Assam, 1908

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Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.



The Province of Assam, which lies on the north-eastern border of Bengal, and is one of the frontier Provinces of the Indian Empire, is situated between 22 19' and 28 16' N. and 89 42' and 97 12' E. It is bounded on the north by the eastern section of the great Himalayan range, the frontier tribes from west to east being successively the Bhotias of Bhutan, the Bhotias of Towang — a pro- vince subject to Lhasa — Akas, Daflas, Miris, Abors, and Mishmis ; on the north-east by the Mishmi Hills, which sweep round the head of the Brahmaputra Valley ; on the east by the mountains which are in- habited by Khamtis, Singphos, and various Naga tribes, and by the Burmese frontier where it marches with that of the State of Manipur ; on the south by the Chin Hills, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the State of Hill Tippera ; and on the west by the Bengal Districts of Tippera, Mymensingh, and Rangpur, the State of Cooch Behar, and Jalpaigurl District. The total area of the Province, including the Native State of Manipur (8,456 square miles), is 61,682 square miles.

The name ' Assam ' is, according to some, derived from the Sanskrit asama, which means ' peerless ' or ' unequalled.' It has been suggested that this title was applied to the Shan invaders, now called Ahoms, and was transferred from them to the country that they conquered. This derivation is, however, open to the serious objection that in Assamese s is softened into h, as in the name of the tribe ; and there is no apparent reason why it should have been retained in the name of the country.

1 Since the following article was written the small Province of Assam has ceased to exist as a separate unit, and has been amalgamated with fifteen Districts of Northern and Eastern Bengal to form the larger Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, which is ruled by a Lieutenant-Governor, with a Legislative Council. The account of the general administrative staff, the various departments, and the system of legislation is thus obsolete ; and the arrangements which are now in force will be found described in the article on Eastern Bengal and Assam. The remainder of the article affords a generally correct account of that portion of the new Province which was once known as Assam.

It is doubtful also whether either the Ahoms themselves, or the tribes they found in occupation of the country, would use a Sanskrit term to denote the dominant race. The Province falls into three natural divisions : the valley of the Surma or Barak, the valley of the Brahmaputra or Assam proper, and the intervening range of hills. The Native State of Manipur, which lies east of Cachar under the control of the Local Administration, and the hills to the south of that District inhabited by the Lushais have recently been brought under British rule.

Physical aspects

The Surma Valley is a fiat plain about 125 miles long by 60 wide, shut in on three sides by ranges of hills. The river from which the valley takes its name rises on the southern slopes of the mountain ranges on the borders of the Naga Hills District, and flows south through the Manipur hills. At Tipaimukh, it turns sharply to the north and takes a tortuous course, with a generally westward direction, through Cachar District. On the western boundary of Cachar it divides into two branches, the northern of which, known as the Surma, flows near the Khasi Hills past Sylhet and Chhatak, till it turns south at Sunam- ganj. The southern branch, called at first the Kusiyara, again divides into two streams, known as the Barak and the Bibiyana, or Kalni, but both branches rejoin the Surma on the western boundary of the Province. The chief tributaries of the river on the north, after it enters British territory, are the Jiri and Jatinga from the North Cachar Hills, and the Bogapani and Jadukata from the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. On the south it receives from the Lushai Hills the Sonai, the Dhales- wari with its second channel the Katakhal, and the Singla ; and the Langai, Manu, and Khowai from Hill Tippera.

The western end of the valley lies very low, and at Sylhet the low- water level of the Surma is only 22-7 feet above the sea. The banks of the rivers are raised by deposits of silt above the level of the surround- ing country, and are lined with villages, which in the rainy season appear to be standing in a huge lake. Farther east the country rises, and fields covered with sail (transplanted winter rice) take the place of swamps, in which only the longest-stemmed varieties of paddy can be grown ; but even here there are numerous depressions, or haors as they are called, in the lowest parts of which water remains during the dry season, and which can be used only for grazing or the growth of winter crops. In western Sylhet the houses of the villagers are crowded together, gardens and fruit trees are scarce, and the scenery at all seasons of the year is tame and uninteresting. Cachar and the eastern portion of Sylhet have, on the other hand, much to please the eye. Blue hills bound the view on almost every side, the villages are buried in groves of slender palms, feathery bamboos, and broad-leaved plan- tains, and even in the dry season the country looks fresh and green. The level of the plain is broken by low ranges and isolated hills, and here and there beds of reeds and marshes lend variety to the scene. Little or no forest exists in Sylhet, but there are extensive Reserves in the south and east of Cachar District.

The Brahmaputra Valley is an alluvial plain about 450 miles in length, with an average breadth of about 50 miles, shut in, like the Surma Valley, by hills on every side except the west. In its lower portion it lies almost east and west, but in its upper half it trends some- what towards the north-east. The Brahmaputra flows through the centre of this plain, and receives in its course the drainage of the Himalayas on the north, and the Assam Range on the south. The principal tributaries on the north bank are the Dibang, Dihang, Subansiri, Bhareli, Dhansiri, BarnadT, Manas with its tributary the Ai, the Champamati, Saralbhanga, and Sankosh ; on the south, the greater affluents are the Noa, Buri Dihing, Disang, Dikho, Jhanzi, and another Dhansiri. A short distance below the junction with this Dhansiri a considerable body of water separates itself from the Brahma- putra, and, under the name of the Kalang, flows with a tortuous course through Nowgong District, rejoining the main stream about 10 miles above Gauhati. The Kalang receives the Kapili, which brings to it a large part of the drainage of the Mlkir, the North Cachar, and the Jaintia Hills, and the Digru from the Khasi Hills. Below Gauhati the most considerable affluents on the south bank are the Kulsi and Jinjiram.

The valley, as a whole, is a plain of fairly uniform breadth, except in the centre, where the Mlkir Hills project from the main mass of the Assam Range, almost up to the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. Between Tezpur and Dhubri there are outcrops of gneissic rock above the alluvium, even on the north bank of the river, and the central portion of Goalpara District is much broken by ranges of low hills ; but elsewhere there is little to interrupt the even level of the plain.

The Brahmaputra, through the greater part of its course, is bounded on either side by stretches of marsh land covered with thick grass jungle, interspersed here and there with patches of mustard and summer rice. Farther inland the level rises, and there is a belt, usually of considerable breadth, of permanent cultivation. The plain is covered with rice-fields and dotted over with clumps of bamboos, palms, and fruit trees, in which are buried the houses of the cultivators. In most parts of the valley this belt supports a fairly dense population ; but near the hills cultivation again falls off, and grassy plains and forests stretch to their feet. Even here, however, rice is grown on fields irrigated from the hill streams, and European enterprise has in many places felled the forests and opened prosperous tea gardens.

Little of this is seen by the traveller on the river steamer, and he is apt to receive the impression that Assam is a wilderness of impenetrable jungle, the home of nothing but wild beasts. This view is but partially correct. There are still large areas of waste land, swamps, forests, and hills ; but in parts of the valley the population is beginning to press upon the soil, and little good land remains available for settlement. Few places in the Brahma putra Valley would not appeal to a lover of the picturesque. On a clear day the view to both the north and south is bounded by hills, while behind the lower ranges of the Himalayas snowy peaks glisten in the sun. The rice-fields are interspersed with groves of feathery bamboos, on every side are pools, rivers, and woods, and in the wilder parts nature is seen freed from the restraining hand of man. The slopes of the lower hills are clothed with forest, and the rivers that debouch upon the plain issue through gorges of exceptional beauty.

The range of mountains which separates these two valleys projects at right angles from the Burmese system, and lies almost due east and west. At its western end it attains a height of more than 4,600 feet in the peak of Nokrek, above the station of Tura. The hills are here broken up into sharply-serrated ridges and deep valleys, all alike covered with forest. Farther east, in the Shillong peak, they reach a height of 6,450 feet ; but this is only the highest point in a table-land hardly any part of which falls much below 6,000 feet. The denser forest growth has here disappeared, and there are wide stretches of rolling down, dotted with clumps of oak and pine. On their southern face the hills rise like a level wall abruptly from the plain, with occasionally a deep ravine, which the rivers, fed by the heavy rainfall of that region, have cut through the plateau. Towards the Jaintia and North Cachar Hills the level falls ; but the Barail Range, which commences on the south-east margin of the Khasi-Jaintia plateau, rises by sudden leaps to a considerable height, and among the hills bordering the Jatinga valley summits of from 5,000 to 6,000 feet are found. Farther east, the highest point in the Province is reached in Japvo, on the border of the Naga Hills District. The hills here are all of the serrated type, and their sides are clothed with forest or, on the sites of fallowing jhums ', with dense bamboo or grass jungle. The Lushai Hills, which divide Burma from Assam, run at right angles to the Assam Range in parallel ridges. They are for the most part covered with bamboo jungle and rank undergrowth, but in the eastern portion open grass-covered slopes are found, with groves of oak and pine, interspersed with rhododendron. The State of Manipur consists of a fertile valley, covering an area of about 650 square miles, surrounded by ranges of hills.

Numerous swamps and jhils are found in both valleys, and during the rains the western portion of Sylhet lies under water ; but in British

1 A jhum is a piece of land which has been cleared and cultivated for two or three seasons and then allowed a rest for several year*, see p. 55. territory there are no lakes of any considerable importance during the dry season. In Manipur the Loktak, a sheet of water covering about 27 square miles, lies to the south of Imphal, the capital town. The only island of any size is the Majuli, a tract of land covering 485 square miles in Sibsagar District, which is surrounded by the waters of the Brahmaputra and the Subansiri.

The Surma Valley is an alluvial tract, in which the process of deltaic formation has not proceeded so rapidly as in the rest of the Gangetic plain. Disastrous floods were more common at the end of the eighteenth century than they are at the present day, and it seems possible that the general level may have been appreciably raised within the last hundred years, by the silting up of depressions and the sediment deposited by the rivers in their annual inundations. Low ranges of hills, which for the most part consist of Upper Tertiary sand- stones, project into the valley from the south ; and its surface is dotted with isolated hills called ti/as, from 50 to 200 feet high, composed of layers of sand, clay, and gravel, often highly indurated with ferruginous cement. In the centre of the Assam Valley the soil consists of a light layer of clay superimposed upon beds of sand. Farther back from the Brahmaputra the alluvium is more consolidated, and here and there are to be found the remains of an older alluvium of a closer and heavier texture, which corresponds to the high land of the Gangetic plain. Outliers of gneissic rock from the Assam Range are common between Goalpara and Gauhati, and are found as far east as Tezpur.

1 The basis of the Assam Range is a gneissic rock. At its western end sandstones and conglomerates, which are referable to the Creta- ceous system, are superimposed upon the gneiss, and are themselves overlaid by limestone and sandstone of the Nummulitic age. Farther eastwards what is known as the Shillong plateau rises steeply from the Surma Valley, but on its northern face falls away in a series of low hills towards the Brahmaputra. The gneiss is here succeeded by the Shillong or transition series, which consists of quartzites, conglomerates, phyllites, and schists, through which appear granite and dioritic rocks. Upon this series have been superimposed sandstones and conglome- rates of the Cretaceous age, which contain occasional coal seams, and which are in their turn overlaid by beds of the Nummulitic or Lower Tertiary period, consisting of limestone and sandstone with inter- stratified shales and coal deposits. Along the southern edge of the plateau in the neighbourhood of Cherrapunji, a group of bedded basaltic rocks, known as the Sylhet trap, has been forced up between the Cretaceous and the older formations. The Mymensingh border is

1 This section has been compiled from notes furnished by Mr. P. N. Bose, of the Geological Survey of India, and from an account of Assam by Sir Charles Lyall, published in the General Administration Report of the Province for 1882-3. fringed by low ranges of hills of Upper Tertiary formation ; and though this series has been almost entirely removed by denudation below the southern scarp of the Khasi Hills, they appear again east of Jaintiapur, and their soft, massive, greenish sandstones rise rapidly from this point into the Barail range. This range appears to have thrust the Nummu- litic and older formations in a north-easterly direction ; but west of Cachar it curves to the north-east, and finally merges into the Burmese mountain system, of which it forms a part. Little is known of the eastern extremity of the x^ssam Range ; but it appears that the Upper Tertiary sandstones are succeeded by a series of hard sandstones, slates, and shales with quartzose beds, while still farther east serpentine dikes, identical in composition with those of Burma, run north and south. Upper Tertiary rocks are believed to constitute the Patkai range, and are found again capping the hills which look down upon the Chindwin valley, but between these two points there intervenes a belt of pre- Tertiary beds about 100 miles in width. The hills containing the coal measures of Sibsagar and Lakhimpur consist of an enormous thickness of sandstones, the upper series of which are topped with conglomerates and clay. The Himalayas north of the Brahmaputra have never been properly explored, but there is reason to suppose that they are com- posed of great thicknesses of soft massive sandstones, of Tertiary age and fresh-water origin. The economic aspect of the geology of the Province is referred to in the section on Mines and Minerals.

The uncultivated portions of the Assam Valley are usually covered with forest, or with grass and reeds which are sometimes nearly 20 feet in height. The three commonest varieties are ikra (Saccharum arundina- ceum), nal (Phragmites Roxburghii), and khagari (Saccharum spont- aneum). At the western end the prevalent tree is sal (Shorea robustd) ; but farther east the forests are evergreen, the chief constituents being species of Amoora, Michelia, Magnolia, Stereospermum, Quercus, Cast- anopsis, Ficus, and Alesua. Various kinds of palms, canes, tree-ferns, bamboos, and plantain-trees are common. The vegetation of Sylhet and Cachar does not differ materially from that of Eastern Bengal. There is comparatively little forest, but in the swampy parts numerous species of reeds and aquatic plants are found. The greater part of the Assam Range is covered with dense tree forest or bamboo jungle, but the Khasi plateau is a fine succession of rolling downs dotted with groves of oak and pine. The flora of this tract is extremely rich, and upwards of 2,000 flowering plants were collected by Dr. Hooker within ten miles of Cherrapunji, while various kinds of orchids and balsams, rhododendrons, azaleas, and wild roses are found on every side. The Naga and Manipur Hills have a flora in many respects similar to that of the Khasi Hills, but in addition possess a distinct Sikkim element, while the Lushai Hills are botanically part of the Burmese system.

The most noteworthy wild animals are elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, leopards, bears, wild dogs, wild hog, deer, buffaloes, and bison {Bos gaurus). The mithan or gay a I {Bos frontalis) has been domesticated by the wild tribes, but it is doubtful whether it is now found in Assam in a wild state. Rhinoceros are of three kinds : the large variety (unicornis), which lives in the swamps that fringe the Brahmaputra ; the smaller variety {sondaicus), which is occasionally met with in the same locality ; and the small two-horned rhinoceros {sumafrensis), which is now and again seen in the hills south of the Surma Valley, though its ordinary habitat is Sumatra, Borneo, and the Malay Peninsula. The ordinary varieties of deer found in the Province are the sambar {Cervus unicolor), the bdrasingha or swamp deer {Cervus duvauce/i), the hog deer {Cervus porcinus), and the barking-deer {Cervus muntjac). Goat-antelopes (Nemorhaedus bubalinus and Cemas goral) are occa- sionally met with on the higher hills, but are scarce and shy. Elephants are found in considerable numbers in the Assam Valley and in the lower slopes of the Assam Range. They are also occa- sionally hunted with success in South Cachar and in South-eastern Sylhet. Extensive operations have been undertaken by the Govern- ment Khedda department ; and ma/id/s, or the right of hunting within certain areas not reserved for that department, are leased by auction sale to the highest bidder, who pays a royalty of Rs. ioo on each animal captured. During the period when the Government kheddas were working in the Garo Hills about 400 elephants were annually captured in the Province. Small game include fiorican, partridges, pheasants, pea- and jungle-fowl, wild geese and ducks, snipe, and hares. Excellent mahseer fishing is also obtained in some of the rivers.

The climate of Assam is characterized by coolness and extreme humidity, the natural result of the great water surface and extensive forests over which evaporation and condensation proceed, and the close proximity of the hill ranges, on which an excessive precipitation takes place. Its most distinguishing feature is the copious rainfall between March and May, at a time when precipitation over Upper India is at its minimum. The year is thus roughly divided into two seasons, the cold season and the rains, the hot season of the rest of India being completely absent. From the beginning of November till the end of February the climate is cool and extremely pleasant, and at no period of the year is the heat excessive. Table I, appended to this article, shows the mean temperature and diurnal range in January, May, July, and November at Silchar, Sibsagar, and Dhubri, the only stations in the Province at which observations have been systematically recorded for any considerable period. Except in the height of the rains, the mean temperature is appreciably lower at Sibsagar than at Dhubri.

This is partly due to the heavy fogs, which in the cold season frequently hang over the upper part of the Brahmaputra Valley till a late hour of the day, and prevent the country from being warmed by the rays of the sun. In the Surma. Valley the thermometer in the winter is from five to six degrees higher than in Upper Assam, but during the remainder of the year the climate of Sylhet is fairly cool. Cachar has a higher mean temperature for the year than any other District in the Province. On the Shillong plateau the thermometer seldom rises above 8o° in the shade at the hottest season of the year, and ice forms on shallow pools in the winter nights. Fogs occur in the Surma Valley, but not so commonly as in Central and Upper Assam, where at certain seasons of the year they are a serious impediment to steamer traffic. In the Surma Valley the prevailing wind is from the south-west, except in the months of April and May, when it has a north-north-east direction. In the Brahmaputra Valley the wind is usually from the north-east. During July and August the wind blows from the south-west in Assam proper and from the south-east in Goalpara District.

The total amount of rain that falls in Assam during the year is always abundant, but is sometimes unfavourably distributed. In the Surma Valley, the average rainfall is 157 inches at Sylhet, and 124 at Silchar. To the south of the valley precipitation is less pro- nounced, but deluges of rain fall on the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills, and pour down into the valley. The annual rainfall at Cher- rapunji averages 458 inches, and 905 inches are said to have fallen in 1 86 1, of which 503 inches were recorded in the months of June and July. Goalpara and Lakhimpur, at the two ends of the Assam Valley, receive about 115 inches of rain during the year. Kamrup, Nowgong, and Darrang are to some extent protected by the high plateaux of the Khasi Hills, and the rainfall of these Districts ranges from 71 to 77 inches. At Lanka, in the Kapili valley in Nowgong, the average fall is less than 43 inches ; but a little to the east the level of the hills that separate the Brahmaputra and Surma. Valleys drops, and the rainfall in Sibsagar rises to 85 inches. The percentage of variability on the average annual fall is 70 in the Surma, and 68 in the Assam Valley. The rainfall in the Hill Districts is ample ; but at the few stations at which observations have been recorded its character is largely deter- mined by local conditions, and the average rainfall of this region is probably larger than the figures would suggest. Statistics of monthly rainfall are shown in Table II, appended to this article.

Storms often occur in the spring months, generally accompanied by high winds and heavy local rainfall, but seldom take the form of destructive cyclones. Two such, however, visited the country at the foot of the Hills in 1900, destroying everything in their path, and killing forty-four people. The Province has always suffered more from floods than from a failure of the water-supply. The rainfall, which is everywhere heavy, is in places enormous, and the rivers are frequently unable to carry off the torrents of water suddenly precipitated on their catchment areas. In Mughal times the country in the neighbourhood of the upper portion of the Barak was protected by an embankment ; but at the western end of the Surma Valley it has always been impossible to restrain the torrential floods, and the whole surface of the plain goes under water. In 1781 a sudden rise of the rivers wrought such utter desolation that, in spite of the efforts of Govern- ment, nearly one-third of the population died of famine ; but, though inundations annually occur, no such calamities have been known in recent years. In the Assam Valley floods were always one of the chief obstacles to the Muhammadan invaders ; and the rivers in Sibsagar, where there was a large Ahom population, were protected by strong embankments. With the disappearance of the native system of com- pulsory labour, these works were allowed to fall into disrepair, but steps have recently been taken for the restoration of the more impor- tant among them. Except in a few places, where the high bank comes down to the water's edge, the floods of the Brahmaputra render a broad belt of land on either side of the river unfit for ordinary cultivation in the rains, and a considerable amount of local damage is sometimes done by the spill water of its tributaries. The earthquake of 1897 in some way affected the drainage channels and levels of the country, and since that date the floods, especially in Lower Assam, have been of greater duration and intensity. Large tracts, which used formerly to bear rich crops of mustard, now remain too long under water to admit of seed being sown ; and special works have been rendered necessary for the protection of Goalpara and Barpeta, as after the earthquake these towns were found to be below flood-level. The condition of Barpeta in particular has been much improved by drainage works, in which the people co-operated without payment.

Assam has always been subject to earthquakes. In a. d. 1607 hills are said to have been rent asunder and swallowed up ; and M'Cosh, writing in 1837, reports that, some twenty years before, a village standing on a knoll near Goalpara completely disappeared, a pool of water appearing in its place. Severe shocks were felt at Silchar in 1869 and 1882, and in 1875 some damage was done to houses in Shillong and Gauhati. All previous seismic disturbances were, however, completely eclipsed by the earthquake of June 12, 1897, which was the most severe and disastrous of which there is any record in Assam.

The station of Shillong was levelled with the ground ; and women and children were for several days exposed to drenching rain, with no better shelter than could be obtained from a few tents, tumbledown stables, and sheds without floors or walls. Nearly all masonry buildings in Gauhati and Sylhet were completely wrecked, and much damage was done in Goalpara, Nowgong, and Darrang. Two Europeans and 1,540 natives lost their lives, the majority of the latter being killed by landslips in the hills and by the falling in of river banks in Sylhet. Roads and bridges were destroyed, and the drainage of the country was seriously affected by the silting-up of streams and watercourses. The total cost incurred on special repairs to public works neccessitated by the earthquake exceeded 37 lakhs, but, even with this sum, it was impossible to restore them to their former condition. Of the damage done to private property it is difficult to form an estimate.


The early history of the Province is very obscure. In the two great river valleys, especially in that of the Surma, the population contains a certain admixture of Dravidian blood ; but, in the main, Assam has drawn its inhabitants from the vast hive of the Mongolian race in Western China, which in very ancient times threw off a series of swarms that afterwards found their way into the frontier lands of India — some to the west, ascending the Tsan-po or upper course of the Brahmaputra, and so along the northern slopes of the Himalayas ; some to the south, down the courses of the Chind- win, Irrawaddy, Salween, Menam, and Mekong rivers, peopling Burma, Siam, and the adjoining countries ; and some to the south-west, descending the Brahmaputra to Assam and thence far into Bengal. It is with these last that we are here concerned. Their main line of movement was probably along the banks of the Brahmaputra ; and as each swarm was forced to yield to the pressure from behind, it either moved on westwards or turned aside into the hills of the Assam Range.

The first mention of the country which we now call Assam is found in the epics and religious legends of Gangetic India, but it is not yet possible to unravel the slender thread of real fact from the tangled skein of fable, invention, and poetical exaggeration. Aryan priests and warriors undoubtedly found their way thither in very early times, but they were wanting in the historical instinct, and have left no trustworthy record behind them. Various places mentioned in the story of Krishna and in the Mahabharata are now identified with sites in the Province ; but many of them are also claimed, probably with better reason, by other parts of India. Among much that is vague or dubious one fact stands out clearly. There is no doubt that the temple of Sakti, Siva's consort, at Kamakhya near Gauhati, was famous in very ancient times, and that it was a great centre of the bloody and sensual form of worship inculcated in the Tantras, which probably had its origin there. The Kalika Purana and Jogini Tantra preserve the names of several kings, whose titles, Davana and Asura, betray their aboriginal descent, and who were followed by Naraka, the reputed founder of the ancient and famous city of Pragjyotishapura, the modern Gauhati. According to tradition, Naraka ruled from the Karatoya river to the extreme east of the Brahmaputra Valley, and met his death at the hands of Krishna. He was succeeded by his son Bhagadatta, whose name finds frequent mention in the Mahabharata as the Lord of Pragjyotisha and the powerful ally of Duryodhana : he had, it is narrated, a great army of Chinas and Kiratas, but was defeated and slain by Arjuna on the fatal field of Kurukshetra.

Reliable history is first reached in the narrative of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsiang, who visited the country then known as Kama- rupa, about a. d. 640, and found it occupied by a race with a dark yellow complexion, small in stature and fierce in appearance, but upright and studious. Their king was Kumara Bhaskara Varman *, and they followed the Brahmanical religion.

Of the next few centuries our knowledge is very slight ; but the gloom is to some extent dispelled by the recent discovery of several inscribed copperplates 2 , which appear to have been prepared between the latter part of the tenth and the middle of the twelfth century. The primary object of these inscriptions was to recite the grant of land to Brahmans ; but to us their most interesting part is the preamble, wherein some account is given of the chief by whom each grant was made and of his ancestry. It would seem that, soon after Hiuen Tsiang's departure, the country fell into the hands of a line of aboriginal chiefs who were subsequently converted to Hinduism. Then followed a dynasty founded by one Pralambha, who killed or banished all the members of the previous ruling family. The sixth in descent from him was Bala Varman, in whose reign the first of the copperplate documents above referred to was executed. These kings were worshippers of Siva ; their capital was at a place called Haruppeswara, but they still called themselves Lords of Pragjyotisha. Early in the eleventh century they were succeeded by a fresh line of kings, who, like their predeces- sors, claimed descent from the mythical Naraka. The third prince of this family was Ratnapala, ' the mighty crusher of his enemies, who studded the earth with whitewashed temples and the skies with the smoke of his burnt offerings.' He got much wealth from his copper mines (in Bhutan?); and he erected, it is alleged, pillar monuments of his victories, and built a new capital, which became the home of many wealthy merchants, learned men, priests, and poets. Some time later

1 Varman is a Kshattriya title, but it is often assumed by aristocratic converts to Hinduism.

2 Dr. Hoernle's readings of some of these plates, which were obtained by Mr. E. A. Gait and sent to him for decipherment, will be found in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for 1897. the country seems to have been conquered, first by the Sen kings of Bengal, and then by their rivals, the well-known Pal dynasty, whose vassal, Tishya Deva, rebelled about 1133 and was defeated by the Pal general Vaidyadeva, who in his turn seems to have made himself practically independent. The area ruled by these different kings varied greatly from time to time. Sometimes it stretched as far west as the Karatoya river and, if their panegyrists can be believed, as far south as the sea-coast, including within its limits the Surma Valley, Eastern Bengal, and, occasionally, Bhutan ; at other times, it did not even comprise the whole of what is now known as the Brahmaputra Valley; sometimes again, and perhaps this was the more usual condition, the country was split up into a number of petty principalities each under its own chief. The Surma Valley, at any rate, was usually independent of the kings of Kamarupa. The early history of this tract is even more obscure than that of the Brahmaputra Valley. We know, however, from copperplate inscriptions that in the first half of the thirteenth century it was ruled by a king named Govinda Deva, and subsequently by his son Isana Deva ; but we possess little information regarding them beyond the fact that they were Hindus.

According to the traditions of the Mahapurushias, Lower Assam and the adjacent part of Bengal subsequently formed a kingdom called Kamata, and its ruler at the beginning of the fourteenth century was named Durlabh Narayan. In the fifteenth century a line of Khen kings rose to power in the same tract of the country. The third and last of this line, Nilambar, was overthrown in 1498 by Husain Shah, the Muhammadan king of Bengal, who, after a long siege, took the capital, Kamatapur, by a stratagem.

