Pre-History of Assam :

            Pre-history period is the period which is anterior to recorded history .Sources for study of this period,etc. Pre-history of Assam, is almost and uninvestigated field of study. Caves, tools and geological stratas of Paleolithic, Neolithic and chaleolithic ages discovered in the North-East region so far, in combination give an idea of human habitation in this part of the country in the hoary past. During the past few years, however, several sites and a large number of tools belonging to the Paleolithic age have been discovered in the Garo hills. Relics ofthis culture are also found in the Lohit district of Arunachal Pradesh and in the excavations of a cave at Khangkhuti in the Ukhrul Sub-division of Manipur. 1Besides, some caves in the Khasia-Jaintia hills of Meghalaya,2 in the Mikir hills3 (present Karbi Anglong district) and North Cachar hills4 with traces of rudimentary paintings and carvings5 were discovered and some caves in the undivided district of Kamrup and at Jogighopa and Surya Pahar in the district of Goalpara are noticed. But these have not been properly studied and explored yet. The stone tool so far, collected, in and around Assam,give an idea regarding the Neolithic culture of this part of India. John Lubbock was the first person to refer to finds of jade neolithic implements in Upper Assam. In 1872, S.E. Peal reported the find of a celt below the foundation of a tea factory in Upper Assam. In 1875, Medlicot mentioned the find of a stone hatchet in a tea-estate near Dibrugarh. 6Of the earlier neoliths, there is very meagre evidence. But some specimen of the later Neolithic period have been discovered and these are supposed to be made by the speakers of the Mon-khmer Speech which began some time in 2500 B.C. or a little earlier. The first large find was made by Mr W. Penny, a tea-planter of Biswanath in the present Sonitpur District,while digging a ditch in his estate.7 It had been kept in the Indian Museum,Calcutta,Amongst other notable persons who had collected a number 1. H.D Sankalia and T.C. Sharma : '' The Prehistoric Age''. The Comprehensive History of Assam. (ed.(H.K.Barpujari),pp.28-30. 2. Hutton : Journal of the Asiantic Society of Bengal,XXII (NS),p-341 3. R.M. Nath : Journal of the Asiantic Society of Bengal VII., pp.19-23. 4. Ursala Graham Bower : Naga Path, pp.121-129. 5. J.P. Mills : Journal of the Assam Research Society,Vol. 1,pp.3-6. 6. K.L. Baruah: '' Pre-Historic Culture in Assam'',Studies in the Early History of Assam.(ed.)M. Neog,p.211. 7. A.H. Dani : Proto-history of Eastern India,p.75 of materials of neolithic origin,mention may be made of J.H. Hutton, J.P. Mills, G.D. Walker, T.H. Grace, K.L. Barua and P.C. Choudhury. Numbering about 385 specimens of stone tools are preserved in the Pitt Rivers Museum,Oxford,and they come from almost all the regions of North East India,the largest number,156 pieces,being from Biswanath in the Sonitpur district. J.H. Hutton in his article ''Pre-history of Assam'',classified the ground and polished stone tools into three types :(1) long,narrow and triangular,(2) more or less rectangular and (3)the shouldered type. Of the shouldered types,one is found at Kanarpara (Cachar)and one at Biswanath (Sonitpur). Two more stone celts of that very type were discovered at Singbhum in present Bangladesh. According to La Toche, Beatric, Blackwood and Smith,these neolithic tools were used by stone-age men in killing their species in combat. E.A. Gait, explain for non-availability of neolithic and other stone-age evidences in Assam as follows-''The Brahmaputra Valley is an alluvial country and the impetuous, snow-fed rivers which debouch from the Himalayas, find so little resistance in its fertile soil that they are constantly carving out new channels and cutting away their banks,consequently no building erected in their neighbourhood can be expected to remain for more than a limited time''.8 A.H. Dani divided the erstwhile state of Assam into six district zones for the study of neolithic culture. They are- 1.Cachar Hills zone 2.Sadiya Frontier zone 3.Naga Hills zone 4.Khasi Hills zone 5.Garo Hills zone 6.Brahmaputra Valley zone. The grooved hammer stone is peculiar to the Brahmaputra Valley, as no such other neoliths have been discovered in other parts of Assam. This suggest that the people using this tools,at first,lived in the Brahmaputra Valley but