Ancient Assam was known as Pragjyotisha in early times and as Kamarupa in later times. The name Pragjyotisha stood for both the kingdom and capital city. The earliest mention of the city of Pragjyotisha is found in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to the Ramayana, this city was founded by Amurtaraja son of Kusa and grandfather of the famous stage Viswamitra. There are different options regarding the origin of the name''Pragjyotisha''. According to the Kalika Purana,''here Brahma first created the stars and hence the city is called Pragjyoitishpur,a city equal to the city of Indra.''13Gait says that the name, Pragjyotishpur ''is interesting in connection with the reputation in which, the country has always been held as a land of magic and incantation, and with the view that it was in Assam that the Tantrik from of Hinduisim orginated.''14The name Pragjyotisha, however, is most probably derived from the term Prag-jyotish, meaning the eastern light. Hence it appears to mean ''the city or land of eastern light.''15 The kingdom came to be known as Kamrupa during the Purantic times,based on the legend that Kamadeva, the god of love, the Indian Cupid, who was destroyed by the fiery glance of Siva returned to life in this country,16According to B.K. Kakati, the name ''Kamrupa'' is derived from an Austric formation like Kamru or Kamrut, the name of a lesser divinity in Santali, which justifies the association of the land with magic and necromancy.17 All this can be explained in the light of the cult of magic and sorcery prevalent in the land. The first historic reference to the kingdom of Kamarupa is made in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta, assigned to the middle of the fourth century A.D. The state is rich in water resources and has vast tracts of fertile land. Assam is also the third-largest producer of petroleum and natural gas in the country and has ample reserves of limestone. With its five national parks and 15 wildlife sanctuaries, the state is a biodiversity hotspot. Other potential areas of investment include power and energy, mineral-based industries, tourism and crude oil refining.
|Area||78,550 sq km|
|Official Languages||Assamese, Karbi, Bodo, Bengali.|
Assam is bordered in the North and East by the Kingdom of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh. Along the south lies Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Meghalaya lies to her South-West, Bengal and Bangladesh to her West.
Bihu Is The Most Important And Widely Acknowledged Festival In Assam And Is Celebrated With Joy And Abundance By Everyone Irrespective Of Caste, Creed, Religion, Faith Or Belief. There Are Three Bihus, Each One Marking A Distinct Phase Of The Annual Rice-farming Calendar And They Are Held At Three Different Times Of The Year. The Bihus, Bohag Bihu, Kati Bihu And Magh Bihu, Are Named According To The Months Of The Assamese Calendar. Bohag Or Rongali Bihu, The Most Important, Is Celebrated In The Middle Of April. It Marks The Assamese New Year And Coincides With The Advent Of Spring And Seeding Time. Rongali In The Assamese Language Means Colourful So, As The Name Suggests, This Is The Most Colourful And Vibrant Of The Three Bihus And Can Continue For Several Days. Kati Or Kongali Bihu, The Quietest, Is Observed Rather Than Celebrated In Mid-october. It Is Held Just Before The Rice Is Harvested And Involves Silent Prayer In The Form Of Lighting Earthern Lamps In The Paddy Fields To Ensure The Success Of The Crop. The Assamese Word Kongali Means Scarcity Or Deprivation And The Mood Of This Bihu Is Very Sober With None Of The Usual Dancing And Singing. Magh Or Bhogali Bihu Is Celebrated In The Middle Of