A few years later later Biswa Singh laid the foundation of the Koch kingdom, and, after defeating the local chiefs, built himself a capital in Cooch Behar. The Koch tribe, though now in parts much intermixed with Dravidian stock, was probably at that time purely Mongolian and spoke a language closely allied to those of the Kacharis, Tipperas, Lalungs, Chutiyas, and Garos. Biswa Singh was succeeded by his son Nar Narayan, who extended his kingdom in all directions. He defeated, among others, the chiefs of Dimarua, Jaintia, Khairam, Cachar, and Tippera, and also the Ahom Raja, whose capital he occupied until pacified by presents, hostages, and a promise of tribute. He met his match, however, in Isa Khan, the Muhammadan chief or Bhuiya of Sonargaon in Eastern Bengal, who defeated his army and took prisoner his brother Sukladhwaj, to whose military genius he had been mainly indebted for his successes elsewhere. In 1581 the latter's son, Raghu, having rebelled, was given the country east of the Sankosh, Nar Narayan retaining for himself the portion west of that river, where he was succeeded, on his death in 1584, by his son Lakshml Narayan.

This dismemberment of the kingdom quickly led to its dissolution, but we must first deal with the state of things in other parts of the Brahmaputra Valley.

Early in the thirteenth century an event occurred at the eastern extremity of the valley which was destined to change the whole course of Assam history. This was the invasion of the Ahoms, a Shan tribe from the ancient kingdom of Mungmau or Pong, which was situated in the upper portion of the Irrawaddy valley 1 . A quarrel as to the right of succession to the throne is said to have been the cause of the secession of Sukapha, one of the rival claimants, who, after wandering about the country between the Irrawaddy and the Patkai mountains for some years, crossed the range in 1228 with a small following and entered the tract which now forms the southern part of Lakhimpur District and the south-east of Sibsagar. It was at that time inhabited by petty tribes of Bodo affinities (Morans and Borahis), who were easily subdued : the country round Sadiya, the northern part of the head- quarters subdivision of Lakhimpur and the north-eastern part of Sib- sagar as far as the Disang river, which had previously been governed by a line of Pal kings, were then under the rule of the Chutiyas, who had established a kingdom of considerable power ; while the Kacharis occupied the western part of Sibsagar, the valley of the Dhansiri, and the greater part of Nowgong. Sukapha, finding his further progress barred, settled down among the Morans and Borahis, who were gradually absorbed into the Ahom community, a process that was accelerated by frequent intermarriages due to the paucity of Ahom women. In this way, aided probably by fresh streams of immigration from Pong, the Ahoms increased rapidly in numbers and power. Early in the fourteenth century there is a vague reference to a war with a Raja of Kamata, who, it is said, was forced to sue for peace. A few years later the Ahoms became involved in a war with the Chutiyas. In 1376 the latter pretended to make peace, and then treacherously murdered the Ahom king, Sutupha, at a regatta on the Safrai river, held to celebrate the cessation of hostilities. This led to a renewal of the war ; the Chutiyas were worsted, but their final overthrow did not take place until 1523, when Suhunmung, otherwise known as the Dihingia Raja, who reigned from 1497 to 1539, utterly defeated them with heavy slaughter and annexed their country, which he placed in charge of an Ahom viceroy called the Sadiya-khowa Gohain. A number of Ahoms from Gargaon were settled at Sadiya, while the leading families of the Chutiyas were deported to a place not far from Tezpur, and many of

1 The account here given of the Ahom kings is based mainly on manuscript buranjis, or histories written in the Ahom language and character on strips of bark of the sachi or agar tree {Atjt/t/aria Agallochd). In former times all the leading families had their own buranjis, which were written up from time to time ; many of these have dis- appeared, but a number still survive, and translations of these have been prepared. their artisans were brought to the Ahom capital. Meanwhile, there had been numerous expeditions against various Naga tribes, which were generally successful ; and in 1490 the first war occurred with the Kacharis, by whom the Ahoms were defeated on the banks of the Dikho river. This set-back was, however, only temporary; and little more than thirty years afterwards we find the Dihingia Raja, whose victory over the Chutiyas has just been mentioned, fighting with the Kacharis on the bank of the Dhansiri. The Kacharis won a few minor successes, but in the end they were utterly vanquished. Their king was deposed and a new ruler named Detsung installed in his place. In 1536 hostilities again broke out; Detsung was taken and killed; his capital at Dimapur was sacked ; and the Kacharis were shorn of all their possessions in the valley of the Dhansiri and north of the Kalang river in Nowgong.

The Dihingia Raja, like so many Ahom kings, met his death at the hands of an assassin, who was instigated, it is said, by his own son. His reign is memorable, not only for the extirpation of Chutiya and Kachari rule from the valley of the Brahmaputra and (it is alleged) for the acknowledgement of his supremacy by the Koch king Biswa Singh, but also for the repulse of two Muhammadan expeditions. The second of these, in 1532, was led by a commander named Turbak, who worsted the Ahoms in several engagements, but was at last utterly defeated on the bank of the Bhareli river. He himself was slain with large numbers of his followers, and many were taken prisoners and settled in the Ahom country : these are reputed to be the ancestors of the Morias. The use of fire-arms by the Ahoms dates from the close of this war. These two expeditions, though the first in which the Muham- madans are recorded to have come into collision with the Ahoms, were not by any means the earliest invasions by them of country now included within the Province of Assam. In 1384 they had conquered and annexed Sylhet, excluding the submontane tracts in the north and south, which were held by Jaintias and Tipperas, and at an even earlier date they had begun to harry the lower portion of the Brahmaputra Valley ; but here, though their superior arms and discipline generally brought them a temporary success, their expeditions all ended in failure, induced by disease, ignorance of the country, the difficulty of com- munications, especially during the rainy season, and the impossibility of bringing up reinforcements to repair losses.

The power of the Ahoms continued to grow and their dominions to expand, and there was almost constant warfare between them and one or other of their neighbours — Naras \ Nagas, Kacharis, and Kochs.

1 The Naras occupied the country round Mogaung on the other side of the Patkai. They arc commonly regarded as Shans, but Ney Elias thought that they included in their composition a large aboriginal element.

They were nearly always successful ; but they sustained a crushing defeat at the hands of the Koch king, Nar Narayan, whose capture of the Ahom capital has already been referred to. Their recovery from this reverse was, however, extraordinarily rapid, and a fresh turn in the wheel of fortune soon gave them their revenge.

Nar Narayan was succeeded in the Western Koch kingdom by his son Lakshml Narayan, who soon became embroiled with Parlkshit, the son of Raghu and his successor in the eastern kingdom. Being unable to hold his own, Lakshml Narayan invoked the aid of the Muham- madans, who took Parikshit's fort at Dhubri and soon afterwards invested his capital at Barnagar on the Manas. Parlkshit held out there for a time, but was at last forced to surrender and was sent a prisoner to Delhi, while his brother Bali Narayan fled to the Ahom king, Pratap Singh, who refused to give him up.

The Muhammadans, therefore, invaded the Ahom country with a force of from 10,000 to 12,000 horse and foot and 400 large ships. They gained a victory near the mouth of the Bhareli river, but were soon afterwards annihilated in a night attack. Pratap Singh thereupon installed Bali Narayan as successor to Parlkshit, and advanced and took Pandu near Gauhati, which he fortified. He next laid siege to Hajo, but was driven back. The war dragged on in Lower Assam for some years with varying success, but in 1637 the governor of Dacca determined to take more vigorous measures, and he dispatched what was practically a new army. This measure met with immediate success. The Ahoms were driven out of Kamrup, Bali Narayan was killed, and a treaty was made by which the Barnadi was taken as the boundary between Ahom and Muhammadan territory.

The Koch kings continued to rule west of the Sankosh as vassals of the Muhammadans; but when the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan fell sick in 1658, Pran Narayan, who was then on the throne, took advantage of the confusion ensuing on the wars of succession to throw off his allegiance, and defeated the Muhammadan faujddr of Goalpara. The latter retreated to Gauhati, but was driven thence by the Ahom king, Jayadhwaj Singh. Pran Narayan proposed to the latter a friendly division of Lower Assam, but his overtures were rejected and he was soon compelled to retreat beyond the Sankosh. The whole of the Brahmaputra Valley thus fell into the hands of the Ahoms.

When order was restored in Bengal, and Mir Jumla became governor at Dacca, he first attacked and defeated Pran Narayan, and then advanced against the Ahoms, with an army, according to their writers, of 12,000 horse and 30,000 foot and a powerful fleet. The Ahoms were worsted on both land and water, and were gradually driven back. In spite of the great difficulty of locomotion due to the numerous water- courses and the vast expanse of dense jungle, Mir Jumla marched steadily up the south bank of the Brahmaputra, his fleet keeping pace with his army, and at last occupied Gargaon, the Ahom capital, where he halted for the wet season, which was now close at hand. The rains set in with unexampled severity, and the country soon became a quag- mire. Supplies were hard to get and the Ahoms harassed the Mughals by repeated night attacks, and destroyed some outlying garrisons and isolated detachments. As the rains progressed, the position of the Muhammadans became more and more trying ; and to the terrors of a persistent but unseen enemy were added severe epidemics of disease, especially dysentery. Mir Jumla himself did not escape.

Broken in health, he found himself unable to resist the clamour of his troops to be led back to Bengal ; early in the cold season a treaty was patched up, and he hurried back to Dacca, where he died soon afterwards. The Muhammadan historians have left on record an interesting account of their opponents. Their resources were considerable, and in the course of the expedition the Musahnans captured more than 1,000 war sloops from the enemy, many of which could accommodate from three to four score sailors. They also took nearly 700 guns, some of them of considerable size. Extensive fortifications had been erected on both sides of the river near Tezpur, and the country between Kaliabar and Gargaon was said to be well cultivated and adorned with gardens and orchards. Gargaon itself was a town of considerable size, and the historian waxes enthusiastic over the splendours of the Raja's palace. The genuine Ahoms are described as keen and fearless soldiers, but their number was not large, and the Kalita levies were of very small account. The Ahoms lost no time in retaking the country they had lost ; and two years later we find them in undisputed possession of the whole of Kamrup, and the advance guard of the Mughals lo- cated at Rangamati in Goalpara 1 . For a time, however, internal troubles and a long series of conspiracies threatened to do what external aggression had failed to effect, and in the brief space of eleven years there were no less than seven Ahom kings, not one of whom died a natural death. The Muhammadans took advantage of these disturb- ances to recover possession of Gauhati, but they were finally driven out in the reign of Gadadhar Singh, who ascended the throne in 1681.

The next king, Rudra Singh, being free from all fear of Muham- madan invasion and secure in his possession of Kamrup, began to extend his kingdom in other directions. He took the south of Nowgong from the Kacharis and occupied Maibang in the North Cachar Hills, whither they had removed their capital on being ousted from Dimapur.

1 Not the least interesting of the relics of this period is a cannon now at Dikom bearing two inscriptions, the one in Persian stating that it had been made for use in the conquest of Assam, and the other in Sanskrit recording the fact that the Ahoms had taken it from the Muhammadans in battle.

He also contemplated an invasion of their dominions in the Cachar plains, which one of their Rajas had obtained as a gift from a Tippera king on the occasion of his marriage with the latter's daughter ; but his troops suffered so much from sickness during the rainy season that he was obliged to desist. Meanwhile, the Kachari king, Tamradhwaj, had invoked the aid of the Jaintias, a section of the Khasi tribe, inhabiting the eastern part of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, who at this time also held the country between the foot of the hills and the Surma river, and whose king, Ram Singh, had his head-quarters at Jaintiapur in the same tract. On learning of the departure of the Ahoms, Tamradhwaj informed Ram Singh that his help was no longer needed, but the latter treacherously seized him and annexed his territory. Tamradhwaj managed to send word to Rudra Singh begging for help, and the latter dispatched two armies to Jaintiapur, one across the Jaintia Hills and the other through the Kachari country. Both reached their destination ; Jaintiapur was taken without difficulty ; but when Rudra Singh's intention to bring them permanently under his yoke became known, the Jaintias rose to a man, and his generals, finding their position untenable, were forced to beat a retreat.

Rudra Singh's reign is memorable for the final triumph of Hinduism over the national religion of the Ahoms 1 . Many of his predecessors had taken Hindu, as well as Ahom, names, and had shown great respect for the Brahmans ; but Rudra Singh was the first to announce publicly his intention to become the disciple of a Hindu priest. His son and successor, Sib Singh, was completely in the hands of Brahmans of the Sakta sect ; and he allowed his wife, Phuleswari, at their instigation, to insult the Sudra mahant of the Vaishnava sect of Moamarias 2 , who had now become very numerous, by causing his forehead to be smeared with the blood of an animal that had been sacrificed to Durga. The common people soon followed the lead of their king; and in a few years the Deodhais and Bailongs, the tribal priests and astrologers, alone remained true to the ancient faith of the Ahoms. The change was

1 The Ahoms were not mere Animists of the type commonly found among the aboriginal tribes of India, but had a regular pantheon of which the leading members were, in later times at least, identified with Hindu gods and goddesses. An account of the Ahom story of the Creation will be found in a paper contributed by Mr. E. A. Gait to the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for 1894, and a trans- lation of their cosmogony, with the Ahom text, is given by Dr. G. A. Grierson in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1 904.

2 The Moamarias are a Vaishnavite sect, most of whose members are drawn from the lower Hindu castes and are residents of Upper Assam. Three explanations of the origin of the name are current. According to one, the original founder lived near the Moamari bil in Nowgong; according to another, the people were called Moamaria in contempt, because they were in the habit of catching and eating the moa fish ; while others say that the original Gosain Aniruddha convinced the Ahom king of the truth of the new religion by a display of magic maya.

disastrous : it involved the loss of the old martial spirit and pride of race with which the Ahoins had till then been animated ; their patriotic feelings thenceforth became more and more subordinated to sectarian animosities and internal dissensions and intrigues, and their power soon began to decay. In 1766 we read, for the first time, of Ahom nobles declining the proffered command of a military expedition.

In 1769, soon after the accession of Lakshml Singh, the Vaishnava Moamarias, enraged by fresh insults, rose in rebellion, seized the person of the king, and placed the son of a Matak 1 chief on the throne. For a time the rebels seemed to have overborne all opposition, but the report that their leader was contemplating the execution of all the old officers of state incited the royalists to renewed efforts. The Moamaria commander was killed in a night attack, and many of his chief supporters were put to death. Deprived of their leaders, the rebels offered but a feeble resistance, and they were easily dispersed. Lakshml Singh died in 1780, and the accession of his son, Gaurinath Singh, was the signal for renewed persecutions. These led to fresh risings, and at last, in 1786, the rebels defeated the royal troops in several encounters and took the capital by storm. Gaurinath fled to Gauhati ; but resistance was continued by one of his ministers, known as the Bura Gohain, and for several years the war dragged on with varying success. A general state of anarchy supervened ; the country-side was devastated by bands of armed men, and petty chiefs in all directions began to proclaim them- selves independent. Among the latter was Krishna Narayan, a descen- dant of the Koch kings, who seized Darrang and the northern part of Kamrup and threatened Gauhati. The Moamarias also were advancing nearer and nearer.

Gaurinath now sought aid from the British, who had succeeded to the Mughals in Sylhet and Goalpara, and urged that his plight was due largely to the fact that Krishna Narayan had been allowed to recruit men for his army in Rangpur District. Lord Cornwallis recognized the obligation, and in September, 1792, sent Captain Welsh with a small force to the Ahom king's relief. A little below Gauhati he was met by Gaurinath, who had fled from the city before a mob of Doms led by a Bairagi. Welsh had no difficulty in driving them out, and he then crossed the Brahmaputra with 250 sepoys and defeated Krishna Narayan's army of 3,000 men. After some further reverses the latter surrendered, and his Bengal clubmen were deported. In his efforts to conciliate Gaurinath's numerous enemies, Welsh found himself thwarted by the cruel and sanguinary conduct of the Raja, and by the intrigues and covert opposition of some of his ministers. He

1 The Mataks were the inhabitants of Lakhimpur, and were so called because the raiding Singphos found them matak ' or strong,' in contradistinction to the mullong or ' weak ' people farther east.

replaced the latter by others of a more humane disposition, caused a general amnesty to be proclaimed, and took such other steps as seemed needed to restore confidence and ensure good government. He spent the rainy season of 1793 at Gauhati, and in January, 1794, after pacifying Mangaldai and Nowgong, advanced to Kaliabar. Jorhat, where the Bura Gohain was still holding out against the Moa- marias, was relieved by a small force ; and a decisive victory was gained about 1 2 miles from Rangpur, which was occupied in March. Sir John Shore had now succeeded Lord Cornwallis as Governor-General, and one of his first acts was to recall Captain Welsh, in spite of the vigorous protests of the Ahom king. The latter, when left once more to his own devices, dismissed most of the officials who had been appointed on Welsh's recommendation, renewed the persecution of the Moamarias, and wreaked his vengeance on his old enemies who had made their submission under a promise of pardon ; and for a time it seemed likely that Assam would once more relapse into anarchy. This was prevented by the energy of the Bura Gohain, who organized a body of troops disciplined on the English model, and, with their aid, the Moamarias and other malcontents were held in check.

Shortly after the accession of Chandra Kanta 1 , in 1810, the Ahom governor at Gauhati fell into disgrace, and fled for safety to Bengal. After seeking in vain the assistance of the British, he gained the friend- ship of the Burmese envoy then at Calcutta and went with him to Amarapura, where he persuaded the Burmese king to send an expedition to Assam. In 1816-7 an army of 8,000 men was dispatched from Burma, which, having crossed the Patkai and gained fresh adherents among the hill chiefs, entered Assam, occupied the whole country as far as Jorhat, and reinstated the Gauhati governor. The force then returned to Burma. They had barely departed when fresh dissensions took place ; the governor, who had invoked the aid of the Burmese, was assassinated ; Chandra Kanta was deposed, and Purandar Singh, a direct descendant of Raja Rajeswar Singh, was installed in his place. The friends of the late governor appealed to the Burmese, who once

1 Gaurinath was followed by a very distant connexion named Ivamaleswar, a descendant of Gadadhar Singh ; and Chandra Kanta, the next king, was Kamaleswai's brother. In the early days of Ahom rule the succession devolved from father to son with great regularity; but in later times brothers often succeeded to the exclusion of sons, and sometimes, as in the case of Kamaleswar, even very distant relations did so. Much depended on the wishes of the previous king, much on the action of the great nobles, with whom, in theory at least, the choice seems to have rested, and much on the personal influence of the rival candidates. The one essential qualification was that they must be of the royal blood. The person of the monarch was sacred and any marked blemish, even the scar of a carbuncle, operated as a disqualification. Hence arose the practice, often followed by the Ahom kings, of mutilating all likely rivals. Mutilation was usually effected by slitting the ear. more appeared on the scene and reinstated Chandra Kanta, but on this occasion it soon became clear that they meant to stay. Chandra Kanta made a vain effort to throw off their yoke and fled to British territory, where Purandar Singh had frequently taken refuge. The Burmese during their occupation of the country treated the unfortunate inhabitants with extreme barbarity. The villages were plundered and burnt, and the inhabitants were driven into the jungle to live as best they could.

The gradual decline of the Ahom power had caused a relaxation of their pressure on the Kachari kings, whose capital was now at Khaspur in the plains of Cachar; but the latter soon found a fresh enemy on their eastern frontier, where the Manipurls became so threatening that, from i Si 7 onwards, constant appeals for help were made to the British. These were rejected until early in 1824, when intelligence of a projected invasion of Cachar and Jaintia by the Burmese induced the British Government, which had received great provocation from Burma in other quarters, to intervene. The first collision with Burmese troops occurred on the Cachar frontier; but the scene of the main operations in Assam was in the Brahmaputra Valley, where a British force of 3,000 men advanced without much opposition as far as Kaliabar. On the approach of the rainy season the troops returned to Gauhati, and the Burmese reoccupied Nowgong, where they committed terrible atrocities on the helpless inhabitants. Many were put to death and many fled for their lives into the hills to the south ; of the latter, the majority died of starvation, and only a small remnant lived to reach the plains of the Surma Valley. When the rains were over, the British again advanced ; and the Burmese were driven out of the Province after a few fainthearted and ineffectual attempts at resistance, but in the course of their retreat they carried off as slaves upwards of 30,000 Assamese.

By the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826 the Burmese ceded Assam to the East India Company, and Mr. Scott, the Commissioner of Rangpur, was appointed to administer the country. The Moamarias in the south of Lakhimpur District were left under their own ruler, the Bor Senapati ; and the Sadiya-khowa Gohain or Khamti chief of Sadiya, who had dispossessed the Ahoms there during the Moamaria rebellions, was confirmed as the Company's feudatory in that tract, while, in 1833, the rest of Lakhimpur District and Sibsagar were restored to Purandar Singh. These arrangements, however, did not last long. In 1838 Purandar Singh declared himself unable to carry on the administration, and his territory was taken over. In 1835 the Sadiya-khowa Gohain was removed from his post ; but the local Khamti chiefs were allowed to manage their own internal affairs till 1839, when, without any warn- ing, they made a night attack on the garrison of Sadiya, and killed Colonel White, the officer in command, and a number of his sepoys. The Khamtis were then deported to places lower down the river, and the power of their chiefs was finally extinguished. In 1842 the Bor Senapati died, and on his son declining to accept the terms of settle- ment offered to him, his country also was annexed.

In Cachar the Raja was replaced on the throne, but was soon forced to relinquish the northern portion of his domains to a rebel named Tula Ram. The Raja was assassinated in 1830 and, in the absence of any lawful heir, the Cachar plains were annexed to British territory. Five years later Tula Ram ceded a considerable tract, and the rest of his country was taken over soon after his death in 1850, as his sons had proved unable to manage it. In 1835 the Raja of Jaintia was dispossessed of his estate in the plains, in consequence of the repeated abduction of British subjects who were sacrificed to Kali, the tutelary goddess of his family. He then declared himself unwilling to continue in possession of his hill territory, over which he had but little control, and it also was included in the Company's dominions. The Khasi Hills to the west were conquered in 1833, as the result of an attack made on a party engaged in constructing a road through the hills ; but the people were left in a state of quasi- independence under their own chiefs, with the exception of a few villages which were acquired for special reasons, either at the time of the conquest or at some subsequent date : among the latter may be mentioned the site of Shillong, the capital of the Province as now constituted. The occupation of the Naga Hills has been a gradual process, due to the necessity of protecting British subjects from Naga raids. It commenced in 1866, when a frontier District was formed, with head-quarters at Samaguting, and the last addition was made in 1904, when the Eastern Angami country was formally annexed. Theoretically, the Garo Hills always formed part of Goalpara District ; but for many years British control over the Garos was limited to in- effectual efforts to suppress their constant raids on the adjoining plains, by means of punitive expeditions or by forbidding them to trade in the plains. In 1869 the tract was formed into a separate District, with head-quarters at Tura, and order was instantly established in all but the more remote villages. The inhabitants of the latter, having perpetrated fresh raids, were brought under subjection in 1872-3 with the aid of a few small detachments of police, who met with no serious opposition. Prior to 1890, the history of British relations with the Lushais was one of constant raids by the latter, followed by infructuous punitive expeditions. In that year, after one of these expeditions, it was decided to try the expedient of establishing military outposts in their midst. A treacherous attack on two of these outposts led to fresh operations and to the permanent annexation of the Lushai Hills, which are now in charge of a Superintendent, with head-quarters at Aijal.

The State of Manipur has a fairly ancient history ; but the present regime dates only from 1714, when the reigning chief adopted Hinduism, which has now gained a remarkably strong hold on the people. By the Treaty of Yandabo, the Burmese agreed to the restora- tion to the throne of Raja Gambhir Singh, whom they had ousted. He and his descendants enjoyed a large measure of independence, and the British Government rarely interfered in local affairs except in the case of risings or disputes regarding the succession. In 1890, in the course of one of these risings, the Maharaja was driven from his palace and abdicated in favour of the Jubraj, but he subsequently repudiated his abdication. The Government of India decided to confirm the Jubraj as Raja, but directed the Chief Commissioner to arrest and deport the Senapati, who had been the ringleader in the plot. He proceeded to Manipur and called on the Senapati to surrender, but the latter refused and resisted the troops sent to seize him. The Chief Commissioner and four other officers were then induced, under a promise of safe-conduct, to attend, alone and unarmed, a darbar in the palace. The discussion was fruitless, and they started to return, but a crowd of Manipuris closed in on them and two of them were wounded with spears. One died of his wound, and all the other officers, after a short detention, were cruelly murdered. This led to a military expedition. Manipur was occupied by British troops ; the ringleaders were punished ; the new Raja was deposed, and a scion of a collateral line was raised to the throne. Since this time a large measure of control has been vested in the resident British officer, who is now designated Political Agent and Superintendent of the State.

Until 1874, Assam was administered as part of Bengal, but in that year it was formed into a separate Province under a Chief Commis- sioner. The officers who have held this appointment since that date are as follows : —

Colonel R. H. Keatinge 1S74

Sir Steuart Bayley ....... 1878

Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles Elliott .... 1881

Mr. (afterwards Sir) William .Ward .... 18S5 Offg.

Mr. (afterwards Sir) Dennis Fitzpatrick . . . 1887

Mr. (afterwards Sir ' James Westland . . . 18S9

Mr. J. W. Quinton . . . . . . 18S9

Sir William Ward 1891

Mr. (afterwards Sir) Henry Cotton 1 S96

Mr. (afterwards Sir) J. B. Fuller .... 1902

Note. — Officiating appointments for less than six months are omitted.

Assam is somewhat destitute of archaeological remains of interest. The natives of the Province have little aptitude for handicrafts, and many of the temples that exist were probably constructed by artisans from Hindustan. The shrine of Shah Jalal, situated in a mosque at Sylhet, is still in an excellent state of preservation, and there are some interesting ruins at Jaintiapur. Kamrup has many temples, but most of them are small and have fallen into disrepair, the two best known being the temple to Kamakhya on Nilachal hill near Gauhati, and the temple of Hayagriva Madhab at Hajo. There are also the remains of an interesting stone bridge in the Sila Sindurighopa ?natiza i said to have been constructed by Bakhtiar Khilji when he invaded Assam at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Near Tezpur are the ruins of what must have been a magnificent temple ; but not one stone is left standing upon another, and its builder and designer are alike un- known. Dimapur, in the extreme south-western corner of Sibsagar District, was once the capital of the Kachari dynasty, and was evidently a place of considerable importance, though it is now situated in the midst of an enormous forest. Sibsagar has numerous temples built by the Ahom kings. They are made of thin bricks of excellent quality, and are generally ornamented with bas-reliefs ; but the fact that figures of camels not unfrequently appear suggests that they were erected under the direction of foreign artisans, as camels must always have been very scarce in a damp and marshy country like Assam. These temples were generally built on the side of large tanks, whose construction must have entailed an enormous expenditure of labour. The largest tank, at Sibsagar, covers an area of 114 acres. Immense tanks, with temples on their banks, were also constructed at Gaurisagar, Rudrasagar, and Jaysagar, all within a few miles of the Sibsagar tank. At Gargaon near Nazira are the ruins of one of the Ahom capitals. That the native rulers of Assam extended their frontiers right up to the Himalayas is shown by the remains of a fort at Bhalukpang in the gorge of the Bhareli, and of two large forts some distance north of Sadiya. Another interesting ruin near that place is the small temple at which a human victim was annually offered for many centuries by the Chutiya priests. Scattered about the valley are the remains of great roads and fortifica- tions which evidently protected the capital of some local prince. The Baidargarh in Kamrup, which is said to have been constructed by king Arimatta about the thirteenth century, and his son Jangal's fort in Nowgong, deserve special mention, as also the remains of extensive earthworks at Pratapgarh, near Bishnath, in Darrang District.


