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Assam ) (Assamese: অসম Ôxôm [ɔxɔm]) is a northeastern state of Indiamarker with its capital at Dispurmarker located in the Guwahatimarker city. Located south of the eastern Himalayasmarker, Assam comprises the Brahmaputramarker and the Barak river valleys and the Karbi Anglongmarker and the North Cachar Hills with an area of 30,285 square miles (78,438 km²). Assam is surrounded by the other six of the Seven Sister States: Arunachal Pradeshmarker, Nagalandmarker, Manipurmarker, Mizorammarker, Tripuramarker and Meghalayamarker. These states are connected to the rest of India via a narrow strip in West Bengalmarker called the Siliguri Corridor or "Chicken's Neck". Assam also shares international borders with Bhutanmarker and Bangladeshmarker; and cultures, peoples and climate with South-East Asia—important elements in India’s Look East policy.

Assam became a part of India after the British occupied the region following the Treaty of Yandaboo of 1826. It is known for Assam tea, large and old petroleum resources, Assam silk and for its rich biodiversity. Assam has successfully conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. It is becoming an increasingly popular destination for wild-life tourism, and Kazirangamarker 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 Brahmaputramarker, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a unique hydro-geomorphic and aesthetic environment.


Assam was known as Pragjyotisha in the Mahabharata; and Kamarupa in the 1st millennium. Assam gets it name from the Ahom kingdom (1228-1826), then known as Kingdom of Assam. The British province after 1838 and the Indian state after 1947 came to be known as Assam.

On February 27, 2006 the Government of Assam started a process to change the name of the state to Asom, a controversial move that has been opposed by the people and political organizations.

Physical geography

Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputramarker, the life-line of Assam is a paleo-river; older than the Himalayas. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradeshmarker entering Assam, becomes a braided river (at times 10 mi/16 km wide) and with tributaries, creates a flood plain (Brahmaputra Valley: 50-60 mi/80-100 km wide, 600 mi/1000 km long). The hills of Karbi Anglongmarker, North Cachar and those in and close to Guwahati (also Khasi-Garo Hills) now eroded and dissected are originally parts of the South Indian Plateau system. In the south, the Barak originating in the Barail Range (Assam-Nagaland border), flows through the Cachar district with a 25–30 miles (40–50 km) wide valley and enters Bangladesh with the name Surma.

Assam is endowed with petroleum, natural gas, coal, limestone and other minor minerals such as magnetic quartzite, kaolin, sillimanites, clay and feldspar. A small quantity of iron ore is available in western districts. Discovered in 1889, all the major petroleum-gas reserves are in Upper parts. A recent USGS estimate shows of oil, of gas and of natural gas liquids in Assam Geologic Province.

With the “Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate”, Assam is temperate (Summer max. at 95-100°F or 35-38°C and winter min. at 43-46 °F or 6-8 °C) and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity. The climate is characterised by heavy monsoon downpours reducing summer temperature and foggy nights and mornings in winter . Thunderstorms known as Bordoicila are frequent during the afternoons. Spring (Mar-Apr) and Autumn (Sept-Oct) are usually pleasant with moderate rainfall and temperature.

Assam is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world and consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems; Many are now protected as national parks and reserved forests. The Kazirangamarker, home of the rare Indian Rhinoceros, and Manasmarker are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Assam. The state is the last refuge for numerous other endangered species such as Golden Langur (Trachypithecus geei), White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh (Cairina scutulata), Bengal Florican, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Pygmy Hog, Greater Adjutant and so on. Some other endangered species with significant population in Assam are Tiger, Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Jerdon's Babbler and so on. Assam is also known for orchids.

The region is prone to natural disasters with annual floods and frequent mild earthquakes. Strong earthquakes are rare; three of these were recorded in 1869, 1897 (8.1 on the Richter scale); and in 1950 (8.6).

Image:Csinensis.jpg|Tea leaves; Assam produces a significant portion of the world's tea. Today, 'tea' has become almost a brand identity for the name Assam.Image:Arecanut trees Assam.JPG|Areca nut or Tamul Goss; the nut is an important element of cultural symbolism.Image:Golden Langur.jpg|A Golden Langur; endangered and are found in Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary in Dhubri|A White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh, endangered. Mostly found in the Upper Assam Tropical Forests.



Assam and adjoining regions have evidences of human settlements from all the periods of the Stone ages. The hills at the height of 1500-2000 feet (460 to 615 m) were popular habitats probably due to availability of exposed doleritic basalt useful for tool-making.

