80s and 90s from original 1. Lakhimpur, 2. Jorhat, 3. Karbi Anglong, 4. Darrang, 5. Nagaon, 6. Kamrup, 7. Goalpara, 8. North Cachar and 9. Cachar districts, delineated by the British. Earlier, during 70s, Dibrugarh was separated out from original Lakhimpur district.

These districts are further sub-divided into 49 “Sub-divisions” or Mohkuma.[20] Every district is administered from a district head quarter with the office of the District Collector, District Magistrate, Office of the District Panchayat and usually with a district court.

The districts are delineated on the basis of the features such as the rivers, hills, forests, etc and majority of the newly constituted districts are sub-divisions of the earlier districts. For the present districts of Assam and their location, refer the attached map.

The local governance system is organised under the jila-parishad (District Panchayat) for a district, panchayat for group of or individual rural areas and under the urban local bodies for the towns and cities. Presently there are 2489 village panchayats covering 26247 villages in Assam.[21] The 'town-committee' or nagar-xomiti for small towns, 'municipal board' or pouro-xobha for medium towns and municipal corporation or pouro-nigom for the cities consist of the urban local bodies.

For the revenue purposes, the districts are divided into revenue circles and mouzas; for the development projects, the districts are divided into 219 'development-blocks' and for law and order these are divided into 206 police stations or thana.[21]

Demographics

District-wise Demographic Characteristics in 2001

Total population of Assam was 26.66 million with 4.91 million households in 2001.[23] Higher population concentration was recorded in the districts of Kamrup, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Barpeta, Dhubri, Darang and Cachar. Assam's population was estimated at 28.67 million in 2006 and at 30.57 million by 2011, 34.18 million by 2021 and 35.60 million by 2026.[24]

In 2001, the census recorded literacy in Assam at 63.30 percent with male literacy at 71.30 and female at 54.60 percents. Urbanisation rate was recorded at 12.90 percent.[25]

Growth of population in Assam has experienced a very high trajectory since the mid-decades of the 20th century. Population grew steadily from 3.29 million in 1901 to 6.70 million in 1941, while it has increased unprecedentedly to 14.63 million in 1971 and 22.41 million in 1991 to reach the present level.[23] The growth in the western and southern districts was of extreme high in nature mostly attributable to rapid influx of population from the then East Pakistan or Bangladesh.[18][26]

Population Growth Trend 1901 to 2001

Assam has many ethnic groups and the People of India project has studied 115 of these. Out of which 79 (69%) identify themselves regionally, 22 (19%) locally, and 3 trans-nationally. The earliest settlers were Austroasiatic, followed by Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Aryan speakers, and Kradai speakers.[27] Forty-five languages are spoken by different communities, including three major language families: Austroasiatic (5), Sino-Tibetan (24) and Indo-European (12). Three of the spoken languages do not fall in these families. There is a high degree of bilingualism.

Religions

Major religions are Hinduism (64.9%) [28] and Islam (30.9%).[28] Others include Christianity (3.7%), Sikhism(1%)[29], Animism, Buddhism (Khamti, Phake, Aiton etc. communities).

Hinduism

The Hindus of Assam perform several dances to practice their devotion to their Gods. One category of them is the Sattriya Dances.

Kamakhya, dedicated to Goddess Durga is the eastern-most pilgrimage of Hinduism.

Popular forms of God in Assam are Durga, Shiva, Krishna and Narayana, although several tribes practice devotion to local deities as well.

Brahmo Samaj: Assam is the home of Kalicharan Mech, a Bodo Hindu who stopped the British Christian missionaries, spread ahimsa and vegetarianism. He was deeply influenced by the Brahmo Samaj.[30] He later became known as "Gurudev Kalicharan Brahmachari"[31] or "Guru Brahma". His principles were established as the Brahma Dharma. Perhaps his teachings can be summarized by his given phrase, "Chandrama Surya Narayans Jyoti", meaning, "the light (jyoti) from the sun is capable from dispelling darkness and taking people to Brahma (Narayans)."[32]

From the teachings of Guru Brahma, the "Bodo-Brahmas" (the Bodos of this sect) have boycotted alcohol and heavy dowry as well as meat-eating.

This sect is written by scholars to be Vedic and Upanishadic.[33] As per Vedic rituals, the priests perform Horn Yajna, which was begun by Guru Brahma to organize the Bodos.[34]

While the Bodo Christians today are laying stress on adopting a Roman script for the Bodo community, the Bodo-Brahmas prefer the traditional Bengali-Ahomi script.

Islam

Muslims constitute the second largest religious group in Assam. Muslims make up 30.92% of the population, a percentage second only to Jammu & Kashmir amongst the Indian states.

Christianity

The Bible was translated into Assamese in the year of 1819. In 1827, an attempt was made to start a Baptist Church in Guwahati, but it made no permanent converts in the area. Later the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society was able to make some headway in Guwahati. Although these earliest Christian missionary endeavros which were focused in the north-east of India, were in Modern Assam, the great success of Protestant missionaries in North-East India which they achieved in late 19th and the 20th Centuries, was primarily in areas such as Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya which are not part of Assam anymore.

As of 1991 only Tripura of the seven eastern states of India had a lower percentage of Christians than Assam. The 3.32% Christians in Assam was well below even Arunchal Pradesh's 10% Christians. Despite this there were more Christians in Assam than in Mizoram even though Mizoram was the second most Christian state in India at the time.[35]

Besides the protestants there are also Catholics. There is a Roman Catholic Archdiocese in Shillong.

Sikhism

Sikhs have been living in Assam for approximately two hundred years.[36] Ninth prophet of Sikhs Guru Tegh Bahadur visited Assam in 1670.[37] Also in the year of 1820, few hundred Sikh soldiers went to Assam at the initiative of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to help Ahom rulers in a war. Their descendants are mostly concentrated in Nagaon district of Assam.[38]

Culture and its Evolution

Assamese culture is traditionally a hybrid one developed due to assimilation of ethno-cultural groups in the past. Therefore, both local elements or the local elements in Sanskritised forms are distinctly found.[39] The major milestones in evolution of Assamese culture are:

Dakhinpat Satra of Majuli
Presenting 'Gayan Bayan' in Majuli, the Cultural heritage of Assam
  • Vaishnava Movement led by Srimanta Sankardeva (Xonkordeu) and its contribution and cultural changes.Vaishanav Movement, the 15th century religio-cultural movement under the leadership of great Srimanta Sankardeva (Xonkordeu) and his disciples have provided another dimension to Assamese culture. A renewed Hinduisation in local forms took place, which was initially greatly supported by the Koch and later by the Ahom Kingdoms. The resultant social institutions such as namghar and sattra (the Vaishnav Monasteries) have become part of Assamese way life. The movement contributed greatly towards language, literature and performing and fine arts. It is also noticed that many a times, Vaishnav Movement attempted to introduce alien cultural attributes and modify the way of life of common people. Brajavali a language specially created by introducing words from other Indian languages had failed as a language but left its traces on the Assamese language. Moreover, new alien rules were also introduced changing people's food habits and other aspects of cultural life. This had a greater impact on alienation of many local ethno-cultural and political groups in the later periods.


Historically, it is not difficult to understand that on one hand, during the strong politico-economic systems under stronger dynasties, greater cultural assimilations created common attributes of Assamese culture, while on the other during smaller politico-economic systems or during political disintegration, more localised attributes were created with spatial differentiation. Time-factor for such integrations and differentiations has also played extremely important role along with the position of individual events in the entire series of sequential events.

With rich traditions, the modern culture is greatly influenced by events in the British and the Post-British Era. The language was standardised by the American Baptist Missionaries such as Nathan Brown, Dr. Miles Bronson and local pundits such as Hemchandra Barua with the form available in the Sibsagar (Sivasagar) District (the ex-nerve centre of the Ahom Kingdom). A renewed Sanskritisation was increasingly adopted for developing Assamese language and grammar. A new wave of Western and northern Indian influence was apparent in the performing arts and literature.

Increasing efforts of standardisation in the 20th century alienated the localised forms present in different areas and with the less-assimilated ethno-cultural groups (many source-cultures). However, Assamese culture in its hybrid form and nature is one of the richest, still developing and in true sense is a 'cultural system' with sub-systems. It is interesting that many source-cultures of Assamese cultural-system are still surviving either as sub-systems or as sister entities, for e.g. Bodo or Karbi or Mishing. Today it is important to keep the broader system closer to its roots and at the same time to focus on development of the sub-systems.

Some of the common and unique cultural traits in the region are peoples' respect towards areca-nut and betel leaves, symbolic clothes (Gamosa, Arnai, etc), traditional silk garments and towards forefathers and elderly. Moreover, great hospitality and Bamboo culture are common.

Symbolism

A pair of areca nuts, betel leaves and a 'Gamosa' in a Xorai; this represents cultural symbolism of respect towards the recipient by the person presenting it.
A decorative Assamese Jaapi laid over a Gamosa

Symbolism is an ancient cultural practice in Assam and is still a very important part of Assamese way of life. Various elements are being used to represent beliefs, feelings, pride, identity, etc. Tamulpan, Xorai and Gamosa are three important symbolic elements in Assamese culture. Tamulpan (the areca nut and betel leaves) or guapan (gua from kwa) are considered along with the Gamosa (a typical woven cotton or silk cloth with embroidery) as the offers of devotion, respect and friendship. The Tamulpan-tradition is an ancient one and is being followed since time-immemorial with roots in the aboriginal Austro-Asiatic culture. Xorai is a traditionally manufactured bell-metal article of great respect and is used as a container-medium while performing respectful offers. Moreover, symbolically many ethno-cultural groups use specific clothes to portray respect and pride.

There were many other symbolic elements and designs, but are now only found in literature, art, sculpture, architecture, etc or in use today for only religious purposes. The typical designs of assamese-lion, dragon, flying-lion, etc were used for symbolising various purposes and occasions. The archaeological sites such as the Madan Kamdev (c. 9th-10th A.D.) exhibits mass-scale use of lions, dragon-lions and many other figures of demons to show case power and prosperity. The Vaishnava monasteries and many other architectural sites of late medieval period also showcase use of lions and dragons for symbolic effects.

Languages

Assamese and Bodo are the major indigenous and official languages while Bengali holds official status in the three districts in the Barak Valley and is the second most spoken language of the state (24%).

Traditionally Assamese was the language of the commons (of mixed origin - Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Magadhan Prakrit) in the ancient Kamarupa and in the medieval kingdoms of Kamatapur, Kachari, Cuteeya, Borahi, Ahom and Koch. Traces of the language is found in many poems by Luipa, Sarahapa, etc in Charyapada (c.7th-8th AD). Modern dialects Kamrupi, Goalpariya, etc are the remnant of this language. Moreover, Assamese in its traditional form was used by the ethno-cultural groups in the region as lingua-franca, which spread during the stronger kingdoms and was required for needed economic integration. Localised forms of the language still exist in Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh. The form used in the upper Assam was enriched by the advent of Tai-Shans in the 13th century.

A Page from Charyapada: 7th-8th century Specimen of Assamese Literature

Linguistically modern Assamese traces its roots to the version developed by the American Missionaries based on the local form in practice near Sibsagar (Xiwoxagor) district. Assamese (Oxomeeya) is a rich language due to its hybrid nature with its unique characteristics of pronunciation and softness. Assamese literature is one of the richest.

Bodo is an ancient language of Assam. Spatial distribution patterns of the ethno-cultural groups, cultural traits and the phenomenon of naming all the major rivers in the North East Region with Bodo-Kachari words (e.g. Dihing, Dibru, Dihong, D/Tista, Dikrai, etc) reveal that it was the most important language in the ancient times. Bodo is presently spoken largely in the Lower Assam (Bodo Territorial Council area). After years of neglect, now Bodo language is getting attention and its literature is developing. Other native languages of Tibeto-Burman origin and related to Bodo-Kachari are Mishing, Karbi, Dimasa, Rabha, Tiwa, etc. Rajbongshi also known as kamatapuri/Goalpariya is also widely spoken by the people of western assam. Nepali is also spoken in almost all parts of the state.

