Lower Assam

Summary

Lower Assam (also Western Assam, Pragjyotish, Kamrup) is a region situated in Western Brahmaputra Valley encompassing undivided Kamrup and Goalpara regions. Soon after the formal creation of the British districts in 1833, Lower Assam denoted one of the five initial districts that were created west of the Dhansiri river,[1] which, along with the six paraganas, became a single district of Kamrup in 1836.[2] It was home to the kingdom of Kamarupa (3–12 AD), ruled by Varman's and Pala's from their capital's Pragjyotishpura (Guwahati) and Durjaya (North Gauhati). Today Guwahati is the largest city of North-East India while Dispur, the capital of Assam, is within the town.

Lower Assam
Western Assam, Pragjyotish, Kamrup
Coat of arms of Lower Assam
CountryIndia
CapitalPragjyotishpura and Durjaya (Ancient)
Population
 (2011)
 • Total11,253,550
Time zoneUTC+5.30 (UTC+05:30 (IST))
Evening View of Bongaigaon
Aerial View of Guwahati

EtymologyEdit

The 4th century Prayag stone inscription referred it as Kamarupa (Western Assam), along with Davaka (central Assam).[3] Medieval Muslim invaders continue to refer the region as Kamrup. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the region became part of the Lower Assam Division, along with Darrang, Nagaon, Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The modern Western Assam and North Bengal, historically Kamrup,[4] is referred to as Western Assam from colonial times and later.

HistoryEdit

 

First historical mention of region was found in Arthashastra of Kautilya in 400 B.C., where he mentioned about flourishing trade between Maurya Empire and Kamarupa.[5][6] The 4th century Prayag stone inscription mentioned Kamarupa (Western Assam) and Davaka (central Assam).[3] as frontier kingdoms. Region served as capital of ancient Kamrup kingdom till its end,[7] centered around modern Kamrup region. Easternmost parts of the region (modern Kamrup) briefly became parts of Koch kingdom, Mughal empire and Ahom kingdom,[8] until annexation of Eastern Assam by Burmese empire. With British occupation in the nineteenth century, the Goalpara region became part of Colonial Assam, while western Kamrup (North Bengal) was merged with Bengal.

Varman DynastyEdit

 
inscription of Bhaskar Varman

Pushya Varman (350–374), named after Shunga king Pushyamitra Shunga, became the first ruler of Kamrup as founder ruler of Varman Dynasty from Poundravardhana. His son Samudra Varman (374–398), named after Samudragupta, was accepted as an overlord by many local rulers. Narayana Varman (494–518) and his son Bhuti Varman (518–542) offered the Ashwamedha; and as the Nidhanpur inscription of Bhaskar Varman avers, these expansions included the region of Chandrapuri Visaya, identified with present-day Sylhet division. Thus, the small but powerful kingdom that Pushya Varman established grew in fits and starts over many generations of kings and expanded to include adjoining possibly smaller kingdoms and parts of Bangladesh covering most part of Eastern India, much larger area than modern Kamrup from which it initially begins.

After the initial expansion till the beginning of Bhuti Varman's reign, the kingdom came under attack from Yasodharman (525–535) of Malwa, the first major assault from the west. Though it is unclear what the effect of this invasion was on the kingdom; that Bhuti Varman's grandson, Sthita Varman (566–590), enjoyed victories over the Gauda of Karnasuvarna and performed two aswamedha ceremonies suggests that the Kamarupa kingdom had recovered nearly in full. His son, Susthitavarman (590–600) came under the attack of Mahasenagupta of East Malwa. These back and forth invasions were a result of a system of alliances that pitted the Kamarupa kings (allied to the Maukharis) against the Gaur kings (allied with the East Malwa kings). Susthita Varman died as the Gaur invasion was on, and his two sons, Supratisthitavarman and Bhaskar Varman fought against an elephant force and were captured and taken to Gaur. They were able to regain their kingdom. Suprathisthita Varman's reign is given as 595–600, a very short period, at the end of which he died without an heir.

Supratisthita Varman was succeeded by his brother, Bhaskar Varman (600–650), the most illustrious of the Varman kings who succeeded in turning his kingdom and invading the very kingdom that had taken him captive. Bhaskar Varman had become strong enough to offer his alliance with Harshavardhan just as the Thanesar king ascended the throne in 606 after the murder of his brother, the previous king, by Shashanka of Gaur. Harshavardhana finally took control over the kingless Maukhari kingdom and moved his capital to Kanauj. The alliance between Harshavardhana and Bhaskar Varman squeezed Shashanka from either side and reduced his kingdom, making Shasanka escaping to hills further south near modern Bengal-Odisha border. This decisive victory leads to takeover of most of Gauda kingdom by Bhaskar Varman. He issued the Nidhanpur copper-plate inscription from his victory camp in the Gaur capital Karnasuvarna to replace a grant issued earlier by Bhuti Varman for a settlement in the Sylhet region of present-day Bangladesh.

