Summary- The Kingdom of Kamrupa- Ban Raja- Pratapa and Arimatta- Identity of Tezpur with capital of Pala kings-The Koch kimgs- History of Darrang Rajas- The Ahoms- Koch and Muhammadan invasions- The Ahom kings- The Moamaria Insurrection- Annexation of Assam by the British- Ahom Government and social life- Frontier relations- History of the District under British administration- The Patharughat riots- Archeological remains- Chronological table.
It is doubtful whether at any period the whole of the country, which is now known as the district of Darrang, was a separate polity under its own ruler, and its history has to be considered in connection with that of the various States of which from time to time it formed a part. It was originally included in the ancient Hindu Kingdom of Kamarupa, which is mentioned in the Mahabharata, and which at one time occupied North-Eastern Bengal, and a great part of what is now known as the Province of Assam. The story of this kingdom dating, as it presumably does,from about the twelfth century B.C. is largely a matter of doubtful and fragmentary tradition,and we can hardly be said to know much of the history of Darrang before the beginning of the sixteenth century A.D., when it was incorporated in the territories of the Koch princes. The decline of the Koch Kingdom was, how ever,as rapid as its rise, and the beginning of the seventeenth century the Ahoms, who had been called in to assist the Koch Raja against the Muhammadans, began to strengthen their hold upon the district. It is doubtful, moreover, whether at any time the sovereignty of the Koch Kings extended to the east of the Bhareli, since, as far back as 1523, the Ahoms established a colony of Chutiyas on the left bank of that river. The Bhareli at this time seems to have been the western boundary of the Ahom territories on the north bank, as, in 1529, the Ahom king is said to have taken up his headquarters at Bishnath, and to have ordered his generals to plunder the country on the west of the Bhareli. The historian of Mir Jumla's invasion in 1661 refers to the Koch Raja of Darrang as a tributary of the Ahom kings,and, in 1725, his territories only consisted of that portion of the Mangaldai subdivision which lies south of the Gohain Kamala Ali. When the Ahom power was shaken to its very foundations by the Moamaria insurrection, the Raja of that time, Krishna Narayan, endeavoured to assert his independence; but he was defeated in 1792 by Captain Welsh, and reduced again to the position of a tributary chief. From that time forward, Darrang continued under the rule of the Ahoms, as far as any form of rule can be said to have existed in that period of anarchy and confusion, and passed, with the rest of Assam, into the hands of the British when the Burmese were driven out of the valley in 1825.
The kingdom of Kamarupa,1200 b.c.1000 A.D
According to the Yogini Tantra , the kingdom of Kamarupa extended from the Karatoya river, on the western boundaries or Rangpur, to the Dikrai in the east of Darrang. It was divided into four portions, i.e., Kamapith from the Karatoya to the Sasnkosh; Ratnapith from the Sankosh to the Rupahi ; Suvarnapith from the Rupahi to the Bhareli ; and Sau-marpith from the Bhareli to the Dikrai. The earliest king of Kamarupa of whom anything in particular is recorded is Narak, who is said to have been the son of the earth by Vishun, and who defeated and slew his predecessor Ghatak. He established his capital at Pragiyotishpura, the modern Gauhati, and seems to have been a powerful and prosperous, though somewhat headstoromg, prince. He was appointed the guardian of Kamakhya, and his name still lives amongst the people as the builder of the causeway up the southern face of the hill Nilachal, on which the temple of Kamakhya stands. He was succeeded by his son Bhagadatta, who is mentioned in the Mahabharata as fighting on the side of the Kauravas at the great battle of Kurkshetra; and we thus seem justified in assuming that fully a thousand years before Christ, Darrang formed part of powerful kingdom ruled by a line of non- Aryan princes.
It is not Narak; however, but Ban Raja whose name is most frequently in the mouths of the people of Darrang. Tradition says that his fortress stood on the site now occupied by the Deputy Commissioner's office, and that he built the magnificent temples, the ruins of which are still to be seen in the immediate vicinity of the town.His daughter was beloved by Anirudha son of Krishna, and when Ban seized the amorous prince,he was rescued by his father, who fought a bloody battle on the plain to the west of Tezpur.
Two large tanks in the neighbourhood are said to have been constructed by ban, and one of them still bears the name of his prime minister Kumbhanda. The Akas to this day claim descent from this mighty prince,through his grandson Bhaluka,the remains of whose capital are still to be seen in the gorge of the Bhareli at Bhalukpang, Tezpur is not, however, the only town that claims to have been Ban Raja's capital. Similar pretensions are put forward for a place called Ban Raja's garh, a little to the south of Dinajpur. Local tradition, which in a matter ofthis kind is of very little value,is the only authority for connecting Ban Raja with the magnificent temple ruins near Tezpur; and local tradition in this particular instance would seem to contradict itself, as it seems fairly clear that the fort at Bhalukpang and the temple at Tezpur cannot have ben erected by the same dynasty or at the same period.
The copper plates of the eleventh century.
Further information with regard to the rulers of Kamarupa is given in certain copper plates which on paleographical grounds have been assigned to the eleventh century A.D.* These plates are valuable evidence as to the state of the country at the time at which they were engraved, but their account of the genealogy of the reigning king must obviously be received with some degree of caution. The dynasty of Narak is said to have been displaced by Cala Stambha, a Mleccha or foreign con-queror. Whose line ended in the person of Haris. Another family of foreign princes then came to the throne,the first of whom was Pralambha and the last Tyaga Singh. The dynasty of Narak was then restored in the person of Brahmapala. The invasion of the Mlecchas and their subsequent expulsion not improbably corresponds with the great irruption of the Bodos, who, according to their own traditions, were at one time ruling at Gauhati and were subsequently driven eastwards to Dimapur, but the whole of this period is involved in great obscurity.
For a description of these plates see J.A.S.B.,vol LXVI, pp. 113 and 285, And vol.LXVII,pt I,no.1 p.99
The visit of Hiuen Tsiang ,640 A.D
In 640 A.D. Hiuen Tsiang visited Assam, and the record of his travels affords a momentary glimpse of the conditions of the country ; a glimpse which is not unlike the view afforded by a flash of lightening on a dark and stormy night. The landscape, which has been shrouded in impenetrable gloom, is suddenly disclosed to view, and with equal rapidity is engulphed again in the blackest darkness; and nothing definite is known of the fortunes of Assam and its inhabitants either immediately before or after the visit of the great Chinese traveler. The country seems to have advanced some distance on the path of civilization. The soil was deep and fertile, the towns surrounded by moats, the people fierce in appearance but upright and studious. Hinduism was the national religion, and, though Buddhism was not prohibited, its milder tenets had comparatively few followers.
Pratapa and Arimatta.
Two other names, those of Pratapa and Arimatta, are connected with the legendary history of Darrang.Pratapa is said to have belonged to the Nagsankar dynasty, who reigned between the third and seventh centuries A. D., though, as will subsequently be shown, very little reliance can be placed upon these dates. Pratapa's capital was situated at Ratnapur, which was subsequently engulphed by the Brahmaputra when it changed its course to form the Majuli ; but he built a great fort at Pratapgarh, the remains of which are to be seen at the present day. Another story says that Pratapa and Bhaluka were the same, and that he received the latter name because he was begotten by Siva, in the form of a bear (bhaluk), on the daughter of a Kachari prime minister,who had fled to the north bank of the Brahmaputra to escape from the oppressions of his royal mistress. The girl was afterwards married by Somapal, the king of the country, who made her son his heir.
Arimatta is said to have been the grandson of Pratapa, or, according to another account, the son of Pratapa's wife who had been raped by the Brahmaputra. He seems to have been a powerful prince, and is said to have thrown up the huge entrenchment which is still to be seen near Betna in Kamrup. The Majuligarh, in the Chutia mauza, is also attributed to him. He killed his father either accidentally out hunting,or in open war in ignorance of his identity, and attempted to make atonement by offering gold and jewels at Jagannath and also to the Ganges. His offerings were rejected, and he finally threw them into the waters of the Dikho and then drowned himself. According to another legend, he was accidentally shot by his son Jangal, whose capital was situated in Nowgong. The obscurity in which the history of this time is veiled can, however,be measured from the fact that, while Pratapa's dynasty is said to have ended in the seventh century A.D., Arimatta is said to have lived in the thirteenth.
