Assam

Kaziranga National Park Kaziranga National Park
Capital : Dispur
Largest city : Guwahati
District(s) : 25
Population : 26,655,528 (14th)
Density : 340/km² (881/sq mi)
Language(s) : Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Mishing, Karbi
Established : 1947-08-15 (Assam had a legislature since 1937)


Assam is a north eastern state of India with its capital at Dispur, a suburb of the city Guwahati. Assam along with other North-eastern states of India (also known as seven-sisters) was the only independent part of todays India which never was a part of India until the area came under British rule. Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises of the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys and the Karbi Anglong and the North Cachar Hills. With an area of 78,438 square kilometres (30,285 sq mi) Assam currently is almost equivalent to the size of Ireland or Austria. Assam is surrounded by the rest of the 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 "Chicken's Neck". 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 Tea : Assam is known for Assam tea, petroleum resources, Assam silk and for its rich biodiversity. It has successfully conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction in Kaziranga, the tiger in Manas and provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. It is increasingly becoming a popular destination for wild-life tourism and notably Kaziranga and Manas are both World Heritage Sites. 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.
  Physical geography
Kamakhya Temple Kamakhya Temple
Assam is in the eastern most projection of the Indian Plate, where it is thrusting underneath the Eurasian Plate creating a subduction zone. It is a hypothesis that due to the northeasterly movement of the Indian plate, the sediment layers of an ancient geocyncline called Tethys (in between Indian and Eurasian Plates) have been pushed upwardly to form the Himalayas. It is estimated that the height of the Himalayas is increasing around 4 cm each year. Therefore, Assam possesses a unique geomorphic environment, with plain areas, dissected hills of the South Indian Plateau system and with the Himalayas all around its north, north-east and east.

Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra is a paleo-river, older than the Himalayas, which often crosses higher altitudes in the Himalayas and sustaining its flow by eroding at a greater pace than the increase in the height of the mountain range. The heights of the surrounding regions are still increasing to form steep gorges in Arunachal. Entering Assam, the Brahmaputra becomes a braided river and along with its tributaries, creates the flood plain of the Brahmaputra Valley The Brahmaputra Valley in Assam is approximately 80 to 100 km wide and almost 1000 km long and the width of the river itself is 16 km at many places. Assam is endowed with petroleum, natural gas, coal, limestone and many other minor minerals such as magnetic quartzite, kaolin, sillimanites, clay and feldspar. A small quantity of iron ore is also available in western parts of Assam. The Upper Assam districts are the major reserves of oil and gas. Petroleum was discovered in Assam in 1889. A recent USGS estimate shows approximately 399 million barrels of oil, 1178 billion cubic feet of gas and 67 million barrels of natural gas liquids in Assam Geologic Province.

Haflong Lake Haflong Lake
Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world. There are number of tropical rainforests in Assam. Moreover, there are riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems. Many of these areas have been protected by developing national parks and reserved forests. The Kaziranga and Manas are the two World Heritage Sites. The Kaziranga is the home for the rare Indian Rhinoceros, while Manas is a tiger sanctuary. Moreover, there are numerous other valuable and rare wildlife and plant species available in Assam. Few of the rarest species are the Golden Langur (Trachypithecus geei), the White-winged Wood Duck or Deuhnah (Cairina scultulata), the Golden Cat, etc. The Hoolock Gibbon in Assam is the only ape found in South Asia. Assam is also known for orchids.

Pre-history and myths
Assam and adjoining regions have evidence of human settlement from all periods of the Stone ages. That the known hills settlements belonged to earlier periods may suggest that the valleys were populated later, or it may reflect sampling bias due to mountainous areas being more likely to remain less disturbed over long stretches of time.

The earliest ruler according to legend was Mahiranga (sanskritized form of the Tibeto-Burman name Mairang). He was followed by others in his line: Hatak, Sambar, Ratna and Ghatak. Naraka removed this line of rulers and established his own dynasty.



Sibsagar Sibsagar
Languages
Assamese and Bodo are the major indigenous and official languages of the state while Bengali holds official status in particular districts in the Barak Valley.

Traditionally Assamese was the language of the commons (of mixed origin - Bodo, Khasi, Sanskrit, Magadhan Prakrit) of the ancient kingdoms such as Kamrupa and medieval kingdoms of Kamatapur, Kachari, Cuteeya, Borahi, Ahom and Koch. Traces of the language can be found in many poems in Charyapada written by Luipa, Sarahapa, etc

Linguistically modern Assamese traces its roots to the version developed by the American Missionaries based on the local form in practice near Xiwoxagor/Sibsagar district. Assamese or Oxomeeya (as called in Assam) is a rich language due to its hybrid nature with its unique characteristics of pronunciation and softness. Assamese literature is one of the richest. The constitution of India recognises it as a major language of Republic of India.

