|Western Assam, Kamrup (Ancient and medieval)|
|Capital||Pragjyotishpura and Durjaya (Ancient)|
|Timezone||UTC+05:30 (IST) (UTC+5.30)|
Lower Assam (also Western Assam) (Assamese: পশ্চিম/নামনি অসম), "Kamrup" (ancient, medieval and pre-colonial); is an administrative division of Assam, comprising the Kamrup and Goalpara regions under the jurisdiction of a Commissioner, who is stationed at Guwahati. The division covers the lower reaches of the Brahmaputra river occupying entire western Brahmaputra Valley.
The term "Lower Assam" is often an misnomer in spite of popular usage to refer the region. In scholary circles Western Assam was more frequently used to accurately define the region and differentiate it from Lower Assam Division.
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, which along with the six paraganas became a single district of Kamrup in 1836.
It was home to the mighty 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 largest city of North-East India while Dispur, the capital of Assam, is within the town.
In 4th-century region was mentioned as Kamarupa in the Prayag stone inscription along with Davaka (central Assam). Davaka was absorbed during middle of 5th century during the reign of Kalyana Varman, or in 6th-7th-century period. The Nagajari-Khanikargaon rock inscription, discovered in 1972 in Golaghat is dated to the 5th century, showing an early expansion of the Kamarupa kingdom to the east.[original research?]
Medieval Muslim invaders continue to refer the region as Kamrup. Eastern most parts of region (modern Kamrup) briefly became parts of the Koch kingdom, Mughal empire and finally Ahom kingdom after Battle of Itakhuli, until annexation of Eastern Assam by Burmese empire.
With British occupation in nineteenth century, near western parts (Goalpara region), became part of Colonial Assam, while far western Kamrup (North Bengal) was merged with Bengal. In second half of nineteenth century region became part of Lower Assam Division, along with Darrang, Nagaon, Khasi hills and Jaintia hills. The region (Western Assam and North Bengal) historically Kamrup, referred as Western Assam from colonial times and later .
Region was mentioned in Hindu epics as Pragjyotisha. Legends of king Naraka, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta has considerable part in Indian mythology. First historical mention of region was found in Pragya stone pillar, where it is mentioned as frontier kingdom along with Davaka of central Assam. Region served as capital of ancient Kamrup kingdom till its end, centered around modern Kamrup region.
Pushya Varman (350-374) named after Pushyamitra Sunga, became first ruler of Kamrup as founder ruler of Varman Dynasty. 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, Susthita Varman (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, Supratisthita Varman 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 Bengali-Orissan 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 (present-day Murshidabad, West Bengal) to replace a grant issued earlier by Bhuti Varman for a settlement in the Sylhet region of present-day Bangladesh.
In about 643, Yuan Chwang (Xuanzang/Hiuen Tsang) visited Bhaskar Varman's court and recorded details of his kingdom. Yuan Chwang 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 Yuan Chwang to Kanauj, and participated in a religious assembly and a festival at Prayaga (Allahabad) 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 Yuan Chwang 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.
Brahma Pala (900-920), was founder Pala Dynasty (900–1100 A.D) of Kamarupa. 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).
According to 2011 census, Western Assam has total population of 1,12,53,550; out of which urban population accounting to 19,59,707 while rural population is 92,93,843.
The ethnic composition of the region is diverse. Aryans composed of Kamrupi and Goalpariya people are majority. It has considerable number of tribal population consisting Bodo, Rabha and Koch in the north, south and southwest.
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 Pushya Varman (350-374), the founder of great Varman dynasty of Kamrup Kingdom which reached its zenith in the reign of Bhaskar Varman (600-650). Scholars believes 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.
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. 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. 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".
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 identites made a long lasting impact on region defining the way of the life. In early part of second millennium, Islam arrived in region with Turkish and Afghan invaders.
In first half of seventh century Chinese pilgrimage Yuan Chwang visited the region and wrote about language, which convinced Upendranath Goswami and others that "Assamese entered into Kamarupa or western Assam where this speech was first characterised as Assamese. This is evident from the remarks of Hiuen Tsang who visited the Kingdom of Kamarupa in the first half of the seventh century A.D., during the reign of Bhaskaravarman."
Indo-Aryan languages are predominant in the region, Kamrupi and Goalpariya languages are spoken in Kamrup and Goalpara regions and acts as lingua franca among various tribal groups. Bodo, Rabha, Koch are other minority languages used in tribal belts.
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.
The food of Western Assam is homogenous to certain extent with nearby eastern states of West Bengal and Bihar. Mustard seeds and coconut 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 quite common in modern times. Food of Eastern Assam has much tribal influence instead of pan-Indian, like usage of bamboo shoot both fresh and fermented.
- "[The] territory from Biswanath to Goalpara—was known as Western Assam; but another name—Lower Assam—gradually came into use." (Banerjee 1992, p. 9)
- "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)
- "By 1836 the districts assumed names which became familiar in later years: Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang and Nagaon." (Banerjee 1992, pp. 53–54)
- Suresh Kant Sharma, Usha Sharma (2005), Discovery of North-East India: Geography, History, Cutlure, ..., Davaka (Nowgong) and Kamarupa as separate and submissive friendly kingdoms
- "It is presumed that (Kalyana Varman) conquered Davaka, incorporating it within the kingdom of Kamarupa." (Puri 1968, p. 11)
- Kanak Lal Barua (1933), Early history of Kāmarupa, Page 47 "in the sixth or the seventh century this kingdom of Davaka was absorbed by Kamarupa."
- (Sharma 1978, pp. 303–305)
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- Das Jyoti (2008), Ambrosia, from the Assamese Kitchen
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