January Immediately After Harvesting The Rice Crop With Village Feasts (bhogali Means Feasting In Assamese). At Bohag Bihu (which Also Marks The Assamese New Year) And Magh Bihu (the Harvest Festival) Young Women Dressed In Colourful Traditional Festive Costumes Woven Out Of Pure Muga (silk) Dance And Are Accompanied With Wild And Lusty Beats From The Men Dressed In Dhoti (baggy White Pants) With Gamuchas (traditional Scarves) Tied Round Their Foreheads Playing The Dhol And Pepa. The Dhol Is An Essential Part Of Bihu. It Maintains The Rhythm And Is Similar To An Indian Drum, Played With Two Sticks And Made Out Of A Wooden Barrel. The Two Open Ends Are Covered With Animal Skin. Tightening Or Loosening The Skin With Ropes Or Nuts And Bolts Adjusts The Pitch. The Dhol Dates Back To The 15th Century When It Was Played During Wartime. The Pepa, A Chunky Flute-like Instrument, Is Also Played During Bihu. It Is Made From Buffalo Horn With A Short Tapering Stem Of Bamboo, Cane Or Reed As The Mouthpiece. The Songs Are Mostly Based On The Theme Of Love And Often Carry Erotic Overtones. Bihu Dances Are Extremely Energetic And Feature Both Young Boys And Young Girls, Although They Tend To Stay In Their Separate Groups. The Dances Are Charactised By Brisk Steps, Stylish Footwork, The Flinging And Waving Of Hands And The Erotic Swaying Of Hips To Represent Youthful Passion. The First Phase Of Bohag Bihu Is Dedicated To Cattle. They Are Smeared With Mustard Oil And Then Taken To The Nearest Pond Or River For A Ceremonial Bath. The People, Too, Take A Bath In The River. The First Part Of The Dance Consists Of Husari Kirtans (religious Songs). One Man Sets The Refrain, Which Is Soon Picked Up By The Rest And Young Men Only Perform The Dance In A Circle. Both Young Men And Women Take Place In All The Other Bihu Dances Where The Songs Are Often Love Ditties Which Are Sung In Couplets And Often Performed In The Fields And Under Trees. Both Men And Women Play Clappers Called Taka And The Dancers Form Circles, Rows And Figures Of Eight (representing The Motif Of Intertwined Serpents). During The Second Phase Of Bohag Bihu Villagers Don New Clothes, Exchange Gifts And Visit Relatives And Friends In Groups And Perform Bihu Dances In The Open. Magh Bihu Also Brings Much Revelry And Merry-making. Bonfires Are Built High And After The Chanting Of Prayers And Much Singing And Dancing They Are Set On Fire. The Dances Are Similar To The Ones Performed At Bohag Bihu But More Vigorous. The Women Folk Make Different Varieties Of Delicacies Or Bihu Pithas (flaky Rice Powder Pancake Rolls) Like Til Pitha Which Is Stuffed With Sesame Seeds Fried With Molasses. In The Paddy Fields During The Day The Men Build Megis (large Bonfires) And Bihu Ghors (temporary House-like Structures Made From Bamboo And Thatch) And In The Evening They Feast And There Is Much Singing And Dancing. Next Morning They Bathe Early, Chant Prayers And Set The Bihu Ghor Alight As They Celebrate With More Singing And Dancing. They Then Take Pieces Of Burnt Wood To The Fields As Auspicious Offerings. People Will Also Visit Their Relatives And Friends At This Time And Games Are Sometimes Organised Like Bull Fighting, Javelin And Sword Fights. Being A Harvest Festival, Magh Bihu Is Celebrated Almost Everywhere In India And Is Known As Sankranti.
The Most Important Ahom Festival Which Deserves Mention Is The Me-dum-me-phi, I.e., The Ancestor Worship Festival Which Is Observed By The Whole Ahom Community. This Is Performed Annually On The 31st Of January And Helps To Develop Social Contacts And Community Feelings Among The Ahoms. Colourful Processions With Devotees In Traditional Finery Are Also Taken Out On The Occasion.