The Bargaon plate of the eleventh century.
We are,however, treading upon more certain ground when dealing with the Bargaon plate,which on the evidence of palaeography has been assigned to the earlier half of the eleventh century A.D. It records the grant of a piece of land on the north bank of the Brahmaputra to a Brahman , and extols the virtues and magnificence of the donor. King Ratnapala, the son of the Brahmapala,in whose person the line of Narak had been restored to the sovereignty of Kamrup.
Ratnapala seems to have a powerful prince. And his capital Durjaya on the Luhit is described in glowing termas it was crowded with soldiers and merchants,and adorned with learned men, priests and poets. A thousand plastered turrets hid the sun, and the strength of its ramparts were a source of mortification, or as the inscription quaintly puts it," pulmonary consumption,"to various other mighty chiefs. The king studded the earth with his whitewashed temples and the pillar monuments of invictories. He was evidently no mere local princeling,as he obtained great wealth from his copper mines: and there are no copper mines any where in the neighbourhood of Tezpur. Considerable allowance has to be made for the exuberance of the oriental imagination,but the precise injunctions issued to the " people of the Brahman and other castes, headed by the district revinue officers and their clerks," with regard to the actual grant of land, suggest a systematic and well-organized government . similar conclusion are to be drawn from the following description of the land itself and of its easements. " be it known to you that this land,together with its houses, paddyfields, dry land,water,cattle- pastures, refuse-lands,etc., of what ever kind of it may be, inclusive of any place within its borders and freed from all nuisances on account of the fastening of elephants, the fasting of boats, the searching for thieves, the inflicting of punishments,the tenants'taxes,the imposts of various causes, and the pasturing of animals, such as elephants, horses, camels, cattle buffaloes,goats and sheep, as set forth in this charter, is given to him for the sake of the good and the glory of my father and myself."
Durjaya possibly identical with Tezpur.
It seems far from improbable that Durjaya was located on the site of the present station of Tezpur. It was situated on the banks of the Brahmaputra,and the number of places in which a city could be built in the neighbourhood of the treacherous and shifting river is not large. The town was evidently not identical with Guwahati, as Ratnapala is distinctly described as being the lord of Pragjyotisha (Guwahati) but as living at Durjaya ; and it seems much more likely that Durjaya was situated at Tezpur than at Silghat or Bishnath, two of the few places in the valley where the rocks come down to the river's edge. It this is so, the magnificent stone temple,east of Tezpur,was probably constructed by one of these Pala kings about the eleventh century A.D. and to this dynasty must be assigned the fine masonry remains which are still lying about the station in great profusion. These pillars and blocks of massive stone, which are enriched with fine carving, must evidently have been executed under. the orders of a powerful prince, in whose capital the arts of civilization had made considerable. Progress, and this is a description which could not unsuitably be applied to the Pala kings. It is a somewhat humiliating reflection that a thousand years ago the material civilization of Tezpur seems to have been in many respects much in advance of that in existence at the present day, when neither artisans merchants, or learned men are to be found amongst the Assamese. But the Pala princes, with their power and magnificence, passed away many centuries before the British obtained possession of Assam, and Darrang became for a time a sort of debatable land partly under koch and partly under ahom rule.
* Pala is common title and it should be noted that these prince were not necessarily connected with the Pala kings of Bengal. An anymous writer in the Calcutta Review, vol.XLV,p 521, suggests that the Tezpur temple may have been erected by Lalita dittya, a king kashmir , who he says ,invaded Assam in the middle of the eigth century A.D. this is, however, a mere hypothesis, which Prima facie seems to be most improbable.
The Koch kings
Little or nothing is known of the decline of the Pala kings of Durjaya, and it is doubtful whether Darrang ever formed part of the territories of the Khyen kings of Kamatapur in Kuch Bihar,the last of whose line, Nilambar,was conquered by the Muhammadans in 1498 A.D In the sixteenth century, the eastern portion of the district seems to have passed under the influence of the Ahoms, while west of the Bhareli the Koches were the dominant power.
The founder of the Koch kingdom was a Mech named Viswa Singh, who according to tradition was the son of Hira, the wife of one Haria Mandal , by Siva,who assumed the shape of her husband, and thus induced her to admit him to her embraces . Viswa Singh subdued the petty princes, who surrounded him , founded a magnificent city in Kuch Bihar and reduced his state to order. The whole population was divided up into different corps under officers of increasing dignity, a thakuria being appointed over every 20 coolies, a saikia overevery 100,a hazari over 1,000, an umra over 3,000, and a nawabover 66,000. he took a census of his subjects and found that the number capable of bearing arms was 5,225,000,an obvious exaggeration. He is said to have marched against the Ahoms, but to have abandoned the expedition owing to the collapse of his commissariat, but to have abandoned the expedition owing to the collapse of his commissariat, but the Ahom version which states that he was defeated and made tributary seems a more probable explanation of the failure of the expedition.
Viswa Singh died after a reign of 25 years, and was succeeded in 1534 A.D. by his son Malla Deva, who assumed the name of Nar Narayan. The reign of this prince represents the zenith of the Koch power, and his armies,which were led by his brother Sukladwaj or Silarai met with almost unvarying success. He first attacked the Ahoms , but, mindful of his father's failure,commenced his operations by building a great military road along the north bank of the Brahmaputra . and constructing tanks at regular intervals along it. The work was entrusted to his brother Gohain Kamala, and the road, much of which is still in existence, bears the name of Gohain Kamala Ali to the present day. Nar Narayan entered the Ahom capital Gargaon (the modern Narira) and did not leave till he had received the submission of the Ahom king. The Kachari Raja and the Raja of Manipur were then reduced to the position of feudatory chiefs, and the kings of Jaintia, Trippera,and Sylhet conquered and slain. Further successes were obtained over the rulers of Khairam and Dimuria,but the tide of fortune turned when an attack was made on the kingdom of Gaur. The Koch army was routed and Silarai himself made prisoner. Nar Narayan would not, however, accept this defeat as final, and a few years later joined with the Emperor Akbar in a second attack upon the Pasha of Gaur. This enterprise was crowned with success, and Gaur was divided between the Emperor of Delhi and the Koch king.
* the following accounts of the Koch kingdom and the Darrang Rajas is taken from an interesting paper on the Koch kings of Kamarupa by Mr E. A Gait, c.s Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Volume LX11,part1, no. 4 of
Decline of Koch kingdom, Raghu Rai 1581-1593 A.D
Within the space of two generations the Koch kingdom had attained to an extraordinary height of power and prosperity, but its decline was as rapid as its rise. For a long time Nar Narayan had no male offspring,and Silarai's son, Raghu Rai, was regarded as his heir. When this boy was approaching manhood, one of his uncle's wives gave birth to a son called Lakshmi Narayan,and Raghu Rai, realizing that he had now no hope of succeeding to the throne, withdrew from the capital to Barnagar in the Barpeta subdivision of Kamrup. Nar Narayan endeavoured to compel him to return, but his soldiers were defeated and the king weakly resolved to divide his kingdom.* The territory east of the Sankosh was made over to Raghu Rai, while Lakshmi Narayan received the part that lay west of that river. Raghu Rai continued to reside at Barnagar, and seems to have been much devoted to religious exercises.
Parikshit 1593-1614 A.D
He was succeeded by his son Parikshit in 1593 A.D.who built a town at north Guwahati,and mounted connon at Pandunath. War then broke out between Parikshit and his cousin Lakshmi Narayan † The letter was defeated but called in the Muhammadans to his aid, and on their arrive the situation was reversed. Mukarram Khan advanced with 6,000 horse, 12,000 foot, and 500 ships and took Parikshit's fort at Dhubri. The Koch king then essayed a naval engagement on the Gadadhar river, but was defeated, and retreated to Barnagar, where he surrendered in 1614 A.D., and was sent to the court of the Mughal Emperor
His brother Bali Narayan, or Baldeo as he is called by the Muhammadan historians, fled to the Ahoms, and the struggle between the two powers continued for some years wih varying success. Ultimately the Koch king was completely crushed and he died at Singri in 1637 A.D
· According Buchanan Hamilton, the kingdom was founded by Hajo, father of Viswa Singh, and divided by Viswa Singh who allotted the portion east of the Sankosh to Sukladwaj or Silarai, and that west of the river to Nar Narayan. On general grounds , however, this account seems to be less probable than that given in the body of the text..
