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For other uses, see Assam (disambiguation).

Assam is a state in northeastern India, south of the eastern Himalayas along the Brahmaputra and Barak River valleys. Assam covers an area of 78,438ákm2 (30,285ásqámi). The state is bordered by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh to the north; Nagaland and Manipur to the east; Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram and Bangladesh to the south; and West Bengal to the west via the Siliguri Corridor, a 22-kilometre-wide (14ámi) strip of land that connects the state to the rest of India. Assamese and Boro are the official languages of Assam, while Bengali is an official language in the three districts of Barak Valley.

Assam is known for Assam tea and Assam silk. The state was the first site for oil drilling in Asia. Assam is home to the one-horned Indian rhinoceros, along with the wild water buffalo, pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds, and provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. The Assamese economy is aided by wildlife tourism to Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park, which are World Heritage Sites. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is famed for its feral horses. Sal tree forests are found in the state which, as a result of abundant rainfall, look green all year round. Assam receives more rainfall than most parts of India; this rain feeds the Brahmaputra River, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a distinctive hydro-geomorphic environment.

Table of contents
  1. Etymology
  2. History
  3. Geography
  4. Demographics
  5. Culture
  6. Media
  7. See also

Image gallery

Extra Zoomed Snap of Indian Rhino from Assam's Kaziranga National Park Lakhiganj HSS Assam Cotton College IITG acad complex NIT Silchar Guest House Jec frontview Sattriya by Dancer Meenakshi Medhi Bodo dance Tea Tribe Dance of Assam Lukobadya nagara Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Assam, India Bihu dance of Assam Statue of Kalaguru, Rupkonwar and Natasurjya at Guwahati Citra Bhagavata illustration Assam Xorai Assam Knahor Knahi Brihat Ushaharan, an medieval-century manuscript painting of Assam from Budhbari Satra Mayurpokhyi Kehl-Nao of Kamalabari Satra Mahisamardini, 18th century Devi bronze metal sculpture from Tinsukia Hastividyarnava Illustration Mask in the Indian Museum, Kolkata Kamakhya Temple, Guwahati Academic complex iitg Rangghar Assam Manas National Park Majuli Island Siva Dol A tea garden in Dibrugarh Seal of Assam In-as


Main article: Etymology of Assam

The first dated mention of the region comes from Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century) and Ptolemy's Geographia (2nd century), which calls the region Kirrhadia, apparently after the Kirata population. In the classical period and up to the 12th century, the region east of the Karatoya river, largely congruent to present-day Assam, was called Kamarupa, and alternatively, Pragjyotisha. Though a western portion of Assam as a region continued to be called Kamrup, the Ahom kingdom that emerged in the east, and which came to dominate the entire Brahmaputra valley, was called Assam (e.g. Mughals used Asham); and the British province too was called Assam. Though the precise etymology of Assam is not clear, the name Assam is associated with the Ahom people, originally called Shyam (Shan).


Main article: History of Assam


Further information: People of Assam

Assam and adjoining regions have evidences of human settlement from the beginning of the Stone Age. The hills at the height of 1,500 to 2,000 feet (460-615ám) were popular habitats probably due to availability of exposed dolerite basalt, useful for tool-making. Ambari site in Guwahati has revealed Shunga-Kushana era artefacts including flight of stairs and a water tank which may date from 1st century BCE and may be 2,000 years old. Experts speculate that another significant find at Ambari is Roman era Roman roulette pottery from the 2nd century BCE.


Further information: Danava dynasty, Bhauma dynasty, and Asura Kingdom

According to a late text, Kalika Purana (c. 9th-10th century CE), the earliest ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danav of the Danava dynasty, which was removed by Naraka of Mithila and established the Bhauma dynasty. The last of these rulers, also Naraka, was slain by Krishna. Naraka's son Bhagadatta became the king, who (it is mentioned in the Mahabharata) fought for the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra with an army of kiratas, chinas and dwellers of the eastern coast. At the same time towards the east in central Assam, Asura Kingdom was ruled by another line of kings.

Ancient era

Further information: Kamarupa

Evidence indicates presence of civilization in Assam around 2nd century BCE, a rock cut stupa at Sri Surya Pahar has been dated to 200 BCE contemporary with rock cut Karle and Bhaja caves of Maharashtra. Samudragupta's 4th-century-CE Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Kamarupa and Davaka (Central Assam) as frontier kingdoms of the Gupta Empire. Davaka was later absorbed by Kamarupa, which grew into a large kingdom that spanned from Karatoya river to near present Sadiya and covered the entire Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, parts of Bangladesh and, at times Purnea and parts of West Bengal. The kingdom was ruled by three dynasties who traced their lineage from a mleccha or Kirata Naraka; the Varmanas (c. 350-650 CE), the Mlechchha dynasty (c.655-900 CE) and the Kamarupa-Palas (c. 900-1100 CE), from their capitals in present-day Guwahati (Pragjyotishpura), Tezpur (Haruppeswara) and North Gauhati (Durjaya) respectively. All three dynasties claimed descent from Narakasura. In the reign of the Varman king, Bhaskaravarman (c. 600-650 CE), the Chinese traveller Xuanzang visited the region and recorded his travels. Later, after weakening and disintegration (after the Kamarupa-Palas), the Kamarupa tradition was extended to c. 1255 CE by the Lunar I (c. 1120-1185 CE) and Lunar II (c. 1155-1255 CE) dynasties.