The population of Assam, including the Native State of Manipur, returned at the Census of 1901, amounted to 6,126,343 persons, living in iq towns and 22,-126 villages. It can be most conveniently considered with reference to the three natural divisions into which the Province falls. Over the greater part of the Surma Valley there is no longer any scarcity of population. In the Cachar plains the density is only 201 persons per square mile ; but the country is much broken by hills and marshes, and of recent years it has become necessary to throw open considerable areas of ' reserved ' forest to meet the demand for cultivable land. The neighbouring District of Sylhet is fully peopled, and in the Habiganj subdivision the density rises to 583 persons per square mile, which for a purely rural population must be considered high. In the Brahmaputra Valley the condition of affairs is very different. Though three times the size of the valley of the Surma, it supports a slightly smaller population, and the density in its Districts varies from 68 persons per square mile in Nowgong to 153 in Kamrup. A con- siderable portion of the unsettled area consists of steep jungle-covered hills, and of marshes that could only grow cold-season crops or the longest-stemmed varieties of rice ; but much good land awaits settlement, and there is probably room for two or three million more inhabitants. There are, however, places where the population is already fairly dense, and in certain rural tracts in the centre of Kamrup and Sibsagar it exceeds 600 persons per square mile. The Hill Districts are very sparsely peopled ; but the area of land suited for permanent cultivation is small, and large tracts of waste are required for the support of tribes that live by shifting cultivation.

The population of Assam is almost entirely rural. Excluding Manipur, less than 2 per cent, of the people enumerated in 1901 were living in urban areas. The largest towns are Sylhet (13,893),

GAUHATI (ll,66l), DlBRUGARH (11,227), SlLCHAR (9,256), BARPETA

(8,747), and Shillong, the head-quarters of the Administration (8,384). Many of the towns are little more than large villages, and the average population of eighteen places dignified with the name was only 6,315. Imphal, the capital of Manipur, had a population of 67,093 ; but the rural character of the place is illustrated by the fact that more than half of the working males residing there were agriculturists by profession. Except in the Naga, North Cachar, and Lushai Hills, the boundaries of a village are not clearly defined, and the cottages are scattered over a considerable area. This tendency is particularly marked in the Assam Valley. Rice is grown on broad plains, often several miles in length, dotted over with clumps of bamboos and fruit trees, in which are buried the houses of the cultivators. A village, in the sense of a compact block of houses set in the midst of its fields at a considerable distance from any other centre of population, is the exception rather than the rule in the plains of Assam ; and for census purposes a village was taken to be the area so designated by the cadastral survey. In many cases, however, the cadastral village is little more than a tract of land which can conveniently be surveyed on one sheet of the map, and this fact has to be borne in mind when examining the statistics showing their average size. In Sylhet there is so little highland that the people are compelled to live in fairly close proximity, but all over the Province there is a marked preference for small hamlets. In 1901, 56 per cent, of the population were living in villages of less than 500 inhabitants ; 38 per cent, in those ranging from 500 to 2,000, and less than 5 per cent, in those containing from 2,000 to 5,000.

The first regular Census, which was taken in 1872, disclosed a popu- lation of 4,150,769. Manipur and the Lushai Hills were not included, and the figures for the Hill Districts were only estimates. In 1881 the population, including Manipur, was 5,128,862 ; and in the plains alone there was an increase of over 18 per cent., a fact which threw grave doubts on the accuracy of the former enumeration. In 1891 Manipur again dropped out, the census schedules having been destroyed in the rising, but the Lushai Hills appeared for the first time, and the popula- tion was returned at 5,477,302. The population of the plains increased by nearly n per cent., but part of this increase was no doubt due to the greater accuracy of the enumeration in 1891. In the last inter- censal period the increase was 649,041, or 12 per cent., but this was largely due to the inclusion of the figures for Manipur and the South Lushai Hills ; and in the plains the increase was less than 6 per cent. The year 1897 was very unhealthy, and in Central and Lower Assam an abnormal mortality was not confined to that year alone. The popu- lation of Kamrup decreased by over 7 per cent. ; and, though there was an increase in Darrang, it was entirely due to immigration, and the indigenous inhabitants are believed to have decreased by 8 per cent. The lowest depth was, however, reached in Nowgong, where the people were more than decimated by a peculiarly malignant form of malarial fever known as kald-dzdr. The population of the District as a whole fell by nearly one-fourth, and it was calculated that the indigenous inhabitants had decreased by over 30 per cent. In Upper Assam there was a satisfactory growth of the indigenous population, and an enormous development of immigration during the decade. The popu- lation of Sibsagar increased by nearly one-fourth, and that of Lakh- impur by almost a half. The best indication of the natural growth of the people is, however, obtained by excluding the figures for Manipur and the Lushai Hills, and comparing the figures for those born and enumerated in the Province in 1891 and 1901. Among this class it appears that the increase during the last intercensal period was only a little more than one per cent.

There was, however, a great growth of the immigrant population, which increased by more than one-half, and in 1901 exceeded three- quarters of a million, or nearly 13 per cent, of the total population of the Province. The great majority of these foreigners are coolies brought up to the tea gardens, though a certain amount of movement takes place across the frontier where Assam marches with Bengal. More than half a million people came from that Province, a quarter of a million of whom had been born in the Division of Chota Nagpur. About 109,000 persons came from the United Provinces, and 84,000 from the Central Provinces. The preponderance of the foreign-born element in the population was most pronounced in Lakhimpur, where they formed 41 per cent, of the whole, and in Darrang and Sibsagar (25 per cent.). Cachar (plains) was close behind, with 24 per cent. In Sylhet, on the other hand, though the total number of foreigners was considerable, they formed only 7 per cent, of the population. There is very little emigration, and only 51,000 persons born in Assam were found in other parts of India. The great majority of these persons had merely crossed the frontier from Goalpara and Sylhet into Bengal.

Little reliance can be placed upon the age statistics, as only a small proportion of the population have even an approximate idea of the number of years which they have lived, and though the mistakes made tend to some extent to neutralize one another, there is a marked tendency to select multiples of five. Inaccurate though the figures are, they show that the exceptional unhealthiness which prevailed between 1891 and 1 90 1 affected the fecundity of the people; and the decrease in the proportion of children was especially pronounced in Districts like Nowgong and the Khasi Hills, where the death-rate was exceptionally high. The most prolific section of the people includes the animistic tribes, and it seems possible that the system of early marriage may have a prejudicial effect upon the reproductive powers of Hindu women.

The registration of vital statistics is compulsory only on tea gardens, and in the District and subdivisional head-quarters stations in the plains (population in 1901, 765,000), but attempts are made to collect information in all the plains Districts and in a small portion of the hills. In Goalpara the returns are submitted in writing by the village panchayats and are fairly correct. In the Surma Valley vital statistics are reported by the paid village chankldars, but their accuracy leaves much to be desired. In Assam proper they are collected by the gaonburas or village headmen, and are extremely incomplete. The mean annual birth-rate registered in the plains Districts during the five years ending with 1902 was only 3$ per 1,000, varying from 42 in Goalpara, where public health had been bad, to 25 in Sibsagar and Lakhimpur, where it had been good. The mean death-rate registered was 30 per 1,000, varying from 41 in Nowgong to 21 in Sibsagar. The returns have thus but little absolute value, though, as the amount of error is fairly constant, they afford some clue to the comparative unhealthiness of different years. The sanitary conditions of Assam arc far from satisfactory. The tract at the foot of the hills and the valleys running up into them are excessively malarious ; and as the Province practically consists of two valleys with the intervening range, the pro- portion of this feverish tarai land is higher than in other parts of India. On the other hand, the open country is fairly healthy, and though the climate is damp it is also cool. The most prevalent diseases are fever, bowel complaints, pulmonary affections, cholera, worms, small-pox, various cutaneous disorders, and, in some localities, goitre. Leprosy is by no means uncommon, and in 1901 more than 5,000 persons were said to be afflicted with this disease. The birth and death rates in 1 88 1 and subsequent years, and the mortality ascribed to the principal diseases, are shown in the following table : —


This is the population among whom deaths were registered. Births were registered only among a population of 2,225,271.

These rates do not represent the actual mortality due to these differ- ent ailments, but give a fairly correct idea of their comparative importance.

The most important factor in the medical history of the Province during .the last twenty years has been kala-azar. This disease was known as far back as 1869, when an intense form of malarial fever was reported to be inducing a high rate of mortality in the low and densely wooded Garo Hills ; but it first came into prominence in 1883, when it entered that portion of Goalpara District which lies south of the river. In 1888 it spread to Kamrup, and thence to Nowgong and to Man- galdai on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, and of recent years it has reached Sylhet. The virulence of the epidemic is now gradually abating, and it has as yet failed to effect a lodgement in Upper Assam, but it has been the cause of terrible mortality in the Districts it attacked. Between 1881 and 1891 the population of the Goalpara subdivision decreased by 18 per cent. ; and the population recorded in Kamrup in 1891 was estimated to have been less by 75,000 people than it would have been had there been no deaths from kala-azar. During the next decade the population of Kamrup decreased by 7 per cent., that of the Mangaldai subdivision of Darrang by 9 per cent., of Nowgong District by 25 per cent., and of the North Sylhet subdivision by 4 per cent. ; and the excessive mortality indicated by these figures was, at any rate in the Assam Valley, chiefly due to this disease. Its nature is still a cause of speculation to the medical world.

In all essentials it seemed to be a form of malarial fever, but the suggestion that malarial fever could be infectious was till recently opposed to all accepted theories on the subject. Subsequently, it was thought that kald-azdr was only an acute form of malarial poisoning, the difference between it and ordinary fever lying in the rapidity with which it pro- duces a condition of severe cachexia, the small proportion of recoveries, and the ease with which it can be communicated from the sick to the healthy. Quite recently, the malarial theory of origin has been again assailed, and the whole question is still involved in uncertainty. Persons attacked seldom died in less than three months, and often lingered for two years ; and isolation and segregation were thus impos- sible, once the disease had obtained a foothold. Plague did not appear in Assam till the rainy season of 1903, when it broke out among the foreign grain merchants in Dibrugarh. The disease was quickly stamped out, and only twenty-eight deaths occurred. The age statistics recorded at the Census and the vital statistics supplied by the collecting agency are so inaccurate that it is impossible to place any reliance on the recorded death-rate for infants under one year of age. It is, how- ever, generally supposed to be about 218 per mille.

Every Census in Assam has disclosed a deficiency of women, and in 1901 there were only 949 females to every 1,000 males. This deficiency is to some extent due to the disproportion between the sexes among immigrants ; for those born and enumerated in the Province there are 977 women to every 1,000 men. Among the animistic tribes women usually predominate, and, taking those born in the Hill Districts and enumerated in the Province, the proportion was 1,061 females to 1,000 males. This phenomenon is probably due in part to the practice of adult marriage, and in part to the good position usually assigned to women in the hills. In Nowgong it appears that there was some truth in the popular idea that kala-azar spared the female members of the family, as at the last Census, among those born and enumerated in the District, the women exceeded the men in numbers. The deficiency of women was most pronounced in Sibsagar and Lakhimpur, where there were only 886 and 862 females to every 1,000 males. This is partly due to an actual deficiency of women among the indigenous inhabi- tants, partly to the large foreign element in the population.

In Assam, as in other parts of India, wedlock is taken as a matter of course, and in 1901 more than half the population were either married, or had at any rate performed the ceremony at some period of their lives. Child-marriage is common among both Hindus and Muhammadans in the Surma Valley and in Goalpara ; but in Assam proper, Brahmans and Ganaks alone adhere rigidly to this rule, and the lower castes usually defer marriage till the girl is of an age to be able to enter on her duties as wife and mother. Where adult marriage prevails, anti-nuptial chastity is not invariably demanded ; and in Assam proper the marriage ceremony often consists of little more than a public acknowledgement of union, which does not receive the sanction of any priestly blessing. The purchase of a bride by service is also not uncommon, and during the time that the man is serving in the house of his prospective father-in-law, he is usually allowed free access to the girl of his choice. There is, however, a curious survival among the Kukis which points to a time when this permission was not accorded.

Here pregnancy entails no disgrace, but on no account must a girl give birth to a living child in her father's house. At the seventh month the baby's head is crushed in the womb, and premature delivery is brought on, in spite of the fact that the process is attended with much risk to the young mother. The age of marriage among men depends largely upon the cost of the bride ; and notwithstanding the easiness of the hill girl's morals, men marry early among the animistic tribes, as women are fairly numerous and therefore cheap. When the knot is once tied, the hill woman usually settles down and becomes an exemplary wife and mother, except among the Khasis, where divorces can be obtained on almost any pretext, and women not unfrequently change their hus- bands more than once. Such laxity in the marriage laws is bound to be accompanied by uncertainty as to the paternity of the children born, and it is perhaps for this reason that the Khasi husband is not master in his own house, and that inheritance goes through the female line. Polygamy is nowhere common, as few men can afford the luxury of a second wife. Divorce is recognized by Muhammadans and the animistic tribes, and, in practice, by the lower castes of Hindus, unless the marriage has been contracted by the horn pura rite, which is looked upon as indissoluble.

The joint family system is far from prevalent in Assam proper, and even among the upper classes seldom extends beyond the second generation. In the Surma Valley also it is the exception rather than the rule, and among the middle classes generally ends with the third generation.

The distribution of population by civil condition in 1891 and 1901 (for British territory only, excluding Manipur) is shown in the following table : —


The two main indigenous languages of the Province arc Bengali, which was spoken by 48 per cent, of the population in 1901, and Assamese, which was returned by 22 per cent. Bengali is the common vernacular of the Surma Valley, where it is used by 87 out of every 100 people, and of Goalpara (69 per cent.). Assamese is used by 83 per cent, of the inhabitants of Kamrup ; but in the tea Districts the proportion of foreigners is very large, and in Darrang Assamese was returned by little more than half the population, and in Lakhimpur by only 39 per cent. In addition to the two main vernaculars, there are a large number of languages peculiar to Assam, most of which belong to the Tibeto-Burman stock, and which, though gradually giving place to Assamese, are still largely used. The most important are : Bodo or plains Kachari, KhasI, Synteng, the various forms of Naga dialects, Garo, Manipurl, Lushai, Kiiki, Mlkir, and MM. The principal foreign languages are : Hindustani, Mundarl, Santali, and Oriya. The number of persons in British territory (excluding Manipur) who returned these different forms of speech in 1S91 and 1901 is shown in the following table. Altogether, no less than 167 different languages were returned in Assam in 1901.

Figures for Hindi.

t Includes 123,481 KhasI, 54,253 Synteng, 106,035 Naga, 133,411 Garo, 72,011 Lushai, 82,283 Mlkir, 40,472 Mlrl, 37,411 Mundari, 30,128 Santali, and 23.755 Oriya.

The earliest inhabitants of Assam were probably the various offshoots of the great Indo-Chinese hordes, whose head-quarters are supposed to have been on the upper waters of the Yang-tse-Kiang and Ho-ang-ho. At the same time, the Assam Valley must have been colonized by Hindus from the west at a very early date ; and Hindu princes were reigning at the eastern end near Sadiya at the time of the invasion of the Chutiyas, a tribe of Bodo origin, about a thousand years ago. The Chutiyas overthrew the Hindu's, but in their turn gave way before the Ahoms, a Shan tribe who crossed the Patkai from the kingdom of Pong in the thirteenth century, and gradually extended their sway over the whole valley. In the course of their expansion they overthrew the Koch kings, a dynasty of Bodo origin who had attained to considerable power in North-Eastern Bengal ; and they repulsed the Muhammadans, who had made several attempts upon the valley and succeeded in holding for a considerable time the two lower Districts of Goalpara and Kamrup. The last wave of immigration was not one of cither con- querors or colonists in the ordinary sense of the term, but of tea-garden coolies, who are now beginning to form an important element in the population of the upper Districts of the Brahmaputra Valley.

The various tribes of Indo-Chinese origin fall into several groups. The first are the Khasis, who are believed to be an isolated remnant of one of the earliest waves of migration from the north-east. They differ in many ways from all their neighbours, and on linguistic grounds it has been suggested that they may be connected with the Palaungs and Was in Upper Burma. The second great division includes the Dimasa or hill Kachari, the Bodo or plains Kachari, who are called Mech in Goalpara, the Rabhas, the Garos, the Lalungs, and the eastern sub-Himalayan group consisting of the Daflas, Mlris, Abors, and Mishmis. The Tipperas who occupy the hills south of Sylhet are also of Bodo stock, and there are good reasons for supposing that some of the earliest inhabitants of the Surma Valley were members of this race. Another group comprises the Lushais and Kukis, who have migrated from the south, and seem to be connected with the Manipuris ; and the Nagas, whose extraordinary ferocity differentiates them in some degree from the other hill tribes of the Province. The Mikirs are a peaceful tribe, whose language is akin to both Bodo and Naga. ; but language is by no means a certain test of ethnical affinity. The Kacharis, Rabhas, and Mechs live on the high grassy plains at the foot of the Himalayas, but most of the remainder occupy the hills of the Province. They are all of sturdy physique, and of a marked Mon- golian type. They place few restrictions upon their natural appetites, and the warlike and aggressive spirit of the Garos, Nagas, and Lushais for many years gave trouble to the Government. At the present day, many of the Naga tribes beyond the British frontier are still blood- thirsty and naked savages. Another division of the Indo-Chinese inhabitants is a branch of the great Tai race, to which belong the Siamese and the Shans of Upper Burma. It includes the Ahoms, who have now to all intents and purposes become a Hindu caste, and several small colonies of Shans who have migrated into Assam in com- paratively recent times. The strength of the principal tribes in 1901 was: Kacharis, 240,000; Garos, 128,000; Rabhas, 67,000; Mechs, 75,000; Mikirs, 87,000; Lalungs, 36,000; Lushais, 63,000; Kukis, 56,000; Manipuris, 256,000; Nagas, 162,000; Khasis, 178,000; and Mlris, 47,000.

The natural result of the various changes outlined in the preceding paragraphs is that Hinduism in general, and caste in particular, are much less rigid in Assam than in Bengal. The first Hindu immigrants seem to have entered the valley of the Brahmaputra at a time when the boundary lines between one caste and another were not very clearly defined, and the presence of a large non-Hindu population, sections of which from time to time attained to sovereignty, made it impossible for them to affect too strict a standard of religious purity. The higher castes are thus somewhat lax in the observance of the ceremonial details of their religion ; while castes which in Bengal are of a comparatively low rank enjoy in Assam a much more respectable position. Brahmans and Kayasths are found in both valleys, but the most characteristic caste of Assam proper is the Kalita. Various explanations have been put forward to account for the origin of this caste, which is almost peculiar to Assam, but it is now generally thought that they are the remains of a Hindu colony who settled in the Province at a time when the functional castes were still unknown. The Kalitas are divided into two main subdivisions, Bar and Saru, who do not usually intermarry, and there are various functional subdivisions which occupy a slightly lower position than the Bar Kalita. The names Kewat and Kaibartta are used more or less indiscriminately for the same caste in Assam. Owing to the comparative scarcity of the higher castes, the cultivating Kewats occupy a higher position in this Province than in Bengal ; but some of them have taken to styling themselves Mahisya Vaisya, as they resent the attempt on the part of the Nadiyals or Doms to assume the name Kaibartta. The Kochs were originally a tribe of Mongolian origin, who were the masters of Lower Assam and North-Eastern Bengal, till overthrown by the Muhammadans and Ahoms about the beginning of the seventeenth century. They are now, in Lower Assam, a caste into which all converts to Hinduism are admitted.

In Goal- para the term Koch has been abandoned for the more honourable title Rajbansi — ' men of royal race.' The Saloi are a respectable caste in Kamrup, who are believed to be connected with the Halwais, or con- fectioners ; and the Patias, most of whom are found in Nowgong, are theoretically mat-makers. Both of these castes have abandoned their traditional occupation and taken to agriculture. Of castes from whose hands water is not taken by Brahmans, the principal is the Ahom. They were originally a Shan tribe, who entered Assam in the thirteenth century and settled in Sibsagar District. They overthrew successively the Chutiya and the Koch, and eventually became masters of the Brahmaputra Valley. But they never colonized Lower Assam, and the majority of the Chutiyas and Ahoms are still found in Sibsagar and Lakhimpur Districts. In the seventeenth century they were converted to Hinduism, and shortly afterwards the power of the tribe began to decline. The Jugis are theoretically weavers by profession, but most of them have taken to agriculture. The Nadiyals or Doms are a fishing caste, and in Assam have never performed any of the degrading offices assigned to them in Bengal. They are cleanly in their persons, and great purists in the ceremonies of their religion. The Boria, or Sut, are a caste peculiar to the Brahmaputra Valley. They are said to be the descendants of Brahman widows and other persons who have contracted alliances not recognized by customary law.

The characteristic castes of the Surma Valley differ from those in Assam, though many are common to the two valleys. The great culti- vating class of Sylhet are the Das (121,000), who often use the prefix Sudra and Halwa. The Sudras (46,000) are many of them members of the Das caste ; but there is in Sylhet a genuine caste, that has no other name, composed of people who were formerly the slaves of Brahmans (109,000) and Kayasths (87,000). The members of the Navasakha, or respectable profession castes, most strongly represented, are the Telis, or oil-pressers (39,000), the Goalas, or cowherds (38,000), the Napits, or barbers (32,000), the Baruis, or betel-leaf growers (18,000), the Kumhars, or potters (27,000), and the Kamars, or black- smiths (34,000). The Baidyas (5,000) are theoretically doctors, and socially occupy a position immediately below the Brahmans. The Shahas (51,000) are by tradition liquor-sellers, but in Sylhet they are the chief trading caste, and many of them have amassed considerable wealth ; in the Brahmaputra Valley they are ordinary cultivators, and Brahmans take water from their hands. The Namasudras, or Chandals (170,000), are a fishing and boating caste.

The foreign castes in Assam most numerous in 1901 were Baurls (42,000), Bhuiyas (49,000), Bhumij (34,000), Chamars (44,000), Ghatwals (22,000), Kurmis (21,000), Mundas (81,000), Oraons (24,000), and Santals (78,000). Nearly all of these persons had originally been brought into Assam to work on tea gardens. The following castes are also numerically strong : Kochs (222,000), Rajbansis (120,000), Kalitas (203,000), Nadiyals (195,000), Ahoms (178,000), Jugis (161,000), Kewats (149,000), and Chutiyas (86,000).

Of the total population of the Province, 3,429,099 persons, or 56 per cent., were returned in 1901 as Hindus, more than half of whom profess the mild tenets of Vaishnavism. This form of Hinduism is especially prevalent in the Assam Valley, where its gosains, or principal priests, occupy positions of great influence and dignity. The gosain generally lives in a sattra or college, surrounded by his bhokots, or resi- dent disciples. In some of the smaller sattras celibacy is not enforced, but in the larger colleges neither the gosain nor the bhokots are allowed to marry. The sattras are not educational institutions like the Buddhist monasteries of Burma, nor do the inmates wander abroad into the neighbouring villages to solicit alms. The more important sattras hold grants of revenue-free land, which in some cases amount to several thousand acres, and all the non-resident disciples make an annual contri- bution towards their maintenance. The gosain of a large sattra is the spiritual head of a wealthy and powerful college, and is looked up to as the ultimate authority in religious and social matters by thousands of villagers, many of whom live miles away. In most of the larger sattras the presiding gosai?i is a Brahman, but in some of the smaller institutions he is a Kalita or Kayasth.

These priests are the great proselytizing agency in Assam ; they exercise a civilizing influence on the aboriginal tribes, and have always been distinguished by their loyalty to Govern- ment and by enlightenment and liberality of thought. A special form of Vaishnavism found in the Assam Valley is the Mahapurushia faith, founded by a Kayasth named Sankar Deb about the end of the fifteenth century, which represents a revolt against the pretensions of the Brah- mans and the licentious rites of corrupted forms of Saktism. Its followers pay little attention to caste, are willing to accept a Siidra as their gosain, are uncompromising in their hostility to idols, and worship God, in the form of Krishna, with hymns and prayers only. Sankar Deb himself was a vegetarian ; but he was unable to impose this rule upon his followers, who were for the most part men of low caste, and they are allowed to eat the flesh of wild but not of domesticated animals. The sect has a following of about 400,000, but the returns have to be accepted with a certain degree of caution.

Nearly one-fifth of the Hindu population described themselves as followers of Sakti or Kali, who represents the procreative force as mani- fested in the female. The temple of Kamakhya in Kamrup is a special object of veneration to the devotees of this creed, as it is said to cover the place where the pudenda of Sakti fell, when her body was cut in pieces by Vishnu ; but Saktism, as a rule, is not popular with the inhabi- tants of Assam, and many of the so-called Saktists were merely garden coolies and rough tribesmen, who had not yet learned sufficient self- restraint to abandon meat and liquor. The devotees of Siva, who is the male counterpart of Sakti, are comparatively few in number. Most of them are found in the Surma Valley. Another small sect remarkable for the peculiarity of its tenets is the Sahaj Bhajan. Each worshipper endeavours to secure salvation by taking a woman as a spiritual guide, but it is said that at their midnight meetings there is much sexual licence under the cloak of religion. It is, however, possible that these charges are merely the calumnies with which a new creed is usually assailed by the supporters of the established order.

The standard form of Hindu temple is a dome-shaped structure enclosing the shrine, approached by a short nave. It is usually built of thin flat bricks, with a fine glaze, and enriched with bas-reliefs ; but there are comparatively few of these masonry buildings in the Province. Almost every village in Assam proper contains, however, a large barn- like structure, called the namghor, in which the people assemble for prayer and worship. In the Surma Valley there are few temples or places of this kind, and the ordinary Hindu performs his devotions in a part of his house specially reserved for that purpose.

About one-fourth of the population of the Province, or 1,581,317 persons, returned themselves as Muhammadans in igoi. Nearly three- fourths of them were found in the District of Sylhet, which was con- quered at the end of the fourteenth century by Sikandar GhazI, who was largely assisted in his enterprise by the famous Muhammadan fakir Shah Jalal. This man was a native of Yemen in Arabia, who had been sent by his uncle to Hindustan with a handful of earth, and orders to settle in the place where the earth was similar to the sample he took with him. The ground of Sylhet proved to be of the quality desired, and Shah Jalal settled in the newly conquered territory. A fine mosque, which is held to be of peculiar sanctity, has been built over his tomb, and a monthly grant is allowed by Government for its support. The tombs of the 360 disciples of the fakir are to be seen in almost every portion of the town. Muhammadans are also fairly numerous in Cachar, which for many years has acted as an outlet for the surplus population of Sylhet, and in Goalpara, where they form more than a fourth of the population. The Brahmaputra Valley was invaded by the Muhammadans on several occasions, and one general is said to have penetrated as far as Sadiya ; but Goalpara was the only District which they held for any length of time, and the influences of the faith were not largely felt at the eastern end of the valley. In the hills less than 3 per cent, of the population professed Islam, the majority of whom were working on the railway in North Cachar, or living in the tarai at the foot of the Garo Hills. Only 2,724 persons were returned as Shiahs, and 47 as members of the strict reforming sect known as Ahl-i-hadis, or Wahhabis. The remainder, so far as they returned any sect at all, were Sunnis. The Morias are a small sect of degraded Muhammadans, who are said to be descended from the followers of Turbak, a Pathan who invaded Assam in the sixteenth century, and was there defeated and killed. They were employed by their captors in various capacities, for which they showed themselves to be totally unfitted, and were ultimately made braziers. They are looked down upon by their neighbours, and the number of persons who admit that they are Morias naturally does not tend to increase. Muhammadan mosques are usually small brick structures, consisting of an open quadrangle with a covered arcade at the west end, but in some of the remoter parts of the Province service is held in a thatched hut.