· † According to one version the quarrel dated from the time of Reghu Raj who delined to pay tribute after the death of Nar Narayan, and set up his own mint, Buranjit No. 6 p.123.
Bali Narayan, 1614-1637.subsequent histrry of Darrang Rajas.
From this time onward the power of the Darrang Rajas steadily declined. Bali Narayan was succeeded by his son, Mahendra Narayan, who died in 1643. His son, Chandra Narayan, reigined till 1660, and was followed by his son, Surya Narayn, who is said to have been defeated by the Muhammadans in 1682, and taken captive to Delhi. The Raja's minor brother, Indra Narayan, was placed upon the throne, and during his reign the Ahoms strengthened their hold upon the district. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the country was surveyed under the orders of Sib Singh, with a view, no doubt, to the Narayan's son, Aditya Narayan, succeeded in 1725, his kingdom had been reduced to the portion of the Mangaldai subdivision which lay south of the Gohain Kamala Ali, and a considerable part even of this small principality was wrested from him by his young brother.
Krishna Narayan revolts and is deposed.
In 1792 A.D., when the Ahom kingdom was distracted by the bloody insurrection of the Moamarias, and when the king, Gaurinateh, had been driven to Gauhati and was, as he himself expressed it, "like a laden boat in the act of sinking," Krishna Narayan, the Raja of Darrang, endeavoured to assert his independence. He hired sepoys from Bengal, and took up a position on the North bank of the Brahmaputra in the neighbourhood of Guahati. He was, however, easily defeated by Captain Welsh, who had been sent to the assistance of the Ahom Raja, and in 1805 was deposed by Kamaleswar Singh, Gaurinath's successor, at a ceremony for which he seems to have been somewhat sunfairy required to pay a fee of Rs. 120* Samudra Narayan, a descendant of the same family, was appointed in his place, and was warned by the Ahom Raja that he must cherish the people entrusted to him, assist them in their troubles, and not look upon them as the mere instruments of his pleasure and the sources from which his revenue was drawn. He was also ordered to protect his frontier against the aggressions of the Bhutias, and was told to apply to the Ahom ministers for assistance, if he found himself unequal to the task imposed upon him.
* this is the name by which they are generally known, but as a matter of fact the Darrang Rajas never seem to have ruled over the eastern part,of the Darrang district.
Darrang Rajas sink to the posttion of Zamindars.
Later on, the position of the Darrang Rajas was still further reduced, and instead of being tributaries, they were merely the agents of the Ahom king. In lieu of salary they were allowed the lands cultivated by their personal slaves and servants, which were confirmed to them at half the ordinary rates of revenue when the British came into occupation of the country. This priviledge attached, however, to the Raja, and not to the land itself, and if he alienated any portion of his estates it became at once liable to assessment at full rates.
In the preceding Paragraphs it has been shown that the power of the Koches was not at any time firmly established in the east of Darrang, and it is doubtful Whether, Even in Mangaldai, they could proper be described as independent princes after the death of Bali Narayan in 1637 A. D. It is, is fact, to the Ahoms that we must look for the seat of real sovereignty, during the three hundred years that preceded the cession of the Brahmaputra Valley to the British in 1826. These people were a Shan tribe from the kingdom of Pong in the upper valley of the Irawadi, who, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, crossed the Patkai and settled into the south of the territory which has since been formed into the districts of Sibsagar and Lakhimpur. The country at the foot of the hills was occupied by tribes of Morans and Borahis whom they easily subdued, and who were absorbed by intermarriage with their conquerors. To the west and north, however, they were confronted by far more powerful nations. Upper Assam was ruled by the Chutiyas, a trible of Bodo origin, who are believed to have entered the Hindu kings whom they found in possession of the country. On the west there was the strong Kachari fourteenth, century, the Ahoms became involed in was with the Chutiyas, but their final victory did not come till 1523 A.D., when the Chutiya king was defeated and his country annexed by Suhummung, the "Dihingia Raja," who reigned from 1497-1539 A.D. This prince was successful in the west as well as in the north, and in 1536, he sacked Dimapur, killed the Kachari king, and compelled his successor to remove his capital to Maibang, on the northern slopes of the North Cachar Hills.
Koch and Muhammadan invasions
The Ahoms were now supreme in Upper Assam, and it is evident that the eastern portion of Darrang was included in their territory, as in 1523 a large number of Chutiya families were deported to a place a little to the east of the Bhareli river, which bears the name Sootea or Chutia to the present day. They were still, however, exposed to danger from the Koch and Muhammadn powers in the west. In 1532, they defeated with great slaughter a Muhammadan invader named Turbuk on the banks of the Bhareli river; but a few years later they were conquered by the Koch king, Nar Narayan, who occupied the capital Gargaon, the modern Nazira, and exacted tribute from the Ahom prince.
At the beginning of the seventeeth century, they were again involved in was with the Muhammadan, as their king Pratap Singh declined to surrender Bali Narayan, the Koch prince, who had fled to him for protection, and who sagaciously pointed out that in their own interests it was most desirable that they should maintain a buffer state between themselves and the Muhammadans. Most of the fighting took place in Lower Assam, but in 1615 A.D. a Musalman army under Satrajit advanced as far as the Bhareli to averge a Muhammadan trader, who had been put to death by the Ahom king. The Muhammadans, though at first successful, were subsequently defeated both on land and water with great slaugher. The Ahoms are said to have crossed the Bhareli by a bridge and tohave turned the flank of their opponents. The bulk of the invaders were killed, and the few prisoners who were taken were subsequently put to death by the Ahom generals, much to the indignation of their ruler, who degraded his officers for this cold blooded murder.
The war then dragged on in Lower Assam, but in 1637 A.D., on the death of Bali Narayan, the Barnadi, which at present forms the western boundary of Darrang, was fixed as the frontier between the Muhammadan and Ahom territory. In 1658, the Ahoms took advantage o the confusion that ensued after the death of Shah Jehan to extend their arms to the Sankosh; but three years late they were driven back by Mir Jumla, the Nawab of Dacca, who occupied Gargaon, and there concluded a treaty with the Ahom Raja, Sutumla, otherwise known as Jaijadwaj Singh. In the course of their march up the valley the Muhammadans took the strong fort at Simlaghor*, which seems to have been situated near Silaghat, where upon the Assamese evacuated the fort of Chamdara on the opposite bank of the Brahmaputra. A hill a little to the east of Tezpur is known as Chamdara at the present day, and there are remains of a fine embankment running northwards from it to the Bhareli. The stars in their courses fought, however, on the Ahom side. The rains set in with a serverity exceptional even in that rainy land; the country was converted into a swamp, and disease made havoc of the Muhammadans crowded to gether in their water-logged camp. A large number of men lost in the retreat down the valley, and by 1667, the Ahoms had again established themselves at Gauhati. A few years later this town was retaken by the Muhammadans, but it was captured again by the Ahoms during the reign of Gadadhar Singh (1681-1695) , and from that time onward Goalpara remained the rontier outpost of the Muhammadan domimions.
* Bjochman in J.A.S.B., Vol XI.I part I, P.71 Places Simlaghor north of the Brahmaputra, but in this he is evidenty mistaken.
Rudra Singh, 1695-1714 A.D
The zenith of the Ahom power was reached in the reign of Rudra Singh, who founded a new capital at Rangpur, and waged successful was against the Rajas of Cachar and Jaintia. Two large forces marched, the one through the North Cachar Hills, the other through the Jaintia Hills to Jaintiapur, and the general in command succeeded in arresting the Jaintia Raja and deported him to the Assam Valley. The Ahoms were, however, unable to impose their yoke upon the free and savage highlands, who rose as one man and butchered the garrisons who had been left in a chain of forest across the Jaintia Hills. Rudra Singh was the first of the Ahom kings to publiely, become the disciple o a Hindu priest, and after his death the power of the Ahom kingdom began steadily to decline.
Sib Singh, 1714-1744 A.D
His son Sih Singh was a weak prince much under the influence of his wives, whose name has come down to posterity as excavator of the great tank near which the present station of Sibsagar (Sib's tank) stands.
