Assamese People and Their Culture

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Assam is the meeting ground of various cultures. Assam has many ethnic groups and the People of India project has studied 115 of these. Out of which 79 (69%) identify themselves regionally, 22 (19%) locally, and 3 trans-nationally. 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.

As per 2011 census, total population of Assam was 31,169,272. The total  population of the state has increased from 26,638,407 to 31,169,272 in the last ten years with a growth rate of 16.93 per cent. In 2011, literacy rate in the state was 73.18%. Male literacy rate was 78.81% and female literacy rate was 67.27%.  In 2001, the census had recorded literacy in Assam at 63.3% with male literacy at 71.3% and female at 54.6%. Urbanization rate was recorded at 12.9%.

Forty-five languages are spoken by different communities, including three major language families: Austroasiatic (5), Sino-Tibetan (24) and Indo-European (12). Three of the spoken languages do not fall in these families. Assamese and Bodo are the official languages in Assam, whereas in some of the districts in the Barak Valley, Bengali enjoys the official status. Assamese is spoken by about twenty million people in Assam on both banks of the mighty Brahmaputra.

There are 23 notified Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Assam with the Bodos (40.9 per cent) making half of the total ST population (around 13 per cent) of the state. The other STs (both plains and hills) include Miri, Karbi, Rabha, Kachari, Lalung, Barman in Cachar, Borokachar, Deori, Hajai, Mech, Dimasa, Hajong, Singhphho, Khampti and Garo, Chakma, Hmar, Khasi, Jaintia, Synteng, Pnar, War, Bhoi, Lyngngam, and Kuki.

Majority of the Assamese people are Vaishnavite (Vaishnava Movement led by Srimanta Shankardeva). The Vaishnavas perform Namkirtana in Namghar and sattra (the Vaishnav Monasteries) where the glory of Lord Krishna is recited, they don’t believe in idol worshiping. Other prominent religions are Islam, Budhism, and Christianity. As per 2001 census report 65 % people are Hindus and 31 % people are Muslims. 

 Agriculture accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs 69% of workforce. In addition to engaged in traditional paddy field, Assam has a rich tradition of crafts; presently, Cane and bamboo craft, bell metal and brass craft, silk and cotton weaving, toy and mask making, pottery and terracotta work, wood craft, jewellery making, musical instruments making, etc. remained as major traditions. Assam is the home of several types of silks, the most prestigious are: Muga – the natural golden silk, Pat – a creamy-bright-silver coloured silk and Eri – a variety used for manufacturing warm clothes for winter.

There are diversified important traditional festivals in Assam. Bihu is the most important, non-religious and common and celebrated all over Assam. Durga Puja is another festival celebrated with great enthusiasm. On the other hand Muslims celebrate Eids with much eagerness all over Assam. Other major festivals of Assam are Me-dam-me-phi, Ali-Aye-Ligang, Dol-jatra, etc.

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