Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Assam At A Glance

Welcome to Assam – a quintessentially beautiful state located in the northeastern region of India. A potpourri of diverse cultures and customs, Assam became a part of India after the British occupied the region following the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826. 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 a total area of 78,5s23 square kilometers. Girdled by six of the other Seven Sister States of northeast - Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya, Assam shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh.

Assam enjoys a predominant place in the Indian map for its variegated landscapes, lush tea plantations, large petroleum resources, indigenous silk industries and rich biodiversity. Home to a wide variety of animals and birds, Assam has successfully conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros and Asian elephant amidst her green lap. Though Assam still remains unexplored as far as international tourism is concerned, the state boasts of two World Heritage Sites in the form of Kaziranga and Manas wildlife sanctuaries.


The history of Assam finds mention in Vedic literature, Tantric literature, Assamese folklore, epics, religious legends, monolithic inscriptions and Buddhist literature. Known as 'Kamarupa' or 'Pragjyotish' in the period of the Epics, existence of human civilization in Assam dates back to 2000 BC. Conjoining Indo-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman cultures, the history of Assam goes a long way in showcasing the cultural diaspora of the state.

The inhabitants of Assam comprises of the migrants from Burma and China who lend the unique Mongol-Aryan culture to the state. Its early history is believed to be of the Varman dynasty that extended from 400 AD to 13th century, followed by a succession of other Hindu dynasties. The 15th century saw the establishment of the Ahom Kingdom. Ahom gallantry finds exemplification in the celebrated battle of Saraighat, where Ahom general Lachit Borphukan vanquished the Mughal forces in 1671. However, in the early 19th century, the Ahoms faced invasion from the Burmese, who were defeated by the British resulting in the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826. The British then converted the Ahom kingdom into a principality that eventually led to its collapse.

With the advent of the British regime, railways, tea plantation, coal and oil mines came into being. In 1874, Assam was separated from Bengal, and was declared a separate province with its capital in Shillong. In the post Independence period, Assam witnessed several separation of tribal territories. In 1948, Arunachal Pradesh was separated from Assam, followed by Nagaland in 1963, Meghalaya in 1972, and Mizoram in 1987.

Geography & Climate

Assam enjoys a unique topography characterized by a string of mountainous terrains and plain lands. Its principal geographical regions include the Brahmaputra Valley in the north, the Barak Plain in the south, and the Mikir and Cachar Hills that divide the two regions.

Owing to the ring of blue mountains that surround the state, it enjoys a very salubrious climate with humid summers and misty winters. The average temperature during summers is between 35 and 38 degree Celsius, and in winters it falls between 6 to 8 degree Celsius. The monsoon season envelops the entire state with a verdant cloak and herald the popular thunderstorm called “Bordoisila”.


Assam has a population of 26.66 million (2001 census). As per the records, 63.13% of the population is Hindu while 32.43% are Muslims. Other religions like Buddhism, Animism and Sikhism form 4.44% of the total population. Barpeta, Cachar, Kamrup, Dhubri, Nagaon, Sonitpur, and Darang are the most thickly populated districts of Assam. The literacy rate is 63.30 %, with the male literacy rate recorded at 71.30 % and the female literacy rate at 54.60 %. The various communities of Assam speak forty-five different languages, an offshoot of three major language families: Austroasiatic, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan.

Culture & Heritage

Colorful Tribes: Assam acts as a melting pot of different cultures and customs in the form of its tribes. Apart from the Aryan population, the state has a colorful tribal mosaic comprising of Bodo, Rabha, Karbi, Mishing, Lakher, Khamti, Santhals, etc, that imparts it a rich traditional outlook. Dominance of different tribes also lead to production of a variety of tribal handicrafts, handlooms and pottery works that are popular nationwide.

Bihu Dance: Bihu epitomizes Assamese tradition. It is the most popular folk dance of Assam characterized by brisk and rhythmic dance movements. Young people don colorful traditional costumes like Dhoti, Gamocha and Chadar, Mekhala and joyously dance to the tune of 'Dhol' and 'Pepa'.

Tea Gardens: The tea gardens are the silent witnesses of the colonial era of Assam. Introduced by the British, there are more than 850 tea estates and 2500 tea gardens in Assam that majestically sprawls across acres of land and contribute to the vegetative wealth of the state. Assam tea, distinguished for its malty flavor, rich aroma and strong color, is formulated specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica that is planted in abundance at these estates.

Temples: Assam nestles temples dedicated to Tantrik Shaktism, Shivaism and Vaishnavism. Most of these inventive specimens date back to the medieval era and testifies the architectural legacy of the Koch, Kachari and Ahom kingdoms. The most famous is the Shakti Temple of mother Goddess Kamakhya situated atop the Nilachal Hills. Some other important shrines include Nabagraha Temple, Xeebo Dol, Joi Dol, etc.


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