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  Assam, Geography, Arts & Culture, Religions, Literacy, Population, Climate,

Assam

State Capital Guwhati
Population ('000s in 1991) 22,414
Area ('000 sq. km) 78
Females per 1000 males (1991) 923
Literacy rate (1991) 52.9
Ratio of urban population (1991) 11.1
Net Domestic Product (Rs. million at current prices in 1992-93) 117,360
Per Capita Income (Rs. at current prices in 1992-93) 5,056
Principal Languages Assamese

Assam's history goes back to ancient times. The base of this history can be found in Tantric literature, Buddhist literature, Assamese folklore and Vedic literature.

The word 'Assam' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Asoma', meaning peerless. The land of Assam, is in fact, peerless, judging by her exquisite natural beauty, cultural richness and human wealth.First mention of the state of Assam is found in the epics and the religious legends. The Aryans belonging to the priestly and warrior classes found their way into Assam in very early times. Various places mentioned in the epics, like Mahabharata etc. are now identified with sites in this state.

Assam has a rich legacy of culture and civilisation behind her. Home to different races of men - Austric, Mongolian, Dravidian, and Aryan, who came to dwell in these hills at different points of time, Assam has developed a composite culture of variegated colour.

The first known ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danava of Danava dynasty, who was succeeded in turn, in the direct line by Hatakasur, Sambarsur and Ratnasur. After them there was a chief named Ghatakasur, the ruler of the Kiratas. He made Progjyotishpur (the modern Guwahati) his capital, and settled numerous Brahmans at Kamakhya. Narakasur was killed by Lord Krishna of Dwaraka. Narakasur's successor, Bhagadatta, figured in the Mahabharata war leading a vast army against the Pandavas.

Sri Krishna frequently appears in Assam Mythology. Sri Krishna fought against king Bhismaka of Kundil (now Sadia) in his bid to marry Bhismaka's daughter Rukmini. Another king Banasura of Sonitpur (now Tezpur) fought against Sri Krishna, when Banasura's daughter Usha was secretly married to Anirudh, the grandson of Sri Krishna.

Political History

Historically speaking, the first king who ruled over Kamrupa was Pushya Varman (350-380 AD), who was a contemporary of Samudragupta (350-375 AD). He took on the title of Maharajadhiraj and ensured steps to establish Kamrupa as a frontier state. Mahendra Varman, a descendent of Pushya Varman, was the first king of Kamrupa who waged a successful war against the Gupta army and also the first Varman king who performed the Ashwamedha Yagya. The rule of the Varman dynasty found apex in the rule of Bhaskar Varman (594-650 AD), because it is with the rule of Bhaskar Varman, that a new epoch of Assam history opened.

Assam, which is situated in the north-east corner of India is surrounded by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh on the north, Nagaland and Manipur on the east, Meghalaya and Mizoram on the south and Bangladesh, Tripura and West Bengal on the west. A narrow strip of sub - mountainous region of the Himalayas, connects Assam to the Indian mainland. The state is dominated by the river Brahamputra, whose lush 700 kilometre valley is sandwiched between the Himalayan foothills to the north, and the hills and plateau of Meghalaya to the south.

Assam, as a destination corresponds to a world of contrasts and excitement with each place of the state having something amazing to offer. Some people call it a magic land while others call it a green paradise.

The State of Assam is one of the most beautiful regions of India. There is hardly any other state which has greater variety and colour in its natural scenery and in the cultural treasures of the people that inhabit it.

Important tourist centres of the state around Guwahati are Kamakhya Temple, Umananda (Peacock Island), Navagraha (Temple of nine planets), Gandhi Mandap, State Zoo, State Museum, Sukreswar Temple, Geeta Mandir, Madan-Kamdev Temple and Saraighat Bridge. In the rest of the state the places of tourist interest are Kaziranga park (famous for one horned rhinos), Sib Sagar (Shiv Temple), Majuli (largest river island in the world), Chandubi lake, Batadrava (Birth place of great Vaishnav Saint Sankardev), and Saulkuchi (renowned for its silk industry).

Popular Tourist Circuits

1.Guwahati-Shillong-Guwahati 2.Guwahati-Kaziranga-Guwahati 3.Guwahati-Tezpur-Bhalukpong-Nameri National Park-Guwahati 4.Guwahati-Bomdila-Tawang(Arunachal Pradesh)-Tezpur-Guwahati 5.Guwahati-Sibsagar-Jorhat-Majuli-Guwahati 6.Guwahati-Hajo-Barpeta-Guwahati 7.Guwahati-Manas-Guwahati 8.Guwahati City Tour 9.River cruise on Brahmaputra 10.Brahmaputra by Steam- a steam locomotive driven nostalgia trip(operated by the North East Frontier Railway). 11.Jatinga Steam Safari across the enchanting North Cachar Hills(operated by the North East Frontier Railway).