No less than 1,068,334 persons, or 17 per cent, of the population, still profess those various forms of primitive belief which are usually described as animistic. The main feature of this religion is the desire to propitiate the devils who are ever on the alert to injure man, though most tribes recognize the existence of kindly spirits and the possibility of a future life. The number of unconverted tribesmen living in the Surma Valley is very small, but in the four lower Districts of the valley of the Brahmaputra the proportion varies from 3 1 per cent, in Nowgong to 21 per cent, in Kamrup. In Sibsagar the animistic tribes form only 7 per cent., and in Lakhimpur 5 per cent, of the total population. In the Hill Districts they form 85 per cent, of the whole. The tribesmen have no special preference for their own forms of religion, and take fairly readily to Hinduism in the plains, and to Christianity in the hills. Conversion would, in fact, proceed rapidly, were it not for the natural reluctance of these primitive people to abandon pork, liquor, and the freedom of intercourse between the sexes permitted by their own religion. Apart from Christianity, the only other religious bodies requiring mention are the Buddhists (8,911), the majority of whom are found in Lakhimpur and Sibsagar, and the Jains (1,797), wno ar e usually Marwari merchants from Rajputana.

The total number of Christians in Assam in 1901 was: — Europeans and allied races, 2,099; Eurasians, 275; natives, 33,595. Between 1 89 1 and 1 90 1 the number of native Christians increased by 128 per cent. The chief proselytizing agency in the Province is the Welsh Presbyterian Mission, whose head-quarters are in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. This mission was started in 1841, and in 1903 gave employment to 36 missionaries, of whom 13 were stationed in the Surma Valley and 2 in the Lushai Hills. There is no caste system or social prejudice among the Khasis to act as an obstacle to conversion ; they come but little under the influence of Hinduism, and their readiness to accept the Christian faith can be judged from the fact that in 1901 nearly 9 per cent, of the population of the District returned themselves under this head. The Baptist Mission has also met with a large measure of success, the numbers of this sect having risen from 3,767 in 1891 to 10,045 at tne l ast Census. The mission was first started at Sadiya in Lakhimpur District in 1836, and in 1903 had 21 missionaries. Their main centres are in the Garo Hills, Goalpara, Kamrup, and Sibsagar Districts. Both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches are included in the diocese of Calcutta.

The number of persons in British territory (excluding Manipur) returned under the main religions at the last two enumerations is shown below: —

The economic organization of the Province is of a very simple character, and the great majority of the population are supported by agriculture. In the hills and the Assam Valley there is very little subdivision of function : the ordinary cultivator builds and repairs his own house, makes his own agricultural implements, has his clothes woven at home, and in fact supplies almost all his own simple wants. The occupations returned in 1901 were divided into eight main classes. The number of persons supported by each class and the percentage they form of the total population were as follows : Government service, 34,791, or o-6 per cent. ; agriculture and pasture, 5,172,228, or 84-5 per cent. ; personal services, 75,395, or 1-2 per cent. ; preparation and supply of material substances, 479,358, or 7-8 per cent. ; commerce, transport, and storage, 86,497, or I- 4 P er cent.; professions, 84,971, or 1-4 per cent. ; unskilled labour other than agricultural, 111,401, or i-8 per cent. ; means of subsistence independent of occupation, 81,702, or 1-3 per cent. The number of actual workers was almost exactly equal to the number of persons who were supported by others. Of the total number of workers, 1,073,776, or 35 per cent., were women, the great majority of whom take an active share in the cultivation of the land, for, though a woman may not touch the plough, she is very frequently employed to transplant paddy seedlings or reap the crop when ripe.

The staple food of the people is boiled rice, eaten with pulse, spices, and fish or vegetable curry. Among the well-to-do, pigeon or duck occasionally takes the place of fish ; but fish is a very common article of diet in the plains, and is said to be a substitute for g/11, which is not very largely used. Goat's flesh is eaten by Muhammadans and Hindus alike, while venison is always acceptable, and in parts of the Assam Valley by no means rare. The restrictions on the eating of flesh are not so stringent as in Upper India, and even respectable Brahmans take duck, pigeon, and goat. Fowls (like beef) are debarred to the Hindu, and so are sheep, though in parts of Sylhet ram's flesh is eaten even by the higher castes. An orthodox Brahman in that District will take food only once between sunrise and sunset, but this rule is not observed in the Assam Valley. Domesticated pork is of course forbidden to both Hindu and Muhammadan, but the lower Hindu castes will sometimes eat wild hog. Tea-drinking is very common, especially in the early morning. Sweetmeats usually consist of powdered grain mixed with milk, sugar, and ghl. The hillmen and the aboriginal tribes eat flesh of all kinds, even when nearly putrid. Dog is generally considered a luxury by them, and lizards, snakes, and insects are appreciated, but milk is very seldom taken.

The ordinary form of dress for a villager is a cotton dhoti or waist- cloth, with a big shawl or wrapper, and sometimes a cotton coat or waistcoat. Women in Assam wear a petticoat, a scarf tied round the bust, and a shawl. In the Assam Valley these clothes are generally home-made, and in the case of women, and of the large wraps used in the cold season by men, are frequently of silk. A curious article of dress is a large flat hat. called jhapi, made of leaves and split bamboo and decorated with coloured cloth, which serves as a protection against the sun and the rain. These hats are circular in shape, and range from 2 to 4 feet in diameter, but those of the larger size are more often carried than worn. In the Surma Valley women wear a sari, a piece of cloth about 15 feet long and nearly 4 feet broad; this is fastened round the waist to form a petticoat, and then brought over the head and shoulders so as to cover the rest of the body. Chemises and bodices are also sometimes used. In this part of the Province there is very little home-made cloth. Manchester piece-goods are in great request, and machine-made coats and shirts are largely worn. The dress of the middle classes does not differ materially from that of the ordinary villager, but a superior material is employed, and shirts are usually worn. In the Assam Valley beautiful silk and cotton cloths are woven by the wives and daughters of the well-to-do, and fine embroidered cloths are produced in Manipur. Boots and shoes are the exception, and in their own homes even the richer people wear wooden clogs. Wooden sandals are also used by villagers in the Assam Valley when travelling or working in jungle ground, where there are tufts of sharp- pointed grass. In the hills several fashions are in vogue. Beyond the frontier, some of the Naga tribes go absolutely naked, and even in British territory Naga men and women are often content with the very minimum of apparel. The state dress of the Khasis, on the other hand, consists of a silk waistcoat and richly-embroidered tunic, set off with much handsome jewellery ; and an Angarni Naga in his war-paint is a distinctly impressive sight.

The house of the ordinary villager consists of three or four small and ill-ventilated rooms, built round three sides of a court-yard. The walls are usually made of reeds plastered over with mud, the roof of thatch supported on bamboos, the floor of mud. In the Assam Valley the materials required for the construction of a house do not, as a rule, cost the proprietor anything but the labour of procuring them, but the houses are small and generally badly built. In the Surma Valley the villagers take more trouble ; the cottages are raised on high plinths, are well thatched, and have an arched roof-tree to resist the storms. Brick houses are very rare, and the dwellings of the middle class are in the same style, but larger and of better quality than the cottage of the peasant. The furniture of the cultivating classes is simple, and consists of a few boxes and wicker-work stools, brass and bell- metal cooking utensils, earthen pots and pans, baskets, and bottles, and in the Assam Valley a loom. The villager sometimes sleeps on a small bamboo viachan or platform, and sometimes on a mat on the floor, but the middle classes have beds, tables, and chairs in their houses. The animistic tribes usually build on piles, the floor being raised a few feet above the ground. The house consists of one long building, divided into cubicles by a few partitions. Among certain tribes this building is enlarged to meet the wants of the growing family, and sometimes as many as sixty persons reside in one barrack.

Hindus burn and Muhammadans bury their dead. Some animistic tribes follow the Hindu custom, unless the death has been due to an infectious disease, when they are afraid of the infection being carried in the smoke of the funeral pyre ; others bury, while a few tribes simply throw dead bodies into the jungle. Some tribes preserve the corpses of their wealthier men for several months after death. They are placed in wooden coffins inside the house, and the liquid matter is carried off through a bamboo. The Paithes, who live in the Lushai Hills, smear a greasy preparation over the corpse, which preserves and hardens the skin. It is then dressed in its best clothes, and in the evening is brought outside the house, and rice beer is poured down its throat. This disgusting performance is sometimes continued for several weeks.

Dice, cards, and chess are played by the well-to-do ; and the culti- vators in the Assam Valley amuse themselves with simple theatrical performances, music, singing, dancing, buffalo and cock-fights, and in places with a game in which two eggs are banged together, a forfeit being paid for the one that is broken. The ordinary Hindu festivals, such as the Holi, Rath Jatra, Janmashtami, Kali, and Durga pujas, are observed. Special celebrations are the Bishori puja in honour of the goddess of snakes and the Kartik puja in Sylhet, and the Magh and Baisakh Bihus in Assam. The Magh Bihu is the harvest home. The cultivators feast after having gathered in their crops, bathe at dawn, and then warm themselves at bonfires of rice straw, which have been prepared several weeks beforehand, and which form a conspicuous feature in the rural landscape towards the end of December. The Baisakh Bihu, which ushers in the new year, lasts for a week, and is an occasion of some licence. Boys and girls join in songs and dances of a somewhat unrestrained character, and lapses from chastity are considered venial. This festival not unfrequently gives rise to suits for abduction against lovers who have induced the object of their affections to elope with them, instead of paying the usual bride price to the parents of the girl. The anniversaries of the deaths of the two Vaishnavite reformers, Sankar Deb and Madhab Deb, are also observed by the Assamese. In the Surma Valley the villagers indulge in boat-races in long canoes, manned by from fifteen to twenty pairs of paddlers, who keep time to the songs of a man who dances in the centre of the vessel and beats a pair of cymbals. The Khasis are much addicted to archery competitions, and are very skilful with the bow ; and the Nagas amuse themselves by putting the weight, leaping, and exercises on the horizontal bar.

The best-known game of all is, however, polo, which is supposed by some to have been introduced to European players from Manipur, and which is still played by the natives of that State with the greatest enthusiasm. A good Manipurl pony, though seldom over twelve hands high, has, for its size, remarkable speed, courage, and endurance. There are usually from five to seven players on each side, there are often no goal posts, and no attention is paid to the rules prohibiting crossing, fouling, or reckless use of the stick. The rush of a Manipurl team thus suggests a cavalry regiment practising shock tactics, and were it not for the small size of the ponies serious accidents would frequently occur. The pony's bridle is covered with large brightly-coloured balls of wool, the riders legs are protected by curious leather shields, and while the upper part of his body is clothed in gay attire, and his calves covered with gaiters, his thighs are almost naked. The general effect is most striking. The men possess a wonderful command over the ball, and hit it from almost any position in any direction.

Hindus of the higher castes usually have two names, one correspond- ing to the Christian name of Europe, the other a family name. The number of family names is, however, so small that they do not give much clue to the individuality of the bearer. A caste name, such as Sarma for Brahmans, Gupta for Baidyas, and Das for all castes other than these two, is sometimes added. Titles, such as Rai, Chowdhury, Mazumdar, Gohain, Phukan, Baruah, are, however, in common use, especially in the Assam Valley. Proper names are often of a grandilo- quent character, such as ' Lord of the earth and moon,' ' Delight of women ' ; but children are sometimes called after the day of the week or the month in which they were born. Women usually bear the names of goddesses or flowers. Among the poorer people, names like Fedela, ' The dirty one,' are sometimes given with the idea of averting the jealousy of the gods. The Khasis attach the male prefix U and the female prefix Ka to all proper names. Common affixes of place names are ganj in the Surma Valley, which indicates a market ; pur, a town ; and in Assam garh, a fort and embankment ; gao, a village ; dai, water ; and ranga, red, referring to the colour of the soil.


The Province of Assam consists, as has been already mentioned, of two great alluvial plains, surrounded on three sides by mountains. The soil formation thus falls into two main classes : . . ,, that of the hill tracts, which are being denuded ; and that of the valleys, which are being formed by the same process. There is a further distinction between the conditions prevailing in the two valleys, due to the difference in their elevation above sea-level. During the rainy season there is usually a strong current in the Brahmaputra and the other rivers of the Assam Valley ; and where the current is swift it is only the heavier portion of the matter held in suspension — that is, the sand — which is deposited. In the Surma Valley, where there is very little fall, the rivers are sluggish, and when they overflow enrich the fields with silt. Silt is also deposited in the Assam Valley in slack water away from the main current, and the soil of that Division consists of a mixture of clay and sand in varying proportions, which ranges from pure sand to clay so stiff as to be hardly fit for cultivation.

The land best adapted for the growth of rice, the staple food-crop of the Province, is a deep, soft, clayey loam, which has been rendered light and friable by the action of worms. Where there is too much sand, the soil is too light to retain the water necessary for the develop- ment of the crop. Where the clay is too stiff, it is impervious to air and water, and difficult to plough, and the roots of the plant are likely to be choked. The fertility of the soil is also largely affected by the quantity of organic matter it contains. This humus, or vegetable mould, is formed by the decomposition of vegetable matter, and is most abundant in land that has long remained under jungle. It con- tains nitrogen, which is one of the most important elements of plant food, and is useful alike to clayey and sandy soils. The former it renders less clinging and less liable to bake into hard clods, while to the latter it gives more adhesion and greater capacity to retain water. A further advantage is to be found in its solvent action on the iron in the earth. By this means it tends to check the formation of the hard red pan, which often underlies thin poor soils, and injures the crop by interfering with the growth of the roots. The suitability of land for rice depends, however, chiefly upon its elevation, and its capacity for retaining moisture.

Generally speaking, the country on either side of the Brahmaputra falls into four classes. The first is the chapari, or land in the immediate neighbourhood of the river, which is heavily flooded during the rains. It is, as a rule, covered with high grass jungle, which has to be cut down and burned before it can be brought under cultivation ; but, when the floods do not rise too soon, it yields excellent crops of ahu, or summer rice. The seed is sown in March or April and reaped in June or July, and is followed by a crop of mustard or pulse, which is sown when the river falls in October and November, and gathered about three months later. When the land is first cleared of jungle it is free from weeds, but they spring up with great rapidity in the second and third year of cropping, and it is then abandoned for from eight to ten years to allow the high jungle time to kill them out. Behind the chapari comes a belt of low-lying land, in which bao, a long-stemmed variety of rice, is grown. It is usually sown in April or May and reaped in November and December. Summer rice is sometimes mixed with bao, in the hope of getting a crop before the river rises. The water drains off slowly from this belt, and the land is left too cold and damp for winter crops. The level of the country then gradually rises above the reach of ordinary floods, and salt, or transplanted winter rice, becomes the staple crop.

The grain is sown in nursery beds, the seedlings are transplanted in June or July, when they are about two months old, and the harvest is reaped in November and December. Salt is divided into two main varieties, bar and lahi. The former gives a heavier yield, but ripens later and requires more water than lahi, and is therefore usually planted on lower land. This belt of land is a broad one, containing most of the permanent cultivation and the majority of the agricultural population. Beyond this again comes the submontane tract. The level of the land here is higher, and the fields are often irrigated from hill streams. The chief crop is salt, or a transplanted form of ahu known as kharma. This land is practically free from all risk of flood, and artificial irrigation renders the harvest particularly secure.

These four belts are not, however, found in all parts of the valley. Very little bao is grown in the Districts of Darrang, Sibsagar, and Lakhimpur ; and though, as a rule, chapari is found on both sides of the Brahmaputra, there are places where the margin of permanent culti- vation comes down almost to the river bank. Sugar-cane is usually planted on high land near the village site in the broad belt of permanent cultivation.

The conditions of the Surma Valley are somewhat different. There is no chapari, and the banks of the rivers are the highest and the most fertile part. In Cachar and the eastern part of Sylhet the bulk of the land resembles that found in the broad belt of permanent cultivation in Assam, and the staple crops are sail and aus, which correspond to the salt' and ahu of the other valley. The western portion of Sylhet becomes one great swamp in the rains, and is fit only for the cultivation of aman, a form of long-stemmed rice. A fourth kind of rice called sailbura is grown in the large haors or basins to which reference has been already made. It is sown at the end of the rains and harvested about May, and gives an exceptionally large yield per acre. Sugar-cane is often grown on low land, and mustard on old high land near the village site, where it gives a poorer out-turn than on the fertile river banks of Assam.

The majority of the hill tribes cultivate on the jhum system. A patch of land is cleared with axe and fire, the soil is hoed up, and the seeds of hill rice, chillies, cotton, millets, gourds, and other vegetables dibbled in among the ashes. The same plot is seldom cropped for more than two or three years in succession. After this time the weeds spring up in great luxuriance, and further cultivation would destroy the roots of ikra or bamboo jungle, upon the growth of which the land depends for its fertility, /hums are left fallow for as long a time as possible. The shortest period is four years, but this is generally extended to eight or ten. In the Khasi Hills rice is grown in terraced and irrigated fields in the valleys, but other crops, such as potatoes and millet, are raised on the bare hill-side. The Tankul and AngamI country lies too high for the successful cultivation of jhum rice, and there is not sufficient land to permit the people to rely on this system of cultivation. The villages of these tribes are surrounded by admirably constructed terraced rice- fields, built up with stone retaining-walls at different levels, and irrigated by skilfully designed channels, which distribute the water over each step in the series.

The agricultural implements are all of a very primitive character. They include a wooden plough with an iron-tipped share, wooden rakes and mallets, a rough bamboo harrow, sickles, bill-hooks, knives, and baskets. In Assam proper sugar-cane is pressed between two grooved logs of wood, turned by a pole, and the iron mill, though more expeditious and economical, is little used. Winter rice is sown in care- fully-manured beds near the homestead, which at the commencement of the rains form brilliant patches of green in the landscape. While the shoots are growing, the cultivator ploughs his fields some four or five times, reducing the soil to a fine puddle of clay, and repairs the low mounds intended to retain the water. In Assam proper the seedlings are planted out in handfuls by the women, who can be seen up to their knees in mud, stooping for hours together under the burning summer sun. The distance at which the clumps are placed depends upon the quality of the soil, varying from 8 inches to 3 feet. As the crop grows, it covers the plain with a rich carpet of green, turning towards the end of the year to a fine yellow. When ripe, the grain is cut off near the head, tied in bundles, and carried, slung from bamboos, to the home- stead, where it is threshed out by cattle as occasion requires. Bao or aman and ahu are sown broadcast, but the yield is usually smaller, and the quality of the grain is not so fine. Mustard requires four or five ploughings ; and when new land is broken up, the cultivators have to press down the high grass jungle and wait till it is sufficiently withered to catch fire. Sugar-cane is a crop which, though yielding good returns, entails a considerable amount of labour. The land is generally ploughed twice for pulse, but the seed is sometimes sown broadcast over fields that have just yielded a crop of rice. The plants are pulled up when ripe, left to dry for a week or ten days, and brought in at the leisure of the cultivator.

Assam is a purely rural country, with no large towns, and in 1901 no less than 84 per cent, of the population returned agriculture as their means of livelihood. The proportion of agriculturists in the different Districts was highest in the Garo, Naga, and Lushai Hills, and in Darrang, Nowgong, and Sibsagar. It was lowest in Kamrup and Sylhet, where there were large numbers of fishermen and priests.

The area under different crops in the five upper Districts of the Brahmaputra Valley is returned by the local revenue officials. The figures may be accepted as fairly accurate, but do not, as a rule, include the comparatively small area occupied by tribes not assessed to land revenue. The principal crops raised are rice, pulse, tea, sugar-cane, and rape and mustard. The area under these crops will be found in Table IV, appended to this article ; but this table gives a very imperfect idea of the cultivated area of the Province, as it does not include the Hill Districts, Sylhet, and Goalpara, for the greater part of which there are no returns, or Cachar, the figures for which have become avail- able only in recent years. As a matter of fact, there are probably at least four million acres under rice in Assam, and over a quarter of a million under mustard.

Wheat is sown in Goalpara, where it is believed that there are about 10,000 acres under this crop ; elsewhere both wheat and barley are raised only in small patches by foreigners. Jute is grown on a commercial scale in Goalpara and Sylhet, and is gradually extending into Kamrup ; but in the rest of the Province the villagers plant only enough to supply the home demand. The estimated area under jute in 1903-4 was 39,000 acres. Linseed is largely grown in Sylhet, but is not common elsewhere. Garden crops include tobacco, several kinds of plantain, vegetables, fan or betel-leaf, the areca palm, pepper, and various kinds of spices. In the Surma Valley pan is grown in the orthodox way by Baruis in neatly fenced gardens, completely covered with the tendrils of the plant ; but in Assam it is usually trained up the stem of the areca palm. Plantains of different kinds are found near every house ; and in the Assam Valley the ash is largely used as a substitute for salt, the people still clinging to the customs which prevailed in the days of native rule, when mineral salt could not easily be obtained. Pepper is mentioned in Welsh's Report on Assam, in 1794, as a plant that throve well, but, though the cultivation would be most lucrative, only a small quantity is grown. The Khasis export potatoes, oranges, pineapples, and the leaves of the bay-tree ; and cotton is grown by most of the hill tribes. It has a very short and somewhat harsh staple, but it is useful to mix with wool and the proportion of seed is unusually low.

In Cachar the rice crop is usually distributed under the three chief varieties of the grain in the following proportions : sail or salty 70 per cent.; aus or ahu, 22 per cent.: aman or bao, 8 per cent. For the Assam Valley the proportion is salt, 70 per cent.; ahu, 22 per cent.; and bao, 8 per cent. Ahu and bao are grown chiefly in Lower Assam ; in Darrang, Sibsagar, and Lakhimpur there is not much ahu and hardly

any bao. The normal yield of sali rice is about 9 cwt. of cleaned grain per acre, and that of ahu and bao about a cwt. less. Mustard gives about 5 cwt. of seed, and sugar-cane about a ton of raw molasses per acre. These figures represent only a rough general standard ; the actual crop obtained is often considerably in excess or defect of the mean.

Cow-dung and the sweepings of the courtyard are used to manure garden crops, sugar-cane, jute, and the nurseries in which rice seedlings are grown ; and in the more congested parts of the Province cow-dung is sometimes spread on the rice-fields themselves. The chapari and the shifting cultivation of the hill tribes are enriched by the ashes of the jungle with which the land was originally covered. Exhausted tea land is top-dressed with richer soil, and on some gardens the use of oilcake and farm-yard manure is coming into favour. The Khasis fully appre- ciate the value of cow-dung as a fertilizer, but all over the Province immense quantities of this excellent manure are allowed to go to waste. There is practically no rotation of crops, apart from the system under which summer rice is followed by pulse or mustard, while pulse is usually sown on the rice-seedling bed, as it is thought to benefit the soil.

It is impossible to obtain accurate figures showing the extension of cultivation in the Province as a whole. No statistics are available for the hills, or the permanently settled estates of Sylhet and Goalpara, and there is a considerable difference between the conditions prevailing in the two valleys. In Assam proper and in the Eastern Duars the extension of cultivation is best measured by the growth of the area settled at full rates, excluding the land held by planters. The area so settled in 1 881-2 was 1,335,000 acres. During the next ten years there was an increase of 15 per cent., which was, however, partly due to the operations of the cadestral survey, and to greater strictness in the measurement of land. Then ensued a period of extreme depression in Lower and Central Assam, and by 1902-3 the area settled in this way had increased by only 63,000 acres, or 4 per cent, more than the total for 1 89 1-2. This slow rate of increase, in a Division where there are enormous tracts of cultivable waste available for settlement, was due to exceptional mortality which seriously reduced the indigenous population, and to the damage done by the earthquake of 1897, which interfered with the natural drainage in Lower Assam.

The settled area of Cachar has increased rapidly since it came under British rule. In 1843, when the first settlement was made, the area covered by the operations was only 97,900 acres. In 1903 the settled area of the District was 607,000 acres. The cultivated area held on ordinary tenure increased by 24 per cent, between 1883-4 and 1896-7, It is impossible to ascertain the extent to which cultivation has extended in Sylhet District as a whole, but in the ]\a. parganas the cropped area increased by 22 percent, during the currency of the last settlement, which was for a period of fifteen years.

The great obstacle to the extension of cultivation is the absence, of a labouring class. In the Surma Valley, Kamrup, and Goal para agri- cultural labourers are extremely scarce, and in Central and Upper Assam they are practically non-existent. The climate of the country in the rains is not calculated to stimulate the inhabitants to prolonged physical exertion ; and ryots, who are compelled to plough, plant, and reap with their own hands, are not likely to cultivate more land than is absolutely necessary for their maintenance.

The villagers usually select the best heads of rice for seed grain, but are not very prompt to adopt new varieties. The cultivation of jute on the commercial scale is slowly spreading up the Assam Valley, and the ras and balam varieties of rice have recently been tried. Potatoes were introduced into the Khasi Hills by Mr. Scott in 1830, and are now extensively cultivated in that District. Of recent years the plants have been attacked by disease, but fresh varieties, imported by Government, have been much appreciated by the villagers. An experimental farm is maintained near Shillong, and scientific farming has been undertaken on a small scale by Europeans and Bengalis in Darrang. Efforts have been made by the Agricultural department from time to time to introduce new and improved varieties of seed, but the results produced have been inconsiderable. In 1903 a garden of European fruit trees was opened near Shillong, as the Khasis can be relied upon to adopt without delay any forms of fruit culture that seem likely to prove remunerative.

Generally speaking, there is not much serious indebtedness among the cultivators of the Province, and the creditors themselves are often agriculturists. In Assam there is no rich upper or middle class, and few natives other than the Marwaris are possessed of any capital. The rate of interest is in consequence extremely high, varying from 37^ to 75 per cent, per annum. In parts of the Assam Valley it is the custom for the poorer villagers to take advances from traders on the standing crop, which is subsequently sold at a price below that ruling in the open market. This is especially the case with mustard, which cannot always be removed till the rivers rise in the rains. In the Surma Valley the producer often deals direct with the trader from Bengal, and the practice of giving advances is not so common. In Sylhet it is said that the indebtedness of the cultivators is increasing. New wants have arisen, but the villagers do not care to make the additional exertions required to provide the means to gratify them. Wages, however, still rule high, so that there cannot be much poverty, and it is seldom necessary for Government to make loans to agriculturists. The total amount so advanced in 1903-4 was less than Rs. 24,000.

The cattle of Assam are a peculiarly degenerate breed. Their degeneracy is largely due to a complete disregard of all the laws of breeding, to overwork, and to absolute neglect. The Valley of the Brahmaputra is exceptionally well supplied with grazing-grounds, and there are few places even in the more densely settled tracts where pasture cannot be obtained within 5 miles of the village site. The grazing near the village is, however, usually poor, and far inferior to the rich grass that grows in the cold season on the marshes that fringe the banks of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries. Where grazing is not readily obtainable, rice straw is used for fodder. In the Surma Valley the /mors, or great depressions, to which reference has been already made, afford excellent grazing in the cold season, but during the rains the cattle are almost entirely stall-fed on straw, or on grass dragged from the bottom of the flooded tracts. The villagers pay very little attention to the comfort of their animals, and their condition is not much better than that of the cattle in Assam proper. In the hills the cattle, though small, are fat and sturdy, and, where milked, give a small but very rich supply. The buffaloes in the valley of the Brahmaputra are particularly fine animals, but they have been largely supplemented by the smaller breed imported from Bengal. There is no indigenous breed of sheep, or, except in Manipur, of ponies. The Manipun pony is a very hardy little animal, but unfor- tunately the breed has nearly died out. Cart-bullocks are imported from Upper India, and ponies and sheep from Bhutan. The average prices of farm stock are : for a buffalo, Rs. 50 to Rs. 70 ; for a plough bullock, Rs. 15 to Rs. 25 ; for a cow, Rs. 8 to Rs. 15 ; and for a goat, Rs. 2-8 to Rs. 4. Serious loss is caused by rinderpest, foot-and- mouth disease, diarrhoea and dysentery, and other forms of cattle disease. There is only one veterinary surgeon in the Province, who has been engaged by the local boards of Sibsagar District.

