Monday, February 13, 2012

North East Chronicles 6: Camp Lakwa: Part A- Kamrupa - the tale of Ancient Assam

What do you expect of a place which is so far from where you were born?

The place that you might spend a few months, and move on.   Some of these places become indelible chapters in your life and memories, don't they?

That is why we have travelled so far in the North East Chronicles and still the footprints are there, in the sands of time.  The detour from the actual Lakwa anecdotes is essential to also live and breathe the most important aspects of  this place - Assam - its society, its culture and most importantly, its peoples.

During the end of the 20th century,  I wandered around this land as a free bird, but like an ostrich, I could have put my head in my sand and forgotten its multiple layers of history.  One can smell the undercurrent of countless stories, not too well known.

The land is endowed with heavy rain and forests and the Mighty Brahmaputra river.  The land and peoples were always like the tantalizing maidens.  An exotic cocktail of mythology, history, valor, legends and culture - is this land of Assam.

As I dug out to understand the history of these lands, from the Camp Lakwa - some interesting stories turned out.   While the modern day search engines and Wiki's would throw better details on the history and life of these peoples, I attempt to sketch the chronicle of this wonderful land in this part of the North East Chronicles.

Mythology states that the land of Assam was ruled by Naraka dynasty. The most famous king was Narakasura.   Mostly these people were called Dhanavas  (demons), essentially people who did not practice Vedas, so mostly indigenous people, in the eyes of the Aryans. 

Early Assam - Kamrupa Empire  (350-1100 AD)
Between 350 AD and 1100 AD, the land was called Kamrupa - meaning - amorous form.  The name comes from the story of the devas sending Kamadeva (Cupid) to destroy Lord Shiva's penance.  This is the place where Kamrupa apparently retired when he was reborn post Lord Shiva's wrath. 

Another story from Mythology for the name of Kamrupa.

Kamakya temple
reflects the legend of Sati

Legends indicate that Assam was the place where Sati spend her amorous days with Lord Shiva in the name of Kamakya.  When Sati gave herself to the yogic pyre in protest against her father Daksha's non-invitation of the Lord Shiva and Sati.   When Shiva wandered the worlds in his grief-striken Rudra form,  Lord Vishnu slayed the body of Sati into some 51 pieces.  Sati's organ fell in this place - and resembled Kamakya - the source of genesis.   The present day Kamakya temple was built in the 1500's.  It was nourished by Rudra Singha, an Ahom king, who was a devout Hindu would be one of the most famous of them.

While there were different clans that ruled Kamrupa, the most famous of them is the Varman Dynasty.

The most important king of them all was Bhaskar Varman, who had a long 50 year rule(circa 600-650 AD).  He had his military pacts with Harsha Vardhana, brought peace and security to his subjects, and was a noteworthy ruler.  People prospered under his rule.  The Chinese traveller Xuanzang visited the court of Bhaskar Varman.

There was few dynasties like Mlechchha dynasty (who were descendants of the Naraka dynasty) and Pala Dynasty that ruled till 1100. 

The mighty Brahmaputra, the giver of life
in these lands, has seen the rise and fall
of many dynasties
The history of Assam has always intertwined with the mighty river Brahmaputra.   The river is the backbone of the lives of people here.  The river is the giver of life -water, food and everything.

It also acts as the transporter of food, people and soldiers.  Yes, this river has seen many a battle, the rise and fall of dynasties.  

As the river ebbed and flowed, season after season, the wheels of time ground past the demise of the Kamrupa empire.

After the typical chaos that happens after an empire falls, during the period of 1100-1200,  some Tai's of the Burmese descent came to the land of Kamrupa.  

These people did not take establish themselves by force, but through relationship building and mixing with other royals in the region.  The Ahom kingdom was born - the seeds of the modern Assam were sowed in Sibsagar!

...To be continued

- The One

( Source and pics: Wikipedia)


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