Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Great History of Assam -by Mridul


         "The Great History of Assam"



ancient map of assam
The history of Assam is the history of a confluence of people from the east, west and the north; the confluence of the Indo-Aryan, Austro-Asiatic , and Tibeto-Burman,cultures. Politically, it has been invaded, but has never served as a vassal or a colony to an external power till the advent of the Burmese in 1821 and subsequently the British in 1826.
Major Kingdoms Of Assam
The history of Assam is known from many sources. The Ahom Kingdom,of medieval Assam maintained chronicles, called Buranjhis, written in the Ahom  and the Assamese languages. History of ancient Assam comes from rock inscriptions and the many copper plates and royal grants the Kamarupa  kings issued during their reign. Protohistory is reconstructed from folklore, epics like Mahabharata, and two medieval texts compiled in the Assam region—the Kalika purana  and the Yogini Tantra.






Paleolithic cultures

The earliest inhabitants of the region are assigned to the Middle Pleistocene period (781,000 to 126,000 years ago) in the Rongram valley of Garo Hills. The Paleolithic sites, which used handaxe-cleaver tools, have affinities to the Abbevillio-Acheulean culture. Other Paleolithic sites include those in the Daphabum area of Lohit district in Arunachal Pradesh which used stone tools from metamorphic rocks.The cave-based Paleolithic sites at Khangkhui in Ukhrul, Manipur, is placed in the Late pleistocene period.
There exists evidence of  microlithic a culture in the Rongram Valley of Garo Hills that lie between the neolithic layers and virgin soil. The microliths here were made of dolerite, unlike those from the rest of India. Shreds of crude hand-made pottery indicate that the microlithic people were hunters and food-gatherers.ash...

Neolithic Age

Early Neolithic  cultures based on the unifacially flaked hand-axe in the Garo hills have developed in line with the Hoabinhian culture, and it is conjectured that this region was the contact point for the Indian and the Southeast Asian cultures.
The Late neolithic cultures have affinities with the spread of the Mon Khmer speaking people from Malaysia and the Ayeyarwady valley and late neolithic developments in South China. Since these cultures have been dated to 4500–4000 BCE, the Assam sites are dated to approximate that period.
These neolithic sites, though widely spread, are concentrated in the hills and high grounds, due possibly to the floods. These cultures performed Shifting Cultivation called jhum, which is still practiced by some communities in the region. Some typical sites are Daojali Hading in Dima , Hasao , Sarutaru in Kamrup district and Selbagiri in the Garo Hills.

Metal Age

There exists no archaeological evidence of Copper-Bronze or Iron Age culture in the region. This might seem as an impossibility given that corresponding cultures have been discovered in Bengal as well as Southeast Asia. It can only be conjectured that metal age sites in the region exist but have not yet been discovered.
Megalithic Cultures
Though the metal age seems to be missing in Assam, the Iron Age Megalithic  culture of South India  finds an echo in the rich megalithic culture in the region, which begins to appear earlier than the First millenium BCE, and which continues till today among the Khasi and the Naga people. The affinity is with Southeast Asia. The megalithic culture was the precursor of the fertility cult and the Saktism and the Vajravana Buddhism that followed.
Mythological Assam
Protohistoric Assam is reconstructed from epics and literature from early times (Mahabharata, Kalika purana , Yogini Tantra , etc).The earliest political entity seems to have been led by a non-Aryan  Danava Dynasty  with Mahiranga mentioned as the first king. This dynasty was removed by Narakasura. Naraka appears to be a generic name for many kings belonging to the Naraka Dynasty. According to legend, the last of the Naraka kings was killed by  Krishna and his son Bhagadatta took the throne. Bhagadatta is said to have participated in the Mahabharata War  with an army of "chinas, kiratas and dwellers of the eastern sea", thereby indicating that his kingdom, Pragjyotisha, included part of Bangladesh. The last in the Naraka dynasty was a ruler named Suparua.

  Ancient Assam                 

The historical account of Assam begins with the establishment of Pushya Varman's  Varman Dynasty  in the 4th century in the Kamarupa kingdom , which marks the beginning of Ancient Assam. This dynasty was most likely of aboriginal origin, but drew its lineage from Narakasura. The kingdom reached its zenith under  Bhaskarvarman in the 7th century. Xuanzang visited his court and left behind a significant account. Bhaskar Varman died without leaving behind an issue and the control of the country passed to Salasthamba, who established the Mlechchha Dynasty. After the fall of the Mlechchha dynasty in the late 9th century, a new ruler, Brahmapala was elected, who established the Pala Dynasty. The last Pala king was removed by the Gaur king, Ramapala, in 1110. But the two subsequent kings, Timgyadeva and Vaidyadeva, though established by the Gaur kings, ruled mostly as independents and issued grants under the old Kamarupa seals. The fall of subsequent kings and the rise of individual kingdoms in the 12th century in place of the Kamarupa kingdom marked the end of the Kamarupa kingdom and the period of Ancient Assam.

