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|Area||78,438 sq. km|
History and Geography
The word ‘Assam’ as interpreted by some scholars is derived from the Sanskrit word Asoma meaning peerless or unparalleled. But the widely accepted opinion of the academic circles today is that the term has come from the original name of the Ahoms, who ruled the land for about six hundred years prior to its annexation by the British. The races like Austric, Mongolian, Dravidian and Aryan that came to this land long-long ago have contributed to its composite culture. Thus, Assam has a rich legacy of culture and civilization.
Kaziranga National Park
Assam was known as Pragjyotisha or the place of eastern astronomy during the epic period and later named as Kamrupa. The earliest epigraphic reference to the kingdom of Kamrupa is found in the Allahabad pillar inscription of king Samudragupta. Kamrupa is mentioned as a Pratyanta or frontier state outside the Gupta empire but with friendly and subordinate relation to it Hiuen Sang, the Chinese scholar pilgrim who visited Kamrupa in about 743 A.D. on an invitation of its monarch, Kumar Bhaskar Varman, left a record of the kingdom he called Kamolupa. Kamrupa also figured in the writings of the Arabian historian Alberuni in the eleventh century. Thus, from the epic period down to the twelfth century A.D., the eastern frontier kingdom was known as Pragjyotisha and Kamrupa and kings called themselves ‘Lords of Pragjyotisha’.
The advent of the Ahoms across the eastern hills in 1228 A.D. was the turning point in Assam history. They ruled Assam nearly for six centuries. The Burmese entered through the eastern borders and overran the territory at a time when court intrigues and dissensions were sapping the vitality of the Ahom royalty. It became a British protectorate in 1826 when the Burmese ceded Assam to the British under the provision of the Treaty of Yandabo.
Assam is the sentinel of north-east India and gateway to the North-Eastern States. The State is close to India’s international borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan. Assam is surrounded by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh on the north, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh on the east and Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram on the south.
Assam is an agricultural State. Agriculture occupies an important place in the economy of the State. The principal food crop is rice. The cash crops are jute, tea, cotton, oilseeds, sugarcane, potato, etc. Noteworthy horticulture items are orange, banana, pineapple, arecanut, coconut, guava, mango, jackfruit and citrus fruits. The State has an estimated 39.44 lakh hectares gross cropped area, of which net area sown is about 27.01 lakh hectares.
Assam is known for her rich forest wealth which constituted 22.21 per cent of the total forest area.
The State has five National Parks and eleven wildlife sanctuaries. The Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Tiger Project (National Park) are internationally famous for one horned Rhino and Royal Bengal Tiger respectively.
Of agriculture-based industries, tea occupies an important place. There are six industrial growth Centres in the State. A CIPET has been established at Amingaon near Guwahati. Assam has always enjoyed the highest reputation for her arts and crafts associated with her cottage industries. Cottage industries include handloom, sericulture, cane and bamboo articles, carpentry, brass and bell-metal crafts. Assam produces varieties of silk, Endi, Muga, Tassar, etc. Muga silk is produced only in Assam in the world.
Irrigation and Power
The major power stations are Chandrapur Thermal Project, Namrup Thermal Project and a few Mobile Gas Turbine Units along with a mini hydro-electric project. Revitalising the Thermal Power Station of Bongaigaon and completing the Karbi-Langpi Project will boost the power supply in the State. Approval has been received for Tipaimukh Dam Project.
Roads: The total length of roads in the State was 37,515 km which includes 2,754 kms of National Highways. The construction of 160 km of barbed wire fencing and 27 kms of the border road along the Indo-Bangladesh International have been completed.
Railways: The length of railway tract in Assam is 2,284.28 kms comprising 1,227.16 kms under broad-gauge and 1,057.12 km under meter-gauge lines.
Aviation: The regular civil air services operate from Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi Airport (Guwahati), Salonibari (Tezpur), Mohanbari (Dibrugarh), Kumbhirgram (Silchar), Rawriah (Jorhat) and Silonibari (North Lakhimpur).
Assam has an exclusive range of colourful festivals. Bihu is the chief festival celebrated on the three occasions. Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu marks the advent of the cropping season and it also ushers in the Assamese New Year. Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu is the harvest festival and Kati Bihu or Kongali Bihu coming in autumn is a simple affair.
Religion accounts for a large variety of festivals. Vaishnavites observe birth and death anniversaries of prominent Vaishnava saints through day-long singing of hymns and staging of Bhaonas (theatrical performances in traditional style). Ambubachi in Kamakhya shrine, Sivaratri Mela at Umananda and other places near Siva temples, Durga Puja, Diwali, Dol-Jatra, Id, Christmas, Ashokastami Mela, Rash Mela, Parasuram Mela are other religious festivals.
Important places of tourism in and around Guwahati are Kamakhya temple, Umananda (Peacock Island), Navagraha (temple of nine planets), Basistha Ashram, Dolgobinda, Gandhi Mandap, State Zoo, State Museum, Sukreswar temple, Gita Mandir, Madan Kamdev temple, a magnificent archaeological place of interest, and Saraighat bridge.
Other places of tourist interest in the State are: Kaziranga National Park (famous for one horned rhino), Manas Tiger Project, Pobi-tora and Orang (wildlife sanctuaries), Sibsagar (Shiv Temple-Rangghar-Karengghar), Tezpur (Bhairavi temple and scenic beauty), Bhalukpung (Angling), Haflong (health resort with Jatinga hills), Majuli (largest river island in the world), Chandubi lake (picnic spot), Hajo (meeting point of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam), Batadrava (birth place of great Vaishnava saint Sankaradeva) and Sualkuchi (famous for silk industry).