There are smaller groups of people speaking Tai-Phake, Tai-Aiton, Tai-Khamti, Tai-Khamyang etc., some of the Tai languages. The Tai-Ahom language (brought by Sukaphaa and his followers), which is no more a spoken language today is getting attentions for research after centuries long care and preservation by the Bailungs (traditional priests). There are also small groups of people speaking Manipuri,Khasi, Garo, Hmar, Kuki, Zeme Naga etc in different parts.

Bengali is the official language in Barak Valley, although the widely spoken language is Sylheti, a dialect of Bengali. Bengali is also largely spoken in the western districts of Dhubri, Barpeta, and Goalpara.

Bishnupriya Manipuri language is also spoken by a small minority of people in Barak Valley.

Festivals

Bodo girls performing the Kherai dance.
A Bihu dancer blowing a pepa(horn) .
An Assamese woman in Pat Silk performing Sattriya dance.

There are several important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam. Durga Puja is another festival celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Bihu is a series of three prominent festivals. Primarily a non-religious festival celebrated to mark the seasons and the significant points of a cultivator's life over a yearly cycle. Three Bihus, rongali or bohag, celebrated with the coming of spring and the beginning of the sowing season; kongali or kati, the barren bihu when the fields are lush but the barns are empty; and the bhogali or magh, the thanksgiving when the crops have been harvested and the barns are full. Bihu songs and Bihu dance are associated to rongali bihu. The day before the each bihu is known as 'uruka'. The first day of 'rongali bihu' is called 'Goru bihu' (the bihu of the cows), when the cows are taken to the nearby rivers or ponds to be bathed with special care. In recent times the form and nature of celebration has changed with the growth of urban centres.

Moreover, there are other important traditional festivals being celebrated every year for different occasions at different places. Many of these are celebrated by different ethno-cultural groups (sub and sister cultures). Few of these are:

  • Me-dam-me-phi
  • Ali-Aye-Ligang
  • Kherai
  • Garja
  • Hapsa Hatarnai
  • Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai

Performing arts

Assam has rich tradition of performing arts. Ankiya Nat (Onkeeya Naat) is a traditional Vaishnav dance-drama (Bhaona) form popular since 15th century A.D. It makes use of large masks of gods, goddesses, demons and animals and in between the plays a Sutradhar (Xutrodhar) keeps on telling the story. The Bihu dance and Hucory performed during the Bohag Bihu, Kushan nritra of Rajbongshi's, Bagurumba and Bordoicikhla dance of Bodos, Mishing Bihu, Banjar Kekan performed during Chomangkan by Karbis are some of the major folk dances. Sattriya (Xotriya) dance related to Vaishnav tradition is a classical form of dance.

Moreover, there are several other age-old dance-forms such as Barpeta’s Bhortal Nritya, Deodhoni Nritya, Oja Paali, Beula Dance, Ka Shad Inglong Kardom, Nimso Kerung, etc. The tradition of modern moving theatres is typical of Assam with immense popularity of many large theatre groups such as Kohinoor, Srimanta Sankardev, Abahan, Bhagyadevi, Hengul, Rajmahal, Apsara, etc.

Jyoti Prasad Agarwala

At the same time musical tradition is also rich. Folk songs and music related to Bihu and other festivals dates back to time-immemorial. Borgeet, the popular Vaishnav songs are written and composed in 15th century. Assam has large numbers of traditional musical instruments including several types of drums, string instruments, flutes, cymbals, pipes, etc.

The indigenous folk music has substantially influenced the growth of a modern idiom, that finds expression in the music of such artists like Jyoti Prasad Agarwala , Bishnuprasad Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika,Pratima Barua Pandey, Anima Choudhury Nirmalendu Choudhury, Utpalendu Choudhury, Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah, Parvati Prasad Baruva, Jayanta Hazarika, Khagen Mahanta, Deepali Borthakur, "Ganashilpi" Dilip Sarma, Sudakshina Sarma among many others. Among the new generation, Zubeen Garg and Jitul Sonowal have a great fan following.

Traditional crafts

Bell metal made xorai and xophura are important parts of culture; offerings with respect are made using these during festivals and religious ceremonies and are seen as respectable items.
A traditional brass dish from Assam.
A page of manuscript painting from Assam; The medieval painters used locally manufactured painting materials such as the colours of hangool and haital and papers manufactured from aloewood bark.

Assam has a rich tradition of crafts; presently, Cane and bamboo craft, bell metal and brass craft, silk and cotton weaving, toy and mask making, pottery and terracotta work, wood craft, jewellery making, musical instruments making, etc remained as major traditions.[40] Historically, Assam also excelled in making boats, traditional guns and gunpowder, ivory crafts, colours and paints, articles of lac, agarwood products, traditional building materials, utilities from iron, etc.

Cane and bamboo craft provide the most commonly used utilities in daily life, ranging from household utilities, weaving accessories, fishing accessories, furniture, musical instruments, construction materials, etc. Utilities and symbolic articles such as Xorai and Bota made from bell metal and brass are found in every Assamese household.[41][42] Hajo and Sarthebari (Xorthebaary) are the most important centres of traditional bell-metal and brass crafts. Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prestigious are: Muga - the natural golden silk, Pat - a creamy-bright-silver coloured silk and Eri - a variety used for manufacturing warm clothes for winter. Apart from Sualkuchi (Xualkuchi), the centre for the traditional silk industry, in almost every parts of the Brahmaputra Valley, rural households produce silk and silk garments with excellent embroidery designs. Moreover, various ethno-cultural groups in Assam make different types of cotton garments with unique embroidery designs and wonderful colour combinations.

Moreover, Assam possesses unique crafts of toy and mask making mostly concentrated in the Vaishnav Monasteries, pottery and terracotta work in lower Assam districts and wood craft, iron craft, jewellery, etc in many places across the region.

Fine arts

The archaic Mauryan Stupas discovered in and around Goalpara district are the earliest examples (c. 300 BC to c. 100 AD) of ancient art and architectural works. The remains discovered in Daparvatiya (Doporboteeya) archaeological site with a beautiful doorframe in Tezpur are identified as the best examples of art works in ancient Assam with influence of Sarnath School of Art of the late Gupta period. Many other sites also exhibit development of local art forms with local motifs and sometimes with similarities with those in the Southeast Asia. There are currently more than forty discovered ancient archaeological sites across Assam with numerous sculptural and architectural remains. Moreover, there are examples of several Late-Middle Age art and architectural works including hundreds of sculptures and motifs along with many remaining temples, palaces and other buildings. The motifs available on the walls of the buildings such as Rang Ghar, Joydoul, etc are remarkable examples of art works.

Painting is an ancient tradition of Assam. Xuanzang (7th century AD) mentions that among the Kamarupa king Bhaskaravarma's gifts to Harshavardhana there were paintings and painted objects, some of which were on Assamese silk. Many of the manuscripts such as Hastividyarnava (A Treatise on Elephants), the Chitra Bhagawata and in the Gita Govinda from the Middle Ages bear excellent examples of traditional paintings. The medieval Assamese literature also refers to chitrakars and patuas.

There are several renowned contemporary artists in Assam. The Guwahati Art College in Guwahati is a government institution for tertiary education. Moreover, there are several art-societies and non-government initiatives across the state and the Guwahati Artists Guild is a front-runner organisation based in Guwahati.

Economy

In the 1950s, per capita income in Assam was little higher than that in India. In 2000-01, in Assam it was INR 6,157 at constant prices (1993-94) and INR 10,198 at current prices; almost 40 percent lower than that in India.[43] According to the recent estimates,[44] per capita income in Assam has reached INR 6756 (1993-94 constant prices) in 2004-05, which is still much lower than India's.
A tea garden in Assam: tea is grown at elevations near sea level, giving it a malty sweetness and an earthy flavor, as opposed to the more floral aroma of highland (e.g. Darjeeling, Taiwanese) teas.

Macro-economy

Economy of Assam today represents a unique juxtaposition of backwardness amidst plenty.[45] Despite its rich natural resources, and supplying of up to 25% of India's petroleum needs, growth rate of Assam’s income has not kept pace with that of India’s; differences increased rapidly since 1970s.[46] Indian economy grew at 6 percent per annum over the period of 1981 to 2000, the same of Assam was only 3.3 percent.[47] In the Sixth Plan period Assam experienced a negative growth rate of 3.78 percent when India's was positive at 6 percent.[46] In the post-liberalised era (after 1991), the differences widened further.

According to recent analysis, Assam’s economy is showing signs of improvement. In 2001-02, the economy grew (at 1993-94 constant prices) at 4.5 percent, to fall to 3.4 percent in the next financial year.[48] During 2003-04 and 2004–05, the economy grew (at 1993-94 constant prices) more satisfactorily at 5.5 and 5.3 percent respectively.[48] The advanced estimates placed the growth rate for 2005-06 at above 6 percent.[44] Assam's GDP in 2004 is estimated at $13 billion in current prices. Sectoral analysis again exhibits a dismal picture. The average annual growth rate of agriculture, which was only 2.6 percent per annum over 1980s has unfortunately fallen to 1.6 percent in the 1990s.[49] Manufacturing sector has shown some improvement in the 1990s with a growth rate of 3.4 percent per annum than 2.4 percent in the 1980s.[49] Since past five decades, the tertiary sector has registered the highest growth rates than the other sectors, which even has slowed down in the 1990s than in 1980s.[49]

Agriculture

Accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs 69 percent of workforce.[50] Assam's biggest contribution to the world is tea. It produces some of the finest and expensive teas and has its own variety Camellia assamica. Assam also accounts for fair share of India’s production of rice, rapeseed, mustard seed, jute, potato, sweet potato, banana, papaya, areca nut and turmeric. It is also a home of large varieties of citrus fruits, leaf vegetables, vegetables, useful grasses, herbs, spices, etc.

Assam’s agriculture yet to experience modernisation in real sense. With implications to food security, per capita food grain production has declined in past five decades.[51] Productivity has increased marginally; but still lower comparing to highly productive regions. For instance, yield of rice (staple food of Assam) was just 1531 kg per hectare against India’s 1927 kg per hectare in 2000-01[51] (which itself is much lower than Egypt’s 9283, USA’s 7279, South Korea’s 6838, Japan’s 6635 and China’s 6131 kg per hectare in 2001[52]). On the other hand, after having strong domestic demand, 1.5 million hectares of inland water bodies, numerous rivers and 165 varieties of fishes,[53] fishing is still in its traditional form and production is not self-sufficient.[54]

The Assam Agriculture University is located at Jorhat, Assam. It is the only agricultural university for the Seven Sisters.

Industry

Apart from tea and petroleum refineries, Assam has few industries of significance. Industrial development is inhibited by its physical and political isolation from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, China and Bangladesh and from other growing Southeast Asian economies; ultimately leading to neglect by the federal government in regards to development - a key motivation for separatist groups. The region is landlocked, situated in the eastern periphery of India and is linked to the mainland by a flood and cyclone prone narrow corridor, known as the Siliguri Corridor or Chicken's Neck, with weak transport infrastructure that have remained undeveloped since independence. The international airport in Guwahati is yet to find airlines providing direct international flights. The Brahmaputra suitable for navigation does not possess sufficient infrastructure for international trade and success of such a navigable trade route will be dependent on proper channel maintenance and diplomatic and trade relationships with Bangladesh.

Processed Assam tea

Assam is a major producer of crude oil, exploited by the Assam Oil Company Ltd., and natural gas in India and is the second place in the world (after Titusville in the United States) where petroleum was discovered. Asia’s first successful mechanically drilled oil well was drilled in Makum (Assam) way back in 1867. Most of the oilfields are located in the Upper Assam region. Assam has four oil refineries located in Guwahati, Digboi, Golaghat (Numaligarh) and Bongaigaon with a total capacity of 7 Million metric tonnes (7.7 million short tons) per annum. Despite its richness in natural resources, the benefits have yet to improve the lives of the people of Assam.