According to Kalika Purana (c.17th-18th AD), written in Assam, the earliest ruler was Mahiranga followed by Hatak, Sambar, Ratna and Ghatak; Naraka removed this line of rulers and established his own dynasty. It mentions that the last of the Naraka-bhauma rulers, Narak, was slain by Krishna. Naraka's 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. However, there are lots of evidences to say that Mahayana Buddhism was prominent in ancient Assam. After Huen Shang's visit Mahayana Buddhism came to Assam. Relics of Tezpur, Malini Than, Kamakhya, Madan Kam Dev Temple are the evidences of Mahayana Buddhism.

Ancient and medieval

A ferocious lion excavated in Madan Kamdev close to Baihata Chariali in Assam representing the powerful Kamarupa-Palas (c.
9th-10th century AD).
Ancient Assam known as Kamarupa was ruled by powerful dynasties: the Varmanas (c.350-650 AD), the Salstambhas (Xalostombho, c.655-900 AD) and the Kamarupa-Palas (c.900-1100 AD). In the reign of the Varman king, Bhaskaravarman (c.600–650 AD), the Chinese traveler Xuan Zang visited the region and recorded his travels. Later, after weakening and disintegration (after the Kamarupa-Palas), the Kamarupa tradition was somewhat extended till c.1255 AD by the Lunar I (c.1120-1185 AD) and Lunar II (c.1155-1255 AD) dynasties.

Two later dynasties, the Ahoms and the Koch left larger impacts. The Ahoms, a Tai group, ruled Assam for nearly 600 years (1228–1826) and the Koch, a Tibeto-Burmese, established sovereignty in c.1510 AD. The Koch kingdom in western Assam and present North Bengal was at its zenith in the early reign of Naranarayana (c.1540-1587 AD). It split into two in c.1581 AD, the western part as a Moghul vassal and the eastern as an Ahom satellite state. Since c 13th A.D., the nerve centre of Ahom polity was upper Assam; the kingdom was gradually extended till Karatoya river in the c.17th-18th A.D.. It was at its zenith during the reign of Sukhrungpha or Sworgodeu Rudra Simha (c.1696-1714 AD). Among other dynasties, the Chutiyas ruled the north-eastern Assam and parts of present Arunachal Pradeshmarker and the Kacharis ruled from Dikhow river to central and southern Assam. With expansion of Ahom kingdom, by c.1520A.D. the Chutiya areas were annexed and since c.1536 AD Kacharis remained only in Cacharmarker and North Cachar more as an Ahom ally then a competing force. Despite numerous invasions, mostly by the Muslim rulers, no western power ruled Assam until the arrival of the British. The most successful invader Mir Jumla, a governor of Aurangzeb, briefly occupied Garhgaon (c.1662–63 AD) the then capital, but found it difficult to control people making guerrilla attacks on his forces, forcing them to leave. The decisive victory of the Assamese led by the great general Lachit Borphukan on the Mughals then under command of Raja Ram Singha at Saraighat (1671) has almost ended Mughal ambitions. Mughals were finally expelled in c.1682 AD from lower Assam.

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 East India Company’s borders, the First Anglo-Burmese War ensued. The war ended under the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, with the Company taking control of the Lower Assam and installing Purander Singh as king of Upper Assam in 1833. The arrangement lasted till 1838 and thereaftre British annexed the entire region. Initially Assam was made a part of the Bengal Presidency, then in 1906 it was a part of Eastern Bengal and Assam province and in 1912 it was reconstituted into a Chief Commissioners' province. In 1913, a Legislative Council and in 1937 the Assam Legislative Assembly was formed in Shillong, the erstwhile Capital. The British tea planters imported labour from central India adding to the demographic canvas. After few initial unsuccessful attempts to free Assam during 1850s, the Assamese since early 20th century joined and actively supported Indian National Congress against the British. In 1947, Assam including present Arunachal Pradeshmarker, Nagalandmarker, Mizorammarker, Meghalayamarker became a state of the Union of India (princely states, Manipur and Tripura became Group C provinces) and a district of Assam, Sylhet chose to join Pakistan.

Post British

Since 1947, with increasing economic problems in the region, separatist groups began forming along ethnic lines, and demands for autonomy and sovereignty grew, resulting into fragmentation of Assam.

Since the mid-20th century, people from present Bangladesh have been migrating to Assam. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed a legislation making use of Assamese language compulsory; It had to be withdrawn later under pressure from Bengali speaking people in Cacharmarker. In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valleymarker saw a six-year Assam Agitation triggered by the discovery of a sudden rise in registered voters on electoral rolls. It tried to force the government to identify and deport foreigners illegally migrating from neighbouring Bangladeshmarker and changing the demographics. The agitation ended after an accord between its leaders and the Union Government, which remained unimplemented, causing simmering discontent.