The Bodos, A Branch Of The Indo-mongoloid Family, Are The Largest Scheduled Tribe In Assam. They Migrated South From Tibet And Burma And Were One Of The First To Settle In Assam. They Generally Celebrate Baishagu, Famous For Its Myriad Colours And Merriment, In Mid-april. It Is The Most Cherished Festival Of The Bodo Tribe And Is Also Celebrated As A Springtime Festival To Commemorate The Advent Of The New Year. On The First Day The Cow Is Worshipped And On The Following Day Young People Of Each Household Reverentially Bow Down To Their Parents And Elders. Finally They Worship The Supreme Deity Bathou Or Lord Shiva By Offering Chicken And Zou (rice Beer). The Bagarumba Dance Is Typically Performed During This Festival And It Is The Most Attractive Dance Of The Bodo Community. Girls Alone, Dressed In Dokhnas (draped Skirts) Chaddar (cloth Used As A Bodice) And Jhumra (shawls), Perform This Dance (also Known As Bardwisikhla) Accompanied By Men Playing Traditional Musical Instruments Like The Serja (a Bowed Instrument), Sifung (flute), Tharkha (a Piece Of Split Bamboo) And Khum (a Long Drum Made Of Wood And Goatskin), As They Utter "bagurumba Hay Bagurumba". Although It Is Cheerful And Creates A Festive Mood Of Much Gaiety And Merriment Providing The Girls With Relief From Their Normal Hardworking Village Life, It Is Also Serious, And The Lyrics That Accompany It Are A Simple Description Of The World Of Nature. The Purpose Of The Dance Is To Appease The Bodos' Supreme God Bathow, For Whom The Sizu Tree Is A Symbol. It Is Also Called The Butterfly Dance As The Girls Look Like Pretty, Flighty Butterflies As They Dance With Their Arms Outstretched, Their Shawls Creating The Impression Of Wings. The Baishagu Festival Is Closed With Community Prayers Offered At The Garja Sali, A Place Of Common Worship, Located Outside The Village In The Corner Of A Grazing Field.
Is The Most Important Festival Of Kamakhya Temple Of Guwahati And Is Held Every Year During Monsoon (mid-june). It Is A Ritual Of Austerities Celebrated With 'tantric Rites'. During Ambubashi The Doors Of The Temple Remain Closed For Three Days. It Is Believed That The Earth Becomes Impure For Three Days. During This Time No Farming Work Is Undertaken. Ambubachi Mela Is Held At The Kamakhya Temple, After Being Closed For The Afore-mentioned Three Days. On The Fourth Day Only The Devotees Are Allowed To Enter Inside The Temple For Worship. Thousands Of Devotees From All Over The Country And Abroad Visit This Mela.
The Kherai Is Another Bodo Festival And Is Associated With Worshipping Bathow (lord Shiva) The Principal God Of This Particular Tribe. The Kherai Puja (act Of Worship) Is Always Followed By A Series Of Ritual Dances Called The Deodhani. Thepuja And Dance Are Inseparable, The Dance Being An Essential Part Of The Kherai Worship. The Term Deodhani Is Derived From The Sanskrit Word Deva Meaning God Or Deity And Dhani Meaning Sound Or Echo. Hence The Word "deodhani" Literally Means The Sound Or Utterings Of A God Or Deity Although Some People Believe Dhani Has The Meaning Woman. Traditionally A Young Girl, A Female Shaman Or Oracle, Is Selected To Play The Key Role. She Must Have Reached Adulthood, Be A Virgin, And Possess A Shapely Form With A Slender Waist. The Priest First Consecrates This Dancer At The Altar Of Bathow After Which She Leads The Deodhani Dance. The Dance Is Performed Only By Women But Is Accompanied By Two Men Playing The Khum (drum), Two Men Playing Thesifung (flute) And Two Men Playing Jotha (cymbals). The Dancers, With Their Hair Free, Wear Long Woven Dresses, Often Red In Colour, Black Girdles, And A Yellow Or Red Gamocha Around Their Waists. Historically, At The Time Of Dancing The Main Dancer Was Naked Above The Waist Other Than Her Jewellery Of Nose Rings, Earrings, Necklaces And Bracelets, Used To Carry A Small Drum As A Talisman, Had A Vermillion Mark On Her Forehead And Her Hair Dressed In A Heart-shaped Plait. Three Stages Mark The Puja The Main Dancer Performs. Firstly, With The Help Of The Oja (priest) Who Is Responsible For Ensuring That All The Sanctities And Rituals Are Performed Correctly, She Falls Into A Trance And He Consecrates Her Before The Altar Of The Bathow. She Then Begins To Dance With The Intention Of Appeasing And Seeking Favour From Nineteen Gods And Goddesses Beginning With Bathow (lord Siva) And Ending With Lakshmi. At One Stage She Dances A Fierce War-dance At Which Time She Takes Up A Sword And A Shield. Her Movements Reflect The Different Deities To Which Her Dance Is Dedicated And The Beat Of The Accompanying Instruments Also Changes Accordingly. The Third Stage Is At The End Of The Dance When She Predicts Fortunes And Answers Questions Addressed To Her By The Attending Villagers.