Although having a poor overall industrial performance, several other industries have nevertheless been started, including a chemical fertiliser plan at Namrup, petrochemical industries at Namrup and Bongaigaon, paper mills at Jagiroad, Panchgram and Jogighopa, sugar mills at Barua Bamun Gaon, Chargola, Kampur, cement plant at Bokajan & Badarpur, cosmetics plant (HLL) at Doom Dooma, etc. Moreover, there are other industries such as jute mill, textile and yarn mills, silk mill, etc. Unfortunately many of these industries are facing loss and closer due to lack of infrastructure and improper management practices.[citation needed]

Education

Cotton College in Guwahati initiated modern tertiary education and research in Assam and has been continuing classical and high-educational standards for more than hundred years; many of the buildings in the college are excellent examples of Assamese architecture with colonial flavours.
Academic complex of IIT Guwahati

Assam has several institutions for tertiary education and research. The major institutions are:

Media

Print Media

News Papers: The Times of India, Asomiya Pratidin, Asomiya Khabor, Amar Asom, Dainik Asom, Aajir Dainik Batori, Dainik Janasadharan, Dainik Janambhumi, Dainik Agradoot, Aji , The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, The Sentinel, Samay Prabaha, Dainik Jugasankha, Samayik Prasanga, Sonar Cachar
Fortnightly Magazine: Prantik
Monthly Magazine: Angana, Bismoi[55], Gariyashi, Maya, Priyo Sakhi, Rahasya,Nandini

Electronic Media

News Live, NE TV, DY 365, DD North-East

Places

Cities and towns

A View of Guwahati; the city known as Pragjyotishapura (city of eastern light) in the ancient times has a past extended to more than two thousand years.

History of urban development goes back to almost two thousand years in the region. Existence of ancient urban areas such as Pragjyotishapura (Guwahati), Hatapesvara (Tezpur), Durjaya, etc and medieval towns such as Charaideu, Garhgaon, Rongpur, Jorhat, Khaspur, Guwahati, etc are well recorded.[15]

Guwahati is the largest urban centre and a million plus city in Assam. The city has experienced multifold growth during past three decades to grow as the primate city in the region; the city's population was approximately 900,000 (considering GMDA area) during the census of 2001.Population-wise and area-wise Silchar is the second largest and important city in the state. It is the economic gateway to the state of Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura. The town of Silchar has tremendous commercial importance. It consequently, witnesses the settlement of a sizeable population of traders from distant parts of India. The other important urban areas are Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Golaghat, Tinsukia (Tinicukiya), Sibsagar (Sivasagar), Tezpur, Nagaon, Lakhimpur, Bongaigaon, etc. Nalbari, Rangia, Mangaldoi, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Diphu, Dhubri (Dhubury), etc are other towns and district head quarters. On the other hand Duliajan, Digboi, Namrup, Moran, Bongaigaon, Numaligarh, Jogighopa Rangia, etc are major industrial towns. Currently, there are around 125 total urban centres in the state.

Growth Dynamism in Major Urban Areas

Tourism

Assam is the central state in the North-East Region of India and serves as the gateway to the rest of the Seven Sister States.

Introduction

For the purposes of tourism there are wildlife preserves like the Kaziranga National Park . The climate is sub-tropical. Assam experiences the Indian monsoon and has one of the highest forest densities in India. The winter months are the best time to visit.

It has a rich cultural heritage going back to the Ahom Dynasty which governed the region for many centuries before the British occupation.

Main Destinations

Other notable features are listed below:

Brahmaputra

The only male river in India, this is both a source of sorrow and sustenance for the people of Assam.

Guwahati

One of the key urban centres of Assam and the biggest city in North-East India, this serves as the major gateway to the whole region. This is the primary hopping point for accessing Shillong, the hill station.

Kamalabari Satra of Majuli

Majuli

The largest freshwater island in South Asia on the Brahmaputra River

Kaziranga

This is one of the few places covered as a World Heritage Site and the main habitat of the Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros. Also check out Manas National Park and Orang National Park.

Jatinga

The mystery of the bird suicides in Jatinga in the North Cachar Hills.

Tezpur

Small town steeped in history and culture. Check out Usha Pahar, Agnigarh, Mahabhairav Temple, etc...

Sibsagar

Seat of the Ahom kingdom. Check out Rang Ghar, Talatal Ghar, Sivadol, etc...

Hajo

Hajo is a small township situated to the northwest of Guwahati across the river Brahmaputra.Hajo is a remarkable example of communal harmony .

Dibru Saikhowa

Dibru Saikhowa National Park is a beautiful National Park situated in Tinsukia district. There are few Eco lodges situated here to enjoy the beauty of this park.

Dibrugarh

Business hub in upper Assam. Serves as gateway to Nagaland.

There are numerous temples, ruins of palaces, etc.

See also

Attractive Destinations


A Crimson Sunbird at Kaziranga.
The famous Rhinoceros of Assam at Kaziranga.
Orchids are abundantly found in Assam; a variety - Bhatou Phul or Vanda coerulea, the 'Blue Orchid.
This is the real Vanda coerulea, the 'Blue Orchid.

Assam has several attractive destinations; majority of these are National Parks, Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries,[56] areas with archaeological interests and areas with unique cultural heritage. Moreover, as a whole, the region is covered by beautiful natural landscapes.

  • Guwahati archaeological region
  • Hajo archaeological region
  • Madan Kamdev
  • Sibsagar archaeological region
  • Charaideo
  • Surya Pahar Goalpara archaeological region
  • Tezpur archaeological region
  • Kapili Valley archaeological region
  • Dhansiri/Dhonxiri Valley archaeological region
  • Maibong
  • Bordua
  • Chapanalla Waterfall(One and only waterfall in Assam)

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Dixit 2002
  2. ^ World Heritage Centre 2007
  3. ^ Times News Network, February 28, 2006
  4. ^ Editorial, The Assam Tribune, January 6, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Singh (ed.) 1993.
  6. ^ Wandrey 2004 p3–8
  7. ^ a b NEDFi & NIC-Assam 2002
  8. ^ Wandrey 2004 p17
  9. ^ Purdue University 2004
  10. ^ Borthakur 2002
  11. ^ Birdlife International, UK Indo-Gangetic Grasslands
  12. ^ National Mission on Bamboo Applications 2004
  13. ^ Sharma 2003
  14. ^ ENVIS Assam 2003
  15. ^ a b c d e f Barpujari 1990
  16. ^ Aitchison 1931, p230–233 (web-version from Project South Asia, South Dakota State University, USA)
  17. ^ a b Hazarika 2003
  18. ^ a b The Governor of Assam 1998
  19. ^ MacFarlane, Alan and Iris MacFarlane 2003
  20. ^ a b Revenue Department, Government of Assam
  21. ^ a b Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Government of Assam
  22. ^ "Census Population" (PDF), Census of India (Ministry of Finance India), http://indiabudget.nic.in/es2006-07/chapt2007/tab97.pdf, retrieved 2008-12-18 
  23. ^ a b The Government of Assam 2002-03
  24. ^ The National Commission on Population 2006
  25. ^ Director of Census Operations, Census of India 2001
  26. ^ Hussain 2004
  27. ^ Taher 1993
  28. ^ a b Indian Census
  29. ^ http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030824/spectrum/book8.htm
  30. ^ Bodo History
  31. ^ P. 624 ANTHROPOLOGY THE STUDY OF MAN By DR.(MRS.)INDRANI BASU ROY
  32. ^ P. 60 The Eastern anthropologist By Ethnographic and Folk-Culture Society (Uttar Pradesh, India)
  33. ^ P. 347 Proceedings of North East India History Association By North East India History Association Session, North East India History Association, Session
  34. ^ P. 249 Proceedings of North East India History Association By North East India History Association Session, North East India History Association, Session
  35. ^ Amri Kumar Goldsmith. Christianity in North-east India in a Historical Persepctive.
  36. ^ http://www.sikhtimes.com/news_082503a.html
  37. ^ http://www.gurbaani.com/gurd/gurdawaras5.htm
  38. ^ http://worldsikhnews.com/18%20March%202009/Assamese%20Sikhs%20trace%20their%20Punjabi%20roots.htm
  39. ^ Kakati 1962
  40. ^ Assam Tourism 2002
  41. ^ Ranjan
  42. ^ Nath
  43. ^ Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2001-2002 in Assam Human Development Report, 2003 p25
  44. ^ a b Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2005-2006
  45. ^ National Commission for Women 2004
  46. ^ a b UNDP 2004 p22-23
  47. ^ UNDP 2004 p22
  48. ^ a b Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2004-2005
  49. ^ a b c UNDP 2004 p24-25
  50. ^ Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2001-2002 in Assam Human Development Report, 2003 p32
  51. ^ a b UNDP 2004 p33
  52. ^ FAO Statistics Division 2007
  53. ^ Assam Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium
  54. ^ UNDP 2004 p37
  55. ^ www.bismoi.com
  56. ^ Directorate of Information and Public Relations 2002
  57. ^ Dibru-Saikhowa National Park http://www.hampi.in/dibru-saikhowa-national-park.shtml
  58. ^ Digboi Oil Town http://www.hampi.in/assam.shtml#digboi

Further reading

Online Books and material

Language and literature

  • Bara, Mahendra (1981), The Evolution of the Assamese Script, Jorhat, Assam: Asam Sahitya Sabha 
  • Barpujari, H. K. (1983), Amerikan Michanerisakal aru Unabimsa Satikar Asam, Jorhat, Assam: Asam Sahitya Sabha 
  • Barua, Birinchi Kumar (1965, c1964), History of Assamese Literature, Guwahati: East-West Centre Press 
  • Barua, Hem (1965), Assamese Literature, New Delhi: National Book Trust 
  • Brown, William Barclay (1895), An Outline Grammar of the Deori Chutiya Language Spoken in Upper Assam with an Introduction, Illustrative Sentences, and Short Vocabulary, Shillong: The Assam Secretariat Printing Office 
  • Deka, Bhabananda (1961), Industrialisation of Assam, Guwahati: Gopal Das 
  • Dhekial Phukan, Anandaram 1829-1859 (1977), Anandaram Dhekiyal Phukanar Racana Samgrah, Guwahati: Lawyer's Book Stall 
  • Endle, Sidney (1884), Outline of the Kachari (Baro) Language as Spoken in District Darrang, Assam, Shillong: Assam Secretariat Press 
  • Gogoi, Lila (1972), Sahitya-Samskriti-Buranji, Dibrugarh: New Book Stall 
  • Gogoi, Lila (1986), The Buranjis, Historical Literature of Assam, New Delhi: Omsons Publications 
  • Goswami, Praphulladatta (1954), Folk-Literature of Assam, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies in Assam 
  • Gurdon, Philip Richard Thornhagh (1896), Some Assamese Proverbs, Shillong: The Assam Secretariat Printing Office 
  • Kakati, Banikanta (1959), Aspects of Early Assamese Literature, Guwahati: Gauhati University 
  • Kay, S. P. (1904), An English-Mikir Vocabulary, Shillong: The Assam Secretariat Printing Office 
  • Medhi, Kaliram (1988), Assamese Grammar and Origin of the Assamese Language, Guwahati: Assam Publication Board 
  • Miles, Bronson (1867), A Dictionary in Assamese and English, Sibsagar, Assam: American Baptist Mission Press 
  • Morey, Stephen (2005), The Tai languages of Assam : a grammar and texts, Canberra: Pacific Linguistics, ISBN 0858835495 