Bodo is the ancient language of Assam and is mother of majority of the present day languages and dialects within the state and also in surrounding areas. Looking at the spatial distribution patterns of related ethno-cultural groups and their cultural traits and also phenomenon such as of naming all the major rivers in the North East Region with original Bodo words (e.g. Dihing, Dibru, Dihong, D/Tista, Dikrai, etc) it is understood that it was the most important language in the North East India in the ancient times, where history yet haven't opened its gates. Bodo is presently spoken largely in the Lower Assam areas mostly under the areas of Bodo Territorial Council.

Hajo Hajo
Assam is also rich with several native languages such as Mishing, Karbi, Dimaca, Rabha, Tiwa, etc of Tibeto-Burman origin and are closely related to Bodo. There are also small groups of people speaking Manipuri, Khasi, Garo, Hmar, Kuki, etc in different parts of Assam.

In the past century migration of Bengalis to the medieval kingdom of Kacar (of Kocaries) in the Barak Valley has led to their majority, prompting the government of Assam to include Bengali as the official language in the Barak Valley districts.

Tradition and culture
Assamese culture is traditionally a hybrid one, developed due to cultural assimilation of different ethno-cultural groups under various politico-economic systems in different periods of pre-history and history. The roots of the culture go back to almost two thousand years when the first cultural assimilation took place with Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman as the major components.

Thereafter, western migrations such as those of various branches of Mediterraneans, Indo-scythians /Irano-scythians and Nordics along with (or in the form of) the mixed northern Indians (the ancient cultural mix already present in northern Indian states such as Magadha) have enriched the aboriginal culture and under certain stronger politico-economic systems, Sanskritisation and Hinduisation intensified and became prominent. Such an assimilated culture therefore carries many elements of source cultures, of which exact roots are difficult to trace and are matter of research. However, in each of the elements of Assamese culture, i.e. language, traditional crafts, performing arts, festivity and beliefs either local elements or the local elements in a Hinduised / Sanskritised forms are always present.

Festivals
There are several important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam.

Agnigarh Hill Tezpur Agnigarh Hill Tezpur
Bihu is a series of three prominent festivals of Assam. Primarily a festival celebrated to mark the seasons and the significant points of a cultivator's life over a yearly cycle, in recent times the form and nature of celebration has changed with the growth of urban centers. A non-religious festival, all communities---religious or ethnic---take part in it. Three Bihus are celebrated: rongali, celebrated with the coming of spring and the beginning of the sowing season; kongali, the barren bihu when the fields are lush but the barns are empty; and the bhogali, the thanksgiving when the crops have been harvested and the barns are full. Rongali, kongali & bhogali bihu are also known as 'bohag bihu', 'kati bihu' & 'magh bihu' respectively. The day before the each bihu is known as 'uruka'. There are unique features of each bihu. The first day of 'rongali bihu' is called 'Goru bihu' (the bihu of the cows). On this day the cows are taken to the nearby rivers or ponds to be bathed with special care. Traditionally, cows are respected as sacred animals by the people of Assam. Bihu songs and Bihu dance are associated to rongali bihu.

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. Few of these are:

Me-dam-me-phi
Ali-aye-ligang
Kherai
Garja
Hapsa Hatarnai
Awnkham Gwrlwi Janai
Chojun/Swarak
Rongker
Sokk-erroi
Hacha-kekan
Porag


Music
Umananda Temple Umananda Temple
Assam, being the home to many ethnic groups and different cultures, is very rich in folk music. The indigenous folk music has in turn influenced the growth of a modern idiom, that finds expression in the music of such artists like Bhupen Hazarika, Anima Choudhury, Nirmalendu Choudhury & Utpalendu Choudhury, Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah, Parvati Prasad Baruva, Jayanta Hazarika, Khagen Mahanta among many others. Among the new generation, Zubeen Garg, Jitul Sonowal and Angaraag Mahanta have a great fan following.

Traditional crafts
Assam has maintained a rich tradition of various traditional crafts for more than two thousand years. 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.Historically, Assam also excelled in making boats, traditional guns and gunpowder, ivory crafts, colours and paints, articles of lac, traditional building materials, utilities from iron, etc.

The Xorai and bota have been in use for centuries to offer gifts to respected persons and are two prominent symbolic elements. 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 prominent and prestigious being Muga, the natural golden silk is exclusive only to Assam. Apart from Muga, there are other two varieties called 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.

Major cities and towns
Mahabhairab Temple Mahabhairab Temple
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 is the largest urban centre and is only 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 GMDA area) during the census of 2001. Population growth in the Barak Valley town of Silchar is also astonishing during past two decades. 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.

Attractive 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.

Kaziranga National Park
Manas National Park
Nameri National Park
Dibru-Saikhuwa National Park
Orang National Park
Joydihing Rainforest
Gobbon Wildlife Sanctuary
Manas National Park Manas National Park
Garampani Wildlife Sanctuary
Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary
Buracapori Wildlife Sanctuary
Bornodi Wildlife Sanctuary
Sonai-rupai Wildlife Sanctuary
Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
Nambar 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
Majuli
Sualkuchi
Sarthebari
Digboi oil town
Ledo and Stilwell Road
Haflong and Jatinga
Umrangshu hotwater spring
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