Guwhati

Hugging the shores of the turbulent Brahmaputra, Guwahati is the gateway to the enchanting North Eastern India. The Light of the East, Pragjyotishpura, as it was known once upon a time, is said to have been a vast kingdom during the epic period of the Mahabharata. Today, Guwahati is the hub of the region and also its largest city.

Attractions around Guwhati

Dighalipukhuri, a water body in the heart of the city with boating facilities, cruises on the river Brahmaputra in the 'Jolporee', the famous Balaji Temple of Tirupati,Planetarium,Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, the Saraighat Bridge over the Brahmaputra, the Guwahati Oil Refinery, Chandubi Lake,Sualkuchi, Hajo, A place of pilgrimage for Muslims known as Poa-Mecca, Lachit Barphukan Park and the Guwahati University are places worth visiting.

Temples in and around Guwhati

1.Kamakhya Temple 2.Nabagraha Temple 3.Umananda Temple 4.Basisthashram 5.Mahabhairab Temple

Industry

Assam is industrially backward by Indian standards as it has a few agro-based and mineral-based industries. However, from the view point of natural resources, it is a very rich state.

TEA

Of the agriculture-based industries, tea occupies an important place in Assam. The plants used to grow naturally in the Upper Brahmaputra valley. Robert Bruce, an official of the British empire, who is credited with the discovery of tea in Assam in 1823, gave publicity of the existence of the plant, the leaves of which were boiled to prepare the tea.

In Assam, tea is grown both in the Brahmaputra and Barak plains. Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Nagaon and Sonitpur are the districts where tea gardens are mostly found. Assam produces 51% of the tea produced in India and about 1/6th of the tea produced in the world.

For a better marketing of the tea produced in Assam and the entire North Eastern States, a Tea Auction Centre - Guwahati Tea Auction Centre - was established in 1970 at Guwahati. This is the world's largest CTC tea auction centre and the world's second largest in terms of total tea. It now auctions more than 150 million kg of tea valued at more than Rs 550.00 crores annually.

OIL

Assam is the first state in the country where in 1889 oil was struck at Digboi. Assam can boast of having the oldest oil refinery in the country. This refinery set up at Digboi, in Tinsukia district, started commercial production in 1901. The refinery, now belonging to the Assam Division of the Indian Oil Corporation, has a refining capacity of 3 lakh tonnes of petrol, kerosene, diesel and other petroleum products.

The second refinery in Assam was set up at Noonmati in Guwahati under the public sector.

The third refinery in the region was established at Dhaligoan near Bongaigaon in 1962.

The fourth refinery in the state was established at Numaligarh of Golaghat district in 1999.

NATURAL GAS

Like petroleum, natural gas is a valuable source of power and various other chemical by-products. In Assam, almost all the petroleum producing areas of the Brahmaputra Valley, especially Naharkatia, Moran, Lakuwa and Rudrasagar, contains 'associated natural gas'. The important industries so far built up on the basis of the natural gas of Assam are Namrup Fertilizer Factory, Namrup Thermal Power Project, Production of Carbon Black, Assam Petrochemicals and Assam Gas Company, which provides liquified petroleum gas for domestic use. There are LPG bottling plants at Duliajan, North Guwahati, Silchar etc. The BRPL also uses natural gas as raw material to produce various chemicals.

ARTS AND CRAFTS OF ASSAM

The people of Assam have traditionally been craftsmen from time immemorial. Though Assam is mostly known for its exquisite silks and the bamboo and cane products, several other crafts are also made here. Cane and bamboo have remained inseparable parts of life in Assam. They happen to be the two most commonly-used items in daily life, ranging from household implements to construction of dwelling houses to weaving accessories to musical instruments.

HANDLOOMS

Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prominent and prestigious being muga, the golden silk exclusive only to this state. Muga apart, there is paat, as also eri, the latter being used in manufacture of warm clothes for winter.Of a naturally rich golden colour, muga is the finest of India's wild silks. It is produced only in Assam.

Today, India exports a wide variety of silks to western Europe and the United States, especially as exclusive furnishing fabrics. Boutiques and fashion houses, designers and interior decorators have the advantage of getting custom-woven fabrics in the designs, weaves and colours of their choice. A service that ensures an exclusive product not easily repeatable by competitors.


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