History

  • Antrobus, H. (1957), A History of the Assam Company, Edinburgh: Private Printing by T. and A. Constable 
  • Barabaruwa, Hiteswara 1876-1939 (1981), Ahomar Din, Guwahati: Assam Publication Board 
  • Barooah, Nirode K. (1970), David Scott In North-East India, 1802-1831, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers 
  • Barua, Harakanta 1813-1900 (1962), Asama Buranji, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, Assam 
  • Barpujari, H. K. (1963), Assam in the Days of the Company, 1826-1858, Guwahati: Lawyer's Book Stall 
  • Barpujari, H. K. (1977), Political History of Assam. Department for the Preparation of Political History of Assam, Guwahati: Government of Assam 
  • Barua, Kanak Lal, An Early History of Kamarupa, From the Earliest Time to the Sixteenth Century, Guwahati: Lawyers Book Stall 
  • Barua, Kanak Lal, Studies in the Early History of Assam, Jorhat, Assam: Asam Sahitya Sabha 
  • Baruah, Swarna Lata (1993), Last days of Ahom monarchy : a history of Assam from 1769-1826, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1949), Anglo-Assamese Relations, 1771-1826, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies in Assam 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1947), Annals of the Delhi Badshahate, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, Government of Assam 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1957), Atan Buragohain and His Times, Guwahati: Lawyer's Book Stall 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1962), Deodhai Asam Buranji, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1928), Early British Relations with Assam, Shillong: Assam Secretariat Press 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1947), Lachit Barphukan and His Times, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, Government of Assam 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1964), Satasari Asama Buranji, Guwahati: Gauhati University 
  • Bhuyan, Suryya Kumar (1975), Swargadew Rajeswarasimha, Guwahati: Assam Publication Board 
  • Buchanan, Francis Hamilton 1762-1829 (1963), An Account of Assam, Guwahati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies 
  • Duara Barbarua, Srinath (1933), Tungkhungia Buranji, Bombay: H. Milford, Oxford University Press 
  • Gait, Edward Albert 1863-1950 (1926), A History of Assam, Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co. 
  • Gogoi, Padmeswar (1968), The Tai and the Tai Kingdoms, Guwahati: Gauhati University 
  • Guha, Amalendu (1983), The Ahom Political System, Calcutta: Centre for Studies in Social Sciences 
  • Hunter, William Wilson 1840-1900 (1879), A Statistical Account of Assam, London: Trubner & Co. 

Tradition and Culture

  • Barkath, Sukumar (1976), Hastibidyarnnara Sarasamgraha (English & Assamese), 18th Century, Guwahati: Assam Publication Board 
  • Barua, Birinchi Kumar (1969), A Cultural History of Assam, Guwahati: Lawyer's Book Stall 
  • Barua, Birinchi Kumar (1960), Sankardeva, Guwahati: Assam Academy for Cultural Relations 
  • Gandhiya, Jayakanta (1988), Huncari, Mukali Bihu, aru Bihunac, Dibrugarh 
  • Goswami, Praphulladatta (1960), Ballads and Tales of Assam, Guwahati: Gauhati University 
  • Goswami, Praphulladatta (1988), Bohag Bihu of Assam and Bihu Songs, Guwahati: Assam Publication Board 
  • Mahanta, Pona (1985), Western Influence on Modern Assamese Drama, Delhi: Mittal Publications 
  • Medhi, Kaliram (1978), Studies in the Vaisnava Literature and Culture of Assam, Jorhat, Assam: Asam Sahitya Sabha 

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

noframe
Location
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Quick Facts
Capital Dispur, Guwahati
Currency INR
Area 78438 sq km
Population 26,655,528(2001)
Language Assamese, Bodo, Mishing, Karbi, Dimasa, Rabha, Siloti
Religion Hindu (65%), Muslim (30%), Christian, Buddhist, etc.
Electricity 230V/50Hz, Indian/European plugs
Calling Code +91
Internet TLD .in
Time Zone UTC +5:30

Assam (Assamese: অসম Ôxôm [ɔxɔm]) is a region straddling in a transitional zone between South Asia and South East Asia and politically a state in India since 1947. Prior to that Assam was a part of British India since the British annexed the Kingdom of Assam and its tributary states in 1826 following the Treaty of Yandabo. Assam is a land of blue hills, green valleys and a red river. Situated in the north eastern region of India and located just below the eastern Himalayan foothills, it is surrounded by the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya, which together with Assam are known collectively as the seven sisters. Leaving Manipur and Tripura, rest of these states are carved out from Assam during 1960s and 70s and Silhet, a district of Assam was annexed with Bangladesh during partition of British India (1947). With an area of 78,438 sq km Assam currently is almost equivalent to the size of Ireland or Austria. Assam shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh and the international borders of China and Myanmar are within the range of 80 to 100 km.

Assam was known as the Kingdom of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa during the first millenium A.D. and was broken into smaller states during the beginning of the second millenium; however, later, after 13th century for next six hundred years the region again transformed into a united sovereign country as the Kingdom of Assam under the later dynasties such as the Ahoms and Koches. Despite being an archaeologically and historically rich region, Assam is still a terra-incognito to the world.

Assam is a world leader in production of tea for more than past one hundred years and currently produces around 25 percent of the world's tea. However, traditionally it is also a producer of high quality silk, called pat and Muga, and a major supplier of oil and natural gas.

Regions

Present Assam can be divided into four distinct regions. The regions and the specific tourist interests in these are:

Assam can be divided into four distinct regions
Assam can be divided into four distinct regions
Assam and its Environs: Assam possesses a unique geomorphic environment, with plains, dissected hills of the plateau system and with the Himalayas all around its north, north-east and east
Assam and its Environs: Assam possesses a unique geomorphic environment, with plains, dissected hills of the plateau system and with the Himalayas all around its north, north-east and east
  • The Upper Assam (Ujoni Oxom) Region - Kaziranga National Park, historical old capital city of Rongpur (Xiwoxagor/Sibsagar - Gaurixagor/Gaurisagar), ancient capital city and royal burial mounds at Caraideo, Majuli - the centre of Vaishnav monasteries and typical villages and cultural life of the Mishing ethno-cultural group, several other wildlife sanctuaries and habitats including the Joydihing rainforest and wild-horses habitat at islands (Brahmaputra's) close to Dibrugarh, cultural life of ethno-cultural groups such as Taiphakes, Taikhamtis, Singphows, Morans and of general Assamese population, Digboi - first Asian petroleum refinary with oil museum and the heritage wells, the WW-II famous Stillwell Road and the natural and cultural environment along it, archaeological site of Deupahar, etc.
  • The Central Assam Hills Region (Karbi Anglong and North Cachar) - the historic Maibong, scenic Haflong, mysterious Jatinga (where birds commit suicide), hotwater spring at Umrangshu, cultural life at the villages of Karbi, Dimasa and Tiwa ethno-cultural groups, etc.
  • The Southern Assam or Barak Valley Region -
  • The Lower Assam (Namoni Oxom) Region - the historic and the largest city Guwahati, wildlife habitats such as Manas National Park, Pobitora, Chakrasila, etc; traditional silk industry at Soalkuchi (Xuwalkuchi), bronze and bell metal industry at Sarthebari (Xorthebary), archaeological sites such as Ambari (Guwahati), Madan Kamdev, Suryapahar, Hajo, etc; cultural life at the villages of general Assamese and of Bodo, Rabha, Hasong, Garo, etc ethno-cultural groups, rafting at several rivers, the religious places such as Hajo, etc.

Cities

History of urban development goes back to almost two thousand years in the region. Existence of ancient urban areas such as Pragjyotishapura (Guwahati), Hatapesvara (Tezpur), Durjaya, etc and medieval towns such as Charaideu, Garhgaon, Rongpur, Jorhat, Khaspur, Guwahati, etc are well recorded.

Guwahati with its more than two thousand years of history is the largest urban centre and a million plus city in Assam. The city has experienced multifold growth during past three decades to grow as the primate city in the region; the city's population was approximately 0.9 million (considering Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) area) during the census of 2001.

A View of Guwahati; the city known as Pragjyotishapura (city of eastern light) in the ancient times has a past extended to more than two thousand years. It is the only million plus city in Assam region and a hub of economic, political, educational and cultural activities. Moreover, Guwahati on the bank of the Brahmaputra and surrounded by hills, forests and large wetlands is a picturesque city
A View of Guwahati; the city known as Pragjyotishapura (city of eastern light) in the ancient times has a past extended to more than two thousand years. It is the only million plus city in Assam region and a hub of economic, political, educational and cultural activities. Moreover, Guwahati on the bank of the Brahmaputra and surrounded by hills, forests and large wetlands is a picturesque city
Another view of Guwahati
Another view of Guwahati

Major urban areas are:

Golaghat, Nalbari, Mangaldoi, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Dhubri (Dhubury), etc are other towns and district head quarters. On the other hand Duliajan, Digboi, Namrup, Moran, Bongaigaon, Numaligarh, Jogighopa, etc are major industrial towns. Currently, there are around 125 total urban centres in the state, with Rangia amongst them.

Other destinations

Assam has several attractive destinations; majority of these are National Parks, Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries, areas with archaeological interests and areas with unique cultural heritage. Moreover, as a whole, the region is covered by beautiful natural landscapes.

National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries:

  • Kaziranga National Park - a World Heritage Site of UNESCO is roughly a 400sq.km. wild life park is the largest habitat for one horned rhinoceros and several other unique flora and fauna. Kaziranga is situated in the central Assam region on the bank of the Brahmaputra; roughly 200km. east of Guwahati.
  • Manas National Park - the wildlife park is situated on the foothills of Eastern Himalayas, where the river Manah flows with picturesque turns and clean water and sandy beaches. Although Manas is primarily a tiger reserve, it possesses numerous other valuable flora and fauna; the park is situated roughly 150km west of Guwahati.
  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park- is a wonderful habitat of numerous birds; there are wild horses on the islands of the Brahmaputra close to the park.

There are several other wildlife sanctuaries across the length and breadth of Assam:

Nameri National Park, Orang National Park, Joydihing Rainforest, Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Garampani Wildlife Sanctuary, Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary, Burasapori Wildlife Sanctuary, Bornodi Wildlife Sanctuary, Sonai-rupai Wildlife Sanctuary, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary, Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, Gibon Wildlife Sanctuary, East Karbi-Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary (Proposed), Karbi-Anglong Wildlife Sanctuary (Proposed), Podumani Bherjan Borajan Wildlife Sanctuary, Bordoibum Beelmukh Bird Sanctuary (Proposed), Panidihing Bird Sanctuary, Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary

Archaeological:

  • Guwahati archaeological region - Guwahati is an ancient city; there are several archaeological sites with temples, tanks, ramparts, etc. The Assam State Museum located close to historic Digholy Pukhury (a large tank) is worth visiting.
  • Hajo archaeological region - the ancient city of Apunarbhaba; there are remains of several ancient temples and other structures.
  • Madan Kamdev - a 10th century ancient city close to Guwahati; A large site of architectural, sculptural remains with numerous objects. Excavations are still going on.
  • Sibsagar archaeological region - the nerve centre and the capital of the Kingdom of Assam under the Ahom Dynasty - earlier known as the city of Rongpur; the region has several palaces, temples, large tanks, ramparts, etc.
  • Charaideo - the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Assam with hundreds of burial mounds called Moidams for kings and nobles.
  • Surya Pahar Goalpara archaeological region
  • Tezpur archaeological region
  • Kapili Valley archaeological region
  • Dhansiri/Dhonxiri Valley archaeological region
  • Maibong

Heritage, Cultural and Others:

  • Majuli
  • Sualkuchi
  • Sarthebari
  • Digboi oil town
  • Ledo and Stilwell Road
  • Haflong and Jatinga
  • Umrangshu hotwater spring
A Crimson Sunbird at Kaziranga
A Crimson Sunbird at Kaziranga
A White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh, endangered. Mostly found in the Upper Assam Tropical Forests
A White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh, endangered. Mostly found in the Upper Assam Tropical Forests
A Golden Langur; endangered and are found in Chakrasila Sanctuary in Goalpara district
A Golden Langur; endangered and are found in Chakrasila Sanctuary in Goalpara district
Orchids are abundantly found in Assam; a variety - Bhatou Phul or Vanda coerulea, the 'Blue Orchid
Orchids are abundantly found in Assam; a variety - Bhatou Phul or Vanda coerulea, the 'Blue Orchid

