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History of Assam

History of Assam

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. Harshavardhan (606-648 AD) was a contemporary of Bhaskar Varman. Harshavardan honoured Bhaskar Varman at a conference held at Kanauj. The dynasty of the Varman kings ended with Bhaskar Varman (650 AD). The Salasthambha dynasty was the next in the line which began with the reign of a chieftain called Salastambha. Among all the kings of the Salastambha dynasty, it was Shri Harshadeva (725-750 AD) who acquitted himself as a good king. After the last king of this dynasty, Tyaga Singha (970-990), it was Brahmapala (990-1010 AD), who opened the door to a new dynasty - the Pala dynasty. Jayapala (1120-1138 AD) was the last ruler of this dynasty. The first Mohammedan invasion (1206 &1226 AD) of Kamrupa took place during the reign of a king called Prithu who was killed in a battle with Illtutmish's son Nassiruddin in 1228. During the second invasion by Ikhtiyaruddin Yuzbak or Tughril Khan, about 1257 AD, the king of Kamrupa Saindhya (1250-1270AD) transferred the capital 'Kamrup Nagar' to Kamatapur in the west. From then onwards, Kamata's ruler was called Kamateshwar. During the last part of 14th century, Arimatta was the ruler of Gaur (the northern region of former Kamatapur) who had his capital at Vaidyagar. And after the invasion of the Mughals in the 15th century many Muslims settled in this State and can be said to be the first Muslim settlers of this region. Chutia Kingdom During the early part of the 13th century, when the Ahoms established their rule over Assam with the capital at Sibsagar, the Sovansiri area and the area by the banks of the Disang river were under the control of the Chutias. According to popular Chutia legend, Chutia king Birpal established his rule at Sadia in 1189 AD. He was succeeded by ten kings of whom the eighth king Dhirnarayan or Dharmadhwajpal, in his old age, handed over his kingdom to his son-in-law Nitai or Nityapal. Later on Nityapal's incompetent rule gave a wonderful chance to the Ahom king Suhungmung or Dihingia Raja, who annexed it to the Ahom kingdom. Barobhuyans The Bhuyans were petty chief who had their principalities towards the east of Kamrup-Kamata area. The title 'Baro' is a title of honour given to twelve chieftains who, even though were not kings, established kingdoms which were small on the basis of their strength. They took up arms against the Ahoms also, but it was the Ahom king Pratap Singha who crushed the rebellion of the Baro Bhuyans. Koch Kingdom Bishwa Singha (1515-1540) laid the foundation of the Koch dominion over Kamata kingdom in the early part of the 16th century and established his capital in Cooch-Bihar. He was succeeded by his son Malladeva who took the name Naranarayana. His brother Sukladhvaj became his commander-in-chief. He was also called 'Chilarai' or 'Kite King' because of his ability to attack the enemy like a Chila (hawk or Kite). Naranarayan's rule was the most glorious epoch of Koch kingdom. It was during his reign that the Ahoms suffered defeat in 1562. Chilarai also annexed the Kachari kingdom, Manipur, Tripura, Jayantia and Srihatta and extended its boundaries. Then again there was a battle with the Nawab of Gour. During that time Chilarai was attacked by small-pox and died on the banks of the Gangas. Naranarayan died in 1584 after a reign of nearly fifty years (1540-1584). During his rule, the power of the Koch kings reached its zenith. Naranarayan's rule is remarkable, for it was during his reign that the Assamese literature and culture flourished, which was inaugurated by Srimanta Sankardeva. After the death of Naranarayan, the Koch kingdom was not able to retain its glory. Consequently the Afghans and the Mughals took advantage and in 1615, the Koch kingdom was annexed to the Mughal Empire. Kachari Kingdom The early part of the 13th century saw the rise of the Kachari kingdom, one of the ancient races of Assam. The powerful kings of the Kachari Kingdom were Jashanarayan, Pratapnarayan, Jamradwaj and Govindchandra. The Kacharis claim descent from Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima. Towards the end of the 15th century the Kacharis had to surrender their capital Hidimbapur (now Dimapur) and the areas adjoining it to the Ahoms. The third and the final invasion of the Kachari kingdom took place in 1803, when their king Krishna Chandra refused to send back the Moamarias to the Ahom king. The last king of the Kachari kingdom was Gobind Chandra (1813-1830). Jayantia Kingdom The early part of the 13th century saw the rise of the Kachari kingdom, one of the ancient races of Assam. The powerful kings of the Kachari Kingdom were Jashanarayan, Pratapnarayan, Jamradwaj and Govindchandra. The Kacharis claim descent from Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima. Towards the end of the 15th century the Kacharis had to surrender their capital Hidimbapur (now Dimapur) and the areas adjoining it to the Ahoms. The third and the final invasion of the Kachari kingdom took place in 1803, when their king Krishna Chandra refused to send back the Moamarias to the Ahom king. The last king of the Kachari kingdom was Gobind Chandra (1813-1830). (To be continued) True grit (To be continued) Ahom