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Assam, popularly known as the Land of Red Rivers and Blue Hills is also the sentinel of north-east India and gateway to the North-Eastern States. The State is close to India’s international borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan. Assam is surrounded by Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh on the north, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh on the east and Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram on the south. Assam comprises an area of 78,438 square kilometers and has a population of 31,169,272 according to Census 2011.
The word ‘Assam’ as interpreted by some scholars is derived from the Sanskrit word Asoma meaning peerless or unparalleled. But the widely accepted opinion of the academic circles today is that the term has come from the original name of the Ahoms, who ruled the land for about six hundred years prior to its annexation by the British. The races like Austric, Mongolian, Dravidian and Aryan that came to this land long ago have contributed to its composite culture. Thus Assam has a rich legacy of culture and civilization. Assam was also known as Pragjyotisha or the place of eastern astronomy during the epic period and later named as Kamrupa. (India 2012, Publication Division, GOI)
The principal language of Assam is Assamese although a large number of other languages are spoken. Assamese and Bodo are the major indigenous and official languages while Bengali holds official status in the three districts in the Barak Valley and is the second most widely spoken language of the state (27%).
Assam’s economy is mainly based on agriculture. It accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs 69% of workforce. Assam’s biggest contribution to the world is tea. Assam produces finest and a notable part of the total tea production of the world. Assam has always enjoyed the highest reputation for her arts and crafts associated with her cottage industries. Cottage industries include handloom, sericulture, cane and bamboo articles, carpentry, brass and bell-metal crafts. Assam produces varieties of silk, Endi, Muga, Tassar, etc. Muga silk is produced only in Assam in the world.
Geomorphic studies conclude that the Brahmaputra, the life-line of Assam is an antecedent river, older than the Himalayas. With the Tropical Monsoon Rainforest Climate, Assam is temperate (summer max. at 35–38 °C and winter min. at 6–8 °C) and experiences heavy rainfall and high humidity. The climate is characterized by heavy monsoon downpours reducing summer temperatures and affecting foggy nights and mornings in winters. Spring (Mar–Apr) and autumn (Sept–Oct) are usually pleasant with moderate rainfall and temperature.
Agriculture occupies an important place in the economy of Assam. The principal food crop is rice. The cash crops are jute, tea, cotton, oilseeds, sugarcane, potato, etc. Assam produces a significant part of the total tea production of the world. Noteworthy horticulture items are orange, banana, pineapple, arecanut, coconut, guava, mango, jackfruit and citrus fruits.
The State has five National Parks and eleven wildlife sanctuaries. The Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Tiger Project (National Park) are internationally famous for the one horned Rhino and Royal Bengal Tiger respectively.
There are various important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important and common and celebrated all over Assam. Durga Puja is another festival celebrated with great enthusiasm. Muslims celebrate Eids with much eagerness all over Assam.
Assam is known as one of the most popular tourist spot of India. For the purposes of tourism there are wildlife preserves like the Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (Dibrugarh- Tinsukia), among others. Apart from wildlife preserves there are many historical places in the state like Rang Ghar, Talatal Ghar of Sivasagar, Kareng Ghar of Gargaon, Agnigarh of Tezpur, Madan Kamdev archeological site of Kamrup etc. Cultural places are mainly great temple of Kamakhya, pilgrimage place Hajo, the great Vaishnava Satras of Majuli and Barpeta and many more.