A paradise for nature lovers

Assam and surrounding regions have to be a paradise for the nature lovers and researchers. The region's uniqe natural settings, hydro-geomorphic environment and biodiversity have no parallel in Asia. Within a eighty to hundred kilometres of journey by land, one can travel from a flat flood plain with tropical rainforests and wet paddy fields to mountainous regions of Alpine-Himalayan climatic conditions at very high altitude. Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the life-line of Assam is a paleo-river; older than the Himalayas. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradesh entering Assam, becomes a braided river (at times 16 km wide) and with tributaries, creates a flood plain (Brahmaputra Valley: 80-100 km wide, 1000 km long). The hills of Karbi Anglong, North Cachar and those in and close to Guwahati (also Khasi-Garo Hills) now eroded and dissected are originally parts of the South Indian Plateau system. In the south, the Barak originating in the Barail Range (Assam-Nagaland border), flows through the Cachar district with a 40-50km wide valley and confluences with the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world and consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems; Many are now protected as national parks and reserved forests. The Kaziranga, home of the rare Rhinoceros, and Manas are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Assam. The region is the last refuge for numerous other endangered species such as Golden Langur (Trachypithecus geei), White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh (Cairina scutulata), Bengal Florican, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Pygmy Hog, Greater Adjutant and so on. Some other endangered species with significant population in Assam are Tiger, Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Jerdon's Babbler and so on. Assam is also known for orchids.

Climate and disasters

With the “Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate”, Assam is temperate (Summer max. at 35-38 and winter min. at 6-8 degrees Celsius) and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity. However, temperature is much lesser in the hilly areas in the Central Assam. The climate is characterised by heavy monsoon downpours reducing summer temperature and foggy nights and mornings in winter . Thunderstorms known as Bordoicila are frequent during the afternoons. Spring (Mar-Apr) and Autumn (Sept-Oct) are usually pleasant with moderate rainfall and temperature.

The region is prone to natural disasters with annual floods (in specific areas) and frequent mild earthquakes. Floods usually occur during monsoon (mid June till late August) and many a times can create trouble by destroying roads and railway linkages at places. Strong earthquakes are rare; three of these were recorded in 1869, 1897 (8.1 on the Richter scale); and in 1950 (8.6).

Cultural heritage

Assam is also a region, which can be termed as a crucible of cultures. It is a true meeting place of South Asian and South East Asian cultures, where the principal language Assamese (Oxomeeya) exhibits hybridity between Indo-Iranian, Tibeto-Burman and Tai-Kadai group of languages. Apart from the hybrid Assamese population, there are several distinct ethno-cultural groups such as Bodo, Karbi, Mishing, Dimasa, Tiwa, Rabha, Hasong, Taiphake, Taikhamti, Taiaiton, Singphow, Bru, Garo, etc with distinct languages, dialects, food habits, architecture and settlement pattern, textile design, dance, music, musical instruments, beilef, etc.

A ferocious lion excavated in Madan Kamdev close to Baihata Cariali in Assam representing the powerful Kamarupa-Palas (c. 9th-10th century A.D.)
A ferocious lion excavated in Madan Kamdev close to Baihata Cariali in Assam representing the powerful Kamarupa-Palas (c. 9th-10th century A.D.)
Rong Ghor, a pavilion built by the king Pramatta Singha (also Sunenpha; 1744–1751) in Ahom capital Rongpur, now Sibsagar; the Rang Ghar is one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in Asia
Rong Ghor, a pavilion built by the king Pramatta Singha (also Sunenpha; 1744–1751) in Ahom capital Rongpur, now Sibsagar; the Rang Ghar is one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in Asia

History and archaeology

Assam is also rich in history and archaeology. In the ancient times, the Kingdom of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa under at least three successive dunasties for more than 700 years and in the medieval periods the Kingdom of Assam under the Ahoms for 600 years were strong and sovereign kingdoms; no western powers including the great Mughals could invade and occupy the region till the British had come. Apart from several failed attempts by the north Indian kingdoms in the ancient times, the Mughals attempted invading Assam for 17 times, where only once they could get little success in occupying and controlling a major portion only for a small period of two years. Mughals were defeated and completely thrown out from the Brahmaputra Valley in the 17th century. However, Mughals had maintained control on the western territories (now North Bengal) of the Koch Kingdom and in some parts of the Jayantiya Kingdom (a tributary ruler under the Ahoms) - now in Bangladesh. Due to richness and self-sustained nature of the kingdoms in Assam, the rulers hardly attempted any outward aggression leaving only few instances. During the rule of Barman Dynasty of Kamarupa the king Bhaskarvarman occupied the then Gauda (later Bengal) along with its capital city Karnasuvarna in the 7th century; then a major portion of present eastern Bangladesh was a natural part of Kamarupa. In the 17th century, a plan for reoccupying the lost land of the ancient Kamarupa kingdom and destroying the Nawab of Gauda by the Ahom king Rudra Simha was thwarted after the king's sudden death during his organisation of a large amry of 4 hundred thousand in Guwahati. With such a historic background, Assam possesses hundreds of historic and archaeological sites, where extensive research opportunities and tourism potentials are still left.

State of tourism

It is important to understand that in the past 60 years, the Government of India's restrictions on the foreigners in the region such as the Restricted Area Permit System (RAP - finally abolished in Assam and neighbouring Meghalaya in the 1990s), acted as major hindrances for the foreign tourists and foreign interest groups to legally enter in to Assam and gradually pushed Assam in to isolation from the world. Assam today is a terra-incognito to the new generations in the developed world; while the old generation British, other Europeans, Americans and Japanese still remember 'Assam' whatever may be the cause varying from colonial administration, to tea and oil industry or to WWII. For past 60 years, tourism promotion and development was a neglected subject. At the same time during the same time period, negligible numbers of Assamese have come out from Assam to other places; Assamese have been happy inside Assam, inside their native places and inside their houses, which offcourse recently has seen a sea-change with thousands of students and skilled labourers coming out to different cities in India. Therefore, as a not well-known place, Assam has long way to go to establish herself as a foremost tourist destination. However, Assam possesses everything that is required for developing herself as a leader of travel and tourism in the world and most importantly Assamese are one of the most hospitable people.

Talk

Assamese is the principal language and the lingua-franca in the region. Assamese and Bodo are the local official languages in Assam and Bengali is also used as the same in Barak Valley. There are several other local languages such as Mishing, Karbi, Dimasa, Garo, Hmar, Bru, Taiphake, Taikhamti, etc used by the specific ethno-cultural groups in different pockets. However, most educated people speak English and Hindi with local tunes. Bengali is also spoken in many parts of Assam especially Guwahati and Silchar where Bengali community resides in large numbers. Moreover, there are also large numbers of other Indian language and dialect speakers such as Punjabi, Marwari, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, etc particularly in the urban centres.

Usually, all official signs and documents are written in both Assamese and in English, using British spelling. The Government of India establishments Indian Railways, ONGC, etc will have sign-boards in all three languages - Assamese, English and Hindi. Commercial and street signs are usually written in Assamese and English and in Bengali in Barak Valley. As English has a wider base, foreigners need not to worry about not knowing Assamese or any other local language; however, it is an additional advantage for a tourist to know few sentences of a local language.

Get in

By Air

There are good air-connectivity to Assam from the major cities in India. Guwahati's Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is the businest in Assam and other major airports are in Dibrugarh, and Silchar. Air India and Indian Airlines along with several other private airlines operate daily services from all the major cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. Moreover, there are other airports in Tezpur, Jorhat, etc with less frequent flights connecting cities such as Kolkata and other cities of North East Region. Arriving by plane, however, gives a wonderful welcome aerial view of the green valley surrounded by blue hills in Assam. The major airlines operating in the region are:

For the international travellers from East Asia or South East Asia, the most easiest route to travel to Assam is via Kolkata. There are several direct flights from Kolkata to Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Silchar and Jorhat. Journey time in a direct flight from Kolkata to Guwahati is of less than 45 minutes, while to Dibrugarh (the eastern most civil airport in Assam) is of around 90 minutes. Similarly for travellers from Europe, Middle East, Central Asia and African countries either via Delhi and Mumbai or even Kolkata route is preferable. However, Delhi and Kolkata have higher frequency of flights to Guwahati. A Delhi-Guwahati direct flight takes 2:30 hrs of journey time. There are currently no direct flight from Guwahati to any international destination after cancellation of the Air India's Guwahati-Bangkok flight few years back.

By Rail

Assam is also well connected through Rail Services to Indian cities. Three major routes of North East Frontier Railways (NF Railways) covers entire Assam and provides linkages to principal zones and cities in north, east and south India. Guwahati railway station is the largest in Assam and is served by direct trains from most of the major cities in India. The Rajdhani Express (fully airconditioned) from New Delhi (takes 27 hours) and Saraighat Express from Howrah in Kolkata (takes 17 hours) are the fastest ones. There are many direct trains from Delhi (including the Rajdhani Express) and Kolkata for Dibrugarh in Upper Assam. Usually, Dibrugarh is an additional nights journey (12hrs) from Guwahati.

By Road

There are highways from Indian states in the west and buses run between Siliguri (to Siliguri buses are available from Kolkata, Darjeeling and Gangtok) and Guwahati; However, travelling by bus may not be comfortable in this patch and travel time is usually longer than that of trains. Road connectivity to surrounding Seven Sister States is good, however may take different durations depending on the location of the state.

Tamu in western Myanmar is connected to a reasonably good highway to Assam via Manipur; Tamu in Myanmar border is closer to Mandalay. The historic Stilwell Road between Assam-Myanmar-China from Ledo in Upper Assam to Myitkina in Myanmar and further to Kunming in China is right now not fully operationalised.

There are also roads connecting Bhutan.

Assam and Seven Sisters region have densely built airports, which is attributed to the regions role as an important war front in Asia in WWII
Assam and Seven Sisters region have densely built airports, which is attributed to the regions role as an important war front in Asia in WWII

Road

Buses are the most common medium of travel in Assam. Buses in Assam are generally well maintained and comfortable. There are regular bus services connecting important places within Assam and to neighbouring states. Long distance buses generally are called Night Super Bus (because they usually travel only at after sunset) are more comfortable with reclining seats. Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) is state run bus company with a very exhaustive network. Private players such as Blue Hill Travels, Network Travels, Blue In Travels and Capital Travels have large networks as well. Major service providers in Guwahati are:

  • ASTC, [1]. A public sector undertaking bus service, to all the major cities. Departures from Paltan Bazar, ASTC Bus Stand, Guwahati.  edit
  • Blue Hills Travels, +91361-2540061. Luxury buses without meal on-board, to all the major cities. Departures from Paltan Bazar, Guwahati.  edit
  • Green Valley Travels, +91361-2543646. Luxury buses without meal on-board, to all the major cities. Departures from Paltan Bazar, Guwahati.  edit
  • Network Travels, +91361-2522007. Luxury buses without meal on-board, to all the major cities. Departures from Paltan Bazar opposite Hotel Nandan, Guwahati.  edit

Taxi cabs can be a good option for travelling inside Assam and to the surrounding region. In majority cities and even small towns private taxi-cabs are available for rent for local travel as well for inter-city travel. The taxi-cabs can be also rented on daily basis. For a traveller, it is easier to hire a taxi from the hotel he or she is staying; usually the hotels can arrange or provide with information on the local car rental agencies.


