Assam has been aptly described by some as ‘the Shangrila of the North-Eastern India’ – a state having breathtaking scenic beauty, rarest floras and faunas, lofty hills, lush tea gardens, undulating plains, mighty waterways, dense forests, fertile valleys, etc. It lies as a jewel of exquisite beauty and charm on the Northeastern horizon of India. Since the days of Hiuen-Tsang it has fascinated the rest of the world with her aura of myth and mysteries, history and folklore, music and dance.
Known as Pragjyotishpura (land of Eastern lights) in ancient time and Kamrupa in medieval times, Assam is the anglicised name for the state. The name of the state may have come from the word ‘Ahom the people who migrated to the Brahmaputra valley in the early 13th century and gave shape to the Assamese of today. The state lies between 89°. 50′ to 96°, 10′ E. longitude and 24°. 30′ to 28°, 40′ N. latitude. Seven Indian states and two foreign countries touch its boundary. Spread over an area of 78, 438 sq. km. State has a total population of 26, 638, 407 according to Census, 2001.
We have a clear picture of Assam only from the early 13th cent, when the country was conquered by Ahoms. Later they were ousted by the Burmese, who handed over the area to the British by the treaty of Yandaboo in 1826.
All the major races of the world such as, Austro-Asiatic, the Indo- Aryans, Indo-Tibetans, Indo-Burmese, Mongolians, etc. have combined to make the great Assamese people of today. Assam, however, has remained practically a land of Tibeto- Burmese people. Assamiya or Assamese is the lingua franca of the state.
Assam can be divided into three natural regions, namely the Brahmaputra valley, the Barak valley and the Hilly regions. These regions are quite distinct from one another with regard to the composition of people, manner of living and culture. The mighty Brahmaputra along with Barak has nourished the state from time immemorial and has been a source of solace as well as a source of sorrow for the people of the state.
The economy of the state is overwhelmingly agricultural and about 75% of the population directly or indirectly depends on this sector for their livelihood. Rice, fruits, aracanut, jute, sugar cane, and tea are the chief agricultural produce of the state. The state also produces nearly half of the country’s total output of tea. he state is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, and limestone.
The perfect fusion of heritage, tradition, faiths, and beliefs of numerous races has resulted in many festivals in the state. The main festivals of Assam are the ‘Bihus’ which are celebrated all over the state by every one with great pomp and grandeur. The most colourful amongst the three ‘Bihus’ is the spring festival known as Rongali Bihu.
Nature has abundantly blessed Assam with charming sights and exciting natural scenery. Kaziranga National Park and Manas Sanctuary are the chief tourist centres famous for Royal Bengal tiger, one-horned rhinos and golden langur. The other attractions of the state are the famous Kamakhya temple near Guwahati, Umananda temple, Navagraha temple, Kareng Ghar, Rang ghar, Talatal Ghar, Majuli island, Jatinga, etc.
Nestling in the Himalayan foothills the state is rich in cultural heritage, natural beauty, and mineral resources. There is no denying the fact that the state of Assam during the last fifty years has made great strides in many fields. But a lot more remains to be done to bring the state to the forefront of development and progress. Given better political stability, adequate stress on industrialisation, proper utilisation of resources available and less militancy, the state can leap forward to an era of prosperity and all-round development.