Both he and his two successors were ardent Saktists and erected numerous temples and made liberal grants of land and paiks for the maintenance to their special form of Hinduism.
Pramatta Singh, 1744-75, Rajeswar Singh,1751-1769
The reign of his successor Pramatta Singh was uneventful, and during the incumbency of the next prince, Rajeswar Singh, the signs of the decay of the Ahom power became all too clear. The Raja of Manipur was driven from his home and applied to the Ahom king for aid. Orders were issued for the dispatch of an expedition, but the nobles, to whom the command was entrusted, excused themselves on various grounds and declined the proffered honour. They army lost its way when endeavouring to cross the Patkai, a large number of men perished, and though ultimately the Manipur Raja succeeded in regaining his dominations, it does not appear that the assistance of the Ahoms materially contributed toward his success.
Lakshmi Singh,1769-1780 The Moamaria insurrection
Lakshmi Singh's reign was signalized by the outbreak of the Moamaria insurrection. The causes of this insurrection are not quite clear. According to the chroniclers, a certain Hathidharia Chungi with one Nahor Kachari came to offer their annual tribute of elephants to the king. The elephant which they tendered to the Borboura was a lean and sorry animal, and as an expression of his disapproval, he cut off their hair and noses, flogged them, and drove them away. Boiling with indignation at this outrage, Nahor proceeded to the house of a Hari woman, whose daughter he espoused, and from whom he received as set of metal plates, covered with mystical incantations to confound the enemy. He then applied to the Moamaria gosain for help, which was readily afforded him, and the standard of revolt was raised. This is the account given by the Ahom chroniclers, and it differs to some extent from the story as told by the Moamaria gosain at the present day. According to this authority, the leaders of the rebellion were two Moamarias named Nahor and Ragho Neogay, who, after they had been punished for failing to deliver the elephants required, went for assistance to their gosain. The gosain himself declined to listen to their proposals, but they succeeded in winning over his son Gagini Bardekha, who gave them a weapon consecrated with the magic plates of the Kalpataru. The Kalpataru was a sacred book which Anirudha is said to have obtained from Sankar Deb, though the Ahom chroniclers contemptuously assert that it was the property of a sweeper woman.
Success and subsequentdefeat of Moamarias.
From the very first the rebels carried all before them. The royal armies were defeated under circumstances which suggest that men and officers alike were guilty of gross incompetence and cowardice; and Lakshmi Singh was driven from his capital and captured. The insurgents then proceeded to appoint Ramakanta, the son of Nahor, to be their Raja. Marauding parties harried the country on every side, and the misery of the common people was extreme. A report at last gained ground that orders had been issued for the execution of all the former officers of state, and final effort. The signal for the attack is said to have been given by one of the wives of Lakshmi Singh. Ragho, who was one of the most influential men amongst the Moamarias, had forcibly taken her to wife, and , as he was bending down at the Bihu to offer his largess to a dancing boy, she cut him down with sword. On the death of their leader, the rebel forces were surprised and scattered, and a pitiless vengeance taken that spared neither age nor sex.* The house of the Moamaria mahunt was surrounded, and almost the whole of his family was killed before his eyes, while all the afficers appointed by the Moamarias were seized and beaten to death. The wives of the rebel prince were treated with savage cruelty. One of them was flogged to death, while two others had their ears and noses cut off and their eyes put out.
* The Moamarias say that 790.000 members of their sect were killed, which is, no doubt, an oriental exageration.
Gaurinath Singh 1780-1795.Mamarias again victorious.
In 1780, Lakshmi Singh died and was succeeded by his son Gaurinath, in whose reign the Moamaia insurrection broke out anew, and with increased violence. At first, the king's troops met with some measure of success, and orders were issued outlawing the rebels and authorizing any person to kill any Moamaria he might meet, regardless o time, place, sex, or age. Such orders seem to have been only too well adapted to the temper of the people, and, according to the Ahom chronicler, "the villagers there upon massacred the Moamarias with their wives and children without mercy." The rebels in their turn were not slow to make reprisals; they plundered the country on every side, and "the ordinary operations of agriculture were suspended, no harvests could be raised, and famine killed those whom the sword had spared. "The price of a katha of rice rose to one gold mohur, and men starved in crowds under the trees forsaking their wives and childredren." The highest Hindu castes are said to have eaten the flesh of cows, and dogs and jackals were devoured by the common people.
In 1786, the rebels under Bharat Singh inflicted a decisive defeat upon they royal troops, and took Rangpur, the capital, by storm. The king fled to Gauhati, and in his terror left even his wives behind him. His generals remained behind in Upper Assam and carried on the contest with varying success. Troops were dispatched to their assistance from Manpur, but most of them were ambushed and cut up, and the survivors had no heart to carry on the struggle. The desolation of the country is thus described by the Ahom chronicler. "The Mataks harried the temples and the idols of the gods, and put to death all the sons and daughters of our people. For a great length of time our countrymen had no home, some took shelter in Bengal, some in Burma, some in the Dafla Hills and others in the Mataks for years and months together." Bharat Singh ruled at Rangpur for upwards of six years and coins are extant which bear his name; but in 1792, a small British force was sent to the assistance of the Ahom king under the command of Captain Welsh. Guahati, which had been captured by a mob of Doms under a Bairagi, was retaken, Krishna Narayan, the rebellious Raja of Mangaldai, was subbued, and in March 1794, Rangpur was re-occupied after a decisive victory over the insurgelnts. Captain Welsh was then recalled but the Ahom king was able to keep his enemies in check by the help of sepoys trained on the English system.
Kamaleswar singh,1795-1309 A.D
A few months after the departure of Captain Welsh, Gaurinath died, and was succeeded by his son Kamaleswar Singh. The country was still in a state of great disorder. The Daflas, not content with harrying the villages on the north bank, crossed the Brahmaputra and attacked the royal troops near Silaghat, but were repulsed with considerable loss. Even Europeans were notg safe, and a Mr. Raush*, a merchant of Goalpara, who had extend his business operations to Darrang, was robbed and murdered by "naked Benglis." These free booters then occupied North Gauhati, but when they attempted to make good their position on the south bank, they were defeated with heavy loss by the royal troops near Pandughat. The Daflas again harried the Darrang district, and even enlisted Begali sepoys in their service, but were ultimately conquered and dispersed. Victories were also obtained over the Moamarias and the Khamtis at the eastern end of the valley.
* This Mr. Raush was the first European to interfere in the affairs of Assam.hesent 700 burkandazes to Gaurinath's assistance, but they were cut up to a man. A mass of masonry, the size of of a small cottage,covers the remains of Mr. Raush's infant children at Golpara.
Final collapse of the Ahom kingdom.
In 1809, Kamaleswar Singh was succeeded by his brother Chandra Kanta Singh. The Bor Phukan or viceroy of Gauhati incurred the suspicion of the Buragohain or prime minister, and fled to Calcutta and thence to Burma. At the beginning of 1816, a Buramese army crossed the Patkai and re-instated the Bor Phukan; but shortly after their withdrawal Chandra Kanta was deposed and Purandar Singh appointed in his stead. The banished morarch appealed to the Burmese, who, in, 1818,returned with a large force, and replaced him on the throne. They soon, however, made it clear that they intended to retain their hold upon Assam, and in 1820, Chandra Kanta fled to Goalpara, and from British territory began a series of abortive attempts to recover his lost kingdom. The Burmese were guilty of gross atrocities during their occupation of the country. The villages were plundered and burnt, and the people were compelled to seek shelter in the jungle. Women who fell into their hands were violated, with every circumstance of brutality, and the misery of the them unfortunate Assamese was extreme. For tunately for them, causes of quarrel had by this time arisen between the British and the Burmese. In 1824, war was declared by the British Government, and a force was sent up the valley o the Brahmaputra, which occupied Rangpur in January 1825, and compelled the Burmese to retire to their won territories, while in the following year, by the treaty of Yandaboo, Assam was ceded to the East India Company.
The above is but brief account of the rise and fall of the Ahoms, but their history is more intimately connected with the Sibsagar district. It now remains to consider what is known of their social institutions, and the conditions under which those subject to them passed their lives.
Ahom administration : the system.
