Assam the Gateway of North East

Assam at a Glance

Assam is a northeastern state of the country. In the most ancient time it was known as Pragjyotishpur and due to the astrology (Jyotish Shashtra) practice that prevailed in this part of the country during that time, and in the medieval times it was known as Kamrup.  Assam is the modern name, which under the Ahom rule came to be called “asamas” which means ‘peerless’ (or unoven).

Origin of the name Kamrup

There is a famous story which says the reason behind the naming of this place as “Kamrup”:

Lord “Shiva” marred Parvati, the daughter of Daksha, a very powerful king of that time. The king, however, did not like his son-in-law for some reasons and hence did not invite him for the “Jagna” (the great sacrifice) ceremony which the king organised in a great fashion. Parvati being the daughter of the king could not resist from attending the ceremony and went there with permission from her husband. As she reached the auspicious venue, ”Daksha” did pass on derogatory comments on her husband and that too in front of a huge gathering. She became very annoyed and got disgusted at the discourtesy shown to her husband and sacrificed her life on the spot itself.

Overcome with grief at the death of Sati (Parvati), Shiva began a grim penance and wandered about the world carrying her dead body on his head. Siva’s ‘Dance of death’ and penance alarmed all the gods because it threatened to destroy the world. In order to stop the frightful wandering of Shiva, the supreme god, Vishnu, cut the dead body of Sati into 51 pieces with his great weapon “Sudarshan Chakra”. The pieces are fell onto the earth in fifty-one different places and wherever they fell, the ground was held to be sacred. One of the important organ of Sati fell on Nilachal hill in Guwahati and the place was thenceforth held sacred and it says that the famous Kamakhya temple was originated from that “Sati’s” organ only.

As Shiva continue to do penance, the other good became afraid that he would thereby acquire universal power. They send Kamadeva, the God of Love, to make Shiva fall in love again, and thereby break his penance. Kamdeva succeeded in his mission, but Shiva was so enraged at the result that he burnt Kamdeva into ashes by a fiery glance of his third eye. Kamdeva eventually regained his life and his original ‘form’ (Rupa) in Assam and the land where this took place is known is “Kamrup”(Kamarupa).

Assam is bounded to the north by the kingdom of Bhutan and the state of Arunachal Pradesh, to the east by the state of Nagaland and Manipur, to the south by the state of Mizoram and Tripura, and to the west by Bangladesh and the state of Meghalaya and West Bengal. The neighbouring state of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Meghalaya were once part of Assam. The Capital, formerly Shillong ( Now the capital of Meghalaya), was shifted to Dispur in 1972. Assam is the largest Northeastern state in terms of population and second in terms of area. Assam covers area of 78,438km2 (30,285 sq miles) and total population of 31,205,576 in which male were 15,939,443 while females were 15,266,133 as per the Census 2011.

Assam is rich in natural resources. The natural resources of Assam may be classified under following heads – mineral, forest, water and agricultural resources. The State is one of the richest biodiversity zones in the world and consists of tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, riverine grasslands, bamboo orchards and numerous wetland ecosystems.

Assam is famous for its abundant forest resources. A large part of Assam is covered by hills and forests. These hills and forests contain valuable trees in large quantities. The Dipterocarpus macrocarpus or locally known as the Hollong Tree is recognized as the State Tree of Assam. Assam is remarkably rich in Orchid species and the Foxtail orchid (Rhynchostylis retusa) also known as the Kopou Phul is the State Flower of Assam. The recently established Kaziranga National Orchid and Biodiversity Park boasts more than 500 of the estimated 1,314 orchid species found in India. Assam, with its vast area under hills and forests, is home to a variety of medicinal herbs and plants. About 300 types of medicinal herbs and plants are found in abundance in the state with the Brahmaputra valley alone having 150 varieties of herbs and plants of commercial value.

Assam has wildlife sanctuaries, the most prominent of which are two UNESCO World Heritage sites-the Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. There are three other National Parks in Assam namely Dibru Saikhowa National Park, Nameri National Park and the Orang National Park. Kaziranga is a home to the fast-disappearing Indian one-horned rhinoceros which has also been recognized as the State Animal of Assam. The state bird of Assam is the white-winged wood duck.

Assam has abundant mineral resources coal, petroleum; limestone and natural gas are the principal mineral resources. It is also the largest producer of crude oil in India. Other minor minerals include magnetic quartzite, kaolin, sillimanites, iron ore, clay and feldspar etc. Oil India Limited (OIL) is the second-largest hydrocarbon exploration and production Indian public sector company with its operational headquarters in Duliajan, Assam, India under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

The Barak and the Brahmaputra rivers with their innumerable tributaries are the sources of water for Assam. These rivers supply water for growing different crops and also offer fishing trade. The scope for establishing hydroelectric power utilizing the water resources in Assam is quite vast.

In Assam, agriculture makes the highest contribution to its domestic sectors, accounting for more than a third of Assam’s income and employs about 69% of the workforce.

Assam has the single largest tea growing area in the world, constituting around one-seventh of the global tea production. It has its own variety Camellia assamica. The state accounts for over 50 per cent in the country’s overall tea production. The state houses Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC), one of the largest CTC tea auction centres of the world.

Assam also accounts for fair share of India’s production of rice, rapeseed, mustard, jute, potato, sweet potato, banana, papaya, areca nut and turmeric. Assam is also a home of large varieties of citrus fruits, leaf vegetables, vegetables, useful grasses, herbs, spices, etc. which are mostly subsistence crops.

Assam Silk denotes the three major types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam—Golden Muga Silk, White Pat and warm Eri Silk. The Assam silk industry, now centered in Sualkuchi, is a labor-intensive industry. Assam enjoys global monopoly in terms of Muga Silk production. The state accounts for around 95 per cent of global Muga production. Moreover, Assam is the country’s major Eri Silk producer (accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s Eri silk production). Raw Silk production in Assam and Bodoland reached to 2,723 MT in the year 2017-18 (Up to November 2017)

Assam is a major producer of crude oil and natural gas in India. It was the second place in the world (after Titusville in the United States) where petroleum was discovered. Asia’s first successful mechanically drilled oil well was drilled in Makum (Assam) way back in 1867. The second oldest oil well in the world still produces crude oil. One of the biggest public sector oil companies of the country, Oil India Ltd. has its plant and headquarters at Duliajan. Assam has four oil refineries located at Guwahati, Digboi, Numaligarh and Bongaigaon with a total capacity of 7 MMTPA (Million Metric Tonnes per annum). Bongaigaon Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (BRPL) is the only S&P CNX 500 conglomerate with corporate office in Assam.

At current prices, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of Assam was Rs 2.50 trillion (US$ 37.23 billion) in 2016-17. The GSDP of the state grew at a CAGR (in Rs) of 11.78 per cent from 2011-12 to 2016-17. The GSDP of is estimated to have reached Rs 2.48 trillion (US$ 40.1 billion) in 2017-18.

Assam is India’s gateway to the Northeast and acts as a vital link for trade with Southeast Asian countries. It is well connected by rail, road, ports and airports. The State has adopted numerous investor-friendly policies to attract investments & accelerate industrial development.  The North East Industrial Investment Promotion Policy and the Industrial Policy of Assam facilitate business through fiscal incentives and multi-year concessions to investors. The Information Technology (IT) Policy and the Tourism Policy of Assam have given special attention to specific sector development.

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