were forced later to take shelter in the hills. It is certain that they are the pre-Dravidian Neolithic aborigins,who are now represented by the Austro-Asiatic Mon-Khmer speaking Khasis and Syntengs of Meghalaya. But linguistically and culturally,this people are akin to Mundas of Chota-Nagpur.9 In recent years, several neolithic sites have been discovered in this region and excavations were also undertaken in these cities, viz. (1) Daojali Hading in the North Cachar hills, (2)Sarutaru in the Kamrup district and (3)Sebalgiri in the Garo hills. Besides, different type of the stone tools, etc.,have been found in all these excavated sites.10 8. E.A. Gait : A History of Assam,Reprint,1967.p 21. 9. K.L. Barua : Pre-Historic Culture in Assam,Loc,cit.,p 210 10. H.D. Sankalia and T.C. Sharma : ''The Pre-historic Age''. Loc.Cit..pp.31-33 Thus the antiquity of human civilization in Assam has been established beyond doubt by the discovery of stone celts used by the neolithic people in various part of it. These neoliths as well as linguistic and morphological evidence prove that the ancient inhabitants of Assam were of the Austric stock and note of the Dravidian as it was once supposed to be. The next wave of migration to this country brought the Dravidians, whose history is at least as old as the Austro-Asiantics. They were cultured people belonging to the Chacolithic age, who, in the remote past, inhabited Northern India supplanting the Austric races. The Aryans adopted many elements of Dravidian culture and religion,including the cult of Linga and yoni, The antiquity of this cult in Assam is proved by the temple of goddess Kamakhya. The Dravidians got so mixes up with the Mongoloids, who came to the Brahmaputra Valley a little later after them that as a result of their inter-fusion,a new typed called Mongoloi-Dravidian originated. The Mongoloids belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family of the Indo-Chinese group,who now predominate the indigenous population of Assam,migrated to this country from their original home in Western China. To quote S.K. Chatterjee,'' Different branches of the great Sino-Tibetan speaking people which had their nidus near the head-waters of the Young-tsze-Kiang and the Hoang-Ho rivers, to the west of China, pushed south and west,probably from 2000 B.C onwards and their tribes of these infiltrated into India mostly along the western course of the Brahmaputra''.11They entered Assam through various routes at different times. The Ahoms of the Tai or Shan group Mongoloids entered Assam in the early part of the 13th Century. The Khamtis, Phakials, Aitongs, Khamjangs and Turungs who are of the same origin came to Assam in the 16th Century or a little later. Linguistically, the Tibeto-Burmans are divided into two main groups-North Assam and Assam-Burmese. To the first group belonging the Arunachali tribes like the Adis, Nishis, Akash, Mishings and Mishimis. The second group includes the Bodos, The Nagas and the Kuki-Chins. The large Bodo group, in its turn, includes most of the tribes and communities of the North-East region like the Garos, Rabhas, Kacharis, Dimasas, Chutiyas, Morans, Koches, Hajongs, Lalungs, etc. In classical Indian literature they are called Kiratus The Aryans were possibly the last to enter Assam. According to S.K. Chaterjee. they arrived in North Bengal by 700 B.C., if not earlier,12from where they moved eastward in small groups at different times. Assam's early contact with the Aryans is borne out by the two great epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharat. According to the Kalika Purana, Aryan settlements were made by Naraka and Bhagadutta, the early rules of ancient Assam. The inscriptions of Bhaskaravarman make definite reference to the presence of Aryan settlement of ancient Assam in the 5th Century A.D. 11. S.K. Chatterjee : The Place of Assam in the History of Civilization of India. University of Gauhati. 1970. p.9. 12. Ibid., p.7. Among the population of Assam,Alpine or Armenoid and Irano-Scythian are also found to be present. At what time and by which route,They came to Assam, it is difficult to ascertain. Thus the process of influx of various races across the borders went on through successive waves and in course of time, different cultures mingled so thoroughly in the composite Assamese culture that it now becomes very difficult to distinguish one from the other.