The most striking in the economy of the Ahom state,and one which (to judge from their conduct since they came under our rule)must have been extremely repugnant to the people ,was the system of enforced compulsory labour. The lower orders were divided up into groups of three or four called gots, each individual being styled a poua paik,. Over every twenty gots was placed an officer called bara, over every five baras a saikia, and over every ten saikias a hazarika. in theory one paik from each got was alwayds employed on duty with the state, and ,while so engaged, was supported by the other members . the Raja and his ministers had thus at their disposal a vast army of labourers to whom they paid no wages, and for whose maintenance they did not even have to make provision. It was thisb system which enabled the Ahom Rajas to construct the enormous tanks and great embankments, which remian to excite the envy of a generation , which has been compeloled to import from other parts of India almost all the labour required for the development of the province and its industries Many of the works constructed were of undoubted uti-lity but many, on the other hand, were chiefly intended for the glorification of their designers. Few objects are more worthy of the attention of an enlightened Government than the supply of wholesome drinking water to the people. But the huge reservoirs, constructed by the Ahom kings, were out of all proportion to the population which could by any possibility have made use of them,while the close proximity in which these enormous tanks are placed is ample evidence that practical utility was not the object of their contruction. On the other hand, embankments which were thrown up along the sides of some of the rivers nearthe capital, protected land which has become unculturable since have fallen into disrepair. The duty of providing the various articles required for the use of the king and nobility was assigned to different groups, which were gradually begin ning to assume the from of functional castes. The rapidity with which these groups abandoned their special occupation, as soon as the pressure of necessity was removed, is a clear in dication of the reluctance with which they must have undertaken the duties entrusted to them.
* The system of enforced labour was no doubt unpopular, but it had much to recommend it. It taxed the people in the one commodity of which they had enough and to spare,i.e., labour. It also devoloped them on the industrial sideand the material comfort of the Assamese would possibly have been grater at the present day if they had not all of them been allowed to devote themsel ves exclusively to agriculture.
But though the common people seem to have been compelled to supply an unnecessary amount of labour intimes of peace, it was when war declared that their sufferings were most pronounced Certain clans of paiks were called out , and called out, it would seem, in numbers that were in excess of the actual requirements of the case ; an error which entails the most disastrous consequences when the campaign is carried on in a country where supplies are scarce and communications difficult.
According to the Ahom chronicler, nearly 40,000 troops were dispatched during the reign of rajeswar singh to reinstate the Manipuri raja on the gadi. Their guides, however, failed them , they lost their way in the naga Hills, and about two -thirds of the soldiers perished, the mortality being chiefly due to famine and disease. The military dispositions even of Rudra Singh, one of their greatest princes, suggest a want of due deliberation in design and a feebleness and lack of method in execution.in his expeditions against the Kachari and Jaintia Rajas, the Ahoms lost 3,243 persons, and the practical result obtained seem to to have been insignificant. The descriptions of the campaigns against the Momarias, given by the Ahom chroniclers, clearly show that the generals were often guilty of incompetence and cowardice, while the rank and file do seem to have fully realized the dangers that beset a defeated army. Conditions such as these must of necessity have been disastrous to the private soldier.
* An interesting account of this invasion will be found in J.A.S.B, XLI pt. I pages 49-100
Muhammadans describe Ahoms as brave soldiers.
The Muhammadan historians of the invasion of Mir Jumla give, however, a more favourable account of the Ahom military dispositions. Their resources seem to to have been considerable,and in the course of the expedition,the Muhammadans 675 guns, one of which threw a ball three " mans" in weight besides a large number of matchlocks and other field pieces. No less th 1,000 ships were taken, many of which could accommodate three or four score sailors; and in the naval engagement which took plac4e above silghat in March 1662 A.D. the Assamese are said to have brought seven or eight hundred ships into action. The Ahoms are described as strongly built, quarrel some, blood- thirsty, and courageous , but at the same time merciless, and treacherous. They were more then equal to the Muhammadans in a foot encounter, but were much afraid of cavalary. This corps d'elite did not, however, exceed some 20,000 men , and the ordinary villagers, who were pressed into the service, were ready to fling away their arms and and take to flight at the slightest provocation.
Uncertainty and arbitrary character of Government.
Another factor , which cannot but havere-acted un-favourably upon the common peple, was the uncertain ty of tenure under which both the ministers and kind held office. A perusal of the Ahom cheronicles leaves the reader with the impressionthat the ministers were continually being deprived of their portfolios and not unfrequently of life itself. Hardly precarious was the position of the king, and in the short space of 33years, between 1648 and 1681, no less than two monarchs were deposed, and seven came to a violent end. Good government, as we understand the term, must have been impossible under such conditions, and we may be sure that the people suffered from this constant change of rulers. Buchanan Hamilton, writing at the beginning of the nineteenth century, states that the administration of justice under Ahom rule was fairly liberal. Important trials were conducted in open court, the opinion of assessors was consulted, the evidence was recorded, and capital punishment was only inflicted under a written warrant from the king. It is true, no doubt, that few persons possessed the power of imposing the death sentence. But they were allowed to inflict punishments which the victim could hardly be expected to survive, and his position was not unlike that of the heretic delivered by the inquisition to the civil arm, with the request that "blood may not be shed."
Instances of this.
Abundant evidence is available in the Ahom chronicles to show the arbitrary way in which the royal authority was exercised. The following instances are quoted from the reign of Pratap Singh (1611-1649 A.D.) A Kataki, or envoy charged with diplomatic relations with foreign powers, asked the Muhammadan commander on his frontier to supply him with two jars. His conduct was reported to the king, who immediately ordered him to be put to death. Another Kataki reported that he had heard from a down-country man that a Muhammadan force was advancing up the valley. The king enquired of the Kataki responsible for watching the movements of the enemy, whether this information was correct. This man declared that he was unable to obtain any confirmation of the rumour, whereupon the first Kataki was executed for presuming to meddle in matters with which he had no concern; a proceeding which seems to have been hardly calculated to ensure the supply of timely and accurate information. Three merchants then endeavoured to establish friendly. Relations between the took umbrage at such unwarrantable interference in death. It subsequently appeared that the facts had not been correctly represented and the Bar Phukan and two other men responsible were promptly killed. A few years later, the king transported a large number of persons from the north to the south bank of the Brahmaputra, warning them that any one who attempted to revisit his former home would suffer the penalty of death with all his family "even to the child the womb." Five hundred men attempted to return, as they wished, the chronicler informs us, to rear a brood of silkworms. The king had them arrested, and 300 were put to death, the remainder escaping in the darkness oft night.
Savage punishments : an official blinded for not dismounting before his official superior.
The following incident that occurred in the reign of Lakshmi Singh (1769-1780) is typical of the uncertainties of the time. One Ramnath Bhorali Borua, an officer of state, had the presumption to appear mounted in the presence of his official superior the Borborua. A complaint was promptly lai before the king, who directed that both Ramnath and his brother should be deprived of sight. The injured man was not, however, destitute of friends, and came with his complaint to the Kalita Phukan, who had his private reasons for desiring the downfall of the Borborua. The Phukan went to the king, poisoned his mind against his minister with the suggestion that a conspiracy was on foot, a suggestion which in the those days must always have seemed plausible enough, and, in a short time, the heads of the haughty Borborau, his two uncles, and his brother, were rolling in the dust. It is needless to multiply instances of the savage violence of the times, but the different forms of punishment in vogue call for some remark. Where life was spared, the ears, nose, and hair were cut off, the eyes put out, or the knee pans torn from. The legs, the last named penalty generally proving fatal Persons sentenced to death were hung, impaled, hewn in pieces, crushed between two wooden cylinders like sugarcane in a mill, sawn asunder, burnt alive, fried in oil,or if the element of indignity was desired, shorn of their hands and feet and placed in holes, which were then utilized as latrines.
In the seventeenth century, it was no uncommon thin to compel conspirators to eat their own flesh, and more than one case in quoted, in which the father was forced to eat the liver of his son, a meal that was usually his last in this world. Punishment, too, was not restricted to the actual offender, but his wretched wife was liable to be handed over to the embraces of a Hari. Methods such as these could hardly fail to have a terrifying effect on much more hardened criminals than the Assamese.