A Two Or Three Day Deodhani Festival Is Also Celebrated Every Year In The Middle Of August When Thousands Of Brightly Dressed Devotees, Encircled With Brilliant Fresh Flower Necklaces And Adorned With Vermillion Die, Flock To Guwahati And Make Trance Offerings To The Serpent Goddess (manasa Puja) At The Kamakhya Temple There. The Dance Begins In The Evening And Continues Until Dawn As The Devotees Express The Sacrifice Of Their Lives To The Holy Goddess. As They Dance They Flourish Live Pigeons And Goats Which Are Later Sacrificed In The Temple.
The Jhumur Is One Of The Traditional Folk Dances Of Assam. It Was Developed Over The Years By The Tribes Living And Working In The Tea Gardens, Called Kulls. It Is Performed By Girls And Boys Together Or Sometimes By The Girls Alone And Is Traditionally Performed In The Autumn To The Beat Of A Madal (drum). The Jhumur Is A Celebration Of Youth And Vigour And Both The Young And Old Dance Together In Gay Abandon. It Requires Precision Footwork While The Dancers Clasp Tightly To Each Other's Waist. The Female Dancers Wear Red Saris, Red Blouses And Jewellery Of Bangles And Anklets.
Assam - The Very Mention Of This Word Brings To One's Mind The Delightful Blend Of Culture, Heritage, Faiths And Beliefs Of The Innumerous Ethnic Tribes And Sub-tribes Residing In This Region. The Culture And Tradition Of The State, Its Music, Dance And Literature Are All Interwoven Into The Social Fabric And Cross All Barriers Of Caste, Creed And Religion. In Fact, A Mention Of The Rich Tradition Of The State, Without Referring To The Diverse Lifestyle, Arts-crafts, Fairs And Festival Of The People Residing Therein, Would Be As Good As Incomplete. Assam Has The Largest Number Of Tribes Or Races In The Whole Of India. The Main Communities Of The Region Include The Aryans And The Non-aryans I.e. Mongoloids And Indo-iranians. Apart From That, Bodos (or Kachari), Karbi, Kosh-rajbanshi, Miri, Mishimi And Rabha Are The Other Tribes That Hav
Cuisine Of Assam Is Probably The Most Different Type Of Cuisine You Would Have Ever Tasted. You Cannot Say That Cuisine Of Assam Has Not At All Been Influenced By External Factors. New Dishes Have Become Famous And The Traditional Dishes Have Undergone A Slight Variation, But The Change Is Ever So Slight. The Delicacies Still Have The Same Aroma And Taste That Made The Assam Cuisine A Household Name In India. The Cuisine Is Distinguished By On The Basis Of The Exotic Herbs And Vegetables Added To The Dishes That Lend A Magnificent Taste To The Dishes. Rice Is The Main Dish And Finds A Place In The Ingredient List Of Almost All Preparations. In Non Veg, Fish Curries And Pork Dishes Are The Favorite Most Of Assamese People. Birds Like Ducks And Pigeon Are Also Used In Dishes.
In Assam, A Traditional Full Course Meal Starts With Serving Khar Which Is A Class Of Dishes And Ends With A Tenga Which Is A Sour Dish. Just Like Food Is Served In A Banana Leaf Traditionally In South India, A Meal In Assam Is Served On A Bell Metal Utensils. Almost Everyone Ends Their Meal By Chewing On A Betel Nut Known As Paan.
Cane And Bamboo Have Remained Inseparable Parts Of Life In Assam. Grown In Abundance Here And Hence Most Of The Household Articles In The Homes Of Assamese Are Made Of Cane And Bamboo. They Happen To Be The Two Most Commonly-used Items In Daily Life, Ranging From Household Implements To Construction Of Dwelling Houses To Furniture To Weaving Accessories To Musical Instruments. The Jappi, The Traditional Sunshade Continues To Be The Most Prestigious Of Bamboo Items Of The State, And It Has Been In Use Since The Days When The Great Chinese Traveller Hiuen Tsang Came To Assam That Visitors Are Welcomed With A Jaapi.
