The seven north-eastern states of India are collectively referred to as Seven Sister States (Sikkim is not counted in Seven Sisters). The north-east region is known for its culture, handicrafts, martial arts, and scenic beauty.
Assam’s history can be found in Tantric literature, Assamese folklore, Vedic literature, and Buddhist literature. Assam is mentioned in epics like Mahabharata as it was inhabited by Aryans belonging to warrior and priestly classes who migrated to Assam very early. The first known ruler of Assam was Mahiranga Danava of Danava dynasty. He was succeeded by Hatakasur, Sambarsur, and Ratnasur. Ghatakasur, the ruler of Kiratas, succeeded Ratnasur and made Progjyotishpur, now known as Guwahati, his capital. It was under him that numerous Brahmans settled down at Kamakhya. Lord Krishna appears in the mythology of Assam. Narkasur was killed by Lord Krishna. To avenge his death Narakasur’s successor, Bhagadatta, led a vast army against the Pandavas in the Mahabharta war. Lord Krishna also fought against King Bhismaka of Kundil (present Sadia) as he wanted to marry Bhismaka’s daughter Rukmini. King Banasura of Sonitpur (now Tezpur) also fought against Lord Krishna when he came to know that his daughter Usha was secretly married to the grandson of lord Krishna, Anirudh.
In historical context, the first king to rule over Kamrupa was Pushya Varman (350-380 AD). He was a contemporary of Samudragupta who ruled from 350-375 AD. Pushya Varman was given the title of Maharajadhiraj. Mahendra Varman, a descendant of Pushya Varman, became the first Varman king to perform an Ashwamedha Yagya and the first king of Kamrupa to defeat the Gupta army. The Varman dynasty was at its peak under the rule of Bhaskar Varman (594-650 AD) and during his reign a new era of Assam’s history started. The dynasty of Varman kings ended with Bhaskar Varman.
After the Varman dynasty, the Salasthambha dynasty was the next to rule Assam. The dynasty is named after the first chieftain to rule Assam called Salasthambha. Shri Harshadeva of the Salasthambha dynasty who ruled between 725 AD and 750 AD is considered to be a good king of the dynasty. Tyaga Singha (970-990 AD) was the last king of the dynasty. Brahmapala, the first king of Pala dynasty, ruled Assam between 970 and 990 AD. Jayapala was the last ruler of this dynasty.
During the rule of king Prithu the first invasion of Kamrupa took place in 1206 AD. Prithu died in a battle with Illtutmish’s son Nassiruddin in 1228 AD. The capital ‘Kamrup Nagar’ was transferred to Kamatapur around 1257 AD by the then ruler of Assam, Saindhya (1250-1270 AD), when Assam was attacked by Ikhtiyaruddin Yuzbak or Tughril Khan. Since that time onwards Kamata’s ruler was called Kamateshwar.
In the later part of the 14th century, Gaur (the northern part of former Kamatapur), was ruled by Arimatta who had Vaidyagar as his capital. The first Muslims settled in 15th century after the invasion by Mughals.
The Ahoms established their rule over Assam in the early part of the 13th century and had Sibsagar as their capital. During that time the Sovansiri region and the region close to the banks of the Disang River was under the control of the Chutias. According to legend the Chutia kingdom was annexed by Ahom king Dihingia Raja.
Barobhuyans occupied area east of Kamrup area. Bhuyans were petty chiefs and the title of ‘Baro’ was given as a title of honor to the twelve chieftains who established small kingdoms even though they were not kings themselves. The Barobhuyans took up arms against the Ahoms only to be crushed by the Ahom king Pratap Singha.
In the early part of the 16th century the foundation of the Koch dominion was laid by Bishwa Singha (1515-1540 AD), who established Cooch in Bihar as his capital. Bishwa Singha was succeeded by his son Malladeva (known as Naranarayana). Naranarayana’s rule was the most glorious period for the Koch kingdom. The Ahoms suffered defeat during his period and the kingdom was expanded by conquering Kachari kingdom, Manipur, Tripura, Jayantia, and Srihatta. During the battle with the Nawab of Gour, Naranarayana was attacked by small-pox and died on the banks of Ganges in 1584. During his reign the Koch kingdom reached its peak and the Assamese culture and literature flourished. After his death the Koch kingdom started declining and was annexed to the Mughal Empire in 1615.