 Medieval Assam                               

The beginning of Medieval Assam is marked by the rise of the Khen Dynasty of the Kamata kingdom , established by Prithu in the western part of the old Kamarupa Kingdom, and the beginning of attacks by the Turks of Bengal. The Kamata kingdom, named after the capital at Kamatapur, was frequently attacked by the rulers of Bengal, and  Alauddin Hussain shah finally removed the last Khen king in 1498. But Hussein Shah and subsequent rulers could not consolidate their rule in the Kamata kingdom, mainly due to the revolt by the  Bhuyan Chieftains and other local groups. In the 16th century Viswa Singha of the Koch tribe established the  Koch Dynasty in the Kamata kingdom. The Koch dynasty reached its peak under his sons, Nara Narayan  and Chilarai.
In the eastern part of the old Kamarupa kingdom, the  Kachari and the  Sutiya  kingdoms arose, with portions of the north bank of the Brahmaputra River  controlled by the Bhuyan Chieftains. In the tract between the Kachari and the Sutiya kingdoms, a Shan group, led by Sukaphaa, established the Ahom kingdom. The Ahom kingdom in the course of time expanded into the Sutiya kingdom to its north and pushed the Kachari kingdom further south. After the death of Nara Narayan of the Koch dynasty in the late 16th century, the Kamata kingdom broke into Koch Bihar  in the west and  Koch Hajo in the east. The rivalry between the two kingdoms resulted in the former allying with the Mughals and the latter with the Ahoms. Most of the 17th century saw the Ahom -Mughal conflicts , in which the Ahoms held the expansive Mughals at bay epitomized in the Battle of Saraighat of 1671, and which finally ended in 1682 with the defeat of the Mughals at Itakhuli—and the Ahom kingdom reached its westernmost boundary. Though the Ahom kingdom saw itself as the inheritor of the glory of the erstwhile Kamarupa kingdom and aspired to extend itself to the Karatoya river, it could never do so; though an Ahom general, Ton Kham under Swargadeo Suhungmung, reached the river once when he pursued a retreating invading army in the 16th century.
After the Ahom kingdom reached its zenith, problems within the kingdom arose in the 18th century, when it lost power briefly to rebels of the Moamoria Rebellion. Though the Ahoms recaptured power, it was beset with problems, leading to the  Burmese invasion of Assam in the early 19th century. With the defeat of the Burmese in the First Anglo-Burmese war and the subsequent Treaty of Yandaboo, control of Assam passed into the hands of the British, which marks the end of the Medieval period.