Social life amongst Ahoms.
The Ahoms, even after they they became a powerful nation, seem to have adhered to a simple style of life, in which there was little of extravagance or luxury. They have left few masonry memorials of their ruls; the Raja's palace is almost invariably referred to as a " planked house," and, according to Buchanan Hamilton, the king alone was allowed to erect an edifice of brick. Shoes might not be worn except by the special licence of the king, bedsteads and curtains were only to be found in houses of the rich, and all but the the most important visitors to a noble's house sat on the bare ground. The account given of the Raja's place at gargaon by the historian of Mir Jumla's invasion is pitched in a more exalted key. Twelve thousand workmen had been engaged on its construction for a year,and the audience hall was 120 cubits long by 30 wide. The ornaments and curiosities with which the whole woodwork of the house was filled defy all description : nowhere in the whole in habited world world you find a house equal to it in strength, ornamentation, and pictures."the absence of all references to to these wonders in the Ahom histories suggests. However, that the Muhammadans were anxious to magnify the power and majesty of the prince they had subdued.
The native chroniclers are naturally most concerned with the wars and religious which bulked so largly in the eyes of the historiands of the day, and with the rice and fall of successive families of ministers. It is only incidentally that light is thrown on the social condition of the people. The kings seem to have indulged in frequent tours about their territories, the itinerary usually followed being Rangpur Sonari nagar, Tengabari, Dergaon, Jaliarang ,Bornagar,Bishnath and Kaliabar. They were fond of fishing and shooting and fully appreciated the excitement to be obtained from the hunting of wild elephants. On the occasion of coronation and royal weddings, a week was generally devoted to the festivities, which seem, however, to have consisted for the most part of prolonged feasts, accompanied by much unmelodious music. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, acrobats and jugglers were imported from Bengal, who amused their royal patrons with tricks which are still shown to the tourist on the P. & O. Kamaleswar Singh visited in state the two principal sattras of Auniati and Dakhinpat,and was entertained with all his retinue by the gosains. The chronicler quaintly tells us that the lunch at Dakhinpat gave greater satisfaction than the one at Auniati ; but does not say whether this was due to the superior skill of the Dakhinpatia cook or to the greater beauty of the sattra precincts.
Attitude of Ahoms to wards Hinduism Aavage per secution of Vaishna Vism.
The first to influence the Ahom kings were Saktists, and Pratap Singh (1611-1649) persecuted the Vaishnavites, one of whose leaderts had converted his son to Hinduism. The disciples of the gosains were seized, human ordure was placed on their foreheads, and they were degraded to the sweeper caste. To be found in the possession of religious books meant death, not only to the actual owner, but to every member of his family. Even Pratap Singh's spiritual pastors were not spared,and he denounced the new religion which, in spite of the adherence of the Raja, had not been able to save from death his own beloved son. He then assembled 700 Brahmans, ostensibly to perform a festival, and, as a punishment for their incompetency, degraded them to the status of paiks. These persecutions were continued by Gadadhar Singh, who, in 1692, plundered the treasure houses of the Vaishnavitc gosains, and cast the idols into the water. No respect was shown even to the sacred head of the Auniati sattra, and he was driven from his home to Tejikhat. He fared, however, better than the gosain of Dakhinpat, who had his eyes put out and his nose cut off, while many Hindu priests were put to death. A policy of extermination seems in fact to have been inaugurated, and, according to one chronicler, orders were issued for the destruction of every Hindu child regardlessof sex and age. The King had large quantities of pork, beef, and fowls, cooked by men of the Dom caste,and compelled Kewats, Koches,Doms, and Haris to partake of this un holy food.
This policy of oppression was reversed during the reign of Rudra Singh, his, who was publicly admitted as a disciple of the Auniati gosain ; and from this time forward, the priests seems to have increased.
During the Moamaria insurrection the religious orders again fell upon evil times. The rebel king confined the persons of the four principal gosains and extort ed Rs. 8,000 each from Garamur and Kamalabari. Religion was degraded by the promulgation of an order that any person could be initiated on payment of a betel-nut, and the common people availed themselves in crowds of this indulgence. Subsequently, in the reign of Gaurinath Singh, the Moamarias attacked the Garamur Sattra , burned it to the ground, slew a large number of the disciples and nearly killed the gosai himself. His successor Kamaleswar Singh (1795-1809) found himself unable to pay the sepoys whose services were indispensable for the maintenance of some sort of order in the kingdom. Following the example of other monarchs, he called upon the church to supply the funds for the support of the temporal power. Contributions were levied on all the manhunts and the demands of the soldiers were satisfied.
Laxity of Ahom Hinduism.
But though converted to Hinduism, the Ahoms found the restrictions of their new religion irksome; and their gosains, with the tact which they display towards their converts of the present day, allowed their new disciples a considerable degree of latitude. Rudra Singh, though he had been publicly admitted to the church by the A uniati gosain feasted his followers on buffaloes and pigs on the occasion of his father's funeral; while not only buffaloes but even cows found a place in the menu of his coronation banquet. At the time of the first Moamaria insurrection, the rebel chief made overtures to Lakshmi Singh, and offered him, apparently in good faith, a pig for supper. A present such as this clearly shows that even towards the end of eighteenth century, the Hinduism of the Ahom Kings was one of the most liberal variants of that catholic creed. Before taking any decisive step, it was the practice to refer, not only to the Brahmans and Ganaks, but also to the old Ahom priests the Deodhais and Bailongs. These venerable men were required to consult the omens, by studying the way in which a dying fowl croseed its legs; a system of divination which is in vogue amongst many of the hill tribes of Assam to the persent day. The restrictions of caste were evidently somewhat lax, as we hear that the Moamaria mahunt had an intrigue with a Hari women while at the beginning of the ninetheenth century the viceroy of Guwahati took a fisher girl for his mistress; a breach of the convenances for which, it shold be added,he was deposed.
The position of women.
The influence of the Muhammadans in Assam Proper was so slight that the the low view they professed to take of the other sex had little or no effect upon the general population. The Ahoms , like their Burmese ancestors held their womenfolk in honour , and even at the present day, the purdah and all that it implies is almost unknown in the country inhabited by the Assamese.
The Ahom princesses seem to have taken a prominent part on ceremonial occasions, and not unfrequently exercised considerable influence on affairs of state. In the middle of the seventeenth century, two of the queens almost usurped the reins of government , and, according to the Ahom chronicler, "their words were law." When called to account by the successor of their husband,they proudly stated that they had been of great service to the to the king at time when he was ignorant of the way in which he should behave, whether when " eating, drinking , sitting, sleeping, or at council." Sib Singh (1714-1744) is said to have abdicated in favour of his queens, hoping thereby to defeat a prophecy which declared that he would be deposed,and coins have been found bearing the names of four of these princesses. The mother of Lakshmi Singh dug a tank, and Gauri nath entrusted to his stepmother the control of the Khangia mel, and consulted with his motherabout affairs of state. It was not however, only the princesses of royal blood who concerned themselves with public matters. At the time of the Moamaria insurrection, one Luki Rani was sent against the rebels; and the victory over turbuk in 1532 is partly ascribed to the courageous action of the widow of the Buragohain, who had been killed in a previous engagement by the Muham madans. Desperate at the loss of her husband, she put on armour and rode into the ranks of the enemy to avenge his death. No mercy was shown her and she fell, pierced with spears; but her example emboldened the Ahoms, who at once advanced to the attack and defeated the Musalmans with great slaughter.
Condition of province at time of cession to the British.
In estimating the effects of British rule it is necessary to from a clear idea of the state of the province at the time when it passed into our possession, and first it must be pointed out that the British did not conquer Assam in the sense which is usually assigned to that word. The native system of government had com pletely broken down, the valley was in the hands of cruel and barbarous foreigners, and it not as conquerors, but as protectors and avengers that the englishmane. They were certainly not inspired by any lust for land. For some time after the expulsion of the Burmese, the East India company were doubtful whether they would retain their latest acquisition , and an attempt was made to administer the upper portion of the valley through a descendant of the Ahom Kings.