Medieval era

Further information: Kamata kingdom, Koch dynasty, Ahom kingdom, Chutia kingdom, Kachari kingdom, and Baro-Bhuyan

The Medieval Assam history may have started with the advent of Ahoms in the early part of the 13th century and covers their entire rule of 600 years till 1826. The medieval history of Assam is especially known for its conflict with Muslim powers under Turko-Afghan and Mughals, finally resulting in Assamese victory, however, this military glory was shattered in the early 19th century when it failed to resist the Burmese invasions, which led to its annexation.

Chutia, a Bodo-Kachari group by origin, held the regions on both the banks of Brahmaputra with its domain in the area eastwards from Vishwanath (north bank) and Buridihing (south bank), in Upper Assam and in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. It was annexed by the Ahoms in the year 1524. The rivalry between the Chutias and Ahoms for the supremacy of eastern Assam led to a series of conflicts between them from the early 16th century.

The Dimasa, another Bodo-Kachari dynasty, (13th century-1854) ruled from Dikhow River to central and southern Assam and had their capital at Dimapur. With the expansion of Ahom kingdom, by the early 17th century, the Chutia areas were annexed and since c. 1536 the Kacharis remained only in Cachar and North Cachar, and more as an Ahom ally than a competing force.

Early Period

Main article: Sukaphaa

The Ahoms, a Tai group, ruled Upper Assam. In 1228 the Ahoms came to the Brahmaputra Valley under the leadership of Sukapha accompanied with 9,000 men from Mong-Mao, a Tai state, situated in South-Western Yunnan of China, and established his kingdom upper Assam. In 1253 he founded the capital city in a hillock and named it Charaideo. At that time of Sukapha advent, the area was inhabited by Morans and Barahis, to the north and the north-east was the Chutia kingdom and on the south was the Kachari kingdom and on the west on the plains were the Bhuyans.

For more than two and a half centuries, the Sukapha and his successors, although mainly concentrated on the organization of the kingdom, they maintained their military superiority in the valley.


Main articles: Suhungmung and Dimasa Kingdom

The reign of Suhungmung was marked with the first massive expansion of Ahom kingdom. Besides sending a punitive expeditions against the Nagas, they fought numerous battles with the Bhuyans, Chutias, Kacharis, Turko-Afghans, and the Naras. In 1522-23 the Chutia Kingdom was annexed and the captured tract was placed under the administration of Sadiya-Khowa-Gohain. After securing the eastern tract, Suhunmung than expanded his kingdom westwards through wars and extended till Marangi to the west of the Dhansiri and when the Kacharis tried to regain the lost territory but were defeated and their capital Dimapur was sacked. Over the remaining part of the Kachari kingdom, a new king Detsung was placed as a tributary, but Detsung was not loyal and revolted, and he was killed. Later some time, a new king was sat on the Kachari throne with the name of Nirbhaynarayan. Since then the Kachari kings were regarded as 'thapita sanchita' meaning - established and maintained by the Ahom rulers.

Suhunmung reign also witnessed the first Muslim-invasions. After a series of battle, the invaders were defeated and were chased up to Karatoya River. The Sultan of Bengal, terrified, made peace by offering his two daughters and five paraganas, along with other articles as dowry. That's when the rising Koch king Biswa Singha offered submission, and the Ahom general Ton-Kham gave him all the territories that were received as dowry from the Sultan of Bengal on the condition of annual tribute.

The successors of Suhunmung, Suklenmung and Sukhaamphaa, sent many expeditions against the Bhuyans and Nagas. But were significant with the wars with the Koch. During the reign of Sukhaamphaa, the Ahoms lost to Koch army led by Chilarai and the Ahoms had to accept Koch supremacy and had to give up the tracts of north of Brahmaputra. However, the lost tract was soon recovered with several stern steps.