Rule The 13th century witnessed the advent of the Ahoms, led by their first king Sukafa who was the prince of Monlung of Upper Burma (now Myanmar). In the early 13th century he together with a band of followers settled in the Patkai mountains. In 1228 he entered the boundaries of Assam through the Naga Kingdom. He formed his capital at Charaideo in 1253. The base for 600 years of Ahom rule was set up by Sukafa. Sukafa died in1268 AD. His son Suseupha (1268-1281) succeeded and extended the boundaries of the Ahom kingdom from the area adjoining Dikhow river at Namdangriver. In 1397 Sudangpha (1397-1407) was crowned as king. His accession marks the first stage in the growth of Brahmanical influence amongst the Ahoms. A war between Ahoms and Tipams took place during his reign but was later on peacefully concluded. It was Suhungmung's reign (1497-1539) which is counted as one of the most memorable in 600 years of Ahom rule. He assumed the Hindu name Swarganarayan. He was popularly known as Dihingia Raja, because he shifted the Ahom capital toBokota near Dihing river. He annexed the Chutia and the Kachari territories to the Ahom domains. He created a third class of Ministers: Borgohain, Buragohain and Borpatra Gohain. It was during his reign that the first ever census took place. The economic scenario of the State was also comprehensively surveyed. During his reign, the Mughals invaded thrice but they could not taste victory. This invasion taught Ahoms the use of gunpower, which was a deviation from the traditional system of warfare which comprised of bows, arrows and swords. The Mughal invasion had another positive effect; the Mughals who were taken as prisoner of war were settled in different areas of Assam. Later on, they came to be popularly known as "Morias". Srimanta Sankardev got full impetus to preach his Vaishnava Dharma during the rule of Swarganarayan. In 1539 AD he died at the hands of a Kachari servant as a result of a conspiracy hatched by his son Suklengmung (1539-1552), who after becoming king, shifted the capital to Gargoan from Bokota which is why he is called 'Gargainya Raja'. Plenty of battles between Ahoms and the Koch took place during his reign. Under his supervision 'Gargaon Pukhuri', a pond, was dug and a road named 'Naga Ali' was constructed. Susengpha, a descendant of Suklengmung, ascended the throne in 1603. He took on the name of Pratap Singha. It was during his time that war between Ahoms and Mughals reached its peak and needless to say that Pratap Singha acquitted himself with full honours and was able to extend the boundaries of the state. He created a new post of Barphukan to look after the administration of the areas beyond Kaliabor. The three classes of ministers Buragohain, Borgohain and Borpatra Gohain had their well defined areas to rule and those part of the kingdom which did not fall under their jurisdiction were brought under the control of Barbaruah, a new post created during the rule of Pratap Singha. Momai Tamuli Barbaruah was the first official to hold this post. Pratap Singha tried his level best to upgrade the life of citizens. He also introduced Pyke (common rayat) system. Under this system, people were divided into groups of 1000, 100 and 20, and over groups- officials Hazarika, Saikia and Bora were elected. Creation of other posts like Rohiyal Barua, Jagiyal Gohain, Kajalimukhiya Gohain is also credited to him. For his organizational capability, political acumen and his great wisdom, he is also known as Buddhi Swarganarayan. Supungmung or Chakradhvaj Singha (1663- 1669) was an independent minded king who prepared himself for another fight against the Mughals. He enlisted the help of Lachit Barphukan, who was the son of Momai Tamuli Barbaruah. In August 1667, under the excellent leadership of Lachit Barphukan, the Ahoms were able to get back Guwahati and Pandu. Hearing the news of this defeat Aurangzeb sent a huge force with Ramsingh to attack the Ahom kingdom once again. A fierce battle took place between the Ahoms and the Mughals in 1671 at Saraighat. As expected, the Mughals suffered an ignominious defeat. Consequently in the west the Manas river became the demarcation line between the Ahom and Mughal territories and remained so until the British occupation in 1826 AD. Supatpha or Gadapani who assumed the Hindu name Gadadhar Singha (1681-1696), waged a war against the Mughals which is also famously known as Itakhulir Rann (war of Itakhuli) and captured back Guwahati from the Mughals. He was a Shaivite and to help propagate this form of Hindu worship he built 'Umananda Devaloi' at Guwahati. He also built the 'Dhodar Ali', a road near Golaghat . Gadadhar Singha's eldest son Lai succeeded him. He took on the Hindu name of Rudra Singha (1696-1714) and the Ahom name Sukrumpha. In the honour of the memory of his mother Joymoti, he dug the Joysagar tank. Other architectural monuments and structures accredited to him are Kareng Ghar, stone bridge built over the Namdang river, Kharikatia Ali, Metaka Ali. Rudra Singha gave royal patronage to 'Bihu'. He also created Khels or positions like Khaund, Kotoki, Bairagi, Doloi, Kakoti. In (1714-1744) Sutanpha, son of Rudra Singha took on the Hindu name of Siva Singha. He became a Shakti worshipper, as he was initiated in the