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Assam

Land of the Red River & Blue Hills

Assam (/əˈsæm/, pronunciation; Ôxôm, [ɔxɔm]) is a state in Northeast India. Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley along with the Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts with an area of 30,285 square miles (78,440 km2). Assam is surrounded by Seven States: Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur,Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and Sikkim. Geographically Assam and these states are connected to the rest of India via a 22 kilometres (14 mi) strip of land in West Bengal called the Siliguri Corridor or "Chicken's Neck". Assam shares international border with Bhutan and Bangladesh; and culture, people and climate is similar to that of South-East Asia – bringing the elements in India’s Look East policy. Assam became a part of British India after the British East India Company occupied the region following the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–1826.

Assam is known for Assam tea, Assam silk and the first oil well in Asia was drilled here. The state has conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds. It provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. Assam economy is aided by wildlife tourism while Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park are designated World Heritage Sites. Sal tree forests are found in the state, which as a result of rainfall looks green all year round. Assam receive more rainfall compared to most part of India. This rain feeds the Brahmaputra River, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a hydro-geomorphic and aesthetic environment.

Etymology

The precise etymology of "Assam" came from Ahom Dynasty. In the classical period and up to the 12th century the region east of the Karatoya river, largely congruent to present-day Assam, was called Kamarupa, and alternatively, Pragjyotisha. In medieval times the Mughals used Asham (eastern Assam) and Kamrup (western Assam), and during British colonialism, the English used Assam. Though many authors have associated the name with the 13th century Shan invaders the precise origin of the name is not clear. It was suggested by some that the Sanskrit word Asama ("unequalled", "peerless", etc.) was the root, which has been rejected by Kakati, and more recent authors have concurred that it is a latter-day Sanskritization of a native name. Among possible origins are Tai (A-Cham) and Bodo (Ha-Sam).

History

The history of Assam is the history of a confluence of people from the east, west and the north; the confluence of theTibeto-Burman (Sino-Tibetan), Indo-Aryan and Austroasiatic cultures. Although invaded over the centuries, it was never a vassal or a colony to an external power until the Burmese in 1821, and, subsequently, the British in 1826.

The history of Assam has been derived from multiple sources. The Ahom kingdom of medieval Assam maintained chronicles, called Buranjis, written in the Ahom and the Assamese languages. History of ancient Assam comes from a corpus ofKamarupa inscriptions on rock, copper plates, clay; royal grants, etc. that the Kamarupa kings issued during their reign.Protohistory has been reconstructed from folklore: epics like Mahabharata, and two medieval texts compiled in the Assam region—the Kalika Purana and the Yogini Tantra.

The history of Assam can be divided into four eras. The ancient era began in the 4th-century with the mention of Kamarupa in Samudragupta's Allahabad pillar and the establishment of the Kamarupa kingdom. The medieval era began with the Turko-Afghan attacks from Bengal, the first of which took place in 1207 as mentioned in the Kanai-boroxiboa rock inscription, after the breakup of the ancient kingdom and the sprouting of medieval kingdoms and chieftain-ships in its place. The colonial era began with the establishment of British control after the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, and the post-colonial era began in 1947 after the Independence of India.

Mythological Assam

Protohistoric Assam is reconstructed from epics and literature from early times (Mahabharata, Kalika Purana, Yogini Tantra, etc.). The earliest political entity seems to have been led by a non-Aryan Danava dynasty with Mahiranga mentioned as the first king. This dynasty was removed by Narakasura. Naraka appears to be a generic name for many kings belonging to the Naraka dynasty. According to legend, the last of the Naraka kings was killed by Krishna and his son Bhagadatta took the throne. Bhagadatta is said to have participated in the Mahabharata war with an army of "chinas, kiratas and dwellers of the eastern sea", thereby indicating that his kingdom, Pragjyotisha, included part ofBangladesh. The last in the Naraka dynasty was a ruler named Suparua.