Later Period

War with Mughals

Main articles: Ahom kingdom, Bengal Subah, Koch dynasty, and Ahom-Mughal conflicts

Soon after the death of Nara Narayan his kingdom, got divided between the sons of Nara Narayan and Chilarai as Koch Hajo and Koch Bihar. In 1609, Laxmi Narayan king of Cooch Behar accepted the vassalage of Mughals, and the Koch Hajo king Raghudev and later his son Parikshit sought assistance from Ahoms. In 1612, the Mughals attacked Koch Hajo and his territory up to Barnadi River were annexed in the Mughal domain. This brought the Mughals with direct contact with Ahoms. Meanwhile, Parikshit was trying to renew his friendship with Ahoms, but got captured, and died on his way to his kingdom. Later Balinarayan, a brother of Parikshit who had taken refugee under the Ahoms was made the king of Darrang in 1615 by the Ahom king Pratap Singha. From 1616, onwards many battles were fought the Mughal without any tangible result, with the first Battle of Samdhara till after the last battle where the treaty was concluded in 1639 which fixed the Asurar ali on the south bank and the Barnadi on the north bank of the Brahmaputra as the boundary between the two. Pratap Singha had also enacted the Paik system and created a number of army and civil administration posts such as the Borbarua and Borphukan.

Jayadhwaj Singha taking the advantage of War of succession between the sons of Shah Jahan, occupied the impeial territories up to Dhaka. Aurangzeb after becoming the emperor, appointed Mir Jumla II, to recover the lost territory. After fail negotiations. In November 1661, Mir Jumla proceeded with a huge army and fleet to invade Ahom kingdom. Here the Ahoms, lost at several places, and then captured the Ahom capital Garhgaon. During the rainy season Mir Jumla and his army suffered immeasurable hardship due to the climatic condition of the valley in addition the guerilla fighting resorted against the invaders. And at last no noticeable gain, negotiation started and in January 1663, Treaty of Ghilajharighat was concluded. According to the treaty, the Ahoms had to acknowledging Mughal supremacy, ceded the territory west of the Bharali on the north bank and the Kalang on the south bank along with a huge amount of war indemnity and handing over the sons of the Gohains as hostage and two Ahom princesses to the Mughal harem.

Soon after the departure of Mir Jumla, Jayadhwaj Singha died and the new king Chakradhwaj Singha began preparations to overthrow Mughal supremacy and to recover the lost territory. After numerous battles, finally after the Battle of Saraighat the Mughals were forced to retreat.

The peiord after 1671 was very unstable due to the rivalry among the nobles, who wanted to arrest their own political power and influence by placing their own choice of prince in the throne. In 1679, Laluksola Borphukan, in hopes of becoming king with the help of Mughals, surrendered Guwahati without any battle. But after the accession of Gadadhar Singha, fought the final Battle of Itakhuli where the Mughals were badly defeated. And the since then the border was fixed at Manah on the north bank and the Nagarbera hill on the south bank of the Brahmaputra till its annexation by the East India Company in 1826.

18th century

See also: Rudra Singha, Siva Singha, and Moamoria rebellion

Rudra Singha succeeded Gadadhar Singha, his reign is notable because of his military achievements and his socio-culture contributions. He had both subjugated the Kachari and Jaintia kingdoms, and had captured their kings and forced to accept Ahom suzerainty and agreed them to pay annual tribute. Other than that, several expeditions were sent against the Miris, the Daflas, the Naga Mishmis and the Nagas of Namsung, Dayang and the Rengma Nagas during late 17th century and early 18th century. Rudra Singha had made extensive preparations for his invasion of Bengal but remained unfulfilled due to his sudden death in 1714.

After Rudra Singha, the Ahoms achieved no notable military achievement. During this period from, Siva Singha to Rajeswar Singha, the kingdom witnessed peace and prosperity and was significant for constructive activities and other development. In the field of religion also, Ekasarana Dharma spread all over the kingdom and started to influence all aspects of people's life. The religious heads of Vaisnavite monastery exalted great influence with royal patronage and established numerous Satras and most of the people became their disciples. So got the Ahom court greatly came under the influence of Sakta Brahman priests and astrologers. The religious policies concluded by Phuleshwari and the persecutions of unfavored Satras, embroiled the situation more along with the pressure of Paik system in the 18th century.

This finally resulted in the Moamoria rebellion (1769-1805), which greatly weakened the Ahom kingdom where the country was greatly depopulated and unorganized. The political rivalry between the nobles made a pathway for the Burmese to invade and weakened it more and finally leading to its annexation.

Colonial era

Further information: Colonial Assam and Assam Province

The discovery of Camellia sinensis in 1834 in Assam was followed by testing in 1836-37 in London. The British allowed companies to rent land from 1839 onwards. Thereafter tea plantations proliferated in Eastern Assam, where the soil and the climate were most suitable. Problems with the imported Han Chinese labourers from China and hostility from native Assamese resulted in the migration of forced labourers from central and 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 variety for Assam. By the 1850s, the industry started seeing some profits. The industry saw initial growth, when in 1861, investors were allowed to own land in Assam and it saw substantial progress with the invention of new technologies and machinery for preparing processed tea during the 1870s.