British annexation of Assam

After the Burmese occupied Assam, the British began their campaign against the Burmese. In 1824, lower Assam (originally Koch Hajo) was formally annexed. The following year the British defeated the Burmese in upper Assam leading to the Treaty of Yandaboo In this war against the Burmese the Ahoms did not help the British. In March 1828, lower Assam was formally annexed. In the same year, the Kachari kingdom  was annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse   after the king Govinda Chandra was killed. In 1832, the Khasi king surrendered and the British increased their influence over the Nandy Dynasty of Jaintia. But these Mighty Warriors of jaintia didnot accept the British Colonial rule,and declared War against the Bristish Government at the end of 1832 under the leadership of  Fierce Warlord  Durga Charan Nandy somewhere near jaintipur.In this Battle The Nandy Ruler's of jaintia were Defeated & lost fifty thousand shoulders .The traces of these Great Dynasty of Jaintia were not knew by the  modern world.Even Historians never  found about these legendary Nandy Dynasty of jaintia.Some beleived that this Great Nandy Dynasty lost in the midst of modernisation.It is said that Decendents of this Nandy Dynasty are in Some parts of Meghalaya, Central Assam and few are in kolkata. In 1833, upper Assam became a British protectorate under the erstwhile ruler of the Ahom kingdom, Purandhar Singha, but in 1838 the region was formally annexed into the British empire. With the annexation of the Maran/Matak territory in the east in 1839, the annexation of Assam was complete.
                                      Colonial Rule
Bengal Presidency (1826–1873): Assam was included as a part of the Bengal Presidency. The annexation of upper Assam is attributed to the successful manufacture of  Tea  in 1837, and the beginning of the  Assam Company  in 1839. Under the Wasteland Rules of 1838, it became nearly impossible for natives to start plantations. After the liberalization of the rules in 1854, there was a land rush. The Chinese staff that was imported earlier for the cultivation of tea left Assam in 1843, when tea plantations came to be tended by local labor solely, mainly by those belonging to the Kachari group. From 1859 central Indian labor was imported for the tea plantations. This labor, based on an unbreakable contract, led to a virtual slavery of this labor group. The conditions in which they were transported to Assam were so horrific that about 10% never survived the journey. The colonial government already had monopoly over the opium trade.
There were immediate protests and revolts against the British occupation. In 1828, two years after the Treaty of Yandaboo, Gomdhar Konwar  rose in revolt against the British, but he was easily suppressed. In 1830 Dhananjoy Burhagohain, Piyali Phukan and Jiuram Medhi rose in revolt, and they were sentenced to death. In the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the people of Assam offered resistance in the form of non-cooperation, and  Maniram Dewan and Piyali Baruah were executed for their roles. In 1861 peasants of Nagaon gathered at  Phulaguri for a raiz mel (peoples' assembly) to protest against taxes on betel-nut and paan. Lt. Singer, a British officer got into a fracas with the peasants and was killed, after which the protests were violently suppressed.
Chief Commissioner's Province (1874–1905): In 1874, the Assam region was separated from the Bengal Presidency,  Sylhet was added to it and its status was upgraded to a Chief Commissioner's Province. The capital was at Shillong. The people of Sylhet protested the inclusion in Assam. Assamese, which was replaced by Bengali as the official language in 1837, was reinstated alongside Bengali. In 1889, oil was discovered at Digboi  giving rise to an oil industry. In this period  Nagoan witnessed starvation deaths, and there was a decrease in the indigenous population, which was more than adequately compensated by the immigrant labor. Colonialism  was well entrenched, and the tea, oil and coal-mining industries were putting increasing pressure on the agricultural sector which was lagging behind.
The peasants, burdened under the opium monopoly and the  usuary by money lenders, rose again in revolt. Numerous raiz mels decided against paying the taxes. The protests culminated in a bayonet charge against the protesters at Patharughat in 1894. At least 15 were left dead and in the violent repression that followed villagers were tortured and their properties were destroyed or looted. In 1903, Assam Association was formed with Manik Chandra Baruah as the first secretary.
Eastern Bengal and Assam under Lt. Governor (1906–1912): Bengal was partitioned and East Bengal was added to the Chief Commissioner's Province. The new region, now ruled by a Lt. Governor, had its capital at Dhaka. This province had a 15-member legislative council in which Assam had two seats. The members for these seats were recommended (not elected) by rotating groups of public bodies.
The  Partition of Bengal was strongly protested in Bengal, and the people of Assam were not happy either. The partition was finally annulled by a royal decree in 1911. The  Swadeshi  movement (1905–1908) from this period, went largely unfelt in Assam, though it stirred some, most notably Ambikagiri Raychoudhury.
Beginning 1905 peasants from East Bengal began settling down in the riverine tracts (char) of the  Brahmaputra valley encouraged by the colonial government to increase agricultural production. Between 1905 and 1921, the immigrant population from East Bengal increased four folds. The immigration continued in post colonial times, giving rise to the Assam Agitation  of 1979.
Assam Legislative Council (1912–1920): The administrative unit was reverted to a Chief Commissioner's Province (Assam plus Sylhet), with a Legislative Council added. The Council had 25 members, of which the Chief Commissioner and 13 nominated members formed the bulk. The other members were elected by local public bodies like municipalities, local boards, landholders, tea planters and Muslims.
As Assam got sucked into the Non-cooperation Movement, the Assam Association slowly transformed itself into the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (with 5 seats in AICC) in 1920–21.
Dyarchy (1921–1937): Under the Government of India Act 1919 the Assam Legislative Council membership was increased to 53, of which 33 were elected by special constituencies. The powers of the Council were increased too; but in effect, the official group, consisting of the Europeans, the nominated members etc. had the most influence.
Assam Legislative Assembly (1937–1947): Under the Government of India Act 1935, the Council was expanded into an Assembly of 108 members, with even more powers. The period saw the sudden rise of  Gopinath Bordoloi  and  Muhammed Saadulah and their tussle for power and influence.

Post -Colonial Assam

In 1979, Assam flared into Assam Agitation  (or Assam Movement) a popular movement against illegal immigration. The movement, led AASU and AAGSP, set an agitational program to compel the government to identify and expel illegal immigrants and prevent new immigration. The agitational programs were largely non-violent, but there were incidents of acute violence, like the Nellie Massacre. It ended in 1985 following the Assam Accord that was signed by the agitation leaders and the Government of India. The agitation leaders formed a political party, Asom Gana Parishad, which came to power in the state of Assam in the Assembly elections of 1985.