The post 1970s experienced the growth of armed separatist 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, after which low-intensity military conflicts and political homicides have been continuing for more than a decade. In recent times, ethnicity based militant groups (UPDS, DHD, KLO, HPCD etc.) have also mushroomed. Regional autonomy has been ensured for Bodos in Bodoland Territorial Council Areas (BTCA) and for the Karbis in Karbi Anglong after agitation of the communities due to sluggish rate of development and aspirations for self-government.

Current Situation

As the situation in Assam has turned very serious as communal clashes continue in two central districts of the state, namely Udalgurimarker and Darrangmarker. Recently, nine car bomb explosions ripped through some of the smaller cities in the region, killing over 50 people. The attacks were attributed to a radical terrorist organization that has been continuously staging attacks in order to receive increased autonomy from the Indian government. Attacks such as these are extreme examples of the underlying ethnic tensions and internal violence that the region has experienced because of large immigrant population from Bangladeshmarker. With differing belief systems and way of life, there is a widespread cultural clash in the region, fueled by radical groups that demand sovereignty from the government.

Tea history

This 1850 engraving shows the different stages in the process of making tea in Assam.
After discovery of Camellia sinensis (1834) in Assam followed by its tests in 1836-37 in London, the British allowed companies to rent land since 1839. Thereafter tea plantations mushroomed in Upper Assam, where the soil and the climate were most suitable. Problems with the imported labourers from China and hostilities of native Assamese resulted into migration of forced labourers from central-eastern parts of India. After initial trial and error with planting the Chinese and the Assamese-Chinese hybrid varieties, the planters later accepted the local Camellia assamica as the most suitable one for Assam. By 1850s, the industry started seeing some profits. Industry saw initial growth, when in 1861, investors were allowed to own land in Assam and it saw substantial progress with invention of new technologies and machinery for preparing processed tea during 1870s. The cost of Assam tea was lowered down manifold and became more competitive than its Chinese variant.

Despite the commercial success, tea labourers continued to be exploited, working and living under poor conditions. Fearful of greater government interference, the tea growers formed The Indian Tea Association in 1888 to lobby to retain the status quo. The organization was very successful in this, and even after India’s independence conditions of the labourers have improved very little.


Districts of Assam.
Note that since 2001, four new districts have been created: Baksa, Chirag, Udalguri and Kamrup (Metropolitan); and Kamrup has been renamed Kamrup (rural).

Assam is divided into 27 administrative districts. More than half of these districts were carved out during 80s and 90s from original 1. Lakhimpur, 2. Jorhat, 3. Karbi Anglong, 4. Darrang, 5. Nagaon, 6. Kamrup, 7. Goalpara, 8. North Cachar and 9. Cachar districts, delineated by the Britishmarker. Earlier, during 70s, Dibrugarh was separated out from original Lakhimpur district.

These districts are further sub-divided into 49 “Sub-divisions” or Mohkuma. Every district is administered from a district head quarter with the office of the District Collectormarker, District Magistrate, Office of the District Panchayat and usually with a district court.

The districts are delineated on the basis of the features such as the rivers, hills, forests, etc and majority of the newly constituted districts are sub-divisions of the earlier districts. For the present districts of Assam and their location, refer the attached map.

The local governance system is organised under the jila-parishad (District Panchayat) for a district, panchayat for group of or individual rural areas and under the urban local bodies for the towns and cities. Presently there are 2489 village panchayats covering 26247 villages in Assam. The 'town-committee' or nagar-xomiti for small towns, 'municipal board' or pouro-xobha for medium towns and municipal corporation or pouro-nigom for the cities consist of the urban local bodies.

For the revenue purposes, the districts are divided into revenue circles and mouzas; for the development projects, the districts are divided into 219 'development-blocks' and for law and order these are divided into 206 police stations or thana.


District-wise Demographic Characteristics in 2001

Total population of Assam was 26.66 million with 4.91 million households in 2001. Higher population concentration was recorded in the districts of Kamrup, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Barpeta, Dhubri, Darang and Cachar. Assam's population was estimated at 28.67 million in 2006 and at 30.57 million by 2011, 34.18 million by 2021 and 35.60 million by 2026.

In 2001, the census recorded literacy in Assam at 63.30 percent with male literacy at 71.30 and female at 54.60 percents. Urbanisation rate was recorded at 12.90 percent.