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 organisation was successful in this, but even after India's independence, conditions of the labourers have improved very little.

In the later part of the 18th century, religious tensions and atrocities by the nobles led to the Moamoria rebellion (1769-1805), resulting in tremendous casualties of lives and property. The rebellion was suppressed but the kingdom was severely weakened by the civil war. Political rivalry between Prime Minister Purnananda Burhagohain and Badan Chandra Borphukan, the Ahom Viceroy of Western Assam, led to an invitation to the Burmese by the latter, in turn leading to three successive Burmese invasions of Assam. The reigning monarch Chandrakanta Singha tried to check the Burmese invaders but he was defeated after fierce resistance. And Ahom occupied Assam was captured by the Burmese.

A reign of terror was unleashed by the Burmese on the Assamese people, who fled to neighbouring kingdoms and British-ruled Bengal. The Burmese reached the East India Company's borders, and the First Anglo-Burmese War ensued in 1824. The war ended under the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, with the Company taking control of Western Assam and installing Purandar Singha as king of Upper Assam in 1833. The arrangement lasted until 1838 and thereafter the British gradually annexed the entire region. Thereafter the court language and medium of instruction in educational institutions of Assam was made Bengali, instead of Assamese. Starting from 1836 until 1873, this imposition of a foreign tongue created greater unemployment among the People of Assam and Assamese literature naturally suffered in its growth.

Initially, Assam was made a part of the Bengal Presidency, then in 1906 it was made 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, were formed in Shillong, the erstwhile capital of the region. The British tea planters imported labour from central India adding to the demographic canvas.

The Assam territory was first separated from Bengal in 1874 as the 'North-East Frontier' non-regulation province, also known as the Assam Chief-Commissionership. It was incorporated into the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905 after the partition of Bengal (1905-1911) and re-established in 1912 as Assam Province.

After a few initially unsuccessful attempts to gain independence for Assam during the 1850s, anti-colonial Assamese joined and actively supported the Indian National Congress against the British from the early 20th century, with Gopinath Bordoloi emerging as the preeminent nationalist leader in the Assam Congress. Bordoloi's major political rival in this time was Sir Saidullah, who was representing the Muslim League, and had the backing of the influential Muslim cleric Maulana Bhasani.

The Assam Postage Circle was established by 1873 under the headship of the Deputy Post Master General.

At the turn of the 20th century, British India consisted of eight provinces that were administered either by a governor or a lieutenant-governor. Assam Province was one among the major eight provinces of British India. The table below shows the major original provinces during British India covering the Assam Province under the Administrative Office of the Chief Commissioner.

With the partition of India in 1947, Assam became a constituent state of India. The Sylhet District of Assam (excluding the Karimganj subdivision) was given up to East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh.

Modern history

See also: Assam separatist movements

The government of India, which has the unilateral powers to change the borders of a state, divided Assam into several states beginning in 1970 within the borders of what was then Assam. In 1963, the Naga Hills district became the 16th state of India under the name of Nagaland. Part of Tuensang was added to Nagaland. In 1970, in response to the demands of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo people of the Meghalaya Plateau, the districts containing the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills were formed into an autonomous state within Assam; in 1972 this became a separate state under the name of Meghalaya. In 1972, Arunachal Pradesh (the North East Frontier Agency) and Mizoram (from the Mizo Hills in the south) were separated from Assam as union territories; both became states in 1986.

Since the restructuring of Assam after independence, communal tensions and violence remain. Separatist groups began forming along ethnic lines, and demands for autonomy and sovereignty grew, resulting in the fragmentation of Assam. In 1961, the government of Assam passed legislation making use of the Assamese language compulsory. It was withdrawn later under pressure from Bengali speaking people in Cachar. In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valley 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 Bangladesh and to provide constitutional, legislative, administrative and cultural safeguards for the indigenous Assamese majority, which they felt was under threat due to the increase of migration from Bangladesh. The agitation ended after an accord (Assam Accord 1985) between its leaders and the Union Government, which remained unimplemented, causing simmering discontent.

The post 1970s experienced the growth of armed separatist groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the 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, ethnically based militant groups have grown. The Panchayati Raj Act has been applied in Assam, after agitation of the communities due to the sluggish rate of development and general apathy of successive state governments towards Indigenous Assamese communities.

Deadly floods hit the state in 2020 and 2022.