In about 643, Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) visited Bhaskar Varman's court and recorded details of his kingdom. Xuanzang mentioned the western border of the Kamarupa kingdom was the Karatoya river and eastern boundary as Dikkaravasini (Sadiya). At the end of this visit, Bhaskar Varman accompanied Xuanzang to Kanauj, and participated in a religious assembly and a festival at Prayaga with Harshavardhana, spending more than a year away from his own kingdom. Assembly was participated by eighteen vassal kings, while Bhaskar Varman impersonated as "Brahma", Harsha kept himself the subordinate position of "Indra". It seems Bhaskar Varman maintained relations with China. He recounted to Xuanzang a Chinese song about the Jin dynasty which became very popular in his kingdom. In 648 A.D after the death of Harshavardhana, Wang-Hiuen-ts'oe was sent on a mission to India with Tsiang Cheu-jenn as his second in command was helped by Bhaskar Varman, according to a Chinese account. Bhaskar Varman, also called Kumar, or Shri Kumar, was a bachelor king and died without an heir.

Pala DynastyEdit

 
9th–10th century Madan Kamdev representing powerful Palas

Brahma Pala (900–920), was founder Pala Dynasty (900–1100 A.D) of Kamarupa from Varendra. Dynasty ruled from its capital Durjaya, modern-day North Guwahati. The greatest of the Pala kings, Dharma Pala had his capital at Kamarupa Nagara, now identified with North Guwahati. Ratna Pala was another notable sovereign of this line. Records of his land-grants have been found at Bargaon and Sualkuchi, while a similar relic of Indra Pala, has been discovered at Guwahati. Pala dynasty come to end with Jaya Pala (1075–1100).[9]

PeopleEdit

DemographyEdit

According to 2011 census, Western Assam has total population of 11,253,550; out of which urban population accounting to 1,959,707 while rural population is 9,293,843.

Ethnic divisionEdit

The ethnic composition of the region is diverse. Aryan group composed of Kamrupi and Goalpariya people are in majority. It has considerable number of tribal population consisting Bodo, Rabha and Koch in the north, south and southwest.

CultureEdit

Villages still contained the traditional Vedic culture, while in case of towns and cities it relaxed a bit. Western Assamese culture largely flourished in the reign of Pushyavarman (350-374), the founder of great Varman dynasty of Kamrup Kingdom which reached its zenith in the reign of Bhaskaravarman (600–650). Scholars believe Kamrupi culture had a distinctive mark in every sphere, whether it be science or literature. Astronomy is a Kamrupi science. Daka, the great Kamrupi poet flourished undoubtedly during the ancient period.[10]

FestivalsEdit

Manasa Puja,[11] Basanti Puja, Durga Puja, Kali Puja and other Pujas; Diwali, Holi, Janmastami, Shivratri to name a few, are major festivals of the region. Muslims celebrate Eid.

There is hardly any dance and music of the Bihu type so common in Eastern Assam, but a special spring time festival of this region is a fair usually held in the first week of Baihag or third week of April.[11][12] It is known as "Bhatheli" in northern Kamrup, "Sori" or "Suanri" in southern Kamrup. In certain areas the breakers of the "bhatheli-ghar" come from another village, resulting in a sort of mock fight between them and the local youth. In the southern part of Kamrup, where the festival is known as Sori, planting of tall bamboos is not seen, but bamboo posts,with the tuft at the top. People bow before the bamboos in northern Kamrup and they also touch them with reverence, but it does not look like any sort of bamboo worship.[13] The common popular term to designate the three festivals corresponding to Bihu of Eastern Assam, in Western Assam, except in West Goalpara, is "Domahi", e.g., "Baihagar Domahi", "Maghar Domahi" and "Katir Domahi".[14][15]

ReligionEdit

Hinduism and Islam are major religions of the region. Hinduism is further divided into Vaishnavism and Shaktism. Hindu way of life can be observed in dressing, food and lifestyle, an important aspect of cultural identity for people of the region.

Hindu kingdoms as political identities made a long-lasting impact on region defining the way of the life. In the early part of second millennium, Islam arrived in the region with Turkish and Afghan invaders.