Growth of population in Assam has experienced a very high trajectory since the mid-decades of the 20th century. Population grew steadily from 3.29 million in 1901 to 6.70 million in 1941, while it has increased unprecedentedly to 14.63 million in 1971 and 22.41 million in 1991 to reach the present level. The growth in the western and southern districts was of extreme high in nature mostly attributable to rapid influx of population from the then East Pakistan or Bangladeshmarker.

Population Growth Trend 1901 to 2001
Assam has many ethnic groups and the People of India project has studied 115 of these. Out of which 79 (69%) identify themselves regionally, 22 (19%) locally, and 3 trans-nationally. The earliest settlers were Austroasiatic, followed by Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Aryan speakers, and Kradai speakers. Forty-five languages are spoken by different communities, including three major language families: Austroasiatic (5), Sino-Tibetan (24) and Indo-European (12). Three of the spoken languages do not fall in these families. There is a high degree of bilingualism.


Major religions are Hinduism (64.9%) and Islam (30.9%). Others include Christianity (3.7%), Sikhism, Animism, Buddhism (Khamti, Phake, Aiton etc. communities).


The Hindus of Assam perform several dances to practice their devotion to their Gods. One category of them is the Sattriya Dances.

Kamakhya, dedicated to Goddess Durga is the eastern-most pilgrimage of Hinduism.

Popular forms of God in Assam are Durga, Shiva, Krishna and Narayana, although several tribes practice devotion to local deities as well.


Muslims constitute the second largest religious group in Assam. Muslims make up 30.92% of the population, a percentage second only to Jammu & Kashmirmarker amongst the Indian states.

Brahmo Samaj

Assam is the home of Kalicharan Mech, a Bodo Hindu who stopped the British Christian missionaries, spread ahimsa and vegetarianism. He was deeply influenced by the Brahmo Samaj. He later became known as "Gurudev Kalicharan Brahmachari" or "Guru Brahma". His principles were established as the Brahma Dharma. Perhaps his teachings can be summarized by his given phrase, "Chandrama Surya Narayans Jyoti", meaning, "the light (jyoti) from the sun is capable from dispelling darkness and taking people to Brahma (Narayans)."

From the teachings of Guru Brahma, the "Bodo-Brahmas" (the Bodos of this sect) have boycotted alcohol and heavy dowry as well as meat-eating.

This sect is written by scholars to be Vedic and Upanishadic. As per Vedic rituals, the priests perform Horn Yajna, which was begun by Guru Brahma to organize the Bodos.

While the Bodo Christians today are laying stress on adopting a Roman script for the Bodo community, the Bodo-Brahmas prefer the traditional Bengali-Ahomi script.

Cultural evolution

Assamese culture is traditionally a hybrid one developed due to assimilation of ethno-cultural groups in the past. Therefore, both local elements or the local elements in Sanskritised forms are distinctly found. The major milestones in evolution of Assamese culture are:

With rich traditions, the modern culture is greatly influenced by events in the British and the Post-British Era. The language was standardised by the American Baptist Missionaries such as Nathan Brown, Dr. Miles Bronson and local pundits such as Hemchandra Barua with the form available in the Sibsagarmarker (Xiwoxagor) District (the ex-nerve centre of the Ahom Kingdom). A renewed Sanskritisation was increasingly adopted for developing Assamese language and grammar. A new wave of Western and northern Indian influence was apparent in the performing arts and literature.

Increasing efforts of standardisation in the 20th century alienated the localised forms present in different areas and with the less-assimilated ethno-cultural groups (many source-cultures). However, Assamese culture in its hybrid form and nature is one of the richest, still developing and in true sense is a 'cultural system' with sub-systems. It is interesting that many source-cultures of Assamese cultural-system are still surviving either as sub-systems or as sister entities, for e.g. Bodo or Khasi or Mishing. Today it is important to keep the broader system closer to its roots and at the same time to focus on development of the sub-systems.

Some of the common and unique cultural traits in the region are peoples' respect towards areca-nut and betel leaves, symbolic clothes (Gamosa, Arnai, etc), traditional silk garments and towards forefathers and elderly. Moreover, great hospitality and Bamboo culture are common.


A pair of areca nuts, betel leaves and a 'Gamosa' in a Xorai; this represents cultural symbolism of respect towards the recipient by the person presenting it.
Symbolism is an ancient cultural practice in Assam and is still a very important part of Assamese way of life. Various elements are being used to represent beliefs, feelings, pride, identity, etc. Tamulpan, Xorai and Gamosa are three important symbolic elements in Assamese culture. Tamulpan (the areca nut and betel leaves) or guapan (gua from kwa) are considered along with the Gamosa (a typical woven cotton or silk cloth with embroidery) as the offers of devotion, respect and friendship. The Tamulpan-tradition is an ancient one and is being followed since time-immemorial with roots in the aboriginal Austro-Asiatic culture. Xorai is a traditionally manufactured bell-metal article of great respect and is used as a container-medium while performing respectful offers. Moreover, symbolically many ethno-cultural groups use specific clothes to portray respect and pride.

