Assam has a history dating back to the Vedic age. The modern name of the province Assam is actually of quite recent origin. Prior to the advent of the Ahom, this land is known as PRAGJYOTISHPURA or the City of Eastern Light. It is also commonly known as Kamrupain the medieval age. It is said that the kingdom of Pragjyotishpura was made up of what now constitutes modern Assam and a great part of northern and eastern Bengal.
The word Assam is an offshoot of a Sanskrit word ASOM which means Unparalleled or Peerless. Assam and the North Eastern States are connected with rest of India via a narrow strip in west Bengal known as Siliguri strip or the Chicken Neck. Nestled in the heart of India’s north-eastern region, Assam covers a territory of 78,523 square kilometers, roughly a fourth of it comprising rugged hills and the rest verdant alluvial plans. The Arunachal hills emerge along its northern limit and bend sharply at its northeastern border. Nagaland and Manipur touch the eastern boundary and the Mizoram hills abruptly rise from its southern extreme. Bangladesh lies in the west sharing Assam’s western border with Meghalaya and Tripura. The international border of the region runs in a manner which leaves only a narrow strip in the sub mountain region of the Himalayas as that opens out to the Indian mainland.
The alluvial Brahmaputra valley commands the lions share of the territory. The magnificent flow of the mighty river Brahmaputra, reckoned amongst the world’s most majestic rivers, is naturally the most striking feature of the valley. Fed by more than a hundred tributaries flowing down the surrounding hills, the river sweeps gracefully through the entire length of the valley.
After a 724 kms sweep through Assam, it turns south beyond Meghalaya to meet the Ganges. The North bank tributaries, debouching abruptly to the valley and obstructed by their own alluvial fans, branch out and form ox-bow lakes before picking up the erring streams again. The Brahmaputra itself is highly braided due to low gradient and tends to form river islands. The largest of them, Majuli (929 sq. kms) is said to be the world’s largest.
Assam’s human landscape is no less colourful and varied than her physiography. She has from time immemorial been the meeting ground of diverse ethnic and cultural streams. Through the long columns of history, people of different races and ethnology have migrated into this land and merged into a common harmonious whole in a rare process of fraternization and assimilation.
Human footprints in the land have been traced to the Early Stone Age. The Copper Bronze and Iron Age cultures of Assam are however, yet to be dug out. The earliest footprints were those of Austric aborigines who later made room for the pre-Dravidians too. The eastern flood gates were finally opened for the successive Mongoloid waves, which almost totally engulfed the land by the time of the Vedas. Most of the present Northeastern tribes are offspring’s of those Mongoloids or the Kiratas as the Vedas chose to call them.