LanguagesEdit

Indo-Aryan languages are predominant in the region, Kamrupi and Goalpariya languages are spoken in Kamrup[16] and Goalpara regions and acts as lingua franca among various tribal groups. Bodo, a Sino-Tibetan language, is spoken in Bodoland Territorial Region. Bodo is also one of the twenty-two constitutional languages of India. Rabha, Koch are other minority languages used in tribal belts.

MusicEdit

The folk songs of Goalpara region is known as Goalpariya Lokgeet, of Kamrup region is known as Kamrupi Lokgeet. Kamrupi dance is a form of dance technique that evolved from Bhaona which is a sophisticated type of dancing.[17]

CuisineEdit

The food of Western Assam is homogenous to a certain extent with nearby eastern states of West Bengal and Bihar. Mustard seeds is generously used in cooking, while ginger, garlic, pepper, and onions are extensively used. Traditional utensils are made of bell metal though stainless steel is also quite common now.

In contrast, food of Eastern Assam has much tribal influence instead of pan-Indian, like usage of bamboo shoot both fresh and fermented.[18]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The territories on the west of the river Dhansiri were to be divided into five districts: (1) North-east Rangpur of Goalpara; (2) six paraganas of Kamrup, roughly corresponding to the present district of Barpeta including Bagarberra; (3) Lower Assam with twenty parganas, mostly on the north and the nine duars on the south; (4) Central Assam comprising Naduar, Charduar and Darrang on the north, Nagaon and Raha on the south of the Brahmaputra; (5) Biswanath, from the river Bharali to Biswanath on the north together with the territory known as Morung, extending from Kaliabor to the river Dhansiri." (Banerjee 1992, p. 53)
  2. ^ "By 1836 the districts assumed names which became familiar in later years: Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang and Nagaon." (Banerjee 1992, pp. 53–54)
  3. ^ a b Bhattasali, N.K (2005). New Lights on the History of Assam (in Discovery of North-East India: Geography, History, Culture, Religion, Politics, Sociology, Science, Education and Economy by Suresh Kant Sharma, Usha Sharma). Mittal Publications. p. 248. ISBN 9788183240376. Davaka ( Nowgong ) and Kamarupa as separate and submissive friendly kingdoms.
  4. ^ Goswami, Upendranath (1970). A Study on Kāmrūpī: A Dialect of Assamese. Department of Historical Antiquarian Studies, Assam. pp. iii.
  5. ^ Caudhurī, Niśipada (1985). Historical archaeology of central Assam. B.R. Publishing Corporation. p. 26. Assam's early contact with Aryan India is revealed by the reference in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Kautilya's reference to Aryanized place-names in Kamarupa shows that during the Mauryan period, an Aryan wave entered the land.
  6. ^ Barua, Prafulla Chandra (1965). Fundamentals of Assamese culture. The Author. p. 20. Commentators of Kautilya's Arthashastra of third century B.C. viz. Bhattaswami and Kulluka Bhatta make special reference to the best specimens of Ksauma, Dukula and Patrorņa standing for pāt , mugā and edi from Kamarupa. An āgurān of śiśupāt could be concealed in ones palm. Modern Sonkuriha, a village in Uporborbhag mouza of Nalbari circle in Kamrup district has been identified with Suvarnakudya of the ancient times (Arthashastra).
  7. ^ Bhattasali, N.K (2005). New Lights on the History of Assam (in Discovery of North-East India: Geography, History, Culture, Religion, Politics, Sociology, Science, Education and Economy by Suresh Kant Sharma, Usha Sharma). Mittal Publications. p. 265. ISBN 9788183240376.
  8. ^ "In the Battle of Itakhuli in September 1682, the Ahom forces chased the defeated Mughals nearly one hundred kilometers back to the Manas river. The Manas then became the Ahom-Mughal boundary until the British occupation." (Richards 1995, p. 247)
  9. ^ Samiti, Kamarupa Anusandhana (1984). Readings in the history & culture of Assam. Kamarupa Anusandhana Samiti. p. 227.
  10. ^ Barua, Prafulla Chandra (1967), Fragments of a lost picture, Page viii
  11. ^ a b Goswami, Upendranath (1970). A Study on Kāmrūpī: A Dialect of Assamese. Department of Historical Antiquarian Studies, Assam. pp. 13–14. Moreover the factors for the integration of different dialects namely war, annual fair, great religious festivals etc., where people of different and adjacent places can mix together and get the chief roughness of different dialects smoothed down, were found lacking between eastern and western Assam. The important festival in eastern Assam called the Bihu festival is not observed in the same manner in western Assam. The Kamrupi word for the festival at the same period is 'dahmi'. The custom of intermarriage between eastern Assam and Kamrup was also not in vogue. Even now-a-days the number of such marriages is not great. In other cultural items also Kamrup and eastern Assam differ considerably. In Kamrup we find 'bhathli', a kind of bamboo worship held in the middle of April. Another interesting custom in Kamrup is the custom of driving mosquitoes in winter in the form of group singing which is known as 'mahoho'. The choral songs, known as 'ojapali, connected with the story of the goddess Manasa, is also confined in western Assam. Manasa even to-day "is a living and powerful cult in Assam and she is worshipped with much adoration and ceremony, particularly in the districts of Kamrup, Goalpara and Darrang". In eastern Assam no parallel is found to these festivals and worship. Thus politically, socially and culturally Kamrup formed a separate unit and its speech also was compelled to take a shape to form a distinct dialect. It is only by chance that this dialect had to lose its prestige and had to remain as a dialect.
  12. ^ Goswami, Praphulla Dutta (1966). The Springtime Bihu of Assam: A Socio-cultural Study. Lawyer's Bookstall, Gauhati. p. 8. In Assamese the term domahi is more popular than the learned samkranti. Domahi means the junction of two months. Further, in lower Assam, this term tends to replace the use of the name Bihu: the Domahi of Bohag, of Kati, or of Magh.
  13. ^ Goswami, Praphulla Dutta (1966). The Springtime Bihu of Assam: A Socio-cultural Study. Lawyer's Bookstall, Gauhati. p. 25.
  14. ^ Datta, Śarmā, Das, Bīrendranātha, Nabīnacandra, Prabin Chandra (1994). A Handbook of Folklore Material of North-East India. p. 158.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Śarmā, Nabīnacandra (1988). Essays on the Folklore of North-eastern India. p. 64.
  16. ^ Baruah, P. N. Dutta (2007). A contrastive analysis of the morphological aspects of Assamese and Oriya. Central Institute of Indian Languages. p. 10.
  17. ^ Banerji, Projesh (1959). The folk-dance of India. p. 72. A new form of dance technique has been evolved from Bhaona which is a sophisticated type of dancing, known as "Kamrupi" dance. Probably this nomenclature was attributed to give a provincial touch to the technique, because it had its birth from Assam. There is a district even now in the State by that name. The famous ""Kamrupi" dances are "Phalguni", "Gita", "Karnarjuna",etc.
  18. ^ Das, Jyoti (2008). Ambrosia, from the Assamese Kitchen. Rupa & Company. ISBN 9788129113740.