No irrigation works have been constructed by Government, and no distinction has hitherto been drawn by the Agricultural depart- ment or the Settlement Officer between irrigated and unirrigated land. Irrigation is, however, freely resorted to by the Kacharis and Mechs, who live near the foot of the Himalayas in the Assam Valley. The villagers combine to construct small channels, sometimes of considerable length, through which they convey the water of the hill streams to their fields. The abundance and certainty of the crop fully repay them for the labour expended on the work. In Sylhet the water in the cold season is dammed up in the lowest part of the haors and thence diverted on to the boro rice crop. Mention has already been made of the irrigation works of the Khasis and Angami Nagas. In normal years, however, the rainfall in every part of the Province is so abundant that the crops seldom suffer from want of moisture, and the chief danger to cultivation arises from flood. The system of forced labour which prevailed under the Ahom Rajas enabled them to construct embank- ments along the Brahmaputra and many of its tributaries, some of which are still kept in repair. These works were especially numerous in Sibsagar District in the neighbourhood of the Ahom capital, where the country was protected from the floods of the Brahmaputra, the Disang, the Dikho, the Dihing, and the Darika. A considerable sum of money has already been expended by the British Government on the maintenance of these embankments, and a scheme is under con- sideration for the reclamation of a large area now exposed to flood. Raised roads along the banks of rivers are also common in Lower Assam.

From the commercial point of view tea is the most important crop raised in Assam. The first discovery of the tea-plant growing wild in Upper Assam, in 1 821, is generally assigned to Mr. Robert Bruce, who had proceeded thither on a mercantile exploration. The country then formed part of the Burmese dominions. But the first Burmese War shortly afterwards broke out ; and a brother of the discoverer, having been appointed in 1826 to the command of a flotilla of gunboats, followed up the subject, and obtained several hundred plants and a quantity of seed. Some specimens were ultimately forwarded to the Superintendent of the Botanic Gardens at Calcutta. In 1832 Captain Jenkins was deputed by Lord William Bentinck, the Governor-General, to report upon the resources of Assam, and the tea-plant was specially brought to his notice by Mr. Bruce. In 1834 Lord William Bentinck recorded a minute, stating that his attention had been called to the subject previous to his having left England, and he appointed a com- mittee to prosecute inquiries, and to promote the cultivation of the plant. Communications were opened with China with a view to obtain fresh plants and seeds ; and a deputation, composed of gentlemen versed in botanical studies, was dispatched to Assam. Seed was obtained from China ; but it was ascertained that the tea-plant was indigenous in Assam, and might be multiplied to any extent. Another result of the Chinese mission, the procuring of persons skilled in the cultivation and manufacture of black tea, was of more material benefit. Sub- sequently, under Lord Auckland, a further supply of Chinese cultivators and manufacturers was obtained, who were well acquainted with the processes necessary for the production of green tea. The experimental introduction of tea-planting into Assam was undertaken by Government. In 1835 the first tea garden was opened at Lakhimpur. In 1838 the first twelve chests of tea from Assam were received in England. They had been injured in some degree on the passage ; but on samples being submitted to brokers, the reports were highly favourable. It was, how- ever, the intention of Government not to carry on the trade, but to resign it to private enterprise as soon as the experimental cultivation proved successful. Mercantile associations for the planting and manu- facture of tea in Assam began to be formed in 1839; and in 1840 Government made over its experimental establishment to the Assam Tea Company. In 1851 the crop of this company was estimated at 280,000 pounds. In 1854 gardens were opened in Darrang and Kamrup ; and in 1855 the plant was discovered growing wild in Cachar. During the next ten years, capital flowed into the business from all quarters. Land was recklessly taken up, to be sold to speculators in England for extravagant sums ; and tea-growing for a time fell into the hands of stockjobbers and bubble companies. The crash came in 1866; and for the next few years this promising industry lay in a condition of extreme depression.

About 1869, matters began to amend, and during the last thirty years there has been a great development of the industry. The returns for 187 1 showed (in round figures) that 11,000,000 pounds of tea were manufactured in the Province. For 1S81 the figures were 37,000,000 pounds; for 1891, 90,000,000 pounds; and for 1900, 141,000,000 pounds. The supply had by this time begun to show signs of exceeding the demand, and attempts were made to restrict the output by the introduction of a system of finer plucking. This was, however, but a temporary check, and in 1903 the output exceeded 145,000,000 pounds. There were in that year 764 gardens, which gave employment to 846 Europeans and 409,000 natives. The average out-turn was 445 pounds per acre, and the crop was valued at wholesale prices in Calcutta at more than 3^ millions sterling. The capital invested in tea is probably about £30 for every acre under cultivation ; and as 338,000 acres were planted out in 1903, the capital value of the gardens in Assam may be estimated at nearly ioi millions sterling 1 . About four-fifths of the capital employed by companies is owned by companies whose head offices are situated in England.

The want of labour has always been one of the most serious obstacles to the development of the industry. The mass of the population of the Province are above the necessity of working for wages, and nearly all the coolies employed on the plantations have to be imported from other parts of India. Assam is, however, unpopular among the labour- ing classes ; the journey from the recruiting districts is troublesome and expensive, the class of persons capable of working successfully in the damp climate of the Province is limited, and of recent years the supply of labour available has not been sufficient to satisfy the

1 A considerable proportion of this tea property is held by private owners. The capital value of gardens owned by public companies appears to be about £40 per acre, and this estimate, if applied to the total acreage, would show a capital value of 13! millions sterling. requirements of the planters. Special Acts have been passed to regulate the relations between the employers and their labour force. Careful provision is made for the welfare of the cooly. He is housed in neat and comfortable lines ; he is provided with an excellent water-supply, generally drawn from masonry wells ; and when sick he is cared for in a comfortable hospital by a native doctor working under the super- vision of a European medical man. The provision of all these comforts and the importation of the labourers themselves cost large sums of money, which no one would be willing to expend without some guarantee that the coolies when imported would consent to remain on the planta- tion. This protection is afforded by the law, which lays down that a labourer, provided that he is well treated, must not leave the garden to which he is indentured before the expiry of his contract, unless he chooses to redeem it by a money payment. During the ten years ending with June 30, 1903, the total number of persons brought up to the tea gardens was 543,800.

The land best suited for the plant in the Brahmaputra Valley is the virgin soil of the dense forests at the foot of the hills, where the climate is hot and moist. In the Surma Valley the most productive gardens are those planted on the low ranges of hills in the south of Sylhet District, or on reclaimed marsh land. The yield in the Surma Valley is higher than in Assam proper, but the cost of production and the price obtained for the manufactured tea are alike lower. Indigenous seed gives the best results, and after this a hybrid of indigenous and China. It is many years since China seed was planted out in new clearances, and considerable areas covered by this plant have been abandoned. The most important tea Districts and their area under the plant in 1903 were: Sibsagar, 78,500 acres; Sylhet, 73,500 acres; Lakhimpur, 69,300 acres ; and Cachar, 60,000 acres.

The following is a short account of the system of cultivation and manufacture usually followed. The seed is allowed to germinate before being sown in carefully-selected nursery beds. When the plants are about 12 inches high, they are planted out at distances of from 4 to 5 feet apart. As the bush grows it is pruned, in order to remove decayed or injured wood, to encourage the production of new shoots, and to form as large a surface for the latter purpose as possible. The wild tea-tree grows to as much as 50 feet in height, whereas a well- pruned bush does not exceed 3 or 4 feet. When the plant is about three years old it is fit for plucking. The usual practice is to pick off the top of each young shoot, removing either two or three leaves and the bud. The shoot then germinates again, and the plant thus yields eleven or twelve 'flushes,' as they are called, during the season.

When the leaf has been taken to the tea-house it is spread out in thin layers and allowed to wither, and then placed in the rolling machines. The object of rolling is to break up the cellular matter and liberate the juices, and to give a twist to the leaf. After the leaf has been rolled, it is spread out in a cool room to allow oxidation to take place. As soon as this process is complete, it is placed in the firing machines until the last trace of moisture has been expelled and the tea is crisp to the touch. It is then sifted, sorted, fired again, and finally packed in lead-lined boxes while still warm.

Rent wages and prices

In most of the Districts of Assam the actual cultivators of the soil usually hold direct from the State, and the area of land on which rent

is paid is inconsiderable. A large part of Goalpara and DrT^ 6S ' anc ^ °^ tne more densely populated portions of Sylhet

was, however, included in the permanent settlement of Bengal ; and the system of land tenure in Cachar, and the existence of large estates on privileged rates of revenue in Kamrup, have tended to produce a tenant class, which at the last Census amounted to more than one-third of the total number of persons supported by agriculture. The amount of waste land still available in the Province is, however, so enormous, that there is little risk of landlords exacting too large a pro- portion of the profits of the soil, and Sylhet and Goalpara are the only two Districts in which a tenancy law (Bengal Act VIII of 1869) is in force. In Sylhet, the rents charged vary from Rs. 12 to 12 annas for an acre of rice land, but the ordinary rate is about Rs. 3. There is a certain amount of competition among the cultivators to obtain land ; but if the owner takes advantage of their necessities to raise the rates to an unreasonable pitch, he experiences great difficulty in realizing the demand. In Goalpara, which is very sparsely peopled, rents vary from Rs. 6 to 1 2 annas an acre, the average rent paid by the cultivators for an acre of rice land being between Rs. 2 and Rs. 3. In Assam proper there is very little subletting, except in Kamrup. The rent usually charged is the amount assessed by Government at full rates on land of a similar class, but occasionally it is as much as Rs. 6 for an acre of good rice land. In Upper Assam rents of Rs. 9 an acre are sometimes paid for rice-fields which are exceptionally fertile or have some special advantages of site ; but the total area sublet is small, and in a large number of cases the tenant merely pays the Government revenue assessed upon the holding. In Cachar the average rent is about Rs. 6 per acre, varying from Rs. 7-8 to Rs. 4-8.

In place of cash rent the landlord occasionally receives a portion of the produce. In Sylhet the amount demanded is usually 3^ cwt. of unhusked rice per acre, but tenants prefer, as a rule, to pay in cash. In Assam proper the standard form of produce rent is the adhi, or half- share system. The owner of the land usually gives half the seed and pays the revenue ; the tenant, as a rule, does the actual cultivation, but the crop can be divided at any stage, according to the terms of the agreement. The tenant's responsibilities sometimes cease when the land has been reduced to puddle, and the landlord has to transplant his seedlings and reap, carry, and thresh his share of the crop. At- the other extreme come the cases where the tenant is required to thresh the grain before it is divided.

Over the greater part of the Province, the supply of local labour is extremely limited ; and although in most Districts the wages of unskilled labour are said to be 6 annas a day, it would be impossible to procure any considerable body of persons even for a larger sum. Hired labour is not much used for cultivation ; but when a labourer is employed he receives from 4 to 5 annas a day, grain being often given in lieu of cash. In Lower Assam it is usually the practice to give a servant a large advance, which is gradually worked off; but in some cases the work done is set against the interest of the loan, so that the debt itself is never liquidated, and the debtor cannot succeed in freeing himself from his obligations. It is, however, to the interest of the employer to treat his servants well, as he has little hope of recovering the loan if they choose to leave him, and they are generally well fed and clothed, and treated almost as members of the family. In Sylhet, the prejudice against working for hire is not so strong as in Assam proper, where the feeling appears to be partly due to a revulsion from the system of forced labour which prevailed under the Ahom Rajas. The ordinary wage paid to farm-labourers is 4 annas a day, but at harvest time they often receive double that sum. Assam, however, practically depends for its labour supply upon other parts of India. Railways are built, roads are made, and gardens are worked by imported coolies. Male coolies on gardens usually earn from Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 a month, and women about a rupee less ; but they receive in addition substantial concessions in the shape of houses, water-supply, and medical comforts. Artisans are usually foreigners, and are said to earn from Rs. 15 to Rs. 30 a month.

Prices in Assam are still liable to strongly marked fluctuations, and vary considerably in different parts of the Province. As a rule, they range higher in Upper Assam, where there is a large foreign population to be fed, but are fairly low in Lower Assam and Sylhet. Since 1893, there has been a general tendency towards a rise, due partly to bad harvests in the Province, partly to famine in other parts of India, and partly to a large increase in the foreign population. In good seasons, however, rice is still by no means dear. In 1899 and 1900 the average price for the Province was nearly 15 seers for a rupee {= about 45 lb. for 2 shillings), as compared with an average for the six years ending with 1879 of 13^ seers (= about 40^ lb. for 2 shillings). Such extensions of cultivation as have taken place do not tend to reduce the price of rice, as their effect is more than counterbalanced by the increase in the foreign population. The same cause has, to a great extent, nullified the effect produced by the improvement of communica- tions, though in 1900, when there was a bad harvest in Cachar, the stringency was relieved by the importation of large stocks of grain by the Assam-Bengal Railway. Generally speaking, the chief characteristic of Assam is sharp variations from year to year and also from place to place, a distance of a few miles being sometimes enough to double the price of grain. The average number of seers of rice to be purchased for a rupee during the five years ending with 1901 were : in Sylhet, 13 (= about 39 lb. for 2 shillings) ; in Kamrup, 12 (= about 36 lb. for 2 shillings); and in Lakhimpur, io| (= about 31^ lb. for 2 shillings). These five years include two when the harvest was bad, and two when it was distinctly good, and can thus be taken as fairly typical of present rates. Averages for earlier years for the Province will be found in Table V, appended to this article.

The ordinary Assamese peasant usually wears home-made articles of dress ; the actual cash cost is small, and a woman could probably dress fairly well on Rs. 10 and a man on Rs. 5 per annum. The price of silk clothing is of course considerably higher. A Government orderly spends from Rs. 4 to Rs. 5 a month on his food, including oil, tobacco, spices, salt, and fish. A clerk who shares expenses with one or two friends need not spend more than Rs. 10 a month on food, including a share of the servants' wages, while the messing charge at the Hindu Hotel at Gauhati is only Rs. 6 a month. The villagers can, as a rule, obtain nearly all the materials required for their houses free of charge ; but if payment must be made, a house costs from Rs. 25 to Rs. 50 to construct.

The material condition of the people is satisfactory. There is not much serious debt, the great mass of the population are above the necessity of working for daily wages, and the number of people who are in actual want is very small. In Upper Assam silk might almost be described as the everyday attire of the women, and there are few houses in which gold ornaments cannot be found. The standard of comfort is not high ; but, on the other hand, the villagers are able to satisfy their simple wants with the minimum of toil and trouble. The condition of the clerical class is not so satisfactory, and those who have no land sometimes find difficulty in suiting their expenditure to their income. The class of landless day-labourers is very poorly repre- sented in Assam ; and a large number of those who returned them- selves under this head at the Census were the younger sons of culti- vating families, who take service for short periods in order to earn a little ready money. Their manner of life does not materially differ from that of the poor cultivator, and the two classes merge into one another.


As might be expected from the character of its surface and climate, the area of forest in Assam is very extensive. Government forests arc divided into two classes, ' reserved ' and ' unclassed state forests,' the latter being the term applied to all land at the disposal of the state, although a very large proportion of this is bare of timber. On June 30, 1904, the area of the Reserves was 3,778 square miles, and of the Unclassed state forests 18,509 square miles, excluding most of the Government waste in the Khasi and Jaintia, Lushai, and Naga Hills.

The ' reserved ' forests of Upper and Central Assam have not been thoroughly explored, and it is possible that they include tracts in which the tree growth is of an inferior character ; but the area of Government waste is so large that the need for disforestation has not yet arisen. In the Surma Valley the conditions are different. There is a keen demand for land for cultivation, and the people are beginning to press upon the soil. To meet this demand, 28 square miles were recently disforested in Cachar and 67 square miles in Sylhet, as the land contained little valuable timber. In the hills there is less good forest than might be expected, though there is no lack of wooded country. The habits of the hill races do not permit the growth of valuable timber, except in isolated spots to which their shifting cultivation has not extended ; and this cultivation and forest fires have denuded the interior of the hills, where the people chiefly live. The most valuable forests are those of Goalpara, where a large area is covered with sal (S/iorea robusta). This tree is also found in the Garo Hills, Kamrup, Nowgong, and Darrang.

Outside Goalpara and Sylhet, all Districts contain extensive areas of mixed and evergreen forest. Here, besides sal, the most valuable timber trees are tita sapa (Michelia Champaca), jarul or ajhar (Lager- stroemia Flos reginae), nahor {Mesuaferrea), sam (Artocarpus Cluiplaska), gomari (Gmelina arborea), khair {Acacia Catechu), sissu {Dalbergia Sissoo), and gunserai {Ctnnamomum glanduliferum). Nahor does not grow in the western end of the Assam Valley, though common in the evergreen forests of the Garo and Khasi Hills ; and sissu is not found east of the Manas river.

The Goalpara forests were formerly overworked, under a wasteful system of levying royalty on the number of axes employed ; and when they came under regular management the stock of exploitable timber was found to be nearly exhausted, though there was still a large supply of young trees. A regular working-plan has now been introduced. Permits are issued to private persons to fell trees, and a certain quantity of timber is extracted by departmental agency. The forests are situated in the north of the District, and some difficulty is experienced in bringing the logs to market, as the rivers are suitable for transport only at certain seasons of the year. This difficulty has, to some extent, been overcome by the purchase of a portable tram- way 6 miles in length. There is also a considerable trade in timber from the permanently settled estates of the District, which lie along both sides of the Brahmaputra, and are thus more favourably situated for purposes of export. The sal forests of the Garo Hills are valuable, but inaccessible, and it has hitherto been found impossible to work them at a profit on a commercial scale ; but there is a considerable trade in canoes hollowed out from large trees which are floated down the Someswari river into Bengal.

In other Districts the only trees of importance as articles of export are sal, sam, and ajhar, which are floated down the Brahmaputra into Bengal, and from Cachar into Sylhet, and are chiefly used for boat- building. The exploitation of the Cachar forests for the service of Sylhet has always been active, and is extending, while that of the forests in Goalpara and Kamrup does not show any marked advance. The upper part of the Assam Valley is remote from any market, and its Reserves are hardly touched. Such trade as exists is chiefly in large trees, which are hollowed out and converted into canoes, but of recent years the Assam-Bengal Railway Company have obtained their sleepers from the Nambar Reserve. Simul [Bombax malabaricum) and other kinds of soft wood are largely used in both valleys for the manufacture of tea boxes.

In the Assam Valley trees extracted for sale are felled under a permit specifying their number and name. In Cachar and Sylhet permits are issued without specifying the quantity or nature of the timber, and royalty is paid at check stations on the river. The trees selected are usually felled early in the year, and the trunk is cut into logs from 6 to 7 feet in length, which are carefully dressed with the axe. They are then rolled along to river banks, where they remain till floating is possible, which is usually near the close of the rains, when no danger from flood is anticipated. Where large logs are extracted, elephants are employed to drag them to stacking stations. The heavier kinds of timber, such as sal and nahor, are brought down attached to the sides of canoes. All persons holding land direct from Government are per- mitted to remove from Unclassed state forests, without payment, inferior kinds of timber, bamboos, and other forest produce sufficient for their own requirements. The ordinary royalty is levied on forest produce removed for sale. Free grazing is also allowed in Unclassed state forests to all cattle that are not kept for dairy or breeding purposes or for sale. The area of Government waste is so extensive that the villagers have no difficulty in satisfying all their wants, and few causes of friction arise.

An officer of the Forest department is stationed in nearly every District, who acts as the Deputy-Commissioner's assistant in forest matters. The management of Unclassed state forests in the Assam Valley is in the immediate charge of the subordinate revenue officers, who issue permits for the removal of forest produce. In the Surma Valley it is entrusted to the subordinate officers of the Forest department. Attempts to protect the forest from fire are restricted to ' reserved ' areas and, generally speaking, to forests of sal and other deciduous trees. In 1903-4 special measures were taken with regard to 996-5 square miles, all but 5-3 square miles of which were success- fully protected at a cost of Rs. 7,737. In addition, 196 square miles were partially protected ; no fires occurred in this area during the year.

The most important minor products are bamboos, canes, reeds, thatching-grass, lac, and rubber. The rubber tree {Ficus elastica) is indigenous in Darrang, Nowgong, and Lakhimpur Districts, but it has been, to a great extent, killed out by excessive and improper tapping. Duty is levied on rubber collected in Government forests, as well as on that brought into Assam from beyond the frontier. The total amount realized on account of rubber in 1901 was Rs. 93,000. Artificial planta- tions of Ficus elastica have been started at Kulsi in Kamrup and at Charduar in the north of Darrang. Opinions still differ as to the comparative advantages of dense and sparse planting ; but in the Kulsi plantation, where there are as many as twenty-seven trees to the acre, the average yield per tree exceeds one pound of rubber.

Lac is not only collected from the forests, but a considerable quantity is cultivated by artificial propagation. The chief seat of the industry is in Kamrup, the Khasi and Jaintia, and the Garo Hills. The lac insect is reared on several species of the Ficus family, and the bulk of the produce is exported in the form of stick lac : that is, the small twigs surrounded by deposits of translucent orange yellow gum in which the insect is embedded. Occasionally the gummy matter is scraped from the twigs and separated from the dead bodies of the insects, which are strained off and sold as red dye. The gum is then melted, cleaned, and sold as shellac or button lac.

The financial results of the Forest department during the past twenty-three years are shown below : —

The only minerals in Assam worked on a commercial scale are coal, limestone, and petroleum oil. The most extensive coal measures are those to the south of Lakhimpur and Sibsagar Districts, which stretch for a distance of about no miles along the north-west face of the Naga Hills. There are five separate fields, which, running from east to west, are named the Makum, Jaipur, Nazira, Jhanzi, Disai. The Makum fields were leased to the

Assam Railways and Trading Company in 1881, and a railway was constructed from the Brahmaputra at Dibrugarh to the coal measures on the Dihing. These measures consist of beds of alter- nating shales, coal, and sandstones.

Mines and minerals

There are altogether five mines worked by the company, which in 1903 employed 1,238 men under the supervision of 9 Europeans. No labour is obtainable locally, and the labour force has to be imported from other parts of India. The ordinary rate of wages is Rs. 7 a month for a man and Rs. 6 for a woman. Work is carried on in galleries run into the side of the cliff, the system employed being that known as the ' square or panel.' The bulk of the coal is taken by the India General and Rivers Steam Navigation Com- panies for use on their steamers, and a small quantity is sold locally to tea gardens ; very little goes to Calcutta. The coal is fairly hard and compact, but after extraction and exposure to the air it breaks up into small pieces. The capital invested in these collieries in 1903 was £357,000. The total output in that year was 239,000 tons, as com- pared with 147,000 tons in 1891. Small quantities of coal have been extracted from the fields to the south of Sibsagar District by the Assam and Singlo Companies for use in their own factories, but not for sale. Coal has also been found in the and the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The deposits in the Garo Hills are of Cretaceous origin. The prin- cipal fields are at Umblay, Rongrengiri, and Darangiri ; and for the last-mentioned field a syndicate has taken out a prospecting licence. Cretaceous coal has been found in the Khasi Hills near Maoflang, about 20 miles south of Shillong, and at Langrin, on the Jadukata river. The Maoflang field is worked in a primitive way by the villagers for the supply of the Shillong station. 1 )eposits of Tertiary coal have been found in the Nummulitic limestone of the Southern Khasi Hills at Cherrapunji, Lakadong, Thanjinath, Lynkerdem, Maolong, and Mustoh. The Maolong field, which is estimated to contain 15,000,000 tons of coal, has lately been taken on lease by a company. Coal-beds have recently been discovered in the vicinity of the Shillong- Gauhati road about n miles north of Shillong ; and there are deposits at Langlei and on the Nambar river in the Mikir Hills, but the coal is of poor quality and would hardly pay to work.

Next in importance to coal are the vast stores of limestone which exist on the southern face of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. It is found from the exit of the Someswari river in the Garo Hills to that of the Hari river in Jaintia, but can be commercially worked only where special facilities exist for its transport from the quarries to the kiln. There are altogether thirty-four tracts which are treated as quarries in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, one in Sylhet, and one in the Garo Hills. The most important are those situated on the Jadukata and Panatirtha rivers, which debouch near Laur in Sylhet, the Dwara quarries to the east of these, the Sheila quarries on the Bogapani, the quarries which lie immediately under Cherrapunji, and the Utma quarries a little to the east on an affluent of the Piyain. The earthquake of 1897 added considerably to the difficulties that had been previously experienced in transporting the stone to a part of the Surma river navigable by steamers, and in 1903 only eight quarries were working. The prin- cipals are private individuals, the actual quarrymen Khasis and other local labourers, and no information is available with regard to either the capital invested or the rate of wages paid. The total output in 1903 was 88,675 tons - Limestone is also found in the Mishmi and Miklr Hills, and in the bed of the Doigrung, a tributary of the Dhansiri, a few miles south of Golaghat.

Petroleum is worked only on the Makum fields in Lakhimpur. As early as 1868 a considerable amount of oil was extracted, but no attempt was made to convert the raw product till a small experimental refinery was erected in 1893. In April, 1899, the Assam Oil Company was formed with a capital of £310,000, and a large refinery was erected at Digboi, which in 1903 gave employment to 10 Europeans and 509 natives. In all, 42 wells have been sunk, of which 22 have been abandoned. They vary in depth from 600 to 1,833 feet. The most productive well is said to yield about 50,000 gallons a month. The oil is a crude petroleum, rich in paraffin ; and the chief products are light naphthas, kerosene, and wax. The total output in 1903 was 63 tons of candles, 573 tons of paraffin wax, 1,200,000 gallons of kerosene oil, and 89,000 gallons of other oil. The oil finds a ready sale locally, but most of the wax goes to England. Petroleum has also been found in Cachar District at Masimpur and Badarpur on the bank of the Barak, and near the Laranga a little to the north of Kalain. At Khasimara, on the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills, springs yield oil which recent analysis has shown to be singularly free from wax and of high lubricating power.

Iron is still worked, but to a very small extent, in the Khasi Hills. It is derived from the minute crystals of titaniferous iron ore, which are found in the decomposed granite on the surface of the central dike of that rock, near the highest portion of the plateau. The iron is of excellent quality, and the industry was formerly one of considerable importance, the metal being exported to the Surma and Brahmaputra Valleys. Large quantities of iron ore used to be extracted from the coal measures in Upper Assam under native rule, and iron abounds in the Miklr Hills. In the time of the Ahom Rajas, gold was regularly washed from many of the rivers in the Assam Valley, but the industry died out with the disappearance of the native system of compulsory labour. In 1894 a syndicate was formed and a considerable sum of money expended on the exploration of the rivers of Lakhirripur District, but gold was not found anywhere in paying quantities, and no return was obtained on the capital embarked in the venture. Salt springs are found in the Upper Assam coal area, and in Cachar and Manipur.

Platinum has been found in the sands of the Dihing river, and lead and silver in the Khamti Hills. Corundum occurs in the Khasi Hills, and kaolin in the Garo and Jaintia Hills, and also near the Brahma- kund at the eastern end of the Assam Valley.

Arts and Manufactures

Apart from tea, of which an account has been already given in the section dealing with Agriculture, the Province contains few manufactures of importance. In the Assam Valley and the hills Arts and economic organization of society is of a very simple character. There is no indigenous class of artisans, no specialization of function, and handicrafts which in other parts of India are confined to special castes are practised as house- hold industries. The Surma Valley has passed beyond the stage in which the wants of the household are all supplied by the different members of the family ; but artisans are scarce, and manufactured products are, as a rule, imported from beyond the frontier. Such as they are, the industries of most importance are the burning of limestone, the weaving of cotton and silk cloth, the preparation of molasses and mustard oil, the making of boats, canoes, and tea boxes, the refining of crude petroleum, and the manufacture of metal and earthen vessels, of rough iron implements, and of native jewellery.