The condition in which we found the country was lamentable in the extreme. For fully fifty years, the Province had been given over to desolation and anarchy. Life,property, honour were longer safe, and the people in their misery had even abandoned the cultivqation of the soil, on which they depended for their very livelihood. Bands of pirates used to raid up the valleys of the Dansiri and Kakadanga, and return with their boats laden with booty, leaving ruin, death, and desolation in their wake. The hill tribes were no longe kept in order, and the Daflas descended and harried the submontance tracts , and even extended their depredations to the south of the Brahmaputra. The treatment meted out to the unfourtunate villege can be judged from the protest made by the hillmen to Rajeswar Singh shortly the before the collapse of the Ahom government, when they begged him " not to pull out the bones from the mouth of dogs." Buchanan Hamilton writing in 1808 A.D states that north of the Brahmaputra "there is no from of justices. East power sends a force which takes as much as possible from the cultivator."
Native tostimony on this point.
The memories of this miserable time survived long after it had passed away. in 1853, an Assamese gentlemen , Srijut Ananda Ram Dhekial Phukan, wrote as follows to Mr. Moffatt Mills.
" Our countrymen hailed the day on which British supremacy was proclaimed in the province of Assam, and entertained sanguine expectation of peace and happiness from the rule of Britain. For severs antecedent to the annexation, the province groaned under the oppression and lawless tyranny of the Burmese, whose barbarous and inhuman policy depopulated the country, and destroyed more than one half of the population, which had already been thinned by intestine commotion and repeated civil wars. We cannot but acknowledge, with feelings of gratitude, that the expectations which the Assamese had formed of the happy and beneficial results of the Government of England, have, in a great measure, been fulfilled; and the people of Assam have now acquired a degree of confidence in the safety of their lives and property which they never had the happiness of feeling for ages past."
Whatever errors have been committed by the British Government, and it is too much to hope that mistakes of policy have been made during an administration of nearly eighty years, there can be no question that the introduction of a settled from of government has been of the greatest benefit to the people to whom it has extended.
The northern frontier Bhutan.
The history of the district under British rule has been very uneventful, and, before referring to such incidents as have occurred, it will be desirable to touch, briefly on our dealings with the various tribes inhabiting the hills that bound it on the north. The history of these tribes down to the year 1884 will be found in fuller detail in the North-East Frontier of Bengal by Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
On the north-west frontier of the district lie two duars, Khaling and Buriguma , to which claims were laid by the Bhutias at the time when we took over the administration of the Province . These claims dated from the time of the Ahom Rajas. Originally the boundary of this debatable land lay at some distance to the north of the Gohain Kamala Ali, but the Bhutias took advantage of the weakness of the Ahom government, and occupied territory even to the south of that great road. In 1810, they were driven back, and compelled to pay Rs.20,000 worth of goods as compensation. But during the troubles times that followed they advanced again, and , in 1835 , were in occupation of villages south of the Gohain Kamala Ali.
A curious system of dual control was inherited from the days of native rule, under which the Assam Government occupied the two duars from July to November,and received from the Bhutias as rent for this tract and for the five duars in North Kamrup a certain quantity of yaks' tails, ponies.musk, gold, etc., of an estimated value of Rs. 4,785 per annum. This arrangement, it need hardly be said, proved most unsatisfactory. The Bhutias oppressed our villagers, and the duars acted as an Alsatia for all the originals of the district, who could easily retire into the hills during the four months of our occupation . In 1841,the seven duars were definitely annexed, and Rs.10,000 per annum was offered to the Bhutias as compensation for the loss of such rights as they possessed. The conduct of the hillmen still continued to give ground for just complaint, and an expedition had at last to be dispatched into their territory. In 1865, on the conclusion of this war, the whole of the Assam and Bengle duars were annexed , but compensation, which now amounts to Rs.50,000 per annum, is paid to the hillmen, so long as they remain of good behaviour.
East of Bhutan, is the province of Towang which owes direct allegiance to the Government of Lhassa. The Kariapara duar, which lies at the foot of this section of the Himalayas, was annexed shortly after our occupation of Assam , and in 1844 the local officials, who are known as Gelengs, agreed to accept Rs.5,000 per annum as a perpetual quit rent. In 1852,one of these Gelengs asserted his indendance, and when troops were sent from Lhassa to arrest him, fled to British territory. The Tibetans demanded his surrender, which was refused, and four hundred men with two guns were sent up to the frontier to oppose the threatened raid. This in itself was enough to damp the ardour of the Hillman, and was agreed that the Geleng should be allowed to live in British territory south of the Brahmaputra. In 1861, he returned to the hills, but again embroiled himself with the the authorities, and for a second time fled to the plains for refuge. He was allowed to remain in the neighbourhood of the frontier, and,in 1864 was murdered by a party of his enemies. No very decided action was taken on this violation of British territory, as the local officials were of opinion that the stoppage of the yearly payments might only lead to further raids. Since that date no trouble has been experienced on this bsection of the frontier.
The Chardur and and the Bangia Bhutias
The Charduar Bhutias, who lie further to the east are a peaceful tribe who have given comparatively little trouble. In 1826, the compensation to be paid to them was fixed at Rs. 2,526, but thirteen years later it was reduced to Rs. 1,740 to punish them for the murder of a British subject. Their country lies between the Rota and the Gabharu rivers. Their neighbours on the east are the The Bengia Bhutias, a small and peaceful clan who recive Rs.146 per annum.
Between the Bhareli revier and the Bhutias live the Akas, a small but war like tribe, who more than once have caused embarrassment to the Government .They are divided into two sections, the hazarikho as, or the people supported by a thousand groups of raiyats, and the Kapaschors or "thieves who lurk in the cotton fields" and, in the time of the Assam Rajas, they regularly harried the inhabitants of the plains. For many years the chief of the Kapaschor tribe, Tagi Raja, violatedour bourdaries, and , in 1829,he was captured and lodged in the Gauhati jail. In 1832, he was released, but immediately resumed his attacks,and in 1835, massacred all the inhabitants of the police outpost and British village of Balipara. Six years later he surrendered, and an agreement was made by which both sections of the tribe received a yearly allowance, subsequently increased to Rs.668, in consideration of good conduct In 1883, Medhi, the Kapaschor chief, detained a mazuadar who had visited his village, while his brother carried off from Balipara a clerk and ranger in the employ of the Forest Department. A punitive expedition was dispatched which occupied their territory and recovered the captives,with the exception of the mazuadar who had already died. Since that they hav given little trouble, but in 1900, a party of armed Akas forcibly entered the shop of a trader at Balipara, to exact the amount which they alleged was due to them for rubber taken from their hills. A fine was imposed on the tribe, but in order to minimize the chances of friction, it was decided to discontinue the practice under which coolies had sent into the hills to tap rubber, and to leave the hillmen to bring down this product themselves.
The hills which stretch from the Bhareli river to the Sumdiri north of Lakhimpur are inhabited by the Daflas, a people, like their neighbours on the east and west, of Thibeto- Burman origin. In the days of Rudra Singh, they seem to have owned allegiance to the Ahom Government, and both they and the Miris are said to have served in the expedition sent against the Kachari and Jainitia kings . Rudra Singh's son and successor, Sib Singh, constructed the Daflagarh to check their raids, and a later prince, Rajeswar Singh (1751-1769), seems to have experience-ed the same difficulties in dealing with them and to have adopted much the same remedies as successive Lieutenant-Governors and Chief Commissioners. The Daflas carried off one Bihoal Dom and his family, where upon the king closed the deuars and established a blockade. A deputation of hillmen then waited upon, in the hope of coming to some agreement, but he foolishly broke faith and detained them as hostages at Kaliabar. The Daflas promptly retaliated by raiding again and carrying off more captives. An exchange of prisoners was ultimately arranged, and the experiment was then tried of giving each Dafla house a pura of rice and four cowries in order to encourage them to be of good behaviour. In the period of anarchy that followed the accession of Lakshmi Singh, the hillmen threw off all semblance of control, and even ventured to cross the Brahmaputra in search of booty. It was only natural that they should resist the efforts of the British officers to reduce them again to order, and it was not till 1852 that their claims to collect their dues from the submontane villages were commuted for a money payment of Rs. 2,543.*
* Lientenant Mathie (para.77) states that the right to levy blackmail was conceded to the Daflas to the understanding that they in return would serve in the army of the Ahom Raja called upon to do so. This being so their title to posa lepsed on our annexation of Assam, as we had no desire for auxili aries.