Main article: Physical geography of Assam
See also: Tourism in North East India

A significant geographical aspect of Assam is that it contains three of six physiographic divisions of India - The Northern Himalayas (Eastern Hills), The Northern Plains (Brahmaputra plain) and Deccan Plateau (Karbi Anglong). As the Brahmaputra flows in Assam the climate here is cold and there is rainfall most of the month. Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the life-line of Assam, is an antecedent river older than the Himalayas, which has entrenched itself since they started rising. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradesh entering Assam, becomes a braided river (at times 10ámi/16ákm wide) and with tributaries, creates a flood plain (Brahmaputra Valley: 50-60ámi/80-100ákm wide, 600ámi/1000ákm long). The hills of Karbi Anglong, 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 25-30ámiles (40-50ákm) wide valley and enters Bangladesh with the name Surma River.

Urban centres include Guwahati, one of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world. Guwahati is also referred to as the "Gateway to the North-East India". Silchar, (in the Barak valley) is the second most populous city in Assam and an important centre of business. Other large cities include Dibrugarh, an oil and natural gas industry centre,


With the tropical monsoon climate, Assam is temperate (summer max. at 95-100á°F or 35-38á°C and winter min. at 43-46á°F or 6-8á°C) and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity. The climate is characterised by heavy monsoon downpours reducing summer temperatures and affecting foggy nights and mornings in winters, frequent during the afternoons. Spring (March-April) and autumn (September-October) are usually pleasant with moderate rainfall and temperature. Assam's agriculture usually depends on the south-west monsoon rains.


See also: Brahmaputra floods

Every year, flooding from the Brahmaputra and other rivers such as Barak River etc. deluges places in Assam. The water levels of the rivers rise because of rainfall resulting in the rivers overflowing their banks and engulfing nearby areas. Apart from houses and livestock being washed away by flood water, bridges, railway tracks, and roads are also damaged by the calamity, which causes communication breakdown in many places. Fatalities are also caused by the natural disaster in many places of the State.


See also: Biodiversity of Assam

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.

Assam has wildlife sanctuaries, the most prominent of which are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites-the Kaziranga National Park, on the bank of the Brahmaputra River, and the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, near the border with Bhutan. The Kaziranga is a refuge for the fast-disappearing Indian one-horned rhinoceros. The state is the last refuge for numerous other endangered and threatened species including the white-winged wood duck or deohanh, Bengal florican, black-breasted parrotbill, red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, greater adjutant, Jerdon's babbler, rufous-necked hornbill, Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, pygmy hog, gaur, wild water buffalo, Indian hog deer, hoolock gibbon, golden langur, capped langur, barasingha, Ganges river dolphin, Barca snakehead, Ganges shark, Burmese python, brahminy river turtle, black pond turtle, Asian forest tortoise, and Assam roofed turtle. Threatened species that are extinct in Assam include the gharial, a critically endangered fish-eating crocodilian, and the pink-headed duck (which may be extinct worldwide). For the state bird, the white-winged wood duck, Assam is a globally important area. In addition to the above, there are three other National Parks in Assam namely Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Nameri National Park and the Orang National Park.

Assam has conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the pygmy hog, tiger and numerous species of birds, and it provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. Kaziranga and Manas are both World Heritage Sites. The state contains Sal tree forests and forest products, much depleted from earlier times. A land of high rainfall, Assam displays greenery. The Brahmaputra River tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with hydro-geomorphic environment.

The state has the largest population of the wild water buffalo in the world. The state has the highest diversity of birds in India with around 820 species. With subspecies the number is as high as 946. The mammal diversity in the state is around 190 species.


Assam is remarkably rich in Orchid species and the Foxtail orchid is the state flower of Assam. The recently established Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park boasts more than 500 of the estimated 1,314 orchid species found in India.


Assam has 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 399 million barrels (63,400,000ám3) of oil, 1,178ábillion cubic feet (3.34Î1010ám3) of gas and 67 million barrels (10,700,000ám3) of natural gas liquids in the Assam Geologic Province.

The region is prone to natural disasters like annual floods and frequent mild earthquakes. Strong earthquakes were recorded in 1869, 1897, and 1950.


Main articles: Demography of Assam, Assamese people, and People of Assam


The total population of Assam was 26.66ámillion with 4.91ámillion households in 2001. Higher population concentration was recorded in the districts of Kamrup, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Barpeta, Dhubri, Darrang, and Cachar. Assam's population was estimated at 28.67ámillion in 2006 and at 30.57ámillion in 2011 and is expected to reach 34.18á million by 2021 and 35.60ámillion by 2026.

As per the 2011 census, the total population of Assam was 31,169,272. The total population of the state has increased from 26,638,407 to 31,169,272 in the last ten years with a growth rate of 16.93%.

Of the 33 districts, Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants-dominated districts like Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Morigaon, Nagaon, and Hailakandi, recorded growth rates ranging from 20 per cent to 24 per cent during the last decade, Whereas Assamese/Native dominated districts, e.g. Sivasagar and Jorhat, registered around 9 per cent population growth. These districts do not have any international border.