tenets of the Shakti cult by Krishnaram Bhattacharya, who was later on installed as head priest of Kamakhya temple which is situated atop the Nilachal Hills. Siva Singha was a weak person who relied heavily on astrologers which explains the fact that when an astrologer told him that he was in danger of being dethroned, he installed his Queen Phuleswari, who assumed the name Pramateswari (one of the name Durga), as Bor Raj, or chief king, thus engineering the beginning of the end of the Ahom Dynasty. Phuleswari was an orthodox Shakti worshiper who persecuted the Moamoria Mahantas by forcibly making them to take prasad of Durga worship and anointing their foreheads with sacrificial blood. This resulted in the famous Moamoria rebellion. After Phuleswari died in 1731, Siva Singha married her sister Drupadi or Deopadi and made her the next Bor Raja, with the name Ambika. She was the one who constructed the Shiva Dol (temple) at Sibsagar, which is the highest Shiva temple in Assam. It was during her reign that 'Dhai Ali' was constructed at Sibsagar. Gauri Sagar tank and Sibsagar tank were dug at the instruction of 'Bor Raja' Phuleswari and Ambika respectively. The Rule of British In the beginning, the people welcomed the British with open arms because they were seen as saviour. The Assamese had suffered more than enough on account of the Burmese invasion, Moamoria rebellion, downfall of the Ahom kingdom. The British however, saw it as a golden opportunity to annex Assam to the vast British empire which consisted of almost the whole of India. The Pyke system was alive and the post were filled up with non-Assamese, which did not go down well with the people, specially the intellectuals. The plans were afoot to overthrow the British yoke and re-establish the Ahom rule. The first notable revolt against the British was led by Dhananjay Borgohain and Gumadhar Konwar in 1828. Gumadhar Konwar was sentenced to seven years in prison and Dhananjay Borgohain who was ordered to be hanged, fled to the Matak kingdom. There he together with his sons Harakanta and Haranath, son-in-law Jeuram Dulia Baruah, Piyoli Barphukan, Rupchand and many others secretly set up a plan to attack Rangpur. But before they could execute the plans, Sadiya Khowa Gohain informed the British of their plans, because he wanted to prove his loyalty to the British. Piyoli Barphukan and Jeuram Dulia Baruah were hanged to death in 1830 and the rest were expelled from the country. Thus Assam passed into the hands of the British. Besides Assam, they annexed Khamtis, Singhpho, Matak, Kachari, Naga, Garo, Luchai and other hilly kingdoms to the ever growing empire. The time had come when the people decided to take matters in their own hands. The famous revolt of 1857, found an echo in Assam under the leadership of Maniram Dewan and Piyoli Barua, who were consequently hanged in 1558. The British dispensed justice in a high handed manner, without making any distinction between the innocent and the guilty. Sir Holroyd had this to say in connection with the innocents pleading for fair trial that, "We will hang you first, try you afterwards." On the other hand, the British sought to clamp to linguistic freedom of the natives by introducing Bengali as the medium of instruction in 1837. It was an unsuccessful attempt since the unstinted efforts by the American Baptist Missionaries, and front ranking personalities of the day like Anandaram Dhekial Phukan, Hemchandra Baruah, Gunabhiram Baruah that Assamese regained its place as the medium of instruction in 1873. During those days Calcutta was the Mecca of higher learning. The educated Assamese thought it was important that the element of cohesiveness should rejoin the social fabric of the state, so that the fight for liberty could percolate to every strata of the society. In 1884 Jagannath Baruah formed the first such organisation and named it Sarbajanik Sabha at Jorhat. In 1916 the Assam Chatra Sanmilan and in 1917 Assam Sahitya Sabha(formerly known as Sadou Asom Sahitya Sanmilani) was formed. It was followed by Assam Association formed by Manik Chandra Baruah. In 1919, this particular association joined the Assam branch of Indian National Congress. In 1919-20 like the rest of the country Assam also plunged into the non-cooperation movement launched by Gandhiji. Assam's participation in the national wave dates back to 1886 at the second session of Indian National Congress held at Calcutta, where Debi Chandra Baruah, Gopinath Bordoloi, Kamini Kumar Chandra, Bipin Chandra Pal, Satyanath Baruah, Joy Gobindasom represented Assam. The year 1912 is a memorable year is the annals of Assam history because of three things, which were: (1) Gandhiji's visit to Assam, (2) Strikes by Assam Bengal train service and steamer companies, which were the cause of widespread unrest and (3) After a period of 63 years i.e., in 1912, Assam passed into the hands of a Governor, thus paving the way for a dual administration, which lasted till 1936. Assam joined the rest of the country in the Civil Disobedience movement of 1930 launched by Gandhiji. In 1935 self goverance in Assam was introduced. Assam plunged into the Quit India Movement in 1942 which was also popularly known as Peoples' Revolution.

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