Knowledge Corner

Assam is a state in northeastern India. Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley along with the Karbi Anglong andDima Hasao districts with an area of 30,285 sq mi (78,440 km2). Assam, along with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim and Meghalaya, is one of the Eight Sister States. Geographically, Assam and these states are connected to the rest of India via a 22 kilometres (14 mi) strip of land in West Bengal called the Siliguri Corridor or “Chicken’s Neck”. Assam shares an international border with Bhutan and Bangladesh; and its culture, people and climate are similar to those of South-East Asia – comprising the elements in India’s Look East policy. Assam became a part of British India after the British East India Company occupied the region following the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824–1826.

Assam is known for Assam tea and Assam silk. The first oil well in Asia was drilled here. The state has conserved the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the wild water buffalo, pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds. It provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. The Assamese economy is aided by wildlife tourism, centred around Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park which are World Heritage Sites. Sal tree forests are found in the state which, as a result of abundant rainfall, looks green all year round. Assam receives more rainfall compared to most parts of India. This rain feeds theBrahmaputra River, whose tributaries and oxbow lakes provide the region with a hydro-geomorphic and aesthetic environment .


The precise etymology of “Assam” came from Ahom Dynasty. 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. In medieval times the Mughals used Asham (eastern Assam) and Kamrup (western Assam), and during British colonialism, the English used Assam. Though many authors have associated the name with the 13th century Shan invaders the precise origin of the name is not clear. It was suggested by some that the Sanskrit word Asama (“unequalled”, “peerless”, etc.) was the root, which has been rejected by Kakati, and more recent authors have concurred that it is a latter-day Sanskritization of a native name. Among possible origins are Tai (A-Cham) and Bodo (Ha-Sam).


Further information: Danava dynasty, Naraka dynasty, and Indo-Aryan migration to Assam. Assam and adjoining regions have evidences of human settlements from all the periods of the Stone ages. The hills at the height of 1,500–2,000 feet (460 to 615 m) were popular habitats probably due to availability of exposed dolerite basalt, useful for tool-making.


According to a late text, Kalika Purana (c. 9th–10th century AD), the earliest ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danav of the Danava dynasty, which was removed byNaraka of Mithila who established the Naraka 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.


 Samudragupta’s 4th century Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Kamarupa (Western Assam) 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.

Ruled by three dynasties Varmanas (c. 350–650 CE), Mlechchha dynasty (c.655–900 CE) and Kamarupa-Palas (c. 900–1100 CE), from their capitals in present-dayGuwahati (Pragjyotishpura), Tezpur (Haruppeswara) and North Gauhati (Durjaya) respectively. Country was 10,000 li (6000 km) in circuit and capital city Pragjyotishpura was about 30 li (18 km). All three dynasties claimed their descent from Narakasura, an immigrant from Aryavarta.

In the reign of the Varman king, Bhaskar Varman (c. 600–650 AD), the Chinese traveller Xuanzang 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.


 Three later dynasties, the Ahoms, the Sutiya and the Koch. The Ahoms, a Tai group, ruled Upper Assam for nearly 600 years (1228–1826 AD) while the Sutiya rulers (1187 -1673 AD) held the regions on the north bank of Brahmaputra with its domain from Vishwanath in the west to Parshuram Kund in the east in Upper Assamand in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. 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. the 13th century AD, the nerve centre of Ahom polity was upper Assam; the kingdom was gradually extended till Karatoya River in the c. 17th or 18th century. It was at its zenith during the reign of Sukhrungpha or Sworgodeu Rudra Simha (c. 1696–1714 AD). Among other dynasty, the Kacharis (13th century-1854 AD) ruled from Dikhow River to central and southern Assam and had their capital at Dimapur. The rivalry between the Sutiyas and Ahoms for the supremacy of eastern Assam led to a series of battles between them from the early 16th century till the start of the 17th century, which saw great loss of men and money. With expansion of Ahom kingdom, by the early 17th century, the Sutiya areas were annexed and since c. 1536 AD Kacharis remained only in Cachar and North Cacharmore 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. Though the Mughals made seventeen attempts to invade, they were never successful. The most successful invader Mir Jumla, a governor of Aurangzeb, briefly occupiedGarhgaon (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) had almost ended Mughal ambitions in this region. Mughals were finally expelled from Lower Assam during the reign of Gadadhar Singha in 1682 AD.

Modern history

The government of India, which has the unilateral powers to change the borders of a state, divided Assam into several states since 1970 to satisfy national aspirations of the tribal populations living within the then borders of 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 tribal peoples of the Meghalaya Plateau, the districts embracing the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills were formed into an autonomous state within Assam; in 1972 it 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 there. Separatist groups began forming along ethnic lines, and demands for autonomy and sovereignty grew, resulting in fragmentation of Assam. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed a legislation making use of the Assamese language compulsory. It was withdrawn laterunder 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 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 have grown. Regional autonomy has been ensured for Bodo-Kachari community in Bodoland Territorial Council Areas (BTC), for the Karbis in Karbi Anglong and for the people of Dima Hasao district under the 6th schedule and Autonomous District Councils (ADC) areas under Indian constitution, while Non-6th Schedule States in the North-East where under 73rd and 74th amendments (Panchayati Raj Institutions) have been applied in Assam (excluding Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council and North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council), after agitation of the communities due to sluggish rate of development and general apathy of successive state governments towards indigenous communities.


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. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradesh 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 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 25–30 miles (40–50 km) 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 the gateway to the North-East India. Silchar, (in the Barak valley) the 2nd most populous city in Assam and an important centre of business, education and tourism. Other large cities include Dibrugarh, a oil, natural gas, tea and tourism industry and Jorhat.


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

As per 2011 census, 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%.

Skill Test

1. Which is the highest point in Assam?
2. Name the country lying in the west of Assam?
3. In which year was Mizoram separated from Assam?
4. Name the district that was given to Pakistan in the year 1947 from Assam
5. Which is the state bird of Assam?
6. What is the number of districts in the state of Assam?
7. Name the capital of Assam
8. How many parliamentary constituencies are present in the state?
9. Which district of Assam was named as the tobacco free district of Assam?
10. How was the Assam formerly known as?
11. State Animal of Assam
12. What is the total area of the state?
13. Name the state that was separated from the state of Assam in the year 1963.
14. Which state lies to the north of Assam?
15. Apart from the Assamese what is the second official language of the state?