In 2011, the literacy rate in the state was 73.18%. The male literacy rate was 78.81% and the female literacy rate was 67.27%. In 2001, the census had recorded literacy in Assam at 63.3% with male literacy at 71.3% and female at 54.6%. The urbanisation rate was recorded at 12.9%.

The growth of population in Assam has increased since the middle decades of the 20th century. The population grew from 3.29ámillion in 1901 to 6.70ámillion in 1941. It increased to 14.63ámillion in 1971 and 22.41ámillion in 1991. The growth in the Western districts and Southern districts was high primarily due to the influx of large number of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The mistrust and clashes between indigenous Assamese people and Bengali Muslims started as early as 1952, but is rooted in anti Bengali sentiments of the 1940s. At least 77 people died and 400,000 people were displaced in the 2012 Assam violence between indigenous Bodos and Bengali Muslims.

The People of India project has studied 115 of the ethnic groups in Assam. 79 (69%) identify themselves regionally, 22 (19%) locally, and 3 trans-nationally. The earliest settlers were Austroasiatic, Dravidian followed by Tibeto-Burman, Indo-Aryan, and Tai-Kadai people. 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.


See also: Hinduism in Assam, Islam in Assam, Christianity in Assam, and Ahom religion

Although, the region in the eastern periphery of India is landlocked and is linked to the mainland by the narrow Siliguri Corridor (or the Chicken's Neck) improved transport infrastructure in all the three modes - rail, road and air - and developing urban infrastructure in the cities and towns of Assam are giving a boost to the entire industrial scene. The Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Guwahati, with international flights to Bangkok and Singapore offered by Druk Air of Bhutan, was the 12th busiest airport of India in 2012. The cities of Guwahati in the west and Dibrugarh in the east with good rail, road and air connectivity are the two important nerve centres of Assam, to be selected by Asian Development Bank for providing $200ámillion for improvement of urban infrastructure.

Assam is a producer of crude oil and it accounts for about 15% of India's crude output, exploited by the Assam Oil Company Ltd., and natural gas in India and is the second place in the world (after Titusville in the United States) where petroleum was discovered. Asia's first successful mechanically drilled oil well was drilled in Makum way back in 1867. Most of the oilfields are located in the Eastern Assam region. Assam has four oil refineries in Digboi (Asia's first and world's second refinery), Guwahati, Bongaigaon and Numaligarh and with a total capacity of 7ámillion metric tonnes (7.7ámillion short tons) per annum. Asia's first refinery was set up at Digboi and discoverer of Digboi oilfield was the Assam Railways & Trading Company Limited (AR&T Co. Ltd.), a registered company of London in 1881. One of the biggest public sector oil company of the country Oil India Ltd. has its plant and headquarters at Duliajan.

There are several other industries, including a chemical fertiliser plant at Namrup, petrochemical industries in Namrup and Bongaigaon, paper mills at Jagiroad, Hindustan Paper Corporation Ltd. Township Area Panchgram and Jogighopa, sugar mills in Barua Bamun Gaon, Chargola, Kampur, cement plants in Bokajan and Badarpur, and a cosmetics plant of Hindustan Unilever (HUL) at Doom Dooma. Moreover, there are other industries such as jute mill, textile and yarn mills, Assam silk, and silk mills. Many of these industries are facing losses and closure due to lack of infrastructure and improper management practices.


Main article: Tourism in Assam
See also: Tourism in North East India

Wildlife, cultural, and historical destinations have attracted visitors.


Main article: Culture of Assam
See also: Assamese cinema

Assamese Culture is traditionally a hybrid one developed due to assimilation of ethno-cultural groups of Austric, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Tai origin in the past. Therefore, both local elements or the local elements in Sanskritised forms are distinctly found. The major milestones in the evolution of Assamese culture are: The modern culture has been influenced by events in the British and the post-British era. The language was standardised by American Baptist Missionaries such as Nathan Brown, Dr. Miles Bronson and local pundits such as Hemchandra Barua with the form available in the Sibsagar (Sivasagar) District (the ex-nerve centre of the Ahom Kingdom).

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. Many source-cultures of the Assamese cultural-system are still surviving either as sub-systems or as sister entities, e.g. the; Bodo or Karbi or Mishing. It is important to keep the broader system closer to its roots and at the same time 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 (gamosa, arnai, etc.), traditional silk garments (e.g. mekhela chador, traditional dress of Assamese women) and towards forefathers and elderly. Moreover, great hospitality and bamboo culture are common.


See also: List of Assam state symbols and Jaapi

Symbolism is an ancient cultural practice in Assam and is still a very important part of the Assamese way of life. Various elements are 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 Austric 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, and flying-lion were used for symbolising various purposes and occasions. The archaeological sites such as the Madan Kamdev (c. 9th-10th centuries CE) 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 the late medieval period display the use of lions and dragons for symbolic effects.