*Kickstart Adventures- an adventure tourism firm, has pioneered motorcycle tours in North East India. This adventure motorbike tour covers the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh, giving a traveller to visit to not only popular places but also rural parts of the region to experience first-hand of tribal cultures and traditions. The firm conducts tours all round the year. Self driving may not be advisable for many reasons - dangerous traffic, frequent agitations and 'bandh's and insurgency in certain areas to name some.

Rail

Although having a fairly extensive railway network, trains are less convenient than buses or taxis for travelling short distances within Assam - inter-city or inter-regional trains are not very frequent within Assam. Moreover, the Assam's rail network is fragmented due to different gauge size. The services on narrow gauge and meter gauge lines are irregular and uncomfortable. Broad gauge service links Guwahati with major cities in upper Assam (Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tinsukia), which is comfortable but little more time consuming than the buses; However, from Guwahati, one may try using the Rajdhani Express (fully Airconditioned) for an over-night journey to reach Dibrugarh or Tinsukia. The railway tickets are bookable online or available at the electronic ticketing counters in the stations. It is important to have a reservation for an overnight train journey, to obtain a berth in a comfortable A/C or non A/C sleeper coach. For reservation, booking should be made 2 months before the journey; however, in majority trains 'Tatkal' sevice is available.

Air

Air travel from Guwahati to Upper Assam or Southern Assam districts can be quicker and easier. Guwahati is linked with Dibrugarh, Tezpur and Silchar with several flights. However, it is important to book a ticket earlier. A flight between Guwahati and Dibrugarh takes roughly 45 minutes.

The famous Rhinoceros of Assam in Kaziranga
The famous Rhinoceros of Assam in Kaziranga
A tea garden in Assam
A tea garden in Assam
  • Brahmaputra Cruise - Recently a private firm, Assam-Bengal Navigation has started river cruise on Brahmaputra. This tour covers almost whole of the stretch of river lying in Assam. It also includes visits to nearby popular places and visiting rural Assam.

Eat

Major cities like Guwahati, Tezpur, Jorhat and Dibrugarh offer a wide variety of restaurants and eat outs. Restaurants are normally very cheap and a good meal will cost about $0.50 to $1 per person. There are also ambient restaurants which serve all varieties of Indian and Assamese dishes for about less than $5 - $8 per person.

It is also worth while to taste ethnic Assamese cuisine which comprises of Rice with regional curries, including choices of fish, lambs, chickens and ducks. Assamese meals are usually accompanied by various side dishes like mash potatoes (Alu Pitika) or pickles of small fried fishes.

Stay safe

Visitors should be aware that the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) has been engaged in a campaign for independence in the state since 1979. Previously, their tactics were to destroy facilities, such as oil and gas pipelines, that were of economic benefit to India as well as targeting security patrols. However, in recent times they have become more assertive in their demands and the Hindi speaking civilian population have also become targets of intimidation and kidnappings, and indiscriminate exploding of bombs in areas frequented by Hindi speakers have become increasingly common. Foreigners have not been targeted in the campaign, though, of course, it is possible to be caught in the violence due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, so vigilance is required while visiting the state. Citizens of Bhutan, in particular, should maintain a low profile as there is still some resentment directed towards them after the Bhutanese army expelled Ulfa rebels from their mountain bases in Bhutan in 2003.

  • AIR Guwahati / Akashvani Guwahati) - 729 kHz, 1035 kHz, 4940 kHz, 7280 kHz, 100.8 MHz
  • Gupshup FM - 94.3
  • Radio Oolala (Positive Radio Pvt. Ltd.) - 91.9 MHz
  • Big 92.7 FM, Guwahati (Adlabs Films Ltd.) - 92.7 MHz
  • Gyan Vani, Guwahati - 107.8 MHz
  • AIR Dibrugarh / Akashvani Dibrugarh - 567 kHz
  • AIR Jorhat / Akashvani Jorhat - 103.4 MHz
  • AIR Tezpur / Akashvani Tezpur - 1125 kHz
  • AIR Diphu / Akashvani Diphu) - 1485 kHz
  • AIR Haflong / Akashvani Haflong - 100.2 MHz
  • AIR Nagaon / Akashvani Nagaon - 102.7 MHz
  • AIR Kokrajhar / Akashvani Kokrajhar - 1512 kHz
  • AIR Dhubri / Akashvani Dhubri - 103.3 MHz
  • AIR Silchar / Akashvani Silchar - 828 kHz
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ASSAM, a former province of British India, which was amalgamated in 1905 with "Eastern Bengal and Assam". Area 56,243 sq. m.; pop. (1901) 6, 12 6,343. The province of Assam lies on the N.E. border of Bengal, on the extreme frontier of the Indian empire, with Bhutan and Tibet beyond it on the N., and Burma and Manipur on the E. It comprises the valleys of the Brahmaputra and Surma rivers, together with the mountainous watershed which intervenes between them. It is situated between 2 4 ° o' and 28° 17' N. lat., and between 89° 46' and 97° 5' E. long. It is bounded on the N. by the eastern section of the great Himalayan range, the frontier tribes from west to east being successively Bhutias, Akas, Daphlas, Miris, Abors and Mishmis; on the N.E. by the Mishmi hills, which sweep round the head of the Brahmaputra valley; on the E. by the unexplored mountains that mark the frontier of Burma, by the hills occupied by the independent Naga tribes and by the state of Manipur; on the S. by the Lushai hills, the state of Hill Tippera, and the Bengal district of Tippera; and on the W. by the Bengal districts of Mymensingh and Rangpur, the state of Kuch Behar and Jalpaiguri district.

Table of contents

Natural Divisions

Assam is naturally divided into three distinct tracts, the Brahmaputra valley, the Surma valley and the hill ranges between the two. The Brahmaputra valley is an alluvial plain, about 450 m. in length, with an average breadth of 50 m., lying almost east and west. To the north is the main chain of the Himalayas, the lower ranges of which rise abruptly from the plain; to the south is the great elevated plateau or succession of plateaus known as the Assam range. The various portions of this range are called by the names of the tribes who inhabit them - the Garo, the Khasi, the Jaintia, the North Cachar and the Naga hills. The range as a whole is joined at its eastern extremity by the Patkai to the Himalayan system, and by the mountains of Manipur to the Arakan Yoma. The highest points in the range are Nokrek peak (4600 ft.) in the Garo hills, Shillongpeak (6450 ft.) in the Khasi-Jaintia hills, and Japva peak (nearly io,000 ft.) in the Naga hills. South of the range comes the third division of the province, the Surma valley, comprising the two districts of Cachar and Sylhet. The Surma valley is much smaller than the Brahmaputra valley, covering only 7506 against 24,283 sq. m.; its mean elevation is much lower and its rivers are more sluggish.

Physical Aspects

Assam is a fertile series of valleys, with the great channel of the Brahmaputra (literally, the Son of Brahma) flowing down its middle, and an infinite number of tributaries and watercourses pouring into it from the mountains on either side. The Brahmaputra spreads out in a sheet of water several miles broad during the rainy season, and in its course through Assam forms a number of islands in its bed. Rising in the Tibetan plateau, far to the north of the Himalayas, and skirting round their eastern passes not far from the Yang-tsze-kiang and the great river of Cambodia, it enters Assam by a series of waterfalls and rapids, amid vast boulders and accumulations of rocks. The gorge, situated in Lakhimpur district, through which the southernmost branch of the Brahmaputra enters, has from time immemorial been held in reverence by the Hindus. It is called the Brahmakunda or Parasuramkunda; and although the journey to it is both difficult and dangerous, it is annually visited by thousands of devotees. After a rapid course westwards down the whole length of the Assam valley, the Brahmaputra turns sharply to the south, spreading itself over the alluvial districts of the Bengal delta, and, after several changes of name, ends its course of 1800 m. in the Bay of Bengal. Its first tributaries in Assam, after crossing the frontier, are the Kundil and the Digaru, flowing from the Mishmi hills on the north, and the Tengapani and Dihing, which take their rise on the Singpho hills to the south-east. Shortly afterwards it receives the Dibang, flowing from the northeast; but its principal confluent is the Dihong, which, deriving its origin, under the name of the Tsangpo, from a spot in the vicinity of the source of the Sutlej, flows in a direction precisely opposite to that river, and traversing the tableland of Tibet, at the back of the great Himalaya range, falls into the Brahmaputra in 27° 48' N. lat., 95° 26' E. long., after a course of nearly moo m. Doubts were long entertained whether the Dihong could be justly regarded as the continuation of the Tsangpo, but these were practically set at rest by the voyage of F. J. Needham in 1886. Below the confluence, the united stream flows in a south-westerly direction, forming the boundary between the districts of Lakhimpur and Darrang, situated on its northern bank, and those of Sibsagar and Nowgong on the south; and finally bisecting Kamrup, it crosses over the frontier of the province and passes into Bengal. In its course it receives on the left side the Dihing, a river having its rise at the south-eastern angle of the province; and lower down, on the opposite side, it parts with a considerable offset termed the Buri Lohit, which, however, reunites with the Brahmaputra 60 m. below the point of divergence, bearing with it the additional waters of the Subansiri, flowing from Tibet. A second offset, under the name of the Kalang river, rejoins the parent stream a short distance above the town of Gauhati. The remaining rivers are too numerous to be particularized. The streams of the south are not rapid, and have no considerable current until May or June. Among the islands formed by the intersection and confluence of the rivers is Majuli, or the Great Island, as it is called by way of pre-eminence. This island extends 55 m. in length by about 10 in breadth, and is formed by the Brahmaputra on the south-east and the Buri Lohit river on the north-west. In the upper part of the valley, towards the gorge where the Brahmaputra enters, the country is varied and picturesque, walled in on the north and east by the Himalayas, and thickly wooded from the base to the snow-line. On either bank of the Brahmaputra a long narrow strip of plain rises almost imperceptibly to the foot of the hills. Gigantic reeds and grasses occupy the low lands near the banks of the great river; expanses of fertile rice-land come next; a little higher up, dotted with villages encircled by groves of bamboos and fruit trees of great size and beauty, the dark forests succeed, covering the interior table-land and mountains. The country in the vicinity of the large rivers is flat, and impenetrable from dense tangled jungle, with the exception of some very low-lying tracts which are either permanent marshes or are covered with water during the rains. Jungle will not grow on these depressions, and they are covered either with water, reeds, high grasses or rice cultivation. On or near such open spaces are collected all the villages. As the traveller proceeds farther down the valley, the country gradually opens out into wide plains. In the western district of Kamrup the country forms one great expanse, with a few elevated tracts here and there, varying from 200 to Boo ft. in height.

Soils

The soil is exceedingly rich and well adapted to all kinds of agricultural purposes, and for the most part is composed of a rich black loam reposing on a grey sandy clay, though occasionally it exhibits a light yellow clayey texture. The land may be divided into three great classes. The first division is composed of hills, the largest group within the valley being that of the Mikir Mountains, which stand out upon the plain. Another set of hills project into the valley at Gauhati. But these latter are rather prolongations of spurs from the Khasi chain than isolated groups belonging to the plains. The other hills are all isolated and of small extent. The second division of the lands is the well-raised part of the valley whose level lies above the ordinary inundations of the Brahmaputra. The channels of some of the hill streams, however, are of so little depth that the highest lands in their neighbourhood are liable to sudden floods. On the north bank of the great river, lands of this sort run down the whole length of the valley, except where they are interrupted by the beds of the hill streams. The breadth of these plains is in some places very trifling, whilst in others they comprise a tract of many miles, according to the number and the height of the rocks or hills that protect them from the aberrations of the river. The alluvial deposits of the Brahmaputra and of its tributary streams may be considered as the third general division of lands in Assam. These lands are very extensive, and present every degree of fertility and elevation, from the vast chars of pure sand, subject to annual inundations, to the firm islands, so raised by drift-sand and the accumulated remains of rank vegetable matter, as no longer to be liable to flood. The rapidity with which wastes, composed entirely of sand newly washed forward by the current during floods, become converted into rich pasture is astonishing. As the freshets begin to lessen and retire into the deeper channels, the currents form natural embankments on their edges, preventing the return of a small portion of water which is thus left stagnant on the sands, and exposed to the action of the sun's rays. It slowly evaporates, leaving a thin crust of animal and vegetable matter. This is soon impregnated with the seeds of the Saccharum spontaneum and other grasses that have been partly brought by the winds and partly deposited by the water. Such places are frequented by numerous flocks of aquatic birds, which resort thither in search of fish and mollusca. As vegetation begins to appear, herds of wild elephants and buffaloes are attracted by the supply of food and the solitude of the newly-formed land, and in their turn contribute to manure the soil.