The weaving of cotton cloth is still largely practised by the natives of Assam proper. The work is carried on entirely by women, and in almost every house is to be found a loom, on which most of the clothes worn by the members of the family are prepared ; but these articles are chiefly intended for home use, and only an insignificant quantity is produced for sale. Weaving forms one of the most essential parts of a girl's education, and skill in this art does much to enhance the value of a bride. Among the well-to-do, home-made cotton cloths are being displaced by imported goods, and the ladies of the family confine themselves to the production of fine cloths, embroidered and enriched with borders of silk or gold and silver thread. In the Surma Valley weaving was never a home industry, and was confined to the pro- fessional weaving castes ; but most of these have now abandoned their traditional occupation for agriculture, and the great mass of the population are clothed in imported fabrics. The hillman's clothing, on the other hand, is usually home made, and the cloths, though rough, are generally dyed a rich blue or red, the necessary ingredients being readily obtained from the surrounding jungle 1 .

A more characteristic industry of the Assam Valley is the rearing of silkworms and the manufacture of cloth from their thread. There are four varieties of domesticated worm. The smaller or multivoltine pat worm (Bombyx croesi) and the larger or univoltine worm of the same name (Bombyx textor) are both fed on the mulberry, and produce a fine white thread. The muga worm (Antheroea assamoea) is usually reared on the sum tree (Machilus odora/issima), and yields a yellowish buff silk with a rich gloss ; but if fed on the chapa (Magnolia Griffithii) and the mezankuri (Tetranthera po/yantha), it spins a very white cocoon. The eri worm (Attacus riant) is so called from its attachment to the castor-oil plant (Ricinus communis), though it also feeds on various other trees. The matrix of eri silk is extremely gummy, and the thread has to be spun from the cocoon. The white cloth made of pat silk is an article of luxury, and is not easily procured ; but muga silk is largely used by the women of all classes of society in Upper and Central Assam, and as a holiday dress by men. It is also exported to the Hill Districts, where it is much appreciated by the Khasis, Garos, and other tribes. Eri cloth is of a drab colour, and, though often coarse in texture, is very durable. It is light but warm, and the ordinary cold-season wrap of the Assamese villager is generally made of this silk. The manufacture of both muga and eri cloth is purely domestic. There are no large filatures, nor any system of breeding the worms on an extensive scale, and all attempts made so far to prac- tise sericulture as a commercial business have ended in failure. The villager rears silkworms enough to yield him a few ounces of thread, which he either gets his women folk to weave or sells at the village fair. In Upper Assam there is not much trade in silk, but in the western Districts the animistic tribe often obtain the cash required for their land revenue by selling eri cloth to the Bhotias and other tribes inhabiting the lower ranges of the Himalayas, or to Marwari merchants for export to Calcutta. Proposals have recently been made for the development of the silk industry among the Khasis and in Manipur.

The jewellery made in the Province does not, as a rule, possess much merit ; but really artistic necklaces of gold filigree work are produced at Barpeta, and the enamelled lockets and ear ornaments of Jorhat are not unpleasing. The enamel, which is usually a rich green or blue, is laid on between thin gold wire on a basis of lac, and is set with cheap garnets and false rubies. The Khasis wear bracelets, necklaces, and coronets of silver and gold. They are handsome articles, but somewhat heavy in design. The industry is not of any

1 For further details see Monograph on the Cotton Fabrics of Assam (Calcutta, 1897). great importance, and is followed by only a few persons, most of whom have some other means of livelihood.

Other manufactures include brass and bell-metal utensils, iron-work, and rough pottery. The articles produced possess no artistic merit, and the local supply has to be supplemented by importation from Bengal. Bell-metal utensils are cast in moulds. Brass vessels are hammered out of thin sheets of that metal. The industry in the Assam Valley is largely in the hands of the Morias, a class of degraded Muhammadans, who are said to be the descendants of prisoners captured by the Ahoms when Turbak was defeated in a. d. 1532. Under native rule the smelting of iron ore was a considerable industry. The chronicles of the Muhammadan invasions frequently refer to the large numbers of cannon possessed by the enemy, and these guns, some of them of great weight and size, are found scattered over the Assam Valley at the present day. Buchanan Hamilton, writing at the beginning of the last century, makes mention of a valuable iron-mine south of Jorhat, and the remains of iron workings are to be seen all over the Khasi Hills. Iron working, however, like other industries, has died out since the pressure of necessity has been removed, though the Khasis still smelt small quantities of ore, which they convert into bill-hooks and other implements of agriculture. Other blacksmiths are usually foreigners, who work with imported metal, which they forge into bill-hooks, sickles, and ploughshares, but the industry has few followers and is of little importance. Pottery, which is of the simplest kind, is either made by Kumhars on the wheel, or by Hiras, who beat out the clay to a thin sheet, and lay one strip upon another till the vessel is complete.

The most important manufacture of Sylhet, after tea, is lime, which is burnt on the banks of the Surma river. Other specialities of the District are mats made of bamboo and reeds, boxes and furniture made of reeds, leaf umbrellas, bracelets of shell and lac, agar or attar, a perfume distilled from the resinous sap of the agar tree, children's toys, fish oil, dried fish, and boats. Ironwork inlaid with brass, lac inlaid with feathers and talc, and ivory fans and chessmen used formerly to be manufactured ; but these arts are now in a very languishing condition.

Of recent years there has been some extension of the mustard-oil and sugar industries in the Province. At Gauhati two mills, worked by steam, are capable of turning out over 3 tons of oil a day ; but oilmen are generally foreigners, who use the ordinary bullock-mill of Upper India. Sugar-cane is still, as a rule, crushed between two wooden rollers, in spite of the superior advantages of the Bihiya mill, and the juice is converted into raw molasses. Boat-building is carried on in Sylhet, and more than a hundred years ago the Collector of

that District built a ship of 400 tons burthen, drawing 17 feet when fully loaded. In the Assam Valley canoes are manufactured out of trees, which are hollowed out till only an outer skin about one inch and a quarter in thickness remains. If a large boat is required, the shell is plastered over with mud and steamed over a fire, and the sides are then distended by the insertion of thwarts.

The arts of carving in ivory and wood are almost extinct. Wood- carvers are generally carpenters by profession, and even their best work is usually very rough ; carved ivory can only be obtained, on order, at Jorhat, Barpeta, and Sylhet.

Commerce and trade

Apart from tea and petroleum, to which reference has been already made, the only industries in which European capital is embarked are saw-mills and the brick and pottery works at Ledo in Lakhimpur Dis- trict. There were altogether eleven saw-mills in 1903, giving employ- ment to 1,205 persons. The bulk of the output consists of tea boxes, which are generally made from the wood of the simul tree (Bombnx malabaricum). In spite of the large local demand for this commodity, the industry is in a somewhat stagnant condition, as foreign-made boxes are much in favour with the agents in Calcutta. In 1903 the number of persons employed in the pottery works was 149.

The first mention of the trade of Sylhet is to be found in the memoirs of Mr. Lindsay, who was appointed Collector of that District in 1778. The principal exports at that time were lime, elephants, iron, silk, coarse muslins, ivory, honey, gums, drugs, Commerce and oranges. For the Assam Valley records are fuller, thanks to the Muhammadan invaders. In the seventeenth century the Ahom rulers seem to have adopted a policy of isolation, and forbade people either to enter or leave their territories ; and trade was carried on by a caravan, Avhich proceeded once a year to Gauhati with gold, musk, agar, pepper, and silk, and exchanged these products for salt, saltpetre, sulphur, and other articles. At the end of the eighteenth century the trade of the valley was in the hands of two men, who farmed the customs and established a monopoly at Hadira, on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, nearly opposite Goalpara. On the British side there was a colony of European merchants, who had forcibly seized the monopoly of the trade from Bengal ; and unsatisfactory though these arrange- ments were, the volume of business declined, on the occupation of the Province, owing to the abolition of the monopoly and the bad faith of the individual Assamese merchants. The imports, which consisted almost entirely of salt, were valued at i\ lakhs of rupees ; the exports at 4! lakhs, three-fourths of which represented the price of lac, and the greater part of the remainder that of silk, mustard seed, and cotton.

At the present day, the trade of Assam is carried on in two different directions : first and chiefly with the neighbouring Province of Bengal ; and secondly with the tribes on the northern and eastern frontier. The economic organization of the Province is still very undeveloped ; and, apart from tea, the bulk of the exports consists of raw products. The imports include manufactured goods ; but as Assam does not produce enough grain to feed its large foreign population, there is also a large admixture of food-stuffs. The principal imports are cotton piece- goods and twist, husked rice, salt, sugar, kerosene, mustard and other oils, gram and pulse, tobacco, and metals. The chief exports are tea, unhusked rice, oilseeds, coal and lime, timber, jute, raw cotton, lac, hides, oranges, and rubber. The backward condition of the Province is illustrated by the fact that it exports unhusked rice and oilseeds and imports husked rice and mustard oil. Nearly all the rice exported goes from the Surma Valley, which in normal years produces more than is required for local consumption. The imported rice goes to Upper Assam, where the proportion of garden coolies is very large.

The most important permanent centres of trade are Goalpara, Barpeta, Gauhati, Tezpur, Nowgong, Golaghat, Jorhat, Dibru- garh, and Sadiya, in the Assam Valley ; and Habiganj, Ajmiriganj, Sunamganj, Chhatak, Balaganj, Sylhet, and Silchar in the valley of the Surma.

None of these places is, however, of great importance, as the tea industry has a very decentralizing effect upon the internal commerce of Assam. All over the Province weekly markets are held on stated days, where buyers and sellers meet, and most of the business is done. The classes who conduct the trade differ in the two valleys. In both, tea, the great export of Assam, is consigned straight from the gardens where it is produced to Calcutta, either to be sold there or shipped to England for sale, though a small but increasing proportion of the crop is now exported from Chittagong, whither it is conveyed by the Assam-Bengal Railway. A considerable share of the export trade in mustard from the Assam Valley is in the hands of a class of traders who are natives of Kamrup District ; but almost all the rest of the export traffic, and nearly the whole of the import traffic of the valley, is carried on by Marwari traders from Rajputana, who are usually known as Kayahs. There are in addition a few Bengali Muhammadans, in the larger towns, who sell furniture, haberdashery, and oilman's stores ; but the Kayahs monopolize the banking and wholesale business of the valley, and their shops are to be found not only in the business centres, but on every tea garden and on the paths by which the hillmen bring down their cotton, rubber, lac, and other products. The Assamese have no commercial aptitude, and have thus allowed the whole of the profits of the trade of their country to pass into the hands of foreigners. In the Surma Valley the conditions are somewhat different. The native population contains a large trading element, and merchants from Dacca are more numerous than in Assam proper. A fair numbef of Marwaris arc found, but in no sense do they dominate the trade of the valley.

Except among the Khasis and a few of the Naga tribes, the number of hillmen who are entirely dependent upon trade for their support is small. Most tribes, however, grow articles like cotton, chillies, and lac for export, and bring them to the markets at the foot of the hills, where they exchange them for rice, salt, dried fish, cloth, and petty oilman's stores. This trade is largely carried on by barter. The tricks of the petty shopkeeper are not unknown ; the cotton is often watered to increase its weight, and stones are embedded in the rubber. The Khasis and Angami Nagas are keen and energetic traders, and some- times go as far afield as Calcutta in search of goods. Manipur exports rice, timber, and bamboos, and till recently also tea-seed and cattle. Timber and other forest produce are floated down the rivers into Cachar, but grain and other goods go by cart-road to Dimapur, a station on the Assam-Bengal Railway.

Almost the whole of the trade of Assam with other parts of India is carried on with Bengal, principally with Calcutta, that with other Provinces being less than one per cent, of the whole. The principal exports and imports have already been mentioned above, and statistics showing their value will be found in Table VI, appended to this article. The great bulk of the goods is still carried by river, though in the Surma Valley the traffic of the Assam-Bengal Railway is increasing year by year. River-borne trade from the Assam Valley goes chiefly by steamer; but in the Surma Valley, and especially in Sylhet, country boats are largely employed. There is very little road traffic between Assam and Bengal, and the only commodities brought into the Pro- vince by road are cattle, ponies, sheep, and other live-stock.

Foreign trade is carried on with Bhutan, Towang, and the tribes inhabiting the Lower Himalayan hills and the eastern end of the Assam Range. The Bhotias of Bhutan and Towang bring down their goods on sturdy little ponies to fairs held at Darranga and Subankhata in the north of Kamrup, and at Udalguri and Ghagrapara in Darrang. The trade is largely carried on by barter, and the statistics which are collected by the local police and revenue officials must be received with caution. The tribes to the east export little but rubber, which is carried down by coolies, the chief markets being Tezpur, North Lakhimpur, and Sadiya. Elsewhere the principal imports are rubber, wax, and ponies ; the exports, cotton cloth and yarn, and silk. The total foreign trade is, however, worth only about 4 lakhs of rupees per annum.


The principal railway of Assam is the Assam-Bengal Railway, which runs from the port of Chittagong to Silchar at the eastern end of the Surma Valley. A second branch of the same line runs along the south of the Assam Valley from Gauhati to Tinsukia, a station on the Dibru-Sadiya Railway, and is connected with the Surma Valley branch by a line that pierces the North Cachar Hills, the points ot junction being Lumding in the northern and Badarpur in the southern valley. Work was begun on this railway in 1891, and five years later a length of about 115 miles from Chandura to Badarpur was opened to traffic ; but the hill section presented difficulties of an exceptional character, and was not finally completed till the end of 1903. This section runs for the most part through shale of the worst description, often intermixed with bands of kaolinite, which swells when exposed and causes heavy slips, or exerts immense pressure on the sides of tunnels. To counteract this pressure, very heavy masonry was required, cuttings had to be arched in, and special measures taken to allow the drainage to escape. Though the hill section is only 113 miles in length, it contains 24 tunnels, 7 covered ways, and 74 major bridges, the longest being 650 feet, and the highest 113 feet above the river-bed; while many of the banks and cuttings approach 100 feet in height and depth respectively. Apart from the special engineering difficulties, great inconvenience was experienced owing to the absence of local labour and food-supplies, and to the unhealthiness of the country traversed. At one time, in addition to the railway material, food for more than 25,000 men had to be carried into the hills on elephants, bullocks, ponies, and other pack animals. The result is that the cost of construction of the hill section has been extremely heavy. The principal engineering difficulties in the plains were the bridge, 500 yards in length, which crosses the Kapili and the marshes which fringe its banks ; and the bridge over the Barak at Badarpur, which, though shorter, was even more costly, as its foundations had to be carried 80 feet below the river-bed. The line, which is on the metre gauge, has a total length within the Province of 571 miles, and has been constructed by a company working under a Government guarantee. The greater part of the capital has, however, been found by Government.

A small line of great commercial importance is that running from the steamer port at Dibrugarh to Margherita, with a branch to Talap. The total length is only 78 miles ; but it taps a large number of flourish- ing tea gardens, and affords an outlet for the coal and oil of Makum to the Brahmaputra. It was constructed on the metre-gauge system by a private company, assisted with a Government guarantee, and was opened in 1885. The same year saw the completion of a small state railway in Sibsagar District, running from Kakilamukh on the Brahmaputra to Mariani and Titabar, which was originally built for the convenience of the numerous tea gardens in the neighbourhood, as the unmetalled road to the river became almost impassable to wheeled traffic in the rains.

The total length is 30 miles, and the gauge 2 feet. Similar considera- tions led to the construction of a light railway, on the 2 feet 6 inches gauge, from Tezpur ghat in Darrang District to Balipara, a distance of 20 miles. The line was built in 1895 by a private company, but receives a small subsidy from the District board. The only other open line in the Province is the branch of the Eastern Bengal State Railway, which connects Dhubri with the Bengal system, and was opened for traffic in 1902. Fifteen miles of this line, which is on the metre gauge, lie within the boundaries of Assam.

Sufficient time has not yet elapsed for the effects produced by the completion of the Assam-Bengal Railway to be fully seen. Silchar, which was formerly extremely inaccessible in the dry season, has been brought within thirty-three hours of Calcutta ; and it is hoped that population may pass by the hill section from the densely peopled plains of Sylhet to the extensive tracts of good land now lying waste in the Assam Valley. A line from Golakganj near Dhubri to Gauhati is under construction, and there will soon be through railway communica- tion between the eastern end of the Brahmaputra Valley and the more densely populated parts of India from which the Province draws its labour. A light railway is also under construction from Divara Bazar on the Surma river to the Maolong coal-field in the Khasi Hills.

In 1891 only 114 miles of railway were open in the Province; by 1903 the figure had risen to 715 miles, of which 617 miles represented state lines. The total capital which by 1903 had been expended on the minor railways, the whole of which lie within the boundaries of the Province — the Dibru-Sadiya, Tezpur-Balipara, and Jorhat Railways — was Rs. 94,69,000. In that year 567,000 passengers and 317,000 tons of goods and minerals were carried by these railways : the gross working expenses were Rs. 5,95,000, and the net revenue yielded 5 per cent, on the capital employed.

The excellence of its water communications makes Assam less dependent upon its roads than other parts of India, and it was not till 1865 that steps were taken to construct a road through the whole length of the Brahmaputra Valley. This road runs along the south bank of the river from Sadiya at the eastern end to a point opposite Dhubri, where it is connected by a -steam ferry with the road system of Goalpara and Northern Bengal. At Gauhati it is joined by an excellent metalled road running to Shillong. Shillong is connected via Cherra- punji, Therriaghat, Companyganj, and Sylhet with Cachar, though for a distance of about 8 miles down the face of the Khasi Hills, which here rise very sharply from the plains, the track is not fit for wheeled traffic. From Cachar a bridle-path leads to Manipur, and from there a cart-road to the Brahmaputra, passing through Kohlma, Dimapur (a station on the Assam-Bengal Railway), and Golaghat. A second main road runs along the north bank of the Brahmaputra, but through the greater part of its length does not carry much traffic. The principal arteries of trade are, however, the rivers, and since recently the Assam- Bengal Railway, and the most important roads are those leading to the steamer ghats or railway stations. Numerous roads have also been made in the tea Districts, connecting the various plantations with one another and with the main lines of communication, whether water, road, or railway. Apart from the trunk roads, the most important routes are : the road from Tura in the Garo Hills to the Brahmaputra, the road that runs north from opposite Gauhati to Darranga at the foot of the Bhutan Hills, the roads from Rangamatighat to the north* of the Mangal- dai subdivision, the road from Sibsagar to Disangmukh on the Brahma- putra, and the Dhodar All, which runs along the south-east of Sibsagar District. In the Surma Valley two important roads are those from Sylhet to Fenchuganj, and thence to Kulaura railway station, and from Silchar up the Hailakandi valley.

Generally speaking, there has not been much change during the past ten years, but the route to Manipur was first made passable for carts after the outbreak of 1891. The ordinary bullock-carts of Upper India are in common use in the Assam Valley, but here and there carts are still to be found whose wheels consist of solid disks of wood. In the Surma Valley carts are very scarce, and heavy goods are chiefly carried by boat and to some extent by pack-bullock. A primitive form of wheelless sledge is sometimes used for the transport of agricultural produce. In 1 890-1 there were 293 miles of Imperial, 2,119 OI " Provincial, and 3,095 of Local fund roads ; and the cost of main- tenance was Rs. 4,70,000. In 1903-4 the figure for Provincial roads was 1,625 miles and for Local fund roads 4,483 miles, and the cost of maintenance was Rs. 8,87,000. Inspection bungalows are provided at intervals of 10 or 12 miles along all the main roads; but they contain nothing but a few tables and chairs and bedsteads, and the occupant must provide servants, food, and cooking utensils. The cost of metal- ling in Assam is very heavy. This is partly due to the high rate of wages prevailing, partly to the difficulty experienced in obtaining material. In 1903-4 there were only 144 miles of metalled road, most of which lay in the hills. Avenues of trees are not planted along the roads.

The chief means of communication in Assam are still its waterways. The Brahmaputra, which is navigable by large steamers to within a few miles of Dibrugarh, carries most of the trade of the Assam Valley. During the rains tea and other produce are brought down the tributaries that flow into it on either side, though the river ports are always con- nected by roads with the interior. The Surma Valley is a network of streams, and during the rainy season the western part of Sylhet District lies almost entirely under water. A large fleet of steamers maintained by the India General Steam Navigation Company and the Rivers Steam Navigation Company plies on the rivers of both valleys. A daily service of passenger boats runs from Goalundo to Dibrugarh. Since the construction of the Assam-Bengal Railway the timing has been accelerated, and the journey up is now performed in four and a half and that down in three and a quarter days ; but in the cold season fogs are sometimes a serious obstacle to traffic. A considerable amount of cargo is carried in these vessels, but special cargo steamers with large flats also run, to carry goods the bulk of which renders them unsuitable for carriage by the smaller and more speedy passenger boats. In the Surma Valley large steamers run to Silchar during the rainy season, but in the cold season cannot proceed beyond Fenchuganj. Small feeder steamers ply on the minor rivers in both valleys. Ordinary native boats, which, when the wind is not favourable, are generally towed up- stream, are largely used in the Surma Valley and to some extent in Lower Assam. The typical Assamese craft consists, however, of a canoe hollowed out of a large trunk of wood. Steam ferries are maintained on the Brahmaputra at Dhubri and Gauhati. Elsewhere, the river is crossed in canoes, or rafts made by fastening two or three canoes side by side and laying planks across them, and in the rains the passage sometimes occupies more than twelve hours. Most of the minor streams on the important roads are bridged, but a large number of ferries have still to be maintained.

For postal purposes the Province has been formed into a circle under a Deputy-Postmaster-General. The following statistics show the advance in postal business since 1 880-1:—

Registered as newspapers in the Post Office.

 The figures given above relate to both the Imperial post and the 

local or District post. The latter system was maintained by Local boards to provide postal communication between the head-quarters of Districts and subdivisions and revenue and police stations in the interior, in cases where the maintenance of the necessary lines of com- munication would not be warranted by the commercial principles of the Post Office. The expenditure from Local funds averaged Rs. 48,000 per annum during the five years ending with 1902-3. The number of District post offices on March 31, 1904, was 58, and the total length of District post mail lines 1,387 miles. In 1906 the whole of this system was transferred to the Imperial post.


The administration of the Province is entrusted to a Chief Com- missioner, acting immediately under the orders of the Government of India. His general executive staff consists of (1) the Assam Commission, which has a sanctioned strength

of 41, and is composed of members of the Covenanted Civil Service, with a certain proportion of officers deputed from the Indian Army ; (2) the Provincial Service, which has a sanctioned strength of 36, and is a body of subordinate magistrates recruited in India, most of whom are natives of that country ; (3) the Subordinate Civil Service, which has a sanctioned strength of 52, and consists of native officers, most of whom are employed in the land revenue department.

As in other parts of India, the unit of administration is the District, the area in charge of a District Magistrate, or Deputy-Commissioner as he is here called, who is responsible for the collection of the revenue, the administration of justice, the preservation of order, and the harmonious working of all the departments of Government within its boundaries. There are altogether twelve Districts in the Province, with an average area of 4,435 square miles and an average population of 486,823. The six Districts in the Assam Valley have been formed into a Division under the general control of a Commissioner, but elsewhere the Chief Commissioner performs the functions of Commissioner of Division. The District is again divided into subdivisions, of which there are twenty-seven, including two Districts which have none, the average area of each subdivision being 1,971 square miles, and the average population 216,366. The District Magistrate, who is allowed one or more Assistants, holds direct charge of the head-quarters sub- division, and each outlying subdivision is entrusted to a magistrate, who is usually a European, subordinate to the Deputy-Commissioner. This magistrate is, however, invested with a considerable measure of respon- sibility, as within his jurisdiction he exercises, subject to the control of the Deputy-Commissioner, most of the functions of that officer. The

1 For the changes made in 1905 in this and the following section, see EASTERN Bengal and Assam. smallest unit of administration in the Assam Valley was originally the mauza, an area for which an officer called the manzadar contracted to pay the revenue. Between 1883 and 1896 the majority of these maiizas were formed into lahsi/s, which were placed in charge of salaried officers of higher rank, and which have an average area of 211 square miles and an average population of 47,000. Economy was the principal motive of this change, but experience showed that the reduc- tion in expenditure was not so great as had originally been anticipated. The mauzadari system is popular with the villagers, and has the additional advantage of creating a body of men who, while accepted by the people as their leaders, are bound to Government by the facts of their position. It has accordingly been decided to abolish gradually the existing tahslls, and again entrust the duty of collection to the mauzadar. In the temporarily settled tracts the tahslldar or mauzaddr represents the Government in its most direct and visible form to the mass of the people. Elsewhere in the plains the police are brought most closely into contact with the villagers in rural areas.

In the two valleys the houses of the cultivators are scattered over a wide area, and the village organization was never very strong. Some authority was, however, exercised by the rural council (me/ or pan- chdyat), and, though not recognized by our courts, its decisions are often accepted as binding by the parties concerned. In the hills the authority of the village headmen is greater ; they are held responsible for the preservation of law and order, and are empowered to dispose of petty criminal and civil cases. The persons entrusted with the duty of collecting the house-tax, which takes the place of land revenue in the hills, are called laskars in the Garo Hills, dollois and sarddrs in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, and lambardars among the Nagas.

The Chief Commissioner is further assisted in the administration of the Province by selected officers, who are responsible to him for the various departments committed to their charge. The appointments of Inspector-General of Police, Prisons, and Registration, and Superinten- dent of Stamps are held by a member of the Assam Commission of the standing of a Deputy-Commissioner. Till recently he was also Com- missioner of Excise ; but the charge of this department has now been transferred to the Commissioner in the Assam Valley, and to the Chief Commissioner in the Surma Valley and hill Districts. Another officer of the standing of a Deputy-Commissioner is in charge of the depart- ment of Land Records and Agriculture. Public Works are entrusted to a Superintending Engineer, who also acts as Secretary to the Chief Commissioner in that department, and has under him a staff of Executive and Assistant Engineers and native subordinates. The Educational department is managed by a Director of Public Instruction, who is assisted by 2 Inspectors, 19 Deputy, and 15 Sub-Inspectors of Schools. The Medical department consists of a Sanitary Commissioner, who is also the Principal Medical Officer of the Assam garrison, 9 Civil Surgeons belonging to the Indian Medical Service, and a certain number of Military or Civil Assistant Surgeons. The Forest department is under the control of a Conservator, assisted by a suitable staff. The civil accounts of the Province are in charge of a Comptroller, who is directly subordinate to the Financial Department of the Government of India. The Post Office is administered by a Deputy-Postmaster- General, and the Telegraph department by a Superintendent. These two officers are not, however, under the orders of the Chief Com- missioner.

The only Native State of any importance under the control of the Assam Administration is Manipur. After the outbreak of 1891, a young boy, who was a member of a collateral line, was placed upon the throne ; and during his minority the administration has been conducted by a member of the Assam Commission, who acts as Political Agent and Superintendent of the State. Advantage has been taken of this opportunity to introduce various reforms, and the system of administra- tion has been in some ways assimilated to that prevailing in British territory. The native courts have, however, been retained, and the arrangements for the assessment and collection of land revenue are necessarily of a simple character. The States in the Khasi Hills are of no importance, and the system of administration does not differ materially from that in force in other Hill Districts.

