Assam

Understand

Assam has been a world leader in the production of tea for more than one hundred years and currently produces around 25 percent of the world's tea. Traditionally it is a producer of high quality silk, locally called paat bred on mulberry leaves, and the only place in the world where all four major silk types are cultivated, the others being the golden silk Muga unique to Assam , the Ahimsa silk Eri bred on castor leaves, and tassar.

It has the highest reserves of oil and natural gas after Bombay High and Gujarat. Along with neighbouring Arunachal, it has the richest biodiversity in India.

A paradise for nature lovers

Assam and surrounding regions have to be a paradise for the nature lovers and researchers. The region's uniqe natural settings, hydro-geomorphic environment and biodiversity have no parallel in Asia. Within a eighty to hundred kilometres of journey by land, one can travel from a flat flood plain with tropical rainforests and wet paddy fields to mountainous regions of Alpine-Himalayan climatic conditions at very high altitude. Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the life-line of Assam is a paleo-river; older than the Himalayas. The river with steep gorges and rapids in Arunachal Pradesh entering Assam, becomes a braided river at times 16 km wide and with tributaries, creates a flood plain Brahmaputra Valley: 80-100 km wide, 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 40-50km wide valley and confluences with the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh.

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 Kaziranga, home of the rare Rhinoceros, and Manas are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Assam. Pabitora has the highest density of rhinos. The reserve forests of Joypur, Upper Dihing and Dirak are a stretch of pristine rainforests. The region is the last refuge for numerous other endangered species such as Golden Langur or Honali Bandor Trachypithecus geei, White-winged Wood Duck or Deohanh Cairina scutulata, Bengal Florican or Ulumora, Black-breasted Parrotbill, Pygmy Hog or Nolgahori, Greater Adjutant or Hargila, Hispid Hare or Khagorikota, Slow Loris or Lajuki Bandor, Swamp Francolin or Koira 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 more well known being the foxtail or kopou and blue vanda or bhatou.

Cultural heritage

Assam is also a region, which can be termed as a crucible of cultures. It is a true meeting place of South Asian and South East Asian cultures, where the principal language Assamese Oxomeeya exhibits hybridity between Indo-Iranian, Tibeto-Burman and Tai-Kadai group of languages. Apart from the hybrid Assamese population, there are several distinct ethno-cultural groups such as Bodo, Karbi, Mishing, Dimasa, Tiwa, Rabha, Hasong, Taiphake, Taikhamti, Taiaiton, Singphow, Bru, Garo, etc with distinct languages, dialects, food habits, architecture and settlement pattern, textile design, dance, music, musical instruments, beliefs, etc.

State of tourism

It is important to understand that in the past 60 years, the Government of India's restrictions on the foreigners in the region such as the Restricted Area Permit System RAP - finally abolished in Assam and neighbouring Meghalaya in the 1990s, acted as major hindrances for the foreign tourists and foreign interest groups to legally enter in to Assam and gradually pushed Assam in to isolation from the world. Assam today is a terra-incognito to the new generations in the developed world; while the old generation British, other Europeans, Americans and Japanese still remember 'Assam' whatever may be the cause varying from colonial administration, to tea and oil industry or to WWII. For past 60 years, tourism promotion and development was a neglected subject. At the same time during the same time period, negligible numbers of Assamese have come out from Assam to other places; Assamese have been happy inside Assam, inside their native places and inside their houses, which offcourse recently has seen a sea-change with thousands of students and skilled labourers coming out to different cities in India. Therefore, as a not well-known place, Assam has long way to go to establish herself as a foremost tourist destination. However, Assam possesses everything that is required for developing herself as a leader of travel and tourism in the world and most importantly Assamese are one of the most hospitable people.

Climate and disasters

With the “Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate”, Assam is temperate Summer max. at 35-38 and winter min. at 6-8 degrees Celsius and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity. However, temperature is much lesser in the hilly areas in the Central Assam. 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.

The region is prone to natural disasters with annual floods in specific areas and frequent mild earthquakes. Floods usually occur during monsoon mid June till late August and many a times can create trouble by destroying roads and railway linkages at places. Strong earthquakes are rare; three of these were recorded in 1869, 1897 8.1 on the Richter scale; and in 1950 8.6.

History and archaeology

Leaving Manipur and Tripura, rest of these states are carved out from Assam during 1960s and 70s and Sylhet, a district of Assam was annexed with Bangladesh during partition of British India 1947.

Assam was known as the Kingdom of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa during the first millenium AD and was broken into smaller states during the beginning of the second millenium; however, later, after 13th century for next six hundred years the region again transformed into a united sovereign country as the Kingdom of Assam under the later dynasties such as the Ahoms and Koches. Despite being an archaeologically and historically rich region, Assam is still a terra-incognito to the world.

Assam is also rich in history and archaeology. In the ancient times, the Kingdom of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa under at least three successive dynasties for more than 700 years and in the medieval periods the Kingdom of Assam under the Ahoms for 600 years were strong and sovereign kingdoms; no western powers including the great Mughals could invade and occupy the region till the British had come. Apart from several failed attempts by the north Indian kingdoms in the ancient times, the Mughals attempted invading Assam for 17 times, where only once they could get little success in occupying and controlling a major portion only for a small period of two years. Mughals were defeated and completely thrown out from the Brahmaputra Valley in the 17th century. However, Mughals had maintained control on the western territories now North Bengal of the Koch Kingdom and in some parts of the Jayantiya Kingdom a tributary ruler under the Ahoms - now in Bangladesh. Due to richness and self-sustained nature of the kingdoms in Assam, the rulers hardly attempted any outward aggression leaving only few instances. During the rule of Barman Dynasty of Kamarupa the king Bhaskarvarman occupied the then Gauda later Bengal along with its capital city Karnasuvarna in the 7th century; then a major portion of present eastern Bangladesh was a natural part of Kamarupa. In the 17th century, a plan for reoccupying the lost land of the ancient Kamarupa kingdom and destroying the Nawab of Gauda by the Ahom king Rudra Simha was thwarted after the king's sudden death during his organisation of a large amry of 4 hundred thousand in Guwahati. With such a historic background, Assam possesses hundreds of historic and archaeological sites, where extensive research opportunities and tourism potentials are still left.