==Geology== Geographically the Assam hills lie in the angle between the Himalayas and the Burmese ranges, but geologically they belong to neither. The older rocks are like those of Bengal, and the newer beds show no sign of either the Himalayan or the Burmese folding - on the top of the plateau they are nearly horizontal, but along the southern margin they are bent sharply downwards in a simple monoclinal fold. The greater part of the mass is composed of gneiss and schists. The Sylhet traps near the southern margin are correlated with the Rajmahal traps of Bengal. The older rocks are overlaid unconformably by Cretaceous beds, consisting chiefly of sandstones with seams of coal, the whole series thinning rapidly towards the north and thus indicating the neighbourhood of the old shore-line. The fossils are very similar to those of the South Indian Cretaceous, but very different from those of the corresponding beds in the Nerbudda valley. The overlying Tertiary series includes nummulitic beds and valuable seams of coal.

The border ranges of the east and south of Assam belong to the Burmese system of mountain chains (see Burma), and consist largely of Tertiary beds, including the great coal seams of Upper Assam. The Assam valley is covered by the alluvial deposits of the Brahmaputra.

Of the mineral productions by far the most valuable is coal. Compared with the Gondwana coal of the peninsula of India the Tertiary coal seams of Assam are remarkable for their purity and their extraordinary thickness. The "Thick Seam" of Margherita, in Upper Assam, averages 50 ft., and in some places reaches as much as 80 ft. The average percentage of ash in 27 assays of Assam coal was 3.8 as against 16.3 in 17 assays of Raniganj coal. The coal seams are commonly associated with petroleum springs. Gold is found in the alluvial deposits, but the results of exploration have not been very promising.

Earthquakes

Assam is liable to earthquakes. There was a severe earthquake in Cachar on the Toth of January 1869, a severe shock in Shillong and Gauhati in September 1875, and one in Silchar in October 1882; but by far the severest shock known is that which occurred on the evening of 12th June 1897. The area of this seismic disturbance extended over north-eastern India, from Manipur to Sikkim; but the focus was in the Khasi and Garo hills. In the station of Shillong every masonry building was levelled to the ground. Throughout the country bridges were shattered, roads were broken up like ploughed fields, and the beds of rivers were dislocated. In the hills there were terrible landslips, which wrecked the little Cherrapunji railway and caused 600 deaths. The total mortality recorded was 1542, including two Europeans at Shillong. The levels of the country were so affected that the towns of Goalpara and Barpeta became almost uninhabitable during the rains.

==Fauna== The zoology of Assam presents some interesting features. Wild elephants abound and commit many depredations, entering villages in large herds, and consuming everything suitable to their tastes. Many are caught by means of female elephants previously tamed, and trained to decoy males into the snares prepared for subjecting them to captivity. A considerable number are tamed and exported from Assam every year. Many are killed every year in the forests for the sake of the ivory which they furnish. The government keddah establishment from Dacca captures large numbers of elephants in the province, and the right of hunting is also sold by auction to private bidders. The annual catch of„the latter averages about two hundred. The rhinoceros is found in the denser parts of the forests and generally in swampy places. This animal is hunted and killed for its skin and its horn. The skin affords the material for the best shields. The horn is sacred in the eyes of the natives. Contrary to the usual belief, it is stated that, if caught young, the rhinoceros is easily tamed and becomes strongly attached to his keeper. Tigers abound, and though many are annually destroyed for the sake of the government reward, their numbers seem scarcely, if at all, to diminish. Leopards and bears are numerous; and the sand-badger, the Arctonyx collaris of Cuvier, a small animal somewhat resembling a bear, but having the snout, eyes and tail of a hog, is found. Among the most formidable animals known is the wild buffalo or gaur which is of great size, strength and fierceness. The fox and the jackal exist, and the wild hog is very abundant. Goats, deer of various kinds, hares, and two or three species of antelope are found, as are monkeys in great variety. The porcupine, the squirrel, the civet cat, the ichneumon and the otter are common. The birds are too various to admit of enumeration. Wild game is plentiful; pheasants, partridges, snipe and water-fowl of many descriptions make the country a tempting field for the sportsman. Vultures and other birds of prey are met with.

Crocodiles (commonly called alligators) swarm in all parts of the Brahmaputra, and are very destructive to the fish, of which hundreds of varieties are found, and which supply a valuable article of food. The most destructive of the ferae naturae, as regards human life, are, however, the snakes. Of these, several poisonous species exist, including the cobra and karait (Naja tripudians and Bungarus caeruleus). The bite of a fairly-grown healthy serpent of either of these species is deadly; and it is ascertained that more deaths occur from snake-bite than from all the other wild beasts put together. Among the non-poisonous serpents the python ranks first. This is an enormous boa-constrictor of great length and weight, which drops upon his prey from the branch of a tree, or steals upon it in the thick grass. He kills his victim by rolling himself round the body till he breaks its ribs, or suffocates it by one irresistible convolution round its throat. He seldom or never attacks human beings unless in self-defence, and loss of life from this cause is scarcely ever reported.

==Agriculture== The principal and almost the only food - grain of the plains portion of the province is rice. The production of this staple is carried on generally under the same conditions as in Bengal; but the times of sowing and reaping and the names given to the several crops vary much in different parts of the province. In 1901-1902 out of a total cultivated area of 1,736,000 acres, there were 1,194,000 acres under rice. In addition jute is grown to a considerable extent in Goalpara and Sylhet; cotton is grown in large quantities along the slopes of the Assam range. Rubber is grown in government plantations and is also brought in by the hill tribes; while lac, mustard and potatoes are also produced.

==Tea Plantations== The most important article of commerce produced in Assam is tea. The rice crop covers a very great proportion of the cultivated land, but it is used for local consumption, and the Brahmaputra valley does not produce enough for its own consumption, large quantities being imported for the coolies. The tea plantations are the one great source of wealth to the province, and the necessities of tea cultivation are the chief stimulants to the development of Assam. The plant was discovered in 1823 by Mr Robert Bruce, who had proceeded thither on a mercantile exploration. The country, however, then formed part of the Burmese dominions. But war with this monarchy shortly afterwards broke out, and a brother of the first discoverer, happening to be appointed to the command of a division of gunboats employed in some part of the operations, followed up the pursuit of the subject, and obtained several hundred plants and a considerable quantity of seed. Some specimens were ultimately forwarded to the superintendent of the botanic garden at Calcutta. In 1832 Captain F. Jenkins was deputed by the governor-general of India, Lord William Bentinck, to report upon the resources of the country, and the tea plant was brought to his especial notice by Mr Bruce; in 1834 a minute was recorded by the governor-general on the subject, in which it is stated that his attention had been called to it in 1827 before his departure from England. In accordance with the views of that minute, a committee was appointed to prosecute inquiries, and to promote the cultivation of the plant. Communications were opened with China with a view to obtain fresh plants and seeds, and a deputation, composed of gentlemen versed in botanical studies, was despatched to Assam. Some seeds were obtained from China; but they proved to be of small importance, as it was clearly ascertained by the members of the Assam deputation that both the black and the green tea plants were indigenous here, and might be multiplied to any extent; another result of the Chinese mission, that of procuring persons skilled in the cultivation and manufacture of black tea, was of more material benefit. Subsequently, under Lord Auckland, a further supply of Chinese cultivators and manufacturers was obtained - men well acquainted with the processes necessary for the production of green tea, as the former set were with those requisite for black. In 1838 the first twelve chests of tea from Assam were received in England. They had been injured in some degree on the passage, but on samples being submitted to brokers, and others of long experience and tried judgment, the reports were highly favourable. It was never, however, the intention of government to carry on the trade, but to resign it to private adventure as soon as the experimental course could be fairly completed. Mercantile associations for the culture and manufacture of tea in Assam began to be formed as early as 1839; and in 1849 the government disposed of their establishment, and relinquished the manufacture to the ordinary operation of commercial enterprise. In 1851 the crop of the principal company was estimated to produce 280,000 lb. Since then the enterprise has rapidly developed. Tea is now cultivated in all the plains district of the provinces. When the industry was first established, the land which was supposed to be best for the plant was hill or undulating ground; but now it has been found in the Surma valley that with good drainage the heaviest crops of tea can be raised from low-lying land, even such as formerly supported rice cultivation. At the close of the year 1905 there were 942 gardens in all, with 422,335 acres, and employing 464,912 coolies. The majority of gardens are owned by Europeans, 405,486 acres belonging to them as against 16,849 to Indians. The total out-turn for the province in 1905 was 193,556,047 lb. Between 1893 and 1898 there was a great extension of tea cultivation, with the result that the industry began to suffer from the congestion that follows over-production. Also to meet the requirements of the industry, an enormous number of coolies had to be brought into the province from other parts of India, and in recent years the supply of labour has begun to fall off, causing a rise in the cost of production. For these reasons there was a crisis in the tea industry of Assam, which was relieved to some extent by the reduction of the English duty on tea in 1906.

Tea-Garden Coolies

The labour required on the tea gardens is almost entirely imported, as the natives of the province are too prosperous to do such work. During the decade 1891-1901, 596,856 coolies were imported, or about a tenth of the total population of the province. The importation of coolies is controlled by an elaborate system of legislation, which provides for the registration of contracts, the medical inspection of coolies during the journey, and supervision over rates of pay, &c., on the gardens. The first labour act was passed in 1863, and since then the law on the subject has been changed by successive enactments. The measure now in force is called Act VI. of 1901. Under this act the maximum term of the labour contract is fixed at four years, and a minimum monthly wage is laid down, the payment of which, however, is contingent on the completion of a daily task by the labourer. Labourers. under contract deserting are liable to fine and imprisonment, and, subject to certain restrictions, may be arrested without warrant by their employers. In addition to the labourers engaged under this act, a large number are employed under contract enforceable by Act XIII. of 1859, which provides penalties for breach of the contract, but does not allow of the arrest of deserters without warrant. Neither does this act regulate in any way the terms of the contract, nor contain any special provisions for the protection of the labourer. Many labourers on the conclusion of their first engagement under Act VI. of 1901 enter into renewed contracts under Act XIII. of 1859. In 1905 there were in all 664,296 labourers, and 24,209 fresh importations, of whom 62% chose the old act.

Railways

The Assam-Bengal railway runs from the seaport of Chittagong to the Surma valley, and thence across the hills to Dibrugarh, at the head of the Brahmaputra valley, with a branch to Gauhati lower down the Brahmaputra. The hill section of this line was found exceedingly difficult of construction, and extensive damage was done by the earthquake of 1897; but it is now complete. This railway is financed by the government, though worked by a company, and therefore ranks as a state line. At the end of 1904 its open mileage was 576 m. There are several short lines of light railway or tramway in the province. The most important is the Dibru-Sadiya railway, at the head of the Brahmaputra valley, with a branch to the coal-fields.