The Kacharis are supposed to be descendants of Ghatotkacha, son of Bhima. The Kacharis, an ancient race of Assam, came to power in early 13th century. Jashanarayan, Pratapnarayan, Jamradwaj, and Govindchandra were notable kings of Kachari kingdom. The Kacharis were forced to surrender their capital Hidimbapur (know now as Dimapur) and the areas adjoining it to the Ahoms near the end of the 15th century. The last Kachari king was Gobind Chandra (1813-1830).
Jayantias established their kingdom in and around Jayantia hills. Dhanamanik and Jashamanik were noteworthy kings of this kingdom. The Jayantia kingdom forged matrimonial alliance with the Ahoms. Jayantias fought along with Ahoms when they were invaded by Mughals. Jahomatta Rai, a contemporary of the Ahom king Nariya Raja (1644-1648 AD), claimed the regions Dimorja, Gobha, Nellie and Khola. This led to souring of relations between the Jayantias and the Ahoms. After the rule of Bijanarayan the Jayantia kingdom along with the Ahom kingdom passed into the hands of the British.
The Ahom rule started in the 13th century when the first Ahom king, Sukafa, then prince of Monlung of upper Burma (present Myanmar) settled in the Patkai Mountains with his supporters. He entered Assam through Naga Kingdom and set up his capital at Charaideo in 1253. The foundation for the 600 year Ahom rule was laid by Sukafa. After Sukafa’s death in 1268 AD his son Suseupha (1268-1281) succeeded him and expanded the kingdom’s boundary to include the area adjacent to Dikhow River. During Sudangpha’s rule (1397-1407 AD) the influence of Brahmins increased in Ahoms. During his reign a war between Ahoms and Tipams started which was later concluded peacefully.
The period between 1497 and 1539 AD when Suhungmung ruled is considered as the golden era in the 600 years of the Ahom rule. Suhungmung took the Hindi name Swarganarayan. After he shifted the Ahom capital to Bokota near Dihing River he popularly came to be known as Dihingia Raja. He took over the Chutia and the Kachari territories and brought them under Ahom rule. The first ever census took place under him. The Mughals invaded thrice during his reign but were defeated each and every time. The Ahoms used to rely on traditional methods of warfare like bow, arrows, and swords but due to the invasions the Ahoms came to know the use of gunpowder. Swarganarayan was killed in 1539 AD by his servant as a result of a conspiracy hatched by his son Suklengmung who ruled between 1539 and 1552 AD. After becoming king Suklengmung shifted from Bokota to Gargoan. Many battles took place between Ahoms and the Koch during his reign. A pond ‘Gargaon Pukhuri’ was dug and a road called ‘Naga Ali’ was constructed under his supervision.
In 1603 AD Susengpha, who took the name of Pratap Singha, became king. During his rule the war between the Mughals and Ahoms escalated but Pratap Singha was able to ward off the Mughals. He also extended the boundaries of the state and tried to improve the life of his citizens. He introduced a common rayat system known as Pyke under which people were divided into groups of 1000, 100 and 20 and posts of officials were created by him to look after them called Hazarika, Saikia and Bora. He is also credited with the creation of other posts such as Barua, Jagiyal Gohain, and Rohiyal. He is known as ‘Buddhi Swarganarayan’ due to his great wisdom, organizational capability and political acumen.
Chakradhvaj Singha ruled between 1663 and 1669 AD. To fight the Mughals he asked Lachit Barphukan, son of Momaj Tamuli Barbaruah, for help. The Ahoms conquered Guwahati and Pandu under the brilliant leadership of Lachit Barphukan. When Aurangzeb heard the news of defeat at the hand of Ahoms, he ordered Ramsingh to attack the Ahom kingdom immediately with a large force. The Mughals suffered a humiliating loss in the battle that took place between Ahoms and the Mughals at Saraighat in 1671. After the war the Manas River in the west became a demarcation line between the Ahom and the Mughal territories till 1826 when the British came.