Bell-metal And Brass Have Been The Most Commonly Used Metals For The Assamese Artisan. Traditional Utensils And Fancy Artiicles Designed By These Artisans Are Found In Every Assamese Household. The Xorai And Bota Have In Use For Centuries, To Offer Betel-nut And Paan While Welcoming Distinguished Guests. The Entire Population Of Two Townships Near Guwahati - Hajo And Sarthebari, Are Engaged In Producing Traditional Bell-metal And Brass Articles. They Have Also Used Their Innovative Skills To Design Modern Day Articles To Compete With The Changing Times. Gold, Silver And Copper Too Form A Part Of Traditional Metal Craft In Assam And The State Museum In Guwahati Has A Rich Collection Of Items Made Of These Metals. Gold However Is Now Used Only For Ornaments.
Assam's Silk Fabrics Have Earned Immense Recognition From All Over The World. The State Is The Home Of Several Types Of Silks, The Most Prominent And Prestigious Being Muga, The Golden Silk Exclusive To This State. Muga Apart, There Is Paat, As Also Eri, The Latter Being Used In Manufacture Of Warm Clothes For Winter. Of A Naturally Rich Golden Colour, Muga Is The Finest Of India's Wild Silks. It Is Produced Only In Assam. The Women Of Assam Weave Fairy Tales In Their Looms. In Earlier Times, Te Skill To Weave Was The Primary Qualification Of A Young Girl For Her Eligibility For Marriage. This Perhaps Explains Why Assam Has The Largest Concentration Of Handlooms And Weavers In India. One Of The World's Finest Artistic Traditions Finds Expression In Their Exquisitely Woven 'eri', 'muga' And 'pat' Fabrics. The Traditional Handloom Silks Still Hold Their Own In World Markets They Score Over Factory-made Silks In The Richness Of Their Textures And Designs, In Their Individuality, Character And Classic Beauty. No Two Handwoven Silks Are Exactly Alike. Personality Of The Weaver, Her Hereditary Skill, Her Innate Sense Of Colour And Balance All Help To Create A Unique Product. Today, India Exports A Wide Variety Of Silks To Western Europe And The United States, Especially As Exclusive Furnishing Fabrics. Boutiques And Fashion Houses, Designers And Interior Decorators Have The Advantage Of Getting Custom-woven Fabrics In The Designs, Weaves And Colours Of Their Choice. A Service That Ensures An Exclusive Product Not Easily Repeatable By Competitors. The Tribals On The Other Hand Have A Wide Variety Of Colourful Costumes, Some Of Which Have Earned International Repute Through The Export Market. Weaving In Assam Is So Replete With Artistic Sensibility And So Intimately Linked To Folk Life That Gandhiji, During His Famous Tour To Promote Khadi And Swadeshi, Was So Moved That He Remarked : "assamese Women Weave Fairy Tales In Their Clothes!"
The Toys Of Assam Can Be Broadly Classified Under Four Heads (i) Clay Toys (ii) Pith (iii) Wooden And Bamboo Toys (iv) Cloth And Cloth-and-mud Toys. While The Human Figure, Especially Dolls, Brides And Grooms, Is The Most Common Theme Of All Kinds Of Toys, A Variety Of Animals Forms Have Also Dominated The Clay-toys Scene Of Assam. Clay Traditionally Made By The Kumar And Hira Communities, Have Often Depicted Different Animals Too, While Gods, Goddesses And Other Mythological Figures Also Find Importance In The Work Of Traditional Artist. Pith Or Indian Cork Has Also Been Used For Toy-making Since Centuries In Assam. Such Toys Are Chiefly Made In The Goalpara Region And They Include Figures Of Gods, Animals And Birds, The Last Of Which Again Dominate The Over-all Output. Wood And Bamboo On The Other Hand Have Been In Use For Making Toys For Several Centuries, And Like The Other Mediums, Come As Birds, Animals And Human Figures. Toys Of Cloth As Also With A Mixture Of Cloth And Mud Too Have Constituted Part Of The Rich Assamese Toy-making Tradition. While The Art Of Making Cloth Toys Have Been Traditionally Handed Down From Mother To Daughter In Every Household, The Cloth-and-mud Toys Are Generally Used For Puppet Theatres. Among The Household Toys, The Bride And The Groom Are The Most Common Characters, While The Other Varieties Have Animals And Mythological Characters As The Plays Demand.