Festivals and traditions

Main article: List of festivals in Assam
See also: Domahi, Bohag Bihu, Magh Bihu, and Bwisagu

There are diversified important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam. It is the Assamese new year celebrated in April of the Gregorian calendar. Christmas is observed with great merriment by Christians of various denominations, including Catholics and Protestants, throughout Assam. Durga Puja, a festival introduced and popularised by Bengalis, is widely celebrated across the state. Muslims celebrate two Eids (Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha) with much eagerness all over Assam.

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.

Bwisagu is one of the popular seasonal festivals of the Bodos. Bwisagu start of the new year or age. Baisagu is a Boro word which originated from the word "Baisa" which means year or age, and "Agu" that means starting or start.

Beshoma is a festival of Deshi people. It is a celebration of sowing crop. The Beshoma starts on the last day of Chaitra and goes on until the sixth of Baisakh. With varying locations it is also called Bishma or Chait-Boishne.

Bushu Dima or simply Bushu is a major harvest festival of the Dimasa people. This festival is celebrated during the end of January. Officially 27 January has been declared as the day of Bushu Dima festival. The Dimasa people celebrate their festival by playing musical instruments- khram (a type of drum), muri (a kind of huge long flute). The people dances to the different tunes called "murithai" and each dance has got its name, the prominent being the "Baidima" There are three types of Bushu celebrated among the Dimasas Jidap, Surem and Hangsou.

Chavang Kut is a post harvesting festival of the Kuki people. The festival is celebrated on the first day of November every year. Hence, this particular day has been officially declared as a Restricted Holiday by the Assam government. In the past, the celebration was primarily important in the religio-cultural sense. The rhythmic movements of the dances in the festival were inspired by animals, agricultural techniques and showed their relationship with ecology. Today, the celebration witnesses the shifting of stages and is revamped to suit new contexts and interpretations. The traditional dances which form the core of the festival is now performed in out-of-village settings and are staged in a secular public sphere. In Assam, the Kukis mainly reside in the two autonomous districts of Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong.

Moreover, there are other important traditional festivals being celebrated every year on different occasions at different places. Many of these are celebrated by different ethno-cultural groups (sub and sister cultures). Some of these are: Other few yearly celebrations are Doul Utsav of Barpeta, Brahmaputra Beach Festival, Guwahati, Kaziranga Elephant Festival, Kaziranga and Dehing Patkai Festival, Lekhapani, Karbi Youth Festival of Diphu and International Jatinga Festival, Jatinga can not be forgotten. Few yearly Mela's like Jonbeel Mela, began in the 15th century by the Ahom Kings, Ambubachi Mela, Guwahati etc.

Lachit Divas' is celebrated to promote the ideals of Lachit Borphukan - the legendary general of Assam's history. Sarbananda Sonowal, the chief minister of Assam took part in the Lachit Divas celebration at the statue of Lachit Borphukan at Brahmaputra riverfront on 24 November 2017. He said, the first countrywide celebration of 'Lachit Divas' would take place in New Delhi followed by state capitals such as Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata in a phased manner.

Music, dance, and drama

See also: Music of Assam, Folk dances of Assam, and Mobile theatre in Assam

Performing arts include: Ankia Naat (Onkeeya Naat), a traditional Vaishnav dance-drama (Bhaona) popular since the 15th century CE. It makes use of large masks of gods, goddesses, demons and animals and in between the plays a Sutradhar (Xutrodhar) continues to narrate the story.

Besides Bihu dance and Huchory performed during the Bohag Bihu, dance forms of tribal minorities such as; Kushan nritra of Rajbongshi's, Bagurumba and Bordoicikhla dance of Bodos, Mishing Bihu, Banjar Kekan performed during Chomangkan by Karbis, Jhumair of Tea-garden community are some of the major folk dances. Sattriya (Sotriya) 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, Deodhani Nritya, Ojapali, Beula Dance, Ka Shad Inglong Kardom, Nimso Kerung, etc. The tradition of modern moving theatres is typical of Assam with immense popularity of many Mobile theatre groups such as Kohinoor, Sankardev, Abahan, Bhagyadevi, Hengul, Brindabon, Itihas etc.

The indigenous folk music has influenced the growth of a modern idiom, that finds expression in the music of artists like Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Bishnuprasad Rabha, Parvati Prasad Baruwa, Bhupen Hazarika, Pratima Barua Pandey, Anima Choudhury, Luit Konwar Rudra Baruah, Jayanta Hazarika, Khagen Mahanta, Dipali Barthakur, Ganashilpi Dilip Sarma, Sudakshina Sarma among many others. Among the new generation, Zubeen Garg, Jitul Sonowal, Angaraag Mahanta and Joi Barua. There is an award given in the honour of Bishnu Prasad Rabha for achievements in the cultural/music world of Assam by the state government.