There were many other symbolic elements and designs, but are now only found in literature, art, sculpture, architecture, etc or in use today for only religious purposes. The typical designs of assamese-lion, dragon, flying-lion, etc were used for symbolising various purposes and occasions. The archaeological sites such as the Madan Kamdev (c. 9th-10th A.D.) exhibits mass-scale use of lions, dragon-lions and many other figures of demons to show case power and prosperity. The Vaishnava monasteries and many other architectural sites of late medieval period also showcase use of lions and dragons for symbolic effects.


Assamese and Bodo are the major indigenous and official languages while Bengali holds official status in the three districts in the Barak Valley and is the second most spoken language of the state (24%).

Traditionally Assamese was the language of the commons (of mixed origin - Austroasiatic, Tibeto-Burman, Magadhan Prakrit) in the ancient Kamarupa and in the medieval kingdoms of Kamatapur, Kachari, Cuteeya, Borahi, Ahom and Koch. Traces of the language is found in many poems by Luipa, Sarahapa, etc in Charyapada (c.7th-8th AD). Modern dialects Kamrupi, Goalpariya, etc are the remnant of this language. Moreover, Assamese in its traditional form was used by the ethno-cultural groups in the region as lingua-franca, which spread during the stronger kingdoms and was required for needed economic integration. Localised forms of the language still exist in Nagalandmarker, Arunachal Pradeshmarker. The form used in the upper Assam was enriched by the advent of Tai-Shans in the 13th century.

Linguistically modern Assamese traces its roots to the version developed by the American Missionaries based on the local form in practice near Sibsagarmarker (Xiwoxagor) district. Assamese (Oxomeeya) is a rich language due to its hybrid nature with its unique characteristics of pronunciation and softness. Assamese literature is one of the richest.

Bodo is an ancient language of Assam. Spatial distribution patterns of the ethno-cultural groups, cultural traits and the phenomenon of naming all the major rivers in the North East Region with Bodo-Kachari words (e.g. Dihing, Dibru, Dihongmarker, D/Tista, Dikrai, etc) reveal that it was the most important language in the ancient times. Bodo is presently spoken largely in the Lower Assam (Bodo Territorial Council area). After years of neglect, now Bodo language is getting attention and its literature is developing. Other native languages of Tibeto-Burman origin and related to Bodo-Kachari are Mishing, Karbi, Dimaca, Rabha, Tiwa, etc. Rajbongshi also known as kamatapuri/Goalpariya is also widely spoken by the people of western assam. Nepali is also spoken in almost all parts of the state.

There are smaller groups of people speaking Tai-Phake, Tai-Aiton, Tai-Khamti, Tai-Khamyang etc., some of the Tai languages. The Tai-Ahom language (brought by Sukaphaa and his followers), which is no more a spoken language today is getting attentions for research after centuries long care and preservation by the Bailungs (traditional priests). There are also small groups of people speaking Manipuri,Khasi, Garo, Hmar, Kuki, etc in different parts.

Sylheti (a Bengali dialact) is language spoken in the three districts of Barak Valley region.


There are several important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam. Durga Puja is another festival celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Bihu is a series of three prominent festivals. Primarily a non-religious festival celebrated to mark the seasons and the significant points of a cultivator's life over a yearly cycle. Three Bihus, rongali or bohag, celebrated with the coming of spring and the beginning of the sowing season; kongali or kati, the barren bihu when the fields are lush but the barns are empty; and the bhogali or magh, the thanksgiving when the crops have been harvested and the barns are full. Bihu songs and Bihu dance are associated to rongali bihu. The day before the each bihu is known as 'uruka'. The first day of 'rongali bihu' is called 'Goru bihu' (the bihu of the cows), when the cows are taken to the nearby rivers or ponds to be bathed with special care. In recent times the form and nature of celebration has changed with the growth of urban centres.