Trade

The external trade of Assam is conducted partly by steamer, partly by native boat, and to a small extent by rail. In the Brahmaputra valley steamers carry as much as 86% of the exports, and 94% of the imports. In the Surma valley native boats carry about 43% of both. In 1904-1905 the total exports. were valued at 726 lakhs of rupees. The chief items were tea, rice in the husk, oil-seeds, tea-seed, timber, coal and jute. The imports. were valued at 457 lakhs of rupees. The chief items were cotton piece-goods, rice not in the husk, sugar, grain and pulse, salt, iron and steel, tobacco, cotton twist and yarn, and brass and copper. No less than two-thirds of the total trade is conducted with Calcutta. The trans-frontier trade is insignificant; and most of it is conducted with the Bengal state of Hill Tippera. The trade through Chittagong is increasing owing to the opening of the hill-section of the Assam-Bengal railway, which gives direct communication between the districts of Upper Assam and the port of Chittagong, and the incorporation of that port in the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam.

Inhabitants

The total population of Assam, according to the census of 1901, was 6,126,343, of whom 3,4 2 9, 0 99 were Hindus, 1,581,317 Mahommedans and 1, 06 8,334 Animists. The number of foreigners in the population due to immigration by the tea-garden coolies was 775,844. But in spite of this immigration the rate of increase in the population was only 5.9% in the decade, and with the immigrants deducted 1.36%. Amongst native-born Assamese during the decade there was a serious decrease in Nowgong and some other districts, due to kalaazar and other diseases. The Assamese are an interesting race, of distinct origin from the neighbouring Bengalis. A large proportion of them derive their origin from tribes who came from the Himalayan ranges, from Burma or from the Chinese frontier. The most important of these are the Ahoms or Ahams, an offshoot of the Shan race of northern Burma. They were the last conquerors of Assam before the Burmese, and they long preserved their ancient traditions, habits and institutions. Hinduism first made its encroachments among their kings and. nobility. Several generations ago they gave up eating beef, and they are now completely Hinduized, except in a few remote recesses of Assam. Hinduism has also impressed its language upon the province, and the vernacular Assamese possesses a close affinity to Bengali, with the substitution of s for the Bengali ch, of a guttural h for the Bengali h or sh, and a few other dialectic changes. Indeed, so close was the resemblance that for a time Bengali was used as the court and official language of the province under British rule. But with the development of the country the Assamese tongue asserted its claims to be treated as a distinct vernacular, and a resolution of government (1873) re-established it as the language of official life and public business.

The Assam peasant, living in a half-populated province, and surrounded by surplus land, is indolent, good-natured and, on the whole, prosperous. He raises sufficient food for his wants with very little labour, and, with the exception of a few religious ceremonies, he has no demand made upon him for money, saving the light rental of his fields. Under the peaceful influences of British rule, he has completely lost his ancient warlike instincts, and forgotten his predatory habits. In complexion he is a shade or two fairer than the Bengali. His person is in general short and robust, but devoid of the grace and flexibility of the Hindu.

A flat face, with high cheek-bones, presents a physiognomy resembling the Chinese, and suggests no idea of beauty. His hair is abundant, black, lank and coarse, but the beard is scanty, and usually plucked out, which gives him an effeminate appearance. The women form a striking contrast to the men; there is more of feminine beauty in them than is commonly seen in the women of Bengal, with a form and feature somewhat approaching the European. The habits of life of the Assamese peasantry are pre-eminently domestic. Great respect is paid to old age; when parents are no longer capable of labour they are supported by their children, and scarcely any one is allowed to become a burden to the public. They have also in general a very tender regard for their offspring, and are generous and kind to their relations. They are hospitable to people of their own caste, but to no others. The use of opium is very general.

Hill Tribes

The hill and frontier tribes of Assam include the Nagas, Singphos, Daphlas, Miris, Khamtis, Mishmis, Abors, &c., nearly all of whom, excepting the Nagas, are found near the frontiers of Lakhimpur district. The principal of these, in point of numbers, are the Nagas, who inhabit the hills and forests along the eastern and south-eastern frontier of Assam. They reside partly in the British district of the Naga hills and partly in independent territory under the political control of the deputycommissioner of the adjoining districts. They cultivate rice, cotton, yams and Indian corn, and prepare salt from the brine springs in their hills. The different tribes of Nagas are independent of and unconnected with one another, and are often at war with each other. The Singphos are another of the main population of the same race, who occupy in force the hilly country between the Patkai and Chindwin rivers, and are nominally subject to Burma. The Akas, Daphlas, Miris, Abors, Mishmis and Khamtis are described under separate headings. Under regulation V. of 1873, an inner line has been laid down in certain districts, up to which the protection of British authority is guaranteed, and beyond which, except by special permission, it is not lawful for British subjects to go. This inner line has been laid down in Darrang towards the Bhutias, Akas and Daphlas; in Lakhimper towards the Daphlas, Miris, Abors, Mishmis, Khamtis, Singphos and Nagas; and in Sibsagar towards the Nagas. The inner line formerly maintained along the Lushai border has since 1895 been allowed to fall into desuetude, but Lushais visiting Cachar are required to take out passes from the superintendent of the Lushai hills. The line is marked at intervals by frontier posts held by military police and commanding the roads of access to the tract beyond; and any person from the plains who has received permission to cross the line has to present his pass at these posts.

History

Assam was the province of Bengal which remained most stubbornly outside the limits of the Mogul empire and of the Mahommedan polity in India. Indeed, although frequently overrun by Mussulman armies, and its western districts annexed to the Mahommedan vice-royalty of Bengal, the province maintained an uncertain independence till its invasion by the Burmese towards the end of the 18th century, and its final cession to the British in 1826. It seems to have been originally included, along with the greater part of north-eastern Bengal, in the old Hindu territory of Kamrup. Its early legends point to great religious revolutions between the rival rites of Krishna and Siva as a source of dynastic changes. Its roll of kings extends deep into pre-historic times, but the first rajah capable of indentification flourished about the year 76 A.D. Kamrup, the Pragjotishpur of the ancient Hindus, was the capital of a legendary king Narak, whose son Bhagadatta distinguished himself in the great war of the Mahabharata. When Hsiian Tsang visited the country in A.D. 640, a prince named Kumar Bhaskara Barman was on the throne. The people are described as being of small stature with dark yellow complexions; they were fierce in appearance, but upright and studious. Hinduism was the state religion, and the number of Buddhists was very small. The soil was deep and fertile, and the towns were surrounded by moats with water brought from rivers or banked-up lakes. Subsequently we read of Pal rulers in Assam. It is supposed that these kings were Buddhist and belonged to the Pal dynasty of Bengal. Although the whole of Kamrup appears from time to time to have been united into one kingdom under some unusually powerful monarch, it was more often split up into numerous petty states; and for several centuries the Koch, the Ahom and the Chutia powers contested for the Assam valley. In the early part of the 113th century the Ahoms or Ahams, from northern Burma and the Chinese frontiers, poured into the eastern districts of Assam, founded a kingdom, and held it firmly for several centuries. The Ahoms were Shans from the ancient Shan kingdom of Pong. Their manners, customs, religion and language were, and for a long time continued to be, different from those of the Hindus; but they found themselves compelled to respect the superior civilization of this race, and slowly adopted its customs and language. The conversion of their king Chuchengpha to Hinduism took place in the year A.D. 1655, and all the Ahoms of Assam gradually followed his example. In medieval history, the Assamese were known to the Mussulman population as a warlike, predatory race,- who sailed down the Brahmaputra in fleets of innumerable canoes, plundered the rich districts of the delta, and retired in safety to their forests and swamps. As the Mahommedan power consolidated itself in Bengal, repeated expeditions were sent out against these river pirates of the northeast. The physical difficulties which an invading force had to contend with in Assam, however, prevented anything like a regular subjugation of the country; and after repeated efforts, the Mussulmans contented themselves with occupying the western districts at the mouth of the Assam valley. The following details will suffice for the history of a struggle in which no great political object was attained, and which left the Assamese still the same wild and piratical people as when their fleets of canoes first sallied forth against the Bengal delta. In 1638, during the reign of the emperor Shah Jahan, the Assamese descended the Brahmaputra, and pillaged the country round the city of Dacca; they were expelled by the governor of Bengal, who retaliated upon the plunderers by ravaging Assam. During the civil wars between the sons of Shah Jahan, the king of Assam renewed his predatory incursions into Bengal; upon the termination of the contest, Aurangzeb determined to avenge these repeated insults, and despatched a considerable force for the regular invasion of the Assamese territory (1660-1662). His general, Mir Jumla, defeated the rajah, who fled to the mountains, and most of the chiefs made their submission to the conqueror. But the rains set in with unusual violence, and Mir Jumla's army was almost annihilated by famine and sickness. Thus terminated the last expedition against Assam by the Mahommedans, whose fortunes in this country were never prosperous. A writer of the Mahommedan faith says: - "Whenever an invading army has entered their territories, the Assamese have sheltered themselves in strong posts, and have distressed the enemy by stratagems, surprises and alarms, and by cutting off their provisions. If these means failed, they have declined a battle in the field, but have carried the peasants into the mountains, burned the grain and left the country desert. But when the rainy season has set in upon the advancing enemy, they have watched their opportunity to make excursions and vent their rage; the famished invaders have either become their prisoners or been put to death. In this manner powerful and numerous armies have been sunk in that whirlpool of destruction, and not a soul has escaped." The same writer states that the country was spacious, populous and hard to be penetrated; that it abounded in dangers; that the paths and roads were beset with difficulties; and that the obstacles to conquest were more than could be expressed. The inhabitants, he says, were enterprising, well-armed and always prepared for battle. Moreover, they had lofty forts, numerously garrisoned and plentifully provided with warlike stores; and the approach to them was opposed by thick and dangerous jungles, and broad and boisterous rivers. The difficulties in the way of successful invasion are of course not understated, as it was the object of the writer to exalt the prowess and perseverance of the faithful. He accounts for their temporary success by recording that "the Mussulman hordes experienced the comfort of fighting for their religion, and the blessings of it reverted to the sovereignty of his just and pious majesty." The short-lived triumph of the Mussulmans might, however, have warranted a less ambitious tone. About the middle of the 17th century the chief became a convert to Hinduism. By what mode the conversion was effected does not clearly appear, but whatever were the means employed, it seems that the decline of the country commenced about the same period. Internal dissensions, invasion and disturbances of every kind convulsed the province, and neither prince nor people enjoyed security. Late in the 18th century some interference took place on the part of the British government, then conducted by Lord Cornwallis; but the successor of that nobleman, Sir John Shore, adopting the non-intervention policy, withdrew the British force, and abandoned the country to its fate. Its condition encouraged the Burmese to depose the rajah, and to make Assam a dependency of Ava. The extension of their encroachments on a portion of the territory of the East India Company compelled the' British government to take decisive steps for its own protection. Hence arose the series of hostilities with Ava known in Indian history as the first Burmese War, on the termination of which by treaty in February 1826, Assam remained a British possession. In 1832 that portion of the province denominated Upper Assam was formed into an independent native state, and conferred upon Purandhar Singh, the ex-rajah of the country; but the administration of this chief proved unsatisfactory, and in 1838 his principality was reunited with the British dominions. After a period of successful administration and internal development, under the lieutenant-governor of Bengal, it was erected into a separate chief-commissionership in 1874.

In 1886 the eastern Dwars were annexed from Bhutan; and in 1874 the district of Goalpara, the eastern Dwars and the Garo hills were incorporated in Assam. In 1898 the southern Lushai hills were transferred from Bengal to Assam, and the north and south Lushai hills were amalgamated as a district of Assam, and placed under the superintendent of the Lushai hills. Frontier troubles occasionally occur with the Akas, Daphlas, Abors and Mishmis along the northern border, arising out of raids from the independent territory into British districts. In October 1905 the whole province of Assam was incorporated in the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam.

See E. A. Gait, The History of Assam (1906).


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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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English

Proper noun

Singular
Assam

Plural
-

Assam

  1. A state in north-eastern India
    Dispur is the state capital of Assam.
  2. (history) The former realm it was named after
  3. A black tea named after the above Indian region where it is grown.
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State:
Black tea:
  • Dutch: Assamthee, Assam-thee (sometimes not capitalized)
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