Gadapani assumed the Hindi name Gadadhar Singha and ruled between 1681 and 1696 AD. He successfully waged a war known as Itakhulir Rann (war of Itakhuli) against the Mughals to recapture Guwahati from the Mughals. He built a road named ‘Dhodar Ali’ near Golaghat and a temple, ‘Umananda Devaloi’, at Guwahati. Lai, eldest son of Gadadhat Singha, was next to become king. He took on the Hindu name Rudra Singha and the Ahom name Sukrumpha and reigned from 1696 AD to 1714 AD. He constructed the Joysagar Tank as a mark of respect for his mother Joymoti. He also build a stone bridge over the Namdang River known as Kareng Ghar along with Metaka Ali, Kharikatia Ali. Royal patronage to ‘Bihu’ was given by him.
Rudra Singha’ son Sutaanpha (1714-1744 AD) had the Hindu name of Siva Singha. He was initiated in the creed of the Shakti cult by Krishnaram Bhattacharya and became a Shakti worshipper. Krishnaram Bhattacharya was later appointed as the head priest of Kamakhya temple situated at the top of Nilanchal Hills. Siva Singha had immense faith in astrologers and when he was told by an astrologer that he could be dethroned, Siva Singha installed his Queen Phuleshwari at the throne. She took the name Pramateswari. She was also a Shakti worshipper albeit orthodox one. She forced the Moamoria Mahants to take the Prasad of Durga worship and forcibly smeared sacrifical blood on their foreheads. These atrocities resulted in the Moamoria rebellion. Siva Singha married Phuleswari’s sister Drupadi after her death in 1731. She was put on the throne by Siva Singha under the name of Ambika. She constructed the highest Shiva temple in Assam, the Shiva Dol at Sibsagar. At the same place ‘Dhai Ali’ was constructed. Phuleshwari asked the Gauri Sagar tank to be dug and the Sibsagar tank was dug at the instruction of Ambika.
The British Rule
The people of Assam had suffered a lot due to the invasion by Burma (now Myanmar), Moamoria rebellion, and the fall of the Ahom kingdom. They misunderstood the intentions of the British and welcomed them not knowing their real purpose. The British wanted to annex Assam and add it to the British Empire which consisted of almost whole India. The posts under the Pyke system were filled up with people of non-Assamese origin. The people in general and the intellectuals in particular were unhappy with this decision and plans were set in motion to overthrow the British rule.
The first major revolt against the British rule was started in 1828 by Gumadhar Konwar and Dhananjay Borgohain. Gumadhar was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment and Dhananjay was ordered to be hanged. Dhananjay fled to the Matak kingdom and made secret plans to attack Rangpur with the help of his sons Harakanta and Haranath, son-in-law Jeuram Dulia Baruah and other people. Before the plan could be executed the British were informed of the plans by Sadiya Khowa who wanted to prove his loyalty to the British Empire by doing so. Jeuram Dulia Baruah and Piyoli Barphukan were executed in 1830 and the rest were expelled from the country. Hence Assam along with Khamtis, Singhpho, Matak, Kachari, Naga, Garo, Luchai was added to the British Empire.
The British introduced Bengali as the medium of instruction in 1837 so that the linguistic freedom of the natives could be suppressed but due to efforts by American Baptist Missionaries and Assamese personalities like Hemchandra Baruah and Gunabhiram Bharuah Assamese was made medium of instruction in 1873. Sarbjanik Sabha was formed at Jorhat by Jagannath Baruah in 1884. Assam Chatra Sanmilan was formed in 1916 and Assam Sahitya Sabha in 1917. Assam Association, formed by Manik Chandra Baruah, joined the Assam branch of Indian National Congress.
Assam took part in the non-cooperation movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi along with the rest of country. At the second session of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta Assam was represented by Bipin Chandra Pal, Satyanath Baruah, Debi Chandra Baruah, Kamini Kumar Chandra. The year 1912 is an important year as in this year Mahatma Gandhi visited Assam, Assam Bengal train service and steamer companies went on strike and after 63 years Assam came under the rule of Governor which lasted till 1936. Assam took part in the Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 along with the rest of the country. Self governance was introduced in Assam in 1935. People of Assam took part in the Quit India Movement of 1942.