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 (sub and sister cultures). Few of these are:

Performing arts

Assam has rich tradition of performing arts. Ankiya Nat (Onkeeya Naat) is a traditional Vaishnav dance-drama (bhaona) form popular since 15th century A.D. It makes use of large masks of gods, goddesses, demons and animals and in between the plays a Sutradhar (Xutrodhar) keeps on telling the story. The Bihu dance and Hucory performed during the Bohag Bihu, Kushan nritra of Rajbongshi's, Bagurumba and Bordoicikhla dance of Bodos, Mishing Bihu, Banjar Kekan performed during Chomangkan by Karbis are some of the major folk dances. Sattriya (Xotriya) dance related to Vaishnav tradition is a classical form of dance. Moreover, there are several other age-old dance-forms such as Barpeta’s Bhortal Nritya, Deodhoni Nritya, Oja Paali, Beula Dance, Ka Shad Inglong Kardom, Nimso Kerung, etc. The tradition of modern moving theatres is typical of Assam with immense popularity of many large theatre groups such as Kohinoor, Apsara, Hengul, etc.

At the same time musical tradition is also rich. Folk songs and music related to Bihu and other festivals dates back to time-immemorial. Borgeet, the popular Vaishnav songs are written and composed in 15th century. Assam has large numbers of traditional musical instruments including several types of drums, string instruments, flutes, cymbals, pipes, etc.

The indigenous folk music has substantially 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 and Jitul Sonowal have a great fan following.

Traditional crafts

A traditional brass dish from Assam.
Assam has a rich tradition of crafts; 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, agarwood products, traditional building materials, utilities from iron, etc.

Cane and bamboo craft provide the most commonly used utilities in daily life, ranging from household utilities, weaving accessories, fishing accessories, furniture, musical instruments, construction materials, etc. Utilities and symbolic articles such as Xorai and Bota made from bell metal and brass are found in every Assamese household. Hajo and Sarthebarimarker (Xorthebaary) are the most important centres of traditional bell-metal and brass crafts. Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prestigious are: Muga - the natural golden silk, Pat - a creamy-bright-silver coloured silk and Eri - a variety used for manufacturing warm clothes for winter. Apart from Sualkuchimarker (Xualkuchi), the centre for the traditional silk industry, in almost every parts of the Brahmaputramarker 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.

Fine arts

The archaic Mauryan Stupas discovered in and around Goalpara districtmarker are the earliest examples (c. 300 BC to c. 100 AD) of ancient art and architectural works. The remains discovered in Daparvatiya (Doporboteeya) archaeological site with a beautiful doorframe in Tezpur are identified as the best examples of art works in ancient Assam with influence of Sarnathmarker School of Art of the late Gupta period. Many other sites also exhibit development of local art forms with local motifs and sometimes with similarities with those in the Southeast Asia. There are currently more than forty discovered ancient archaeological sites across Assam with numerous sculptural and architectural remains. Moreover, there are examples of several Late-Middle Age art and architectural works including hundreds of sculptures and motifs along with many remaining temples, palaces and other buildings. The motifs available on the walls of the buildings such as Rang Gharmarker, Joydoul, etc are remarkable examples of art works.

Painting is an ancient tradition of Assam. Xuanzang (7th century AD) mentions that among the Kamarupa king Bhaskaravarma's gifts to Harshavardhana there were paintings and painted objects, some of which were on Assamese silk. Many of the manuscripts such as Hastividyarnava (A Treatise on Elephants), the Chitra Bhagawata and in the Gita Govinda from the Middle Ages bear excellent examples of traditional paintings. The medieval Assamese literature also refers to chitrakars and patuas.

There are several renowned contemporary artists in Assam. The Guwahati Art College in Guwahatimarker is a government institution for tertiary education. Moreover, there are several art-societies and non-government initiatives across the state and the Guwahati Artists Guild is a front-runner organisation based in Guwahati.



Economy of Assam today represents a unique juxtaposition of backwardness amidst plenty. Despite its rich natural resources, and supplying of up to 25% of India's petroleum needs, growth rate of Assam’s income has not kept pace with that of India’s; differences increased rapidly since 1970s. Indian economy grew at 6 percent per annum over the period of 1981 to 2000, the same of Assam was only 3.3 percent. In the Sixth Plan period Assam experienced a negative growth rate of 3.78 percent when India's was positive at 6 percent. In the post-liberalised era (after 1991), the differences widened further.

According to recent analysis, Assam’s economy is showing signs of improvement. In 2001-02, the economy grew (at 1993-94 constant prices) at 4.5 percent, to fall to 3.4 percent in the next financial year. During 2003-04 and 2004-05, the economy grew (at 1993-94 constant prices) more satisfactorily at 5.5 and 5.3 percent respectively. The advanced estimates placed the growth rate for 2005-06 at above 6 percent. Assam's GDP in 2004 is estimated at $13 billion in current prices. Sectoral analysis again exhibits a dismal picture. The average annual growth rate of agriculture, which was only 2.6 percent per annum over 1980s has unfortunately fallen to 1.6 percent in the 1990s. Manufacturing sector has shown some improvement in the 1990s with a growth rate of 3.4 percent per annum than 2.4 percent in the 1980s. Since past five decades, the tertiary sector has registered the highest growth rates than the other sectors, which even has slowed down in the 1990s than in 1980s.


Accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs 69 percent of workforce. Assam's biggest contribution to the world is tea. It produces some of the finest and expensive teas and has its own variety Camellia assamica. Assam also accounts for fair share of India’s production of rice, rapeseed, mustard seed, jute, potato, sweet potato, banana, papaya, areca nut and turmeric. It is also a home of large varieties of citrus fruits, leaf vegetables, vegetables, useful grasses, herbs, spices, etc.

Assam’s agriculture yet to experience modernisation in real sense. With implications to food security, per capita food grain production has declined in past five decades. Productivity has increased marginally; but still lower comparing to highly productive regions. For instance, yield of rice (staple food of Assam) was just 1531 kg per hectare against India’s 1927 kg per hectare in 2000-01 (which itself is much lower than Egyptmarker’s 9283, USAmarker’s 7279, South Koreamarker’s 6838, Japanmarker’s 6635 and Chinamarker’s 6131 kg per hectare in 2001). On the other hand, after having strong domestic demand, 1.5 million hectares of inland water bodies, numerous rivers and 165 varieties of fishes, fishing is still in its traditional form and production is not self-sufficient.

The Assam Agriculture University is located at Jorhat, Assam. It is the only agricultural university for the Seven Sisters.


Apart from tea and petroleum refineries, Assam has few industries of significance. Industrial development is inhibited by its physical and political isolation from neighbouring countries such as Myanmarmarker, Chinamarker and Bangladeshmarker and from other growing Southeast Asian economies; ultimately leading to neglect by the federal government in regards to development - a key motivation for separatist groups. The region is landlocked, situated in the eastern periphery of India and is linked to the mainland by a flood and cyclone prone narrow corridor, known as the Siliguri Corridor or Chicken's Neck, with weak transport infrastructure that have remained undeveloped since independence. The international airport in Guwahatimarker is yet to find airlines providing direct international flights. The Brahmaputramarker suitable for navigation does not possess sufficient infrastructure for international trade and success of such a navigable trade route will be dependent on proper channel maintenance and diplomatic and trade relationships with Bangladesh.
Processed Assam tea
Assam is a major producer of crude oil, exploited by the Assam Oil Company Ltd., and natural gas in India and is the second place in the world (after Titusvillemarker in the United Statesmarker) where petroleum was discovered. Asia’s first successful mechanically drilled oil well was drilled in Makum (Assam) way back in 1867. Most of the oilfields are located in the Upper Assam region. Assam has four oil refineries located in Guwahatimarker, Digboimarker, Golaghatmarker (Numaligarh) and Bongaigaonmarker with a total capacity of 7 Million metric tonnes (7.7 million short tons) per annum. Despite its richness in natural resources, the benefits have yet to improve the lives of the people of Assam.

Although having a poor overall industrial performance, several other industries have nevertheless been started, including a chemical fertiliser plan at Namrupmarker, petrochemical industries at Namrupmarker and Bongaigaonmarker, paper mills at Jagiroadmarker, Panchgram and Jogighopamarker, sugar mills at Barua Bamun Gaon, Chargola, Kampur, cement plant at Bokajan & Badarpur, cosmetics plant (HLL) at Doom Doomamarker, etc. Moreover, there are other industries such as jute mill, textile and yarn mills, silk mill, etc. Unfortunately many of these industries are facing loss and closer due to lack of infrastructure and improper management practices.


Assam has several institutions for tertiary education and research. The major institutions are:


Print Media

News Papers: The Times of India, Asomiya Pratidin, Asomiya Khabor, Dainik Asom, Aajir Dainik Batori, Dainik Janasadharan, Dainik Agradoot
Fortnightly Magazine: Prantik
Monthly Magazine: Angana, Bismoi, Gariyashi, Maya, Priyo Sakhi, Rahasya

Electronic Media

News Live, NE TV, DY365


Cities and towns

A View of Guwahati; the city known as Pragjyotishapura (city of eastern light) in the ancient times has a past extended to more than two thousand years.
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.