Chaolung Sukaphaa (reign 1228–1268)
                       CHAOLUNG SYU KA PHA (1228-1268 A.D.)  

Syu Ka Pha is said to have left Maulung in 1215 A.D. with a following of 8 nobles, and 9,000 men, women and children, it may be surmised, that the great majority of his followers were adult males. He had with him 2 elephants, and 300 horses. For 13 years, he wandered about the hilly country of the Patkai, making occassional raids of Naga villages, and in 1228 A.D., he arrived in Khamjang.
He crossed a river called the Khamnamjang in rafts, and came to the Nongnyang lake. Some Nagas attempted to resist his advance, but he defeated them and the other Nagas made their submission. Leaving one of his nobles to rule the conquered country, Syu Ka Pha proceeded to Dangkaorang, Khamhangpung and Namrup. He bridged the Sessa river and ascended the Dihing, but finding the place unsuitable, he retraced his step and proceeding downstream, reached Tipam. Thence he went, in 1236 A.D., to Mungklang Chekhru(Abhaypur), where he stayed for several years. In 1240, this tract of country became flooded during the rainy seasons, so he left it and descended the Brahmaputra to Habung, where he spent 2 years, while here, the Ahoms lived by cultivation. But this place also was liable to inundation, and in 1244 a heavy flood necessitated another move. Sukapha, therefore, continued his journey down the Brahmaputra till he reached the mouth of the Dikhu. Thence he went to Ligirigaon. In 1246, he proceeded to Simaluguri, leaving a detachment at Ligirigaon. He stayed here for some years. It is said that he contemplated an attack on the people inhabiting the valley of the Namdang (a tributory of Dikhu), but gave up the idea on finding how numerous they were. In 1253, Simaluguri was abandoned in favour of Charaideo, where a city was built amid general rejoicings. To celebrate the occasion two horses were sacrificed to the Gods, and prayers were offered by the Deodhais under a mulberry tree.     
Asom Symbol
charaideo, first  Capital of Ahom King ,Syu Ka Pha
Syu Ka Pha was an enterprising and brave prince and his treatment of the conquered Morans and Borahis was most judicious. The memory of his wanderings along the valley of the Dihing river is still preserved in various local names and traditions. Sukapha appointed 2 great officers of State, known as the Bor Gohain and the Burha Gohain, who exercised powers second only to those of the king himself. Syu Ka Pha made friend with his brother rulers in his ancestral home, and sent them presents of gold and silver. He died in 1268 A.D.


Thursday, 15 March 2012

History of Forgotton Route - by Mridul Nandy

              Down to Memory lane - Cherra Companyganj State Railways

               a mountain railway that existed 125 years ago :

 CHERRAPUNJEE: Meghalaya does not have a rail link at present but around 125 years ago people from this quaint hill-station made memorable journeys on one of the most romantic mauntain railways  of the world - the Cherra Companyganj State Railways(CCSR).

The CCSR a contemporary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) was aimed at connecting Kolkata and shillong through the plains of what is now Bangladesh.While the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is currently on the World Heritage list, the CCSR has been relegated to the pages of history.
The CCSR in Meghalaya was opened to traffic on June 6, 1886.Passengers and goods were ferried between Tharia, a sleepy hamlet below Cherrapunjee and Companyganj, now in Bangladesh, for a distance of 7.5 miles."Not many know that a 3.5 mile railway line was actually laid from Cherrapunjee to Mawsmai (now in East khasi hills district)," Arup Kumar Dutta, author of the book 'Indian Railways ? The Final Frontier', said.The author culled records for the book from the British railway records available at the National Archives and the Railway Museum archives in New Delhi and the State archives of Assam.The ambitious railway project was conceptualised by a British engineer in India, H Kench, after need arose to connect Shillong, the then capital of the British India Province, to Calcutta by rail since carts had difficulty in negotiating mule tracks and roads on the steep slope of the Khasi Hills.Dutta said, "Kench believed that if Shillong was to be linked by rail to Calcutta, the obvious route was from then Assam?s capital, Shillong, through Cherrapunjee to Mawsmai."It envisaged a rope-tramway down the 4,100 feet escarpment to the mining village of Tharia in then East Bengal and to Companygunj to connect Sylhet and Goalundo, from where rail services to Calcutta already existed, he said.

Mountain Railways



[Note : one can gets of  details of  Cherrapunjee railways in this site given below