When India gained its independence in 1947 the people of Assam won control of their state assembly and started a campaign to reaffirm the dominance of Assamese culture in the region and provide more employment opportunities for native Assamese. Due to this some tribal areas were alienated. These tribal areas started demanding independence from India. The Indian Government partitioned the former Assam into the tribal states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
Following the Pakistan civil was in 1971; nearly two million Bengali Muslim refugees migrated to Assam. Their illegal settlement and then their electoral support for Indira Gandhi’s Congress government further aggravated Assamese fears of Bengali cultural domination and central government ambitions to undermine Assamese regional autonomy.
Disputes started over the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and elsewhere. The student unions and the political parties of Assam wanted to safeguard the interest of the native people of Assam. The Indian Government and the state government used brute force to crush the peaceful demonstration. Many demonstrators were killed due to this action of the government. Due to this worst communal violence since partition broke out near the end of the movement.
The Government of India signed a treaty with the people of Assam in 1985. Asom Gana Parishad party came to power after elections were held in the state. In the 1990′s military groups like ULFA, The United Liberation Front of Assam started demanding independence of Assam from the Central government. These groups do not hesitate to use force and resort to violence to make their point. The government increased the presence of the military forces in the region to curb these separatist outfits. The Army has been accused by the local people of violating human rights.
Arunachal Pradesh was part of the North East Frontier Agency. It became a Union Territory before becoming a full fledged state on 20th February 1987.
Earliest mention of Tripura is found in the Ashoka pillars (3rd century BC). In 14th century AD it came under control of the Manikya dynasty. Mughals took control of the region in early part of the 17th century. On 9th September 1947 monarchy ended in Tripura. Tripura became part of India on 15 October, 1949. It became a Union Territory on 1st November 1956 and subsequently was made a state of the Indian union on January 21, 1972.
Manipur became a part of India in 1949. It was made a state on January 21, 1972 after becoming Union Territory for sometime.
Meghalaya is home to many ancient tribes like the Khasis, Jaintias, Mikirs, and Cacharis which are supposed to be living in the region even before the start of the Christian era. The Garo Hills were occupied by the British in 1872. The British developed the roads in Meghalaya. Meghalaya was given the status of a full-fledged state on January 21, 1972.
The origin of Mizos is vague just like that of many other tribes hailing from the North East region. Mizo are believed to have come from Shinlung or Chhinlungsan region which is situated on the banks of the river Yalung in China.
The first Mizos who migrated to India were known as Kukis. The second batch of the immigrants were called New Kukis. The last tribe to migrate and settle down in India was that of the Lushais.
In 1895 the Mizo Hills were formally declared as a part of the British India by a proclamation. The North and the South Hills were combined into Lushai Hill district with Aizwal as it’s headquarter in 1898. Due to the influence of the British Missionaries most of the Mizos converted to Christianity.
Mizoram state was formed on 20th February, 1987.
Very little is known about the ancient history of Nagaland. British started ruling the region in 1980s. A single Naga administrative unit was established by the Indian Government in 1957. The Indian Government agreed to give Nagaland self-governance in 1960 following the civil unrest in the state. In 1963 it was given full status of a state.
Sikkim is a very small hilly state which lies between Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and West Bengal. Lepchas were the original inhabitants of Sikkim (Lepchas mean “ravine folk”). They came to Sikkim from Assam and Myanmar. The Bhutias belonging to Tibet moved into Sikkim in 1200′s AD. The Namgyal clan arrived in the 1400s and gradually won political control over Sikkim. Phuntsog Namgyal (1604-1670) became the Chogyal (king) in 1642. Sikkim was ruled for more than 330 years by his descendants. In the 1700′s Nepal and Bhutan carried out series of attacks on Sikkim due to which it lost much of its province. Nepalese settled in Sikkim as farmers. Sikkim backed the British in the war against Nepal (1814-1815) and won back some territory it had lost.
British East India Company got hold of the health resort of Darjeeling from Sikkim in 1835. In 1861 Sikkim became a British colony after some violent resistance. Britain and China signed an agreement which recognized the border between Sikkim and Tibet. To assist the Chogyal in running the internal and external work of the kingdom a political office was installed by the British.
In 1950 Sikkim’s external affairs, defence, and communications tasks were assumed by the Indian Government. Due to spread of democratic ideas and introduction of democratic constitution in Sikkim the Chogyals lost their power. In 1974 Sikkim became 22nd state of India.