Guwahatimarker is the largest urban centre and a 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 900,000 (considering GMDA area) during the census of 2001.Population-wise and area-wise Silcharmarker is the second largest and important city in the state. It is the economic gateway to the state of Mizorammarker, Manipurmarker and Tripuramarker. The town of Silchar has tremendous commercial importance. It consequently, witnesses the settlement of a sizeable population of traders from distant parts of India.The other important urban areas are Dibrugarhmarker, Jorhatmarker, Golaghatmarker, Tinsukiamarker (Tinicukiya), Sibsagarmarker (Xiwoxagor), Tezpurmarker, Nagaon, Lakhimpur, Bongaigaonmarker, etc. Nalbarimarker, Rangiamarker, Mangaldoimarker, Karimganjmarker, Hailakandimarker, Barpetamarker, Kokrajharmarker, Goalparamarker, Diphumarker, Dhubrimarker (Dhubury), etc are other towns and district head quarters. On the other hand Duliajanmarker, Digboimarker, Namrupmarker, Moranmarker, Bongaigaonmarker, Numaligarh, Jogighopamarker Rangiamarker, etc are major industrial towns. Currently, there are around 125 total urban centres in the state.


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.

See also

Notes and references

  1. Wandrey 2004 p3–8
  2. Dixit 2002
  3. World Heritage Centre 2007
  4. Sarma, Satyendra Nath (1976) Assamese Literature, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, p2. “While the Shan invaders called themselves Tai, they came to be referred to as Āsām, Āsam and sometimes as Acam by the indigenous people of the country. The modern Assamese word Āhom by which the Tai people are known is derived from Āsām or Āsam. The epithet applied to the Shan conquerors was subsequently transferred to the country over which they ruled and thus the name Kāmarūpa was replaced by Āsām, which ultimately took the Sanskritized form Asama, meaning ‘unequalled, peerless or uneven’”
  5. Times News Network, February 28, 2006
  6. Editorial, The Assam Tribune, January 6, 2007.
  7. Singh (ed.) 1993.
  8. Singh (ed.) 1993
  9. NEDFi & NIC-Assam 2002
  10. NEDFi & NIC-Assam 2002
  11. Wandrey 2004 p17
  12. Singh (ed.) 1993
  13. Purdue University 2004
  14. Borthakur 2002
  15. Birdlife International, UK Indo-Gangetic Grasslands
  16. National Mission on Bamboo Applications 2004
  17. Sharma 2003
  18. ENVIS Assam 2003
  19. Barpujari 1990
  20. Barpujari 1990
  21. Aitchison 1931, p230–233 (web-version from Project South Asia, South Dakota State University, USA)
  22. Hazarika 2003
  23. The Governor of Assam 1998
  24. Hazarika 2003
  25. MacFarlane, Alan and Iris MacFarlane 2003
  26. Revenue Department, Government of Assam
  27. Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Government of Assam
  28. The Government of Assam 2002-03
  29. The National Commission on Population 2006
  30. Director of Census Operations, Census of India 2001
  31. Hussain 2004
  32. Taher 1993
  33. Indian Census
  34. Bodo History
  36. P. 60 The Eastern anthropologist By Ethnographic and Folk-Culture Society (Uttar Pradesh, India)
  37. P. 347 Proceedings of North East India History Association By North East India History Association Session, North East India History Association, Session
  38. P. 249 Proceedings of North East India History Association By North East India History Association Session, North East India History Association, Session
  39. Barpujari 1990
  40. Barpujari 1990
  41. Kakati 1962
  42. Barpujari 1990
  43. Barpujari 1990
  44. Barpujari 1990
  45. Assam Tourism 2002
  46. Ranjan
  47. Nath
  48. Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2001-2002 in Assam Human Development Report, 2003 p25
  49. Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2005-2006
  50. National Commission for Women 2004
  51. UNDP 2004 p22-23
  52. UNDP 2004 p22
  53. UNDP 2004 p22-23
  54. Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2004-2005
  55. UNDP 2004 p24-25
  56. UNDP 2004 p24-25
  57. UNDP 2004 p24-25
  58. Government of Assam, Economic Survey of Assam 2001-2002 in Assam Human Development Report, 2003 p32
  59. UNDP 2004 p33
  60. UNDP 2004 p33
  61. FAO Statistics Division 2007
  62. Assam Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium
  63. UNDP 2004 p37
  65. Barpujari, H. K. (ed.),1990 The Comprehensive History of Assam, 1st edition, Assam Publication Board, Guwahati
  66. Directorate of Information and Public Relations 2002

  • Singh, K. S (ed) (2003) People of India: Assam Vol XV Parts I and II, Anthropological Survey of India, Seagull Books, Calcutta
  • Taher, Mohammad (1993) The Peopling of Assam and contemporary social structure in Ahmad, Aijazuddin (ed) Social Structure and Regional Development, Rawat Publications, New Delhi

Further reading

Language and literature


Tradition and Culture

External links

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