allusions in literature
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. The Naraka king
mentioned at various places in Kalika Purana, Mahabharata and
Ramayana covering a wide period of time were probably different
rulers from the same dynasty. Kalika Purana, a Sanskrit text
compiled in Assam in the 9th and 10th century, mentions that the
last of the Naraka-bhauma rulers, Narak, was slain by Krishna. His
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.
Rang Ghar, in Ahom
capital SibsagarAncient Assam was known as Kamarupa and was ruled by
many powerful dynasties such as (Koch Dynasty),of Koch-Rajbongshi
community. The Varman dynasty (350-650AD) and the Xalostombho
dynasty led Kamrupa as a strong ancient kingdom. During the rule of
the greatest of the Varman kings, Bhaskarvarman (600–650AD), a
contemporary of Harshavardhana of Kanauj, the Chinese traveler Xuan
Zang visited the region and recorded his travels. Other dynasties
that ruled the region belonged to the Indo-Tibetan groups, such as
the Kacharis and Chutias.
Two later kingdoms left the biggest impact in the region. The Ahoms,
a Tai group, ruled eastern Assam for nearly 600 years (1228–1826).
The Koch, a Tibeto-Burmese, established their sovereignty in 1510
which later extended to western Assam and northern Bengal. The Koch
kingdom later split into two. The western kingdom became a vassal of
the Moghuls whereas the eastern kingdom became an Ahom satellite
Despite numerous invasions from the west, mostly by Muslim rulers,
no western power ruled Assam until the arrival of the British. The
most successful invader was Mir Jumla, a governor of Aurangzeb, who
briefly occupied Garhgaon the then capital of the Ahoms (1662–1663).
But he found it difficult to control the people, who made guerrilla
attacks on his forces, forcing them to leave the region. Attempt by
the Moghuls under the command of Raja Ram Singh resulted in victory
for the Ahoms at Saraighat (1671) under the Ahom general Lachit
When from use of currency came in vogue in the ancient Pragjyotispur
or Kamrup is not exactly known. Emperor Samudragupta, Kings of Hun
dynasty, Pal & Sen dynasties ruled over Kamrup over decades. But no
currency belonging to their age was discovered in this region. A few
coins were discovered in 1863 A.D. near Gosanimari Kasteswari Temple
contained within ancient kingdom of Kamtapur. Of them currency
belonging to Hosen Shah and Pathan Sultan of Delhi were identified.
But no currency of King Nilambar of Kamtapur could be traced.
Maharaja Viswa Singha became the king of Kamtapur after Nilambar.
But there is no trace of Maharaja's currency. He was descended by
Maharaja Nara Narayan. Few silver coins of his time (1554 - 1587
A.D.) has been discovered. Some of those coins have been kept at the
Asiatic Society of Kolkata and some are present at the royal palace
of Cooch Behar. Coins issued by Maharaja Lakshmi Narayan (1587 -
1621 A.D.) have also been discovered. Some of those silver coins are
kept at the British Museum, Royal Palace of Cooch Behar, Cooch Behar
Treasury, Sahitya Sabha of Cooch Behar, Shilong Cabinet and Bangiya
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 doorsteps
of the East India Company’s borders, the First Anglo-Burmese War
ensued, in which Assam was one of the sectors. The war ended with
the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, which saw the East India Company
take control of the Lower Assam and install Purander Singh as king
of an independent Upper Assam in 1833. This arrangement only lasted
until 1838 when the British annexed most of independent Assam,
annexing the remainder the following year.
Under British administration, Assam was made a part of the British
Indian province called the Bengal Presidency with its capital at
Calcutta. Sometime about 1905–1912, Assam was separated and with
parts of Bengal, a separate province of Eastern Bengal and Assam was
established, with Dhaka as the capital.
At the time of independence of India, it consisted of the original
Ahom kingdom, the present-day Arunachal Pradesh (North East Frontier
Agency), Naga Hills, original Kachari kingdom, Lushai Hills, and
Garo, Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Of the Assam province on the eve of
Independence, Sylhet chose to join Pakistan in a referendum; and the
two princely states Manipur and Tripura became Group C provinces.
The capital was Shillong.
Post British period
In the Post British
period since 1947, unfortunately economic indexes of the region,
which were above average before independence, began to fall compared
to the rest of the country. Separatist and militant groups began
forming along ethnic lines, and demands for autonomy and sovereignty
grew, resulting in the new states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram
in the 1960s and 1970s. The capital of Assam, which was in Shillong
in present Meghalaya, had to be moved to Dispur, now a part of an
expanding Guwahati. After the Indo-China war in 1962, Arunachal
Pradesh was also separated out.
At the turn of the last century (1900s), people from present-day
Bangladesh migrated to Assam. The British tea planters imported
labour from central India to work in the estates adding to the
demographic canvas. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed
legislation making the use of Assamese language compulsory. The
legislation resulted in widespread protest in Barak Valley,
particularly by the Bengali speaking majority. Coming under intense
pressure, the Government withdrew the legislation.
In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valley saw a six-year Assam Agitation that began non-violently but became increasingly violent. The
movement was triggered by the discovery of a sudden rise in
registered voters on electoral rolls. The movement tried to force
the government to identify and deport foreigners who, the natives
maintained, are illegally inundating the land from neighbouring
Bangladesh and changing the demographics, gradually pushing the
indigenous Assamese into a minority. The agitation ended after an
accord between its leaders and the Union Government. Most of the
accord remains unimplemented, causing simmering discontent. However,
political parties have increasingly used the Bangladeshi card as a
vote bank rather than addressing the concerns of the Assamese
populace. Former Governor of Assam (Retd) Lt Gen. S. K. Sinha
reported explicitly on the burning problem in his report to the
Government of India.
The post 1960 period experienced the growth of armed secessionist
groups like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National
Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). In November 1990, the
Government of India deployed the Indian army to control the
situation. The Indian army deployment has now been institutionalised
under a “Unified Command”. The low-intensity military conflict has
been continuing for more than a decade now without an end to the
insurgency at sight. In recent times, ethnicity based militant
groups have also mushroomed (UPDS, DHD, KLO, HPCD etc.) leading to
violent inter-ethnic conflicts (e.g. the Hmar-Dimasa conflict).