The lush valley of the Brahmaputra, one of the world’s great rivers, provides the setting for Assam’s culturally rich and diverse communities. Although it is tea that has put the state on the world map, the fertile river valley is home to generations of rice farmers, and tribal populations continue to have a significant presence. A highlight of any visit is Kaziranga National Park, where the population of Asian one-horned rhinos has been steadily increasing over recent years meaning that sightings are virtually guaranteed.
The Ahoms, a Shan ruling tribe, arrived in the area in the early 13th century, deposed the ruler and established the kingdom of Assam with its capital in Sibsagar. They later inter- mixed with Aryan stock and also with existing indigenous peoples (Morans, Chutiyas) and most converted to Hinduism. The Mughals made several attempts to invade without success, but the Burmese finally invaded Assam at the end of the 18th century and held it almost continuously until it was ceded to the East India Company in 1826. The British administered it in name until 1947 though many areas were beyond their effective control.
Nearly 90% of the people continue to live in rural areas. The ethnic origin of the Assamese varies from Mongoloid tribes to those of directly Indian stock. There has been a steady flow of Muslim settlers from Bengal since the late 19th century. The predominant language is Assamese, similar to Bengali although harder to pronounce. In Assamese, “how are you?” is “ Apni kene koya?” and “good” is “bahal”.