Early raids and expedition of 1874-75.
Like the other Himalayan tribes, their tempers are cast in a milder mould than those of the savages who occupy the Assam Range, and in their raids upon the plains they have generally contented themselves with taking prisoners, and have short at murder. In 1835, they carried off a few persons from Balipara, who shortly after ware recued by a small expeditionary force. Similar disturbances occurred in 1870 and 1872. In the latter year the village of Amtolla, near Gohpur,which was inhabited by Daflas who had settled in the was raided by the hillmen, and forty-four persons were carried off, and two, who resisted,murdered. The hillmen had been troubled an epidemic, which they alleged had been introduced from the plains, and called upon the plains Daflas to compensate them for the loss of life incurred. On their declining to accede to this proposal, the hillmen made good their demands by force.A blockade was at first instituted, but on this proving ineffectual , an expedition was dispatched into the hills in 1874- 75 and the captives were recovered.
Misconduct since 1896
For more then 20 years after this demonstration of our power the tribe continued to be of good behaviour ; but in 1896 they detained a party of coolies, who had absconded from the Dikraj tea estate wandered into the hills. The payment of posa was stopped, but the last of the coolies was not recovered till 1900. In 1899,they carried off four persons and three guns from an elephant camp near the frontier, not far from the Rangaghor garden in order to invite attention to their claims against a from of Kaiyas for the price of rubber tapped in their territory. The prisoners and most of the property were recovered, the Kaiyas were required to pay what was due, and Daflas were fined for their violation of our territory, while a liberal deduction was made from the sum paid by the Kaiyas on account of the value of such property as was missing. Four years later the hillmen again carried off four men and seven guns from an elephant stockade in the same locality,as they were discontented with the distribution of a sum of money paid for the right of catching elephants in their territory. The captives were returned and the guns restored, but the other property was not forth coming. The value of these articles was , accordingly , deducted from the Dafla posa aqnd paid over to the owner.
History of the district under British Administration.
Darrang was separated from Lower Assam and erected into a separate District in 1833, and its history since that date has been uneventful. The headquarters were first established at Mangaldai, but in 1835, were removed to Tezpur, which is situated in the centre of the district and is nearer to the Dafla tribes , who at that time were a source of some anxiety to the Government . For many years the station was considered most unhealthy, and in the eleven years between 1842 and 1853 no less than five European officers died of diseases contracted while they were resident at Tezpur . This unhealthiness is unfortunately not confined to the headquarters town, but seems to be a characteristic of the district as a whole. The development of Darrang has been hampered by the stagnation of the population. In 1853, Mr. Mills stated that the people had been supposed to be decreasing in numbers during the four preceding years; and in the their years between 1842 and 1872 the total censused increase was only 27 per cent. A large part of which was, doubtless, due to the superior accuracy of the later enumeration .In the twenty years ending with 1901 the indigenous population decreased considerably in numbers, and had it not been for the existence of a flourishing tea industry, the district would still have been in a very undeveloped state. The administration of Darrang does not seem to have been hampered by the want of officers. In 1841, a junior assistant, a sub –assistant, a sub-assistant, a sadr amin and two munsifs were stationed in the district, * and a similar number of officers were employed on judical work in 1853. in those days there was little of hurry or bustle in Assam, and the administration of of justices, if sure, was distinctly slow. Matters seem to have been particularly bad in the court of the joint magistrate, but that officer, when called on for an explanation, protested with some show of indingnation that the detention of witnesses seldom exceeded eight days. As a matter of fact, it appears from the returns that, in 1852, less than 36 nfortunate persons were detained from 16 to 22 days before they could get their evidence recorded !
The Patharughat riots in 1894.
Only once during the past fifty years years has the internal peace of the district been seriously disturbed. The population of the patharughat tahsil is largely composed of Muhammadans, who have more than once shown themselves impatient of control . when the revenue was raised in 1868, the villagers assembled in an unruly mob,and besieged the Deputy Commissionar, the Subdivisional Officer and the District Superintendent of Police in the rest- house; but no extreme measures were resorted to on either side. In January 1894,after the reassessment of the Assam Valley, the villagers in this potion of the district delined to pay their revenue, and collected in tumultuous crowds with the evident intention of overawing the authorities. The Deputy Commissioner accordingly proceeded to Policemen and nineteen members of the armed civil police, in order to lend the weight of hisauthority to the local revenue officials, who were quite unable to collect the land tax. The people assembled in a dense crowd in the compound of the inspection bungalow, and as they obstinately declined to move they had to be ejected by the police. About half an hour afterwards the mob returned armed with sticks and clods, and the police again advanced and drove them down a road on to an open plain. Here the mob rallied and began to pelt the police with clods and sticks, and gradually to hem them in. The police were compelled to open fire, but enen then the rioters did not give way, and the police retired slowly firing all the time, with the crowd continually pressing in upon them. A final volley was then discharged and the police charged the rioters who at last began to yield, though they reformed a little distance off,and the Deputy Commissioner was compelled to retire to the inspection bungalow. Altogether fifteen men were killed and thirty- seven wounded in this unfortunate affair.
Archaeological remains. The temples on the Bamunt hill.
The most interesting archaeological remains in Darrang the ruins of the fine stone temples on the Bamunihill a little to the east of Tezpur, and the carved pillars, entablatures, and friezes which are still to be seen lying near the cutchery, and are probably the remains of the glories of Durjaya. The Bamuni temples are thus described by Captain Westmacott : " The first temple I examined appeared to have faced the north, and to have been provided with a portico supported on there columns of sixteen sides ; each shaft, not including the plinth a peadestal which stands four feet above the ground – measured eight feet high, and five and a half in girth, and was wrought from a single block of block of fine granite. The shafts have sculptured capitals, while the surbases take the from of and octagon, and the plinths are circular at top, and spread into four feet, making a sort of that measured four and three – quarter feet each way.these gigantic stones, with the fragments of a fourth, each hewn from a single block fourteen feet long, and into five irregular sides, of which the total showed a circumference of eight feet, seemed to have formed the entablature of the entrance porch which I judged to have been fifty-six long. The frieze has three tiers of carving in basso rellevo, represnting scrolls of flowers. The apertures, in which iron rivets were introduced, can still be distinctly traced, and it is evident that no cement was employed to unite the materials. The other ruins were too much shattered and dispersed to enable me to conjecture the from of the temple. From a great portin of the surrounding works being in an unfinished state, it affords the presumption that the architect must have met with some unlooked for interruption ; and that this and the other buildings, were overthrown awt the same period by some hostile power opposed to the propagation of Hinduism, assisted perhaps, subsequently , by a convulsion of nature had time been the sole agent in overthrowing these structures, it is but fair to suppose, from the great solidity of the materials, that the ruin would have been less complete , and that the fragments would have lain in a narrower compass. The destruction of the temples at this place ascribed by some to Kala Pahar, the general of Sulaiman, King of Bengal, at whose door the Assamese lay all the sacrilege and mischief that has been consummated in the Province.
From their massive proportions, and the carving and ornaments being so much worn by time and exposure, the fanes are evidently the work of a remote era; I sought in vain for an inscription, adneither the priests of the district, nor the ancient families whom I consulted, could assist my researches, or point, with any approximation to accuracy, to the date of their origin.
Unconnected with the first temple, and retired some years deeper in the wood, or rather grove of trees which was in likelihood planted by the priests who ministered at the temples, I found the ruins of six or seven other enormous structures of granite, broken into thousands of fragments, and dispersed over the gound in the same exreordinary manner as already described. Altars of gigantic proportion were among the most remarkable ojects ; one of these , measuring upwards of sixfeet each way and eighteen inches thick, was elevanted from seven to eight above the level of the plain , and approach on each side by layers of stone disposed in the from of steps. It was hewn from a single block of granite ; underneath was a sort of cavern; the top had holes for iron links, and a receptacle to receive flowers and water to dedew the Nandi , or sacred bull of Sive, who was placed, my informants imagined, on the reservoir. Six or eight other altars, one of them making a square of forty –six feet and eighteen inches thick, are to be seen other parts of the ruins ; and several square blocks, each measuring from twenty to theirty feet, concave in the centre, and sculptured in imitation of