Assam, Tea Asham, Travel, Hotel, Accommodation, India


History of Assam

Pre-history and 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.

Ancient and medieval Assam

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 state.

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 Borphukan.

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 Sahitya Parishad.

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 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[16] 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).