Legislation and justice

The ordinary method by which measures of legislation are brought

into force in the Province is that common to other parts of India, by

which Acts are passed after full debate in the Council

lagislations, which apply to Assam as well as to other parts of the Indian Empire. Provision has also been made for the enactment of Regulations suited to the peculiar necessities of the Province, and the Chief Commissioner is empowered to propose to the Governor-General-in-Council drafts of any such Regulations as seem to him to be required. These Regulations, after they have been approved by the executive Council of the Governor-General, and have received his personal assent, are published in the Gazette of India, and thereupon have the force of law. The Chief Commissioner has also power, with the previous assent of the Governor-General-in-Council, to extend to the Province any measures passed by other local Legislatures which appear to him to be suited to its requirements.

The most important Acts of the Governor-General-in-Council which have come into force in Assam since 1880 are the following: — the Vaccination Act, XIII of 1880 ; the Labour Immigration Act, I of 1882, which was superseded by Act VI of 1901 ; and the Civil Courts Act, XII of 1887. The Regulations proposed by the Chief Com- missioner which have received the assent of the Governor-General-in- Council are: — the Frontier Tracts Regulation, II of 1880; the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation, I of 1886; the Assam Military Police Regulation, IV of 1890; the Sylhet Jhum Regulation, III of 1891 ; and the Assam Forest Regulation, VII of 189 1. The following important Acts of the Bengal Council have also been extended to Assam : — the Public Demands Recovery Act, VII of 1880; the Municipal Act, III of 1884 ; and the Private Fisheries Act, II of 1889.

Stipendiary magistrates are the foundation of the system of criminal administration in the plains, for, though a few honorary magistrates have been appointed, the total amount of work done by them is inconsiderable. Appeals from their decisions lie to the Sessions Judge, except in the case of Magistrates with second and third class powers, from whom there is an appeal to the Deputy-Commissioner. In both valleys there is a Sessions Judge, from whom appeals lie to the High Court at Calcutta. Petty civil cases in the Assam Valley are heard by Assistant or Extra Assistant Commissioners, who exercise the powers of Munsifs. Above them come the District Magistrates, who act as Sub- ordinate Judges, while the Sessions Judge is also the Civil Judge of the valley. In Cachar, the same system is in force, the powers of the District Judge of Cachar being vested in the District Judge of Sylhet. In the latter District, civil work is in charge of the District and Sessions Judge, assisted by two Subordinate Judges and a staff of Munsifs. In the Hill Districts and certain frontier tracts the High Court has no jurisdiction except in criminal matters over European British subjects, and the Chief Commissioner is himself the highest appellate authority in criminal and civil cases. The Deputy-Commissioner exercises the combined powers of District and Sessions Judge and Magistrate of a District, and the Assistant Commissioners and Extra Assistant Com- missioners the powers of Magistrates and Munsifs. Judicial powers aie also exercised by the local chiefs in the Khasi and Lushai Hills.

Table VII, appended to this article, shows the amount of work done by the civil and criminal courts of the Province during recent years. The increase in criminal work is principally due to an increase in the number of cases under special Acts, such as the Labour Acts, XIII of 1859 and I of 1882, the Cattle Trespass Act, the Excise Act, the Muni- cipal Act, and the Police Act. Appeals were preferred in 1903 by rather more than 36 per cent, of the persons on whom appealable sentences were passed in the criminal courts ; and 74 per cent, of the appeals to the Sessions Court and 59 per cent, of those to District Magistrates were unsuccessful.

There has been little increase in civil business, except under the head of title and other suits, and rent suits in Sylhet. The great majority ol suits are for small sums, and in 1903 the value of about 84 per cent, of the total number instituted did not exceed Rs. 100. It is seldom, moreover, that the claim is disputed, and 79 per cent, of the cases were either withdrawn or compromised, or decided ex parte. Appeals were preferred in 1903 against 33 per cent, of the appealable decrees passed by Subordinate Judges and 28 per cent, of those passed by Munsifs, but in only 15 per cent, of the cases heard was the order of the lower court reversed. The readiness of the people to assert their rights can be judged from the fact that 2 1 per cent, of the appeals to the High Court at Calcutta were for amounts valued at less than Rs. 50.

The Inspector-General of Police and Prisons is also Inspector-General of Registration, and he holds besides the offices of Registrar of Joint Stock Companies under the Companies Act, and of Registrar-General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages under Act VI of 1886. All Deputy- Commissioners are registrars in their respective Districts. In the Brahmaputra Valley the sub-registrars are magistrates subordinate to the Deputy-Commissioner, who do this work in addition to their own duties. In the Surma Valley there are special sub-registrars at the head-quarters of all subdivisions and rural sub-registrars at various centres. The Registration Act is not in force in the hills. The number of documents registered in 1881-90 (average) was 19,700; in 1891-1900 (average), 36,500 ; and in 1903, 55,400. The number of offices open in the last year was 29. Between 1881 and 1890 the average number open was 21.


Little is known about the system of taxation in force in Sylhet under native rule. It is said that in a.d. 1582 the revenue was assessed at . nearly i| lakhs of rupees 1 ; but Mr. Lindsay, who was

Collector there in 1778, reported that under Mughal rule the District yielded little revenue beyond a few elephants, spices, and wood, and most of the local receipts seem to have been devoted to the up-keep of a military establishment to protect the frontier 2 . In 1776 Mr. Holland settled the District for 2 lakhs, which was paid in cowries at the rate of 5,120 to the rupee; but great difficulty was experienced in realizing this assessment. The rates of land revenue assessed in Cachar before it lapsed to the Company varied from 10 annas to Rs. 1-4-0 per acre ; and in addition to this the cultivators were expected to provide the labour required for the Raja's works, while trade was hampered by customs, monopolies, and market dues. The Ahom government was based upon a system of organized forced labour. Each free male above sixteen years of age was styled a paik. The paiks were grouped in bodies of three or four, termed gots, one of whom

1 Principal Heads of the History and Statistics of the Dacca Division, p. 2y2 (Calcutta, 1868).

2 Lives of the Lindsays, p. 163 (1S49). was always supposed to be engaged on public duty, and was supported while so employed by the remaining members of his got. Over each hundred gots there was an officer called saikya, and over every ten saikyas a hazari. The whole population was thus organized either for military or industrial enterprise, and this supply of disciplined labour enabled the Rajas to construct the great public works which remain to be the wonder of an age when coolies can only be procured with great expense and difficulty. Groups of paiks were also assigned to the various industries then practised in the Province. The wants of the royal household were supplied by guilds of farmers, silk-weavers, gold- washers, oil-pressers, fishermen, and other artisans. The ministers and the Brahmans received allotments of land and of peasants to cultivate it, and all adult males were liable to compulsory military service. The people supplied the government and the chief families with everything they required free of cost ; and there was thus little necessity for a money tax, though sums were collected in the shape of poll-tax and revenue for land occupied by the peasants in excess of the free grant given to them in return for their service to the state.

The system of Provincial contracts was first introduced in 187 1, when Assam formed part of Bengal, and in 1878 the contract with Assam was revised, as it was found necessary to provide funds to meet growing expenditure. The Province received the whole of the revenue from excise, Provincial rates, stamps, registration, law and justice, police, education, and a few minor heads, together with 20 per cent, of the land revenue ; while it undertook entire responsibility for the charges pertaining to these departments, and for charges connected with adminis- tration and Provincial public works.

In the next settlement — that of 1882 — the receipts and charges under excise, stamps, and registration, which had formerly been entirely Provincial, were equally divided between Provincial and Imperial, and similar treatment was accorded to the Forest budget. Sixty-three per cent, of the land revenue receipts was allotted to Provincial, together with a corresponding liability for the charges. The Provincial receipts were estimated to amount to Rs. 44,77,000 per annum, and the normal expenditure to Rs. 43,68,000. A margin was thus left for the growing needs of the administration. During the currency of this contract there was a satisfactory expansion of the revenue, and the additional funds which were thus rendered available enabled the adminis- tration to increase the efficiency of nearly every department. Consider- able expenditure was incurred on surveys, and on the improvement of the frontier police force. New dispensaries were opened, the construction of the Jorhat and Cherra-Companyganj State Railways was taken in hand, and a subsidy of a lakh of rupees per annum guaranteed to a company which undertook to build a line between Margheritfi ami Dibrugarh. Large sums were also spent on the improvement of existing roads, the construction of bridges, and the opening out of new lines of communication.

In 1887 the Provincial share of receipts from stamps and excise was altered from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, and 25 per cent., respectively, an arrangement which was not to the advantage of the Province. On the other hand, Assam received the whole of the land revenue, subject to the deduction of a fixed sum for Imperial needs, and half the revenue obtained under the head of assessed taxes. Grants were, moreover, made by the Supreme Government of Rs. 1,82,500 on account of capital expenditure on the Jorhat and Cherra-Companyganj State Railways, and of Rs. 6,15,600, which represented the cost of quelling the Lushai outbreak of 1 890-1. The settlement provided for an estimated expenditure of 49 lakhs per annum, and the revenues made over were calculated to bring in exactly this amount. This contract was not favourable to the Assam Administration. There was a fair expansion of revenue under land and forests, but other heads showed a want of elasticity, and in some cases the average receipts fell con- siderably short of the estimates. The development of the Province was thus hampered by want of funds.

The settlement that came into force in 1892-3 was a consolidated one, and not a collection of separate contracts for each Provincial head. The single contribution to Imperial revenues was fixed at Rs. 11,27,000, and the whole of the land revenue receipts were at first allowed to remain Provincial, though the Supreme Government subsequently appropriated a share of the increase derived from the resettlement of the Assam Valley. During the period of this settlement Assam enjoyed considerable financial prosperity. The revenue was elastic, and no difficulty was experienced in providing for the growing wants of the Province. A special battalion of military police was organized for the Lushai Hills, and considerable sums were spent on the construction of permanent bridges and the improvement of communications.

The chief feature of the settlement which came into force in 1897 and was extended to March 31, 1904, was the assignment of two-thirds of the land revenue to Provincial needs. The gross ordinary expenditure of the Province was estimated at Rs. 65,29,000, and the receipts at Rs. 66,43,000, the surplus being a set-off against the necessary develop- ment of expenditure in a backward Province. The earthquake of June 12, 1897, completely disorganized this settlement. The cost of the damage done was estimated at between 40 and 50 lakhs, to meet which the Supreme Government made a grant of 26 lakhs. The whole resources of the Administration were devoted to the restoration of the Province to the position in which it stood prior to the earthquake, and all thought of progress had, for the time being, to be laid aside.

It was, however, found possible to give effect to schemes, which had been for a long time under consideration, for the improvement of the position of the members of the Assam Commission, and of the civil police force.

A new settlement was introduced on April 1, 1904, and was intended to remain in force 1 until it became unfair either to the Government of India or to the Province. Its principal features are that Assam retains one-half of the revenue from land, stamps, excise, assessed taxes, forests, and registration, and is responsible for half the expenditure under these heads. The Province is also debited with the whole of the expenditure on general administration, courts of law, jails, police, medical, education, political superannuation charges, stationery, and printing, and various minor heads, receiving in turn such revenue as is obtained from these departments. The receipts and expenditure under the heads of civil works and railways also remain Provincial, except in those cases in which railway expenditure is specially provided from Imperial funds. An allotment of 20 lakhs was added to the balance remaining over from the former contract, and, in addition to the shares of revenue assigned, a fixed grant of 12 lakhs is annually made to the Provincial income. Further grants have since been made for the reform of the Police and Education departments. The expenditure at the commencement of the contract was estimated to amount to Rs. 72,07,000.

Statistics showing the principal heads of revenue and expenditure will be found in Tables VIII and VIIIa, appended to this article.

Land revenue

The ordinary land tenures in Assam vary considerably in different parts of the Province ; and different systems are in force in Sylhet and Goa.lpa.ra, two Districts in which a large proportion of the area is permanently settled, Lachar, Assam proper, and the Hill Districts. An account of the revenue system peculiar to Cachar, Sylhet, and Goalpara will be found in the articles on those Dis- tricts ; and the following paragraphs deal only with Assam proper and the hills, and with conditions which are more or less common to the Province as a whole.

The distinguishing features of the agricultural system of Assam proper are the large areas of unsettled waste land, and the system under which in certain tracts land is cultivated for two or three years and then resigned. These two conditions necessitate a simple system of land revenue administration ; and, as a matter of fact, the ryot, provided that he pays his land revenue, is subjected to no harassing restrictions. He holds an annual or decennial lease from Government, and is free to relinquish the whole or any part of his holding, provided that notice is given to the revenue officers at the proper time. Decennial leases

1 These arrangements have been modified in consequence of the formation ol a new Province. See Eastern Bengal and Assam. confer a right of resettlement and a heritable and transferable title. Annual leases merely authorize the occupation of the land covered by them for a single year, though in practice the holder can always obtain resettlement if the land is not required by Government. Any unoccu- pied waste land may also be taken up for cultivation without notice or application, and, when so taken up, is settled with the occupant, but a prior claim to resettlement may be secured by filing an application for it. Large areas of land are annually relinquished and taken up in this way in those parts of the valley where fluctuating cultivation is practised. A strong revenue staff is maintained in each District, whose principal functions are to survey and issue leases for the land newly taken up, to test the applications filed for relinquishment, to correct the revenue roll, to record the areas under different crops, and to assist in the collection of the land revenue. The country is divided into circles, as the charge of the local accountant or mandal is called, which comprise, as a rule, about 5,000 acres. Over every 20 or 25 mandate there is an officer known as a Supervisor kdnungo, who is continually testing their opera- tions in the field, and supervising their work when they come in to head-quarters, while above the Supervisor kdnungo comes the Sub- Deputy-Collector, who, under the existing rules, is required to be a graduate of a University, and to have a good practical knowledge of surveying. Most of the tahs'ils, or units for the collection of land revenue, are now in charge of officers of this class ; and there are in addition one or two in each subdivision who are in general charge of settlement work, but have no concern with the land revenue collection.

The organization of the Assamese into small bodies, or gots, consist- ing of three or four individuals styled paiks, one of whom was always employed on the service of the State, has already been described on page 86. Each /#/'/£ was allowed sufficient land for his homestead, and 2§ acres of rice land free of revenue, but was required to pay 12 annas an acre for anything taken up in excess of this quantity, in addition to a poll-tax of one rupee. The revenue was farmed to chaudhuris, and the nominal rate assessed was only Rs. 2 a ' plough,' an area which, accord- ing to Buchanan Hamilton, produced about 56 cwt. of ' rough rice ' and 1 1 cwt. of mustard-seed. Little control was, however, exercised over the revenue farmers, and their exactions raised the rate to about Rs. 7 per ' plough ' ; while north of the Brahmaputra the demands of the hill tribes, who, with the break up of the Ahom system of administration, established a sort of right to the levy of blackmail, deprived the villagers of the whole of the profits of cultivation.

As soon as the British took possession of the country the system of forced labour was abolished, but the poll-tax was raised to Rs. 3 per head, subsequently commuted to a land revenue assessment. The rates varied at different times and in different portions of the

valley, but in 1853 they ranged from Rs. 1-3-0 to 10 annas per acre of cultivated land 1 . In 1870 the rates per acre were fixed as follows: homestead, which includes the garden surrounding the house, Rs. 3 ; transplanted rice land, Rs. 1-14-0; and other land, Rs. 1-8-0. The next settlement was made in 1893 for a term of ten years. The three- fold classification of land was retained, but the villages were roughly divided into four classes, and the revenue assessed on each of the three kinds of land depended upon the class in which the village fell. The main consideration taken into account in fixing the class of the village was the demand for land, as shown by the density of population and the proportion of settled to total area. No distinction was drawn between the good and inferior land of the same class in a village, and the assessment never pretended to anything like scientific accuracy. The rates assessed per acre were : homestead, Rs. 4-2-0 in first-class villages to Rs. 3 in villages of the fourth class ; transplanted rice land, Rs 3 to Rs. 1-14-0 ; and other land, Rs. 2-4-0 to Rs. 1-8-0. The pro- portion of villages placed in the lowest class was very small, and full revenue is paid on all settled land whether cultivated or not, except in the case of land held on half rates. A detailed resettlement of two Dis- tricts, on principles similar to those which are followed in other parts of India, was commenced in 1902. The village has been abandoned as the unit of assessment, and steps are being taken to distribute the revenue more closely in accordance with the value of the actual field. A considerable area of land is held either revenue-free or at half full rates. These estates represent grants made by the Ahom Rajas for religious and other purposes. In 1903-4 the total settled area of Assam proper was 2,562,000 acres, the area of land held at half rates being 189,000 acres, and of land held revenue-free 81,000 acres.

The tea industry has played a large part in the development of Assam, and from time to time different rules have been in force to govern the grant of land for the cultivation of this plant. The earliest rules, those of 1838, applied only to Assam proper. One-fourth of the grant was to be held revenue-free in perpetuity, and a revenue-free period of from five to twenty years was allowed on the remaining three- fourths, according as the land was under grass, reeds, or timber, after which light but progressive rates were imposed. The rules of 1854, which were extended to the Surma Valley, introduced certain modifica- tions, but the bulk of the land taken up when they were in force was subsequently acquired in fee-simple, when the fee-simple rules were introduced in 1862. Under these rules the land was sold free of all revenue demand, the price charged varying from Rs. 2-8-0 to Rs. ro an acre. There are now 332,000 acres of land in the Assam Valley

1 Report on the Province of Assam, by A. J. Moffatt Mills; Dnrrang, p. xiii ; Lakhimpur, p. 1 (Calcutta, 1854).

held on this tenure. The existing rules came into force in 1876. An upset price of R. 1 an acre is charged, and for two years the land is allowed to remain revenue-free. The rates gradually rise to 8 annas an acre in the eleventh and R. 1 in the twenty-first year. The lease runs for thirty years, and when it expires the land is liable to reassessment.

In the Assam Valley the issue of leases on favourable terms has never been allowed when the land is required for the cultivation of the ordinary staples of the Province. In Cachar this restriction was not in force, and waste land was let out at progressive rates with a revenue-free term, for ordinary as well as for special cultivation. The rules varied from time to time, but the leases were granted for twenty or thirty years, with a revenue-free period of from two to three years. The maximum revenue assessed during the concluding portion of the lease varied from 12 annas to Rs. 1-8-0 an acre. These rules are no longer in force, and waste land taken up for ordinary cultivation during the currency of the settlement in Cachar is assessed at the rates levied on similar land in the neighbourhood.

The ordinary form of taxation in the Hill Districts is a tax of Rs. 2 or Rs. 3 on each house, and no attempt is usually made to measure up the area of land actually occupied.

In Upper Assam the villagers find a ready market for their produce in the numerous tea gardens situated in this portion of the valley, and here the assessment made in 1893 is paid without much difficulty. In Lower and Central Assam the tea industry is of small importance, and the people suffered severely from the earthquake of 1897 and the floods which followed it, and from the terrible mortality caused by kala-azar. The Government of India accordingly directed in 1901 'that the land revenue demand in this portion of the valley should be reduced by Rs. 1,80,000. Widespread famine or scarcity is unknown, but floods sometimes cause considerable local damage, and rules for the remission of land revenue have been introduced to afford the relief which is rendered necessary by such visitations. The area of waste land in the Province is so large that no necessity has yet arisen for checking the freedom of the ryot to transfer his land. The receipts under the head of land revenue will be found in Table VIII, appended to this article.

The original system of land revenue collection in Assam was one under which an individual of some wealth and local standing, called a mauzaddr, entered into a contract with Government to pay the land revenue of one or more mauzas, or fiscal divisions. The contract was formerly made for a term of years, and the mauzadar enjoyed such profits as accrued from the extension, and made good any loss due to the decrease, of cultivation ; but for the last fifty years the settlement has been revised annually, and the revenue collector has been rewarded by a liberal commission, which is supposed to compensate him for bad

debts and other expenses. Of recent years mauzas have in many cases been grouped together to form tahslls, in which about a lakh of rupees is realized direct from the ryots by a Government officer who receives a fixed salary, and pays into the treasury only the amount he actually collects. Difficulties have, however, been experienced in dealing direct with such large bodies of cultivators, and it has been decided gradually to abolish tahslls, and to entrust the duty of collection once more to the mauzadar. The cost of collection is equivalent to about 5 per cent, of the demand in tahslls, and 7 per cent, in mauzas. If a culti- vator fails to pay on the appointed date, a notice of demand is served upon him. This, as a rule, has the desired effect, but in cases of recusancy the movable property of the defaulter, and even the land itself, can be attached and sold. The amount of revenue for which such extreme measures are taken is, however, less than one per cent, of the Government demand.


The cultivation of opium is said to have been introduced into Assam in the reign of Lakshml Singh, about 1770 1 . If this was so, the practice of opium-eating must have spread with great

rapidity, as from Buchanan Hamilton's memoir it lsce aneous r •" revenue.

appears that in 1808 the drug was freely used by the Assamese. Consumption was unduly stimulated by the ease with which opium could be obtained, the effect upon the people was far from satisfactory, and in i860 the cultivation of the poppy was pro- hibited. Supplies of opium are now received from the Board of Revenue, Bengal, and issued to licensed vendors from the Govern- ment treasuries. Opium is still largely consumed in Assam proper, more particularly in the two Districts of Sibsagar and Lakhimpur, which in 1903-4 took considerably more than half the total amount used in the Province ; but the restrictive policy of the Government has had a most marked effect upon consumption. The original duty levied in i860 was Rs. 14 per seer; but this was raised by successive enhance- ments till in 1890 it was fixed at Rs. 37 a seer, at which it now stands. In addition to raising the price of the drug, which is often sold retail for as much as 10 annas a tola (about 2s. an ounce), the Government has reduced the number of shops at which it can be obtained from 5,070 in 1873-4 to 752 in 1903-4. A further tax is placed upon the trade in the shape of licence fees. Prior to 1874, licences for retail vend were issued free of duty. In 1903-4 the amount paid to Government on account of licence fees alone was no less than Rs. 3,44,000. This heavy increase in the cost of the drug, combined with an increase in the land revenue and a growing taste for imported goods, which tends to relieve the ryot of his surplus cash, has produced a remarkable

1 Report on the Province of Assam, by A.J. Moffat Mills; Sibsagar, p. 75 (Calcutta, I8.54)-

decrease in consumption. In 1864-5 tne total amount used in the Assam Valley was 1,939 maunds ; in 1903-4 it was only 1,266 maunds. The revenue obtained from this head of excise is large. Between 1881 and 1890 it averaged Rs. 16,56,000 annually, rising in the next decade to an average of Rs. 18,75,000. In 1903-4 it was Rs. 18,65,000. In addition to imposing a high rate of duty, the Government attempts to restrict consumption by prohibiting the sale of more than five tolas (2 ounces) at a time to one individual, and by forbidding the vendor to give the drug in exchange for rice or other goods.

The revenue from country spirits is raised on the out-still system. The sites of the shops are fixed by Government, and the right to manu- facture and sell country spirits at these places is put up to auction. Local opinion is consulted before a new shop is opened, and existing stills are closed if it is shown that they offer undue temptations to the drink-consuming classes. It has, however, been proved that the mere abolition of shops does not put a stop to drinking, but merely sub- stitutes home-made for excise liquor, and the Government in its efforts to restrict consumption has constantly to bear this fact in mind. With the object of improving the excise administration, efforts are being made to introduce the central distillery system, which enables some supervision to be exercised over the quality of liquor produced. The limit of retail sale is 3 quarts ; and a minimum price has been fixed of 6 annas a quart, except in the Khasi Hills, where it is 8 annas. Country spirits are chiefly consumed by imported coolies, and the receipts under this head are highest in those Districts where imported coolies are most numerous. The average annual revenue rose from 2 lakhs in the period 1881-90 to 4-8 lakhs in the following decade ; in 1903-4 the receipts were 7-08 lakhs. The expansion of the revenue is due to the growth of the foreign population, and to greater vigilance and efficiency in the excise administration. The hillmen and uncon- verted tribes and many of the garden coolies consume large quantities of home-made rice-beer, but no attempt is made to levy duty on this liquor.

Ganja is imported from Rajshahi District in Eastern Bengal, under bond by warehouse keepers, and is issued from their stores, on pay- ment of duty, to the persons who have purchased the right of retail vend. The revenue has expanded pari passu with the growth of the foreign population; the receipts averaging 2-2 lakhs between 1881 and 1890, and 2,'Z lakhs during the next ten years. In 1903-4 the income under this head was 4-28 lakhs. The drug is in little favour among the Assamese, and the great majority of the consumers are either foreigners or natives of the Surma Valley.

In comparison with other sources of revenue, the receipts from imported liquors are inconsiderable, amounting to only Rs. 18,869

in 1903-4. The use of spirituous liquors is believed to be spreading among the more advanced sections of the native community; but the total quantity consumed by them is small, and country-made liquor still holds its own among the mass of the drinking population. The incidence of excise revenue per head of population was : in 1 880-1, 6 annas 4 pies; in 1890-1, 7 annas 2 pies; and in 1903-4, 8 annas

5 P ies -

The following abstract shows the average net receipts under the

head of judicial and non-judicial stamps and income-tax, in thousands

of rupees : —

There has been a considerable development in the stamp revenue ; and this is generally considered to be an indication of the prosperity of the people, as they are only too prone to spend their surplus resources in litigation. An increase in the sale of non-judicial stamps is a sign of prosperity or the reverse, according as a recourse to borrowing is regarded as the result of the extension of trade or of straitened circum- stances. The greater part of the income-tax is realized from the salaries paid to Government servants or to the managers and assistants on tea gardens. The incidence of the tax per head of population in 1903-4 was 8 pies, and the number of assessees per 1,000 o-6.

Local and municipal

Prior to 1879, the only funds expended under local control in Assam were certain Provincial grants, and in the Districts of Sylhet and Goal- para the rates levied under the Bengal Road Cess and Zamindari Dak Acts. These allotments were managed by the District Magistrate, with the assistance, in the case of roads and education, of special road fund and education committees. In 1879 a Regulation was passed, providing for the levy of a local rate, and the appointment of a committee in each District to control the expenditure on roads, primary education, and the District post. Three years later the District committees were abolished by executive order, and their place was taken by boards established in each subdivision, which are the local authorities in existence at the present day. The Deputy-Commissioner is chairman of the board of the head- quarters subdivision, and each of the other boards in the District is presided over by the subdivisional officer. The Local boards are entrusted with the maintenance of all roads within their jurisdiction, except a few main lines of communication, the provision and main- tenance of staging bungalows and dispensaries, and the supervision of village sanitation and vaccination. They are also in charge of primary education, subject to the general control of the Educational department, and are empowered to make grants-in-aid to schools of higher grade, subject to certain rules. For these purposes, they have placed at their disposal the rate which is levied under the Assam Local Rates Regulation of 1879, at the rate of one anna per rupee on the annual value of lands, as well as the surplus income of pounds and ferries, and some minor receipts. This income is in most cases supplemented by an annual grant from Provincial funds, the amount of which is fixed for a term of years. The principal heads of income and expenditure are shown in Table IX, appended to this article. The annual budgets of the boards are submitted to the Chief Commissioner for sanction. The estimates for all works costing Rs. 500 or more must be approved by the Public Works department, and important works, requiring much professional skill, are made over for execution to that department. Less important works are entrusted to the board overseers, and in the tea Districts much assistance is usually rendered by planters in the repair of roads and bridges.