Main article: Assamese cuisine

Typically, an Assamese meal consists of many things such as bhat (rice) with dayl/ daly (lentils), masor jool (fish stew), mangx˘ (meat stew) and stir fried greens or herbs and vegetables.

The two main characteristics of a traditional meal in Assam are khar (an Alkali, named after its main ingredient) and tenga (Preparations bearing a characteristically rich and tangy flavour). Khorika is the smoked or fire grilled meat eaten with meals. Commonly consumed varieties of meat include Mutton, fowl, duck/goose, fish, pigeon, pork and beef (among Muslim and Christian indigenous Assamese ethnic groups). Grasshoppers, locusts, silkworms, snails, eels, wild fowl, squab and other birds, venison are also eaten, albeit in moderation.

Khorisa (fermented bamboo shoots) are used at times to flavour curries while they can also be preserved and made into pickles. Koldil (banana flower) and squash are also used in popular culinary preparations.

A variety of different rice cultivars are grown and consumed in different ways, viz., roasted, ground, boiled or just soaked.

Fish curries made of free range wild fish as well as B˘ralÝ, r˘u, illish, or sit˘l are the most popular.

Another favourite combination is luchi (fried flatbread), a curry which can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

Many indigenous Assamese communities households still continue to brew their traditional alcoholic beverages; examples include: Laupani, Xaaj, Paniyo, Jou, Joumai, Hor, Apang, etc. Such beverages are served during traditional festivities. Declining them is considered socially offensive.

The food is often served in bell metal dishes and platters like Kanhi, Maihang and so on.


Main article: Assamese literature

Assamese literature dates back to the composition of Charyapada, and later on works like Saptakanda Ramayana by Madhava Kandali, which is the first translation of the Ramayana into an Indo-Aryan language, contributed to Assamese literature. Sankardeva's Borgeet, Ankia Naat, Bhaona and Satra tradition backed the 15th-16th century Assamese literature. Written during the Reign of Ahoms, the Buranjis are notable literary works which are prominently historical manuscripts. Most literary works are written in Assamese although other local language such as Bodo and Dimasa are also represented. In the 19th and 20th century, Assamese and other literature was modernised by authors including Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Birinchi Kumar Barua, Hem Barua, Dr. Mamoni Raisom Goswami, Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, Hiren Bhattacharyya, Homen Borgohain, Bhabananda Deka, Rebati Mohan Dutta Choudhury, Mahim Bora, Lil Bahadur Chettri, Syed Abdul Malik, Surendranath Medhi, Hiren Gohain etc.

Fine arts

Main article: Painting of Assam

The archaic Mauryan Stupas discovered in and around Goalpara district are the earliest examples (c. 300áBCE to c. 100áCE) 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 artwork in ancient Assam with influence of Sarnath School of Art of the late Gupta period.

Painting is an ancient tradition of Assam. Xuanzang (7th centuryáCE) 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.

Traditional crafts

Main articles: Traditional crafts of Assam and Bell and brass metal crafts of Assam
See also: Assam silk

Assam has a rich tradition of crafts, 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, and musical instruments making have remained as major traditions.

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 Sorai and Bota made from bell metal and brass are found in every Assamese household. Hajo and Sarthebari (Sorthebaary) 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 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 western Assam districts and wood craft, iron craft, jewellery, etc. in many places across the region.


Print media include Assamese dailies Amar Asom, Asomiya Khabar, Asomiya Pratidin, Dainik Agradoot, Dainik Janambhumi, Dainik Asam, Gana Adhikar, Janasadharan and Niyomiya Barta. Asom Bani, Sadin and Janambhumi are Assamese weekly newspapers. The English dailies of Assam include The Assam Tribune, The Sentinel, The Telegraph, The Times of India, The North East Times, Eastern Chronicle and The Hills Times. Thekar, in the Karbi language has the largest circulation of any daily from Karbi Anglong district. Bodosa has the highest circulation of any Bodo daily from BTR. Dainik Jugasankha is a Bengali daily with editions from Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Silchar and Kolkata. Dainik Samayik Prasanga, Dainik Prantojyoti, Dainik Janakantha and Nababarta Prasanga are other prominent Bengali dailies published in the Barak Valley towns of Karimganj and Silchar. Hindi dailies include Purvanchal Prahari, Pratah Khabar and Dainik Purvoday.

Broadcasting stations of All India Radio have been established in 22 cities across the state. Local news and music are the main priority for those stations. Assam has three public service broadcasting service stations of state-owned Doordarshan at Dibrugarh, Guwahati and Silchar. The Guwahati-based satellite news channels include Assam Talks, DY 365, News Live, News18 Assam-North East, North East Live, Prag News and Pratidin Time.

With the internet users, social media based news sites have become popular. Notable among them are North East Today, G Plus, Northeast Now, Time8 etc.

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