Ancient Assam

The historical account of Assam begins with the establishment of Pushya Varman's Varman dynasty in the 4th century in the Kamarupa kingdom, which marks the beginning of Ancient Assam. The kingdom reached its traditional extent, from the Karatoya in the west to Sadiya in the east. This and the two succeeding dynasties drew their lineage from the mythical Narakasura. The kingdom reached its zenith under Bhaskarvarman in the 7th century. Xuanzang visited his court and left behind a significant account. Bhaskar Varman died without leaving behind an issue and the control of the country passed to Salasthamba, who established the Mlechchha dynasty. After the fall of the Mlechchha dynasty in the late 9th century, a new ruler, Brahmapala was elected, who established the Pala dynasty. The last Pala king was removed by the Gaur king, Ramapala, in 1110. But the two subsequent kings, Timgyadeva and Vaidyadeva, though established by the Gaur kings, ruled mostly as independents and issued grants under the old Kamarupa seals. The fall of subsequent kings and the rise of individual kingdoms in the 12th century in place of the Kamarupa kingdom marked the end of the Kamarupa kingdom and the period of Ancient Assam.

Medieval Assam

In the middle of the 13th century, Sandhya, a king of Kamarupanagara, moved his capital to Kamatapur, and thus established the Kamata kingdom. On account of attacks by the Turks of Bengal. The last of the Kamata kings, the Khens, were removed by Alauddin Hussain Shah in 1498. But Hussein Shah and subsequent rulers could not consolidate their rule in the Kamata kingdom, mainly due to the revolt by the Bhuyan chieftains, a relic of the Kamarupa administration, and other local groups. Soon after in the beginning of the 16th century Vishwa Singha of the Koch tribe established the Koch dynasty in the Kamata kingdom. The Koch dynasty reached its peak under his sons, Nara Narayan and Chilarai.

In the eastern part of the erstwhile Kamarupa kingdom, the Kachari (south bank of river Brahmaputra, central Assam) and the Sutiya (northbank of river Brahmaputra,eastern Assam) kingdoms arose, with some Bhuyan chiefs controlling the region just west of the Sutiya kingdom. The founder of the Sutiya kingdom Birpal formed his first capital in Swarnagiri (near present Subansiri river) in 1187 and later his son Ratnadhwajpal shifted the capital to Ratnapur (present Majuli), absorbing the ancient Pal dynasty in 1225 and finally to Sadiya in 1248. In the tract between the Kachari and the Sutiya kingdoms, a Shan group, led by Sukaphaa, established the Ahom kingdom. The 16th century is crucial in the history of medieval period because of the consolidation of the Ahoms (who partially annexed the Sutiya kingdom and pushed the Kachari kingdom away from central Assam) in the east, the Koch in the west and the growth of Ekasarana Dharma of Srimanta Sankardev. After the death of Nara Narayan of the Koch dynasty in the late 16th century, the Kamata kingdom broke into Koch Bihar in the west and Koch Hajo in the east. The rivalry between the two kingdoms resulted in the former allying with the Mughals and the latter with the Ahoms. Most of the 17th century saw the Ahom-Mughal conflicts, in which the Ahoms held the expansive Mughals at bay epitomized in the Battle of Saraighat of 1671, and which finally ended in 1682 with the defeat of the Mughals at Itakhuli in Guwahati. The Ahom kingdom reached its westernmost boundary till Manas River which it retains until 1826. Though the Ahom kingdom saw itself as the inheritor of the glory of the erstwhile Kamarupa kingdom and aspired to extend itself to the Karatoya river, it could never do so; though an Ahom general, Ton Kham under Swargadeo Suhungmung, reached the river once when he pursued a retreating invading army in the 16th century.

After the Ahom kingdom reached its zenith, problems within the kingdom arose in the 18th century, when it lost power briefly to rebels of the Moamoria rebellion. Though the Ahoms recaptured power, it was beset with problems, leading to the Burmese invasion of Assam in the early 19th century. With the defeat of the Burmese in the First Anglo-Burmese war and the subsequent Treaty of Yandaboo, control of Assam passed into the hands of the British, which marks the end of the Medieval period.

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