In 1903-4 there were 19 Local boards in the Province, consisting of 364 members, of whom 60 were ex officio, 171 nominated, and 133 elected. In Districts where the tea industry is of importance, a certain proportion of the members are planters, who are elected by the planting community. Under a system recently introduced, the majority of the native members will also be elected. In 1903-4 of the members of the various boards, 132 were Europeans ; and the existence of this strong European element and the comparatively small area entrusted to their charge imparts to the Local boards of Assam a degree of vitality not always found in the self-governing institutions of other parts of India. Some of the largest works constructed by them during the past ten years were as follows : bridge over the Disai river on the Dhodar All in the Jorhat subdivision, cost (in round figures) Rs. 67,000 ; Gauripur- Raha road in Goalpara District, cost Rs. 2,23,000 ; Sylhet-Muktapur- ghat road in North Sylhet subdivision, cost Rs. 1,09,000; Sunamganj- Pagla. road in the Sunamganj subdivision, cost Rs. 1,04,000. Large sums in the aggregate have also been spent on the improvement and repair of the existing lines of communication, the construction of bridges, wells, and roads of less importance than those mentioned, and the main- tenance of charitable dispensaries. Serious failure of the harvest occurs so seldom in Assam that Local boards are hardly ever called upon to administer relief, but a small sum was distributed in Sylhet in 1902.

Only fourteen urban areas in Assam are administered under some form of municipal law, and the average population of each of these places at the Census of 1901 was only 6,784, ranging from 16,893 m Sylhet to 2,359 m Golaghat. (Bengal) Act III of 1884 is in force in Sylhet, Gauhati, and Dibrugarh, the only towns in the Province which contain more than 10,000 inhabitants within municipal limits, and in the small town of Dhubri. The remainder are administered under (Bengal) Act V of 1876, an Act which is also in force in two ' stations ' and three 1 unions.' The total strength of the fourteen committees in 1903-4 was 141 members, of whom 47 were elected, while 70 were nominated and 24 held office ex officio. Fifty of the total number were officials and thirty Europeans. The Deputy-Commissioner or subdivisional officer is chairman of the municipality at head-quarters, except in the case of Sylhet town, but the vice-chairmen are elected by the commissioners and are usually non-officials. The little towns in Assam are often of great extent, and include semi-urban and almost rural areas. Conser- vancy, water-supply, and drainage are thus difficult and expensive, and the length of the roads necessitates a large expenditure, especially where metalling is involved. Generally speaking, however, a reasonable standard of efficiency is maintained. The incidence of municipal taxation in 1903-4 was Rs. 1-4 per head, but the towns receive substantial grants from Government, and the average income per head was more than double this amount.

The most important public works in municipal areas are the water- works at Gauhati and Shillong. At Gauhati water is pumped from the Brahmaputra to the top of a hill, and thence distributed all over the town. Since these works were completed in 1887, there has been a marked improvement in the health of the place. In Shillong the water of the hill streams is distributed in pipes over the station.

Statistics showing the principal items of municipal income and ex- penditure will be found in Table X, appended to this article.

Public works

The Public Works department in Assam is directed by a Chief or Superintending Engineer, who is also Secretary to the Chief Commis- sioner, aided by an under-secretary. The executive Public works. staff comprises twelve Executive and Assistant Engi- neers and two temporary Engineers. Public works in the Lushai Hills are in charge of a District Engineer, who is an upper subordinate of the Public Works department, and works under the orders of the Super- intendent of the Lushai Hills. The accounts of Imperial, Provincial, and Local works are examined and audited by an Examiner. All Provincial works, such as the construction and maintenance of the main lines of communication, and the erection and repair of all Government buildings of any size and importance, are directly under the department. As has already been explained, Local works involving much engineering skill are usually made over to the Executive Engineer for execution, and estimates exceeding Rs. 500 in value are submitted for professional approval.

The principal works completed by the department prior to 1890 were : the south trunk road from Dhubri to Sadiya, 456 miles, completed in 1877 ; the north trunk road from Dhubri to North Lakhimpur, 326 miles ; metalled road from Gauhati to Shillong and from Shillong to Cherrapunji, 97 miles ; road from Sylhet to Cachar, 67 miles ; road from Golaghat to Nichuguard, at the foot of the Naga Hills, 63 miles ; Jorhat State Railway, 30 miles ; and Companyganj-Therriaghat State Railway, 8 miles. It was originally intended to carry this line up the face of the hill to Cherrapunji, but the cost was found to be prohibi- tive. It was wrecked by the earthquake of 1897, and has since been abandoned.

The principal works constructed since 1890 have been the Nichuguard- Manipur road, constructed from Imperial revenues at a cost of 28^ lakhs ; and the Companyganj-Salutikar road, a section 9 miles long of the line of communication between Sylhet and Shillong. The latter runs across the line of drainage of the country, and, as the rainfall in this part of the District is extremely heavy, its construction was attended with serious difficulties. The cost of the road embankment was Rs. 1,41,000, and of the bridges Rs. 1,37,000 ; they were, however, seriously damaged by the earthquake and by flood, and have been reconstructed at a cost of Rs. 1,88,000. Considerable sums have also been spent on the Aijal- Silchar and Aijal-Lungleh roads, and the Maulavi Bazar-Manumukh road. Some of the largest bridges constructed by the Public Works department are those over the Krishnai and Singra rivers on the south trunk road, and over the Digru between Shillong and Gauhati. The cost of each was between three-quarters of a lakh and a lakh of rupees. Since 1897, the resources of the Province have been largely devoted to the restoration of buildings des-troyed by the earthquake. The most expensive have been : The Secretariat Press, cost Rs. 1,27,000 ; Govern- ment House, Shillong, cost Rs. 1,91,000; Sylhet Collectorate, cost Rs. 1,68,000 ; and Sylhet Jail, cost Rs. 1,86,000. Other important works have been the Aijal water-works, cost Rs. 1,36,000 ; and the Manipur cantonments, estimate Rs. 6,56,000.


Assam is comprised in the Lucknow division of the Eastern Com- mand. The military stations in 1904 were: Dibrugarh, Kohlma, . Manipur, Sadiya, and Shillong. The total strength

of the British and Native army stationed within the Province on June 1, 1903, was 2,227, of whom 58 were British.

There are volunteer corps, with head-quarters at Silchar, Dibrugarh, Lumding, and Shillong; their strength in 1903 was 731, of whom 637 were light horse or mounted rifles. In the Assam Valley separate volunteer corps were originally started in each District, the first to be enrolled being the Lakhimpur corps in 1882. In 189 1 the mounted infantry in the four upper Districts of the valley were formed into one corps under the designation of the Assam Valley Mounted Rifles, and five years later were converted into a body of Light Horse, which in 1903-4 had an efficient strength of 349. A volunteer corps was started in Sylhet in 1880 and in Cachar in 1883, and the two were subsequently amalgamated into the Surma Valley Light Horse, which in 1903-4 had an efficient strength of 270.

Police and jails

The police force of the Province consists of civil police, rural police or village chaukldars, and military police. Under native rule there seems to have been no police administration, as we understand the term, and even in 1853 the total force Pol | c f and employed in the Assam Valley was only 547 men. The numbers were, however, rapidly increased; and in 1874, when Assam was separated from Bengal, the civil police consisted of 3,452 men. The development of the military police rendered it possible to reduce the other arm of the force, which in 1903 consisted of 384 officers and 2,289 men, showing one policeman engaged on the prevention and detection of crime to every 20 square miles and every 2,185 persons. The corresponding figures for rural police in the three Districts in which alone they are employed were 2 and 458 respectively. The present sanctioned scale of superior officers is 6 District Superin- tendents and n Assistant Superintendents. Under the revised scale there will be 10 of the former and 5 of the latter.

For ordinary constables strong young men between 18 and 25, who are able to read and write, are selected as recruits. If required for the armed police, the selection is generally restricted to up-countrymen or members of the aboriginal tribes. Appointments to the grade of sub-inspector are occasionally made from the rank and file of the force, but the usual procedure is to select probationers from the list of approved candidates, who are drawn from a superior social position. Head constables and constables are trained by their immediate supe- riors ; probationary sub-inspectors are placed under the orders of a selected inspector, and are not confirmed until a satisfactory report has been received of their conduct and capacity. The rural policeman is required to report all serious crime to the officer in charge of the police station within which his village is situated, to arrest persons committing such crimes in his presence, to collect vital statistics, to observe the movement of bad characters, and generally to inform his official superiors of anything likely to affect the peace and good administra- tration of the District. Rural police are not employed in Assam proper, as there is little serious crime in that portion of the Province, and the gaonbitra, or village elder, gives such assistance as is necessary. Educated natives used formerly to object to taking service in the department. The position and the moral tone of the police have, however, been improved of recent years, and the competition for minis- terial appointments is now so keen that young men of good family are glad to accept nominations to the sub-inspector grade. The pay of the ordinary constable is not, however, sufficient to attract or retain a good class of recruit, and the readiness with which the men resign is a serious obstacle to the efficient management of the force.

A system of anthropometry was introduced into Assam in 1893, but was superseded in 1898 by the system of identification from finger- prints. The civil police are at present armed with smooth-bore Snider carbines, but bored-out Martini-Henry rifles will shortly be issued in their place. The strength of the civil and military police force is shown in detail in Table XI (p. 118). The average number of criminal charges dealt with by the police during the five years ending 1901 maybe classi- fied as follows: Investigated, 9,971; tried in court, 5,251; ending in acquittal or discharge, 993; ending in conviction, 4,052.

Prior to 1878, there were three separate bodies of guasi-militaxy police in the Naga. and Garo Hills and in the Surma Valley ; but in 1878 the frontier police were formed into a separate force, and detach- ments stationed in each District. In 1882 the Assam Military Police Regulation came into force ; and in 1903 the force consisted of five battalions, with a strength of 2,870 officers and men. The head- quarters of the battalions are at Aijal in the Lushai Hills, Silchar, Kohima in the Naga Hills, Tura in the Garo Hills, and Dibrugarh ; but during the cold season the military police hold thirty-six outposts, the majority of which are intended to keep in check the hill tribes on the frontier. The force has recently been rearmed with Martini-Henry rifles, and the officers commanding the four battalions at Silchar, Aijal, Kohima, and Dibrugarh are all military men. The military police form a valuable fighting force, and have taken part in the Manipur, Lushai, Abor, Apa Tanang, and Mishmi expeditions, where they served with credit. Railway police are employed only on the Assam-Bengal Rail- way and the Jorhat State Railway. The total strength on these two lines consists of 3 officers and 51 head-constables and men.

The jails at Shillong and at the head-quarters of six plains Districts are District jails, as distinguished from the subsidiary jails at all the plains subdivisions except Hailakandi and Barpeta, and at Dhubri, Nowgong, Kohima, Tura, and Aijal. Of the former class there were 7 in 1903, of the latter 17. The largest jails are those at Sylhet, which had a daily average population of 414; Tezpur, daily average 210; Gauhati, daily average 249; and Dibrugarh, daily average no. European prisoners can be confined in these jails, provided that the term of imprisonment does not exceed one month.

Prisoners are not, as a rule, confined for more than six months in subsidiary jails, and convicts sentenced for longer terms are generally transferred to a District jail. The jail mortality has usually been high in the Assam Valley, but in this respect it has not differed from that which prevails in the Province as a whole. The most prevalent diseases are dysentery, diarrhoea, and fever, and there are occasional outbreaks of cholera. The jail industries are not of great importance. They include the making of cane and basket-work furniture, the weaving of prison clothing and rough cloth, rice-husking, pressing of mustard oil, and gardening. At one time prisoners were largely employed on extra- mural labour ; but this system has been, to a great extent, abandoned of recent years, as it tends to a relaxation of discipline. The larger jails are in charge of the civil medical officers of the Districts in which they are situated. The chief statistics with regard to the jails of the Province are shown in Table XII, appended to this article.


Under native rule very little attention was paid to education, and it is said that in 1838 there were barely thirty educated people in the District of Nowgong 1 . The Province was subse- quently incorporated in the charge of an Inspector, Mr. Robinson, who in 1841 reported 2 that the state of education in the Brahmaputra Valley was 'deplorable in the extreme,' while fifteen years later he calculated that in the whole of his division, which included several Districts of Bengal, there were only 13,300 boys under tuition out of 1,262,000 children of school-going age. By 1856 English schools had been established at Sylhet and Gauhati, 7 Anglo- vernacular schools in Sylhet, all of which were closed in the following year, 3 in Cachar, and 1 in Goalpara, and a Government vernacular school at the head-quarters of each of the five Districts of Assam proper. In the Brahmaputra Valley these were supplemented by schools in the villages, which had nearly 4,000 pupils, though the system of tuition was far from satisfactory; but even as late as 1868 less than 1,500 children were under instruction in the Surma Valley 3 , though the total population must have been about two millions.

The earliest year for which it is possible to obtain statistics for the Province as a whole is 1875. By that time the system initiated by Sir George Campbell of encouraging indigenous institutions by the offer of grants- in-aid had begun to take effect, and the number of schools had risen to 1,193 and of scholars to 30,000. In 1903-4, 3,232 educational institu- tions existed, and 106,000 persons were under instruction. The depart- ment is now under the control of a Director of Public Instruction, an officer recruited from England, who is assisted by a staff of Inspectors, Deputy-Inspectors, and Sub-Inspectors of Schools.

After the closing of college classes at Gauhati in 1876 the Province

1 Report on the Province of Assam, by A. J. Moffatt Mills, p. 26 (Calcutta, 1854).

2 A Descriptive Account of Assam, by W. Robinson, p. 277 (Calcutta, 1841).

l Principal Heads of the History and Statistics of the Dacca Division, pp. 326 and

365 (Calcutta, 1868).was without any form of University education, and to meet this defect thirty-six scholarships for sums varying from Rs. 25 to Rs. 10 a month were allotted to boys who passed the Entrance examination with most credit. These scholarships were tenable for two years at any of the affiliated colleges in Bengal, and were extended for a further period if the holders passed the First Arts Examination satisfactorily. In 1892 the Murari Chand second-grade unaided college was opened at Sylhet. It was founded and is maintained by a zami/iddr of that Dis- trict, Raja Girish Chandra Roy, and teaches up to the First Arts standard, the full college course occupying two years. In 1901 a Government second-grade college, called the Cotton College, was opened at Gauhati. The buildings have been designed on liberal lines, and include an excellent library and laboratory, and separate hostels for Hindus and Muhammadans. During the twelve years ending 1900 the degree of B.A. of the Calcutta University was obtained by 68 natives of the Surma Valley, 29 of the Brahmaputra Valley, and 2 of the Hill Districts. In the same period 21 persons educated in Assam obtained the M.A. degree.

Secondary education is imparted in high and middle schools, which are again subdivided into middle English and middle vernacular. High schools are those institutions which are recognized by the Calcutta University as capable of affording suitable preparation for the Entrance examination. The boys are taught from the earliest stage of their education up to the Entrance course as prescribed by the University of Calcutta, but may leave school without completing the course. Till recently English was taught in all the classes. The younger boys no longer learn that language, but the standard of instruction is higher than that prevailing in lower secondary (middle) schools. English is the medium of instruction in the first four classes of high schools ; in the lower classes and in other schools the ver- nacular is employed. In 1903-4, 10 high schools in the Province were under Government management, 9 were aided — that is to say, institutions under private management towards which Government makes a fixed contribution — and 7 were unaided. The course of instruction at middle English and middle vernacular schools is the same, with the exception that English is taught in the former and not in the latter. The follow- ing are the subjects taught in the middle vernacular course : Bengali or Assamese, comprising literature, grammar and composition, history of India, geography, arithmetic, Euclid (Book I), mensuration of plane surfaces and surveying, and elementary natural and sanitary science. In 1903-4 there were 75 middle English and 42 middle vernacular schools for boys. Of the middle schools, 78 w r ere under private management, but received grants from Government or Local and muni- cipal funds ; 18 were entirely unaided. Grants are made only to those schools which meet a recognized want, and are likely to be properly ^maintained ; and they do not, as a rule, exceed the amount provided from fees and other sources. Three per cent, of the male population of school-going age were under secondary instruction in 1903-4.

Primary education is again divided into upper and lower ; but the proportion of boys in upper primary schools is less than 5 per cent, of the total number, and this class of school is slowly dying out. The course of study in lower primary schools includes reading, writing, dictation, simple arithmetic, and the geography of Assam ; but in 1903-4, 60 per cent, of the pupils were classed as illiterate, as they were unable to read and write. In upper primary schools the course is somewhat more advanced, including part of the first book of Euclid, mensuration, and a little history. Primary schools are usually managed by local boards or municipalities, and very few are managed by Government. The standard of instruction given still leaves much to be desired, but efforts have recently been made to improve it, by raising the rates of pay given to the masters. Fixed pay is now awarded at average rates of Rs. 8 a month for certificated and Rs. 5 for uncertificated teachers, supplemented by capitation grants at rates ranging from 3 annas to 6 annas for pupils in the three highest classes. Under the system formerly in force rewards were granted on the results of examinations, and there was thus some risk that the master might concentrate his attention on his brighter pupils and neglect the more backward scholars. These examinations have in consequence been abolished, except in so far as they are required for the grant of scholar- ships. Seventeen per cent, of the boys of school-going age were under primary instruction in 1903-4. The largest proportion of boys of school- going age attending school is found in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, where in 1903-4 it was 2>2> P er cent. Kamrup (29 per cent.) had the highest proportion in the plains, but in Uarrang and Lakhimpur it was less than 17 per cent.

Altogether, 150 girls' schools were maintained in the Province in 1903-4, the proportion of girls actually under instruction to those of school-going age being 15 per 1,000, as compared with 12 and 5 in 1 89 1 and i88r. The majority of the schools are of the lower primary class, and under the management of the Local boards ; but in the Khasi Hills there is a good secondary school maintained by the Welsh Mission, and the success that has attended their efforts can be judged from the fact that 34 per 1,000 of the female population of the District were returned in 1901 as literate, as compared with 4 per 1,000 in the Province as a whole. Elsewhere, the children are withdrawn from school before they have time to make much progress, and the condition of female education cannot be considered satisfactory. The subjects taught include sewing, in addition to those prescribed forthe ordinary lower primary course. In the Khasi and Jaintia Hills 15 per cent, of the girls of school-going age attended school in 1903-4 ; but in the plains no District had a larger proportion than Goalpara, and there it was only 1 per cent.

The only forms of special schools in the Province are those for training teachers, a medical and an engineering school, and law classes. Only two training schools are now maintained, but arrange- ments have been made to train teachers at selected secondary schools. A medical school was established at Dibrugarh in 1900 with the help of a legacy left by the late Brigade-Surgeon Berry-White. It is main- tained by Government, and teaches up to the civil Hospital Assistant standard, the course occupying four years. There were 101 students on its rolls in 1903-4. An engineering school at Dibrugarh was main- tained from the proceeds of a fund left by the late Mr. Williamson, a tea-planter of the Sibsagar District. This school taught up to the sub-overseer standard ; but its working was not satisfactory, and it was recently closed, the funds thus set free being devoted to the establish- ment of scholarships tenable at an efficient engineering college elsewhere. Law classes are held at Gauhati, Sibsagar, Sylhet, and Silchar.

The only educational institution for European and Eurasian children in the Province is the middle school at Shillong. It was opened in 1 88 1, closed after the earthquake of 1897, which destroyed the building, and reopened three years later. The number of pupils on the rolls in 1903-4 was twenty-nine.

Muhammadans are not as alive to the advantages of education as Hindus, and in 1901 the proportion of literate persons among them was less than half that prevailing among the Hindus. This is partly due to the fact that the immense majority of the upper and middle classes are Hindus, Islam having obtained most of its converts in Assam from the lower Hindu castes. The proportion of Muhammadans in high schools is barely a third of that of Hindus, and in middle and primary schools it is little over one-half. Special consideration is given to the claims of educated Muhammadans when making appointments to Government service, and efforts have been made to improve the character of instruc- tion in their private schools.

The proportion of children under instruction to those of a school-going age has risen from 57 per 1,000 in 1880-1 to 90 in 1890-1, and to 121 in 1903-4. According to the Census of 1901, 36 persons per 1,000 were able to read and write. Education has made most progress in the Surma Valley ; and in the Cachar plains 91 and in Sylhet 81 out of every 1,000 males were classed as literate. In the valley of the Brahmaputra the ratio varied from 68 in Kamrup to 49 in Goalpara. The proportion in the Hill Districts was 50, but this high rate is partly due to the presence of a considerable foreign literate population in the hills.

Except among the Khasis, the number of women who could read and write was inconsiderable. The best-educated sections of the community are the higher Hindu castes, such as the Brahman, Kayasth, Ganak, and Baidya. A considerable proportion of native Christians and Shahas are also literate ; but few of the aboriginal tribes, except the Khasis, Garos, and Lushais, have mastered even the elements, though schools have in many cases been opened for their special benefit. The fees charged cannot be considered prohibitive. In the upper classes of high schools boys pay from Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 a month, but education in lower primary schools is free, though presents are sometimes made to the teachers.

The following table classifies according to sources the direct expendi- ture incurred on various grades of schools in 1903-4 : — ■

In 1903-4 the number of newspapers published in Assam was 9, of which 3 were in English, 2 in Bengali, 1 in Assamese, and 3 in Khasl. None of these papers was issued oftener than once a week, and not one had as many as 1,200 subscribers, the average circulation being about 750. Only nine books were published in 1903-4, most of which were small treatises of an educational character or works on religious subjects.


There is no large medical institution in the Province, but 135 dis- pensaries are maintained, of which 35 have accommodation for in- patients. The largest hospitals are those at Dibrugarh (98 beds), Dhubri (37 beds), Tezpur (40 beds), and Medi cal. Nowgong (38 beds). One of these institutions has been opened at the head-quarters of each District and subdivision, and of recent years there has been a large increase in the number of rural or village dispensaries. The marked development in the number of dispensaries and in the extent to which they have been used by the people during the last twenty-three years is shown in the table on the next page.

Between 1881 and 1901 the population of the Province increased by 19 per cent. ; but the number of cases treated in 1903 was nearly sixteen times the number in 1881, and more than eight operations were performed for every one carried out in the earlier year. .The mass of the people in the Assam Valley are, however, still indifferent to the advantages to be obtained from European methods. The majority of cases treated at the dispensaries are of a very simple character, and the operations performed are for the most part unimportant. A leper asylum has recently been opened at Sylhet. The total number of lepers treated in 1903 was 48.

There is a lunatic asylum at Tezpur, to which insane persons are sent from the Hill Districts and the Assam Valley. Lunatics from the Surma Valley are sent to the Dacca asylum.

The chief statistics of the Tezpur Lunatic Asylum are shown in the following table : —

During the ten years ending 1901 there were 350 admissions. In 232 cases the cause of insanity was unknown ; in 45 cases ganja was said to have been the predisposing cause, in 16 epilepsy, in 12 fever, in 10 spirit-drinking, in 2 heredity, and in 9 opium.

Inoculation is still practised in different parts of the Province. The virus is obtained from persons whose small-pox eruptions are about eight days old, and after it has been diluted with water it is applied to small incisions which have been made in the arm of the patient. An attack of small-pox supervenes, and if the patient recovers his chances of contracting the disease in the ordinary way are very slight. Unfortunately, in many cases the person inoculated dies, and under any circumstances he is a dangerous source of infection to his neigh- bours. Inoculators seldom take service in the vaccination department, though preference is given to them before other candidates.

Vaccination is compulsory only in the larger towns, which in 1901 had a total population of 79,845 ; but, except among the Mahapuru- shias, a somewhat bigoted sect of Vaishnavites, whose head-quarters are at Barpeta in Kamriip, its advantages are generally recognized. In 1903 the number of vaccinators employed was 263. Further information is given in the following table : —

The system of selling pice packets of quinine at post offices was first brought into full working in 1896. In that year 67,000 packets were sold through the agency of the postal department, and 33,000 by missionaries in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. In 1903-4 the number of packets sold was 105,000; but in 1898, which was a very unhealthy year, more than double this quantity was disposed of.

The sanitation of rural areas is in a condition far from satisfactory. There are no conservancy arrangements, and the water-supply is usually drawn from sluggish rivers and tanks exposed to every form of pollution, or from shallow wells. A considerable number of masonry wells have been constructed at central sites by the local authorities, but unfor- tunately the Assamese often decline to use them. In 1896 a system of sanitary inspection books was inaugurated in no villages, but it is doubtful whether any practical advantages have accrued. In the hills the villages are, as a rule, built on sites which are fairly free from jungle, and, though often very dirty, are exposed to the purifying influences of the sun and air.


The following account of the surveys of the Province is taken from the General Administratiofi Report {or 1902-3: —

' The professional revenue survey of the plains Districts of the Pro- vince was undertaken while these Districts formed part of Bengal, and was brought to a conclusion shortly after the formation of g the Chief Commissionership. In this survey village boundaries, where they existed, and the boundaries of certain tea grants and revenue-free estates, as well as the geographical and topographical features of the country, were mapped, usually on the scale of 4 inches to a mile ; but, except in the Jaintia Parganas and Cachar, no field survey was made, and the results were of little practical use for revenue purposes. In the permanently settled portion of Sylhet, the survey was preceded in the years 1859-65 by a demarcation of the boundaries of villages and estates by non-professional agency, in the course of which maps of the estates were prepared by chain and compass on the scale of 16 inches to a mile ; and these maps, inaccurate though they are in many respects, afford the most recent record of the boundaries of estates in that area.

A cadastral survey, based on a regular pro- fessional traverse of the portions of the Assam Valley where most cultivation was to be found, was commenced in 1883 and completed in 1893, and similar cadastral surveys of the ryotwari portions of Sylhet and Cachar have been effected for resettlement purposes in subsequent years. The field maps of these surveys are on the scale of 16 inches to a mile. While the cadastral survey of a portion of the Assam Valley Districts was in progress, the opportunity was taken to train the local mandals in surveying with the plane table ; and after the professional party had left the valley, certain additional areas were surveyed cadastrally by local agency on the basis of plane-table traverses in successive years. It was subsequently decided that all such extension surveys should be made on the basis of theodolite traverses ; and since 1899 a permanent -professional survey detachment has been maintained in the Province, which is charged with the duty of preparing traverses for further cadastral survey which the extension of cultivation may necessitate, as well as with correcting and bringing up to date the topographical details in the standard District maps, and with minor survey operations undertaken in the Province which require professional skill. Wherever an area has been brought under cadastral survey, arrangements have been made for having the maps and other records kept up to date as far as possible, and the permanent marks looked after by the agency of mandals in the Brahmaputra Valley and pativaris in the Surma Valley. The, Khasi and Jaintia and Naga Hills, and a portion of the Lushai Hills have been surveyed by the Topo- graphical Branch of the Imperial Survey Department.'

A full bibliography of writings dealing with Assam will be found in the Report on the Progress of Historical Research in Assam (Shillong, 1897). Other authorities which may be consulted are W. Robinson: A Descriptive Account of Assam (Calcutta, 1841); Principal Heads of the History and Statistics of the Dacca Division (Calcutta, 1868). — A. J. Moffatt Mills: Report on the Province of Assam (Calcutta, 1854). — Sir W. W. Hunter: A Statistical Account of Assam (1879). — J. M'Cosh : Topography of Assam (Calcutta, 1837). — Colonel Dalton : The Ethnology of Bengal (Calcutta, 1872). — A. Mackenzie: History of the Relations of the Government ivith the Hill Tribes of the JVorth-East Frontier of Bengal (Calcutta, 1884). — R. B. Pemberton : Report on the Eastern Frontier of British India (Calcutta, 1835). — Census Reports of Assam, 1 881, 1891, and 1901. — Introduction to the land Revenue Manual,

Assam (Calcutta, 1896). — An Account of the Province of Assam and its Administration (Shillong, 1903). — Various papers in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, more particularly vol. xli, Part i, 'Assam in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,' by H. Blochmann ; and vol. lxii, Part i, No. 4. — E. A. Gait : The Koch Kings of Kamarufa (Shillong, 1895) ; A History of Assam (Calcutta, 1906). A series of District Gazetteers by B. C. Allen have recently been published (1906-7).

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