Pottery Is Probably As Old As Human Civilisation Itself. In Assam, Pottery Can Be Traced Back To Many Centuries. The Kumars And Hiras Are Two Traditional Potter Communities Of Assam And While The Kumars Use The Wheel To Produce His Pots, The Hiras Are Probably The Only Potters In The World Who Do Not Use The Wheel At All. Again, Among The Hiras, Only The Womenfolk Are Engaged In Pottery Work, While Their Men Help Them In Procuring The Raw Materials And Selling The Wares. The Most Commonly-used Pottery Products Include Earthern Pots And Pitchers, Plates, Incense-stick Holders, Earthern Lamps Etc, While Modern-day Decoratives Have Also Found Place In Their Latest Designs.
Assam Has Always Remained One Of The Most Forest-covered States Of The Country, And The Variety Of Wood And Timber Available Here Have Formed A Part Of The People's Culture And Ecomony. An Assamese Can Identify The Timber By Touching It Even In Darkness, And Can Produce A Series Of Items From It. While Decorative Panels In The Royal Ahom Palaces Of The Past And The 600-years Old Satras Or Vaishnative Monasteries Are Intricately Carved On Wood, A Special Class Of People Who Excelled In Wood Carving Came To Be Known As Khanikar, A Surname Proudly Passed Down From Generation To Generation. The Various Articles In A Satra And Naam-ghar(place Of Worship) Are Stiff Cut On Wood, Depicting The Guru Asana (pedestal Of The Lords), Apart From Various Kinds Of Birds And Animals Figuring In Mythology. Modern-day Khanikar Have Taken To Producing Articles Of Commercial Values, Including Figures Of One-horned Rhino And Replicas Of The World-famous Kamakhya Temple - Two Items Heading The List Of Demands Of A Visitor From Outside.
With Tribal Art And Folk Elements Form The Base Of Assamese Culture, Masks Havefound An Important Place In The Cultural Activities Of The People. Masks Have Been Widely Used In Folk Theatres And Bhaonas With The Materials Ranging From Terracotta To Pith To Metal, Bamboo And Wood. Similarly, Among The Tribals Too, The Use Of Masks Is Varied And Widespread, Especially In Their Colourful Dances Which Again Revolve Chiefly Around Thier Typical Tribal Myth And Folklore. Such Traditional Masks Have Of Late Found Thier Way To The Modern-day Drawing Rooms As Decorative Items And Wall-hangings, Thus Providing Self-employment Opportunities To Those Who Have Been Traditionally Making Them.
Gold Has Always Constituted The Most-used Metal For Jewellery In Assam, While The Use Of Silver And Other Metals Too Have Been There For Centuries. In The Old Days, Gold Was Locally Available, Flowing Down Several Himalayan Rivers, Of Which Subansiri Is The Most Important. In Fact, A Particular Tribe Of People, The Sonowal Kacharis Were Engaged Only For Gold-washing In These Rivers. Jorhat In Upper Assam Is One Place Where The Traditional Assamese Form Of Manufacture Of Jewellery Is Still In Vogue, And People Flock To Jorhat To Get The Exquisite Assamese Jewellery. Assamese Jewellery Include The Doog-doogi, Loka-paro, Bana, Gaam-kharu, Gal-pata, Jon-biri, Dhol-biri And Keru, All Of Which Have Also Encouraged The Modern Jewellers To Producing Similiar Designs Mechanically.
Terracotta As A Medium Has Dominated The Handicraft Scene Of Assam Since Time Immemorial. The Tradition Itself Has Been Handed Down From The Generation To Generation Without Break. Today We Have The Descendent Of Such Families Engaged In Improvised Terracotta Versions Of Various Common Figures Of Gods And Goddesses To Mythological Characters, While Toys, Vases, Etc Have Also Found A New Life.
The Tradition Of Paintings In Assam Can Be Traced Back To Several Centuries In The Past. Ahom Palaces And Satras And Naam-ghar Etc Still Abound In Brightly-coloured Paintings Depicting Various Stories And Events From History And Mythology. In Fact, The Motifs And Designs Contained In Chitra-bhagavata Have Come To Become A Traditional Style For Assamese Painters Of The Later Period, And Are Still In Practice Today.