Society and Culture


The Assamese are a mixture of Mongolian- Tibetan, Aryan, and Burman ethnic origins. Their official language, which is called Assamese, is closely related to Bengali. An unbroken record of Assamese literary history is traceable from the 14th century. About two-thirds of the Assamese are Hindus, and about a quarter are Muslim. The Muslims are mostly recent settlers from Bangladesh or converts belonging to the lower strata of Hindu society. A majority of the Hindus accept Vaisnavism, which is based on the deity Vishnu. The hilly margins of the plain are inhabited by the hill tribes of the Garo, Khasi, and Hajong. The Bodo are the largest minority group in Assam and are concentrated in the northern areas of the Brahmaputra River valley.

Artist and sculptors, masons and architects, and others practicing minor crafts such as weavers, spinners, potters, goldsmiths, artisans of ivory, wood, bamboo, cane and hide flourished in Assam from ancient times. The Eri, Muga and Pat are the important silk products of Assam. Weaving is another important aspect of the cultural life of the people of Assam, particularly of the women. Every Assamese house, irrespective of caste, creed, and social status, has at least one loom, and each woman is required to be skilled in producing fine silk and cotton cloths.

The most important celebrations of the state are the three Bihu festivals. Originally agricultural festivals, these are observed with great enthusiasm irrespective of caste, creed, and religious affinity. The Bohag Bihu, celebrated in the spring (usually mid-April) to mark the commencement of the new year (first day of the Bohag or Baisakh month), is the most important one. Also known as Rangali Bihu (rang means merrymaking and fun), it is accompanied by much dancing and singing. On this day women present a hand-woven gamocha (towel) to each family member. The Magh Bihu, celebrated in mid-January (in the month of Magh), is a harvest festival. Known also as Bhogali Bihu (bhog means enjoyment and feasting), it is a time of community feasts and bonfires. The third Bihu festival, the Kati Bihu (inmid-October), is also called the Kangali Bihu (kangali means poor) because by this time of year the house of a common man is without food grains, as the stock is usually consumed before the next harvest.

The Australoids who were perhaps the first to come to the land; the Mongoloids who came to the Northeast in a series of migrations from the north, north-east and south-east; and the Caucasoids who came from the west by the valley formed by the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. Today, the people of the State can be broadly classified as the Non- Tribals or Plains People who generally live in the plains and the Tribals who have mainly been living in the hills. However, there is a substantial tribal population in the plains too.

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