BibliographyEdit

  • Banerjee, A. C. (1992), "The New Regime, 1826-31", in Barpujari, H. K. (ed.), The Comprehensive History of Assam, vol. IV, Guwahati: Publication Board, Assam, pp. 1–43
  • Puri, Baij Nath (1968). Studies in Early History and Administration in Assam. Gauhati University.
  • Richards, John F. (1995). The Mughal Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521566037. Retrieved 26 January 2013.

Further readingEdit

  • Barua, Kanak Lal (1933). Early History of Kamarupa. Author.
  • Vasu, Nagendranath (1922). The Social History of Kamarupa.
  • Tripathi, Chandra Dhar (2008). Kamarupa-Kalinga-Mithila politico-cultural alignment in Eastern India : history, art, traditions. Indian Institute of Advanced Study. p. 197.
  • Wilt, Verne David (1995). Kamarupa. V.D. Wilt. p. 47.
  • Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (1977). Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. p. 538.
  • Kapoor, Subodh (2002). Encyclopaedia of ancient Indian geography. Cosmo Publications. p. 364.
  • Sen, Sailendra Nath (1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization. New Age International. p. 668.
  • Kapoor, Subodh (2002). The Indian encyclopaedia: biographical, historical, religious, administrative, ethnological, commercial and scientific. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. p. 320.
  • Sarkar, Ichhimuddin (1992). Aspects of historical geography of Pragjyotisha-Kamarupa (ancient Assam). Naya Prokash. p. 295.
  • Deka, Phani (2007). The great Indian corridor in the east. Mittal Publications. p. 404.
  • Pathak, Guptajit (2008). Assam's history and its graphics. Mittal Publications. p. 211.
  • Samiti, Kamarupa Anusandhana (1984). Readings in the history & culture of Assam. Kamarupa Anusandhana Samiti. p. 227.

External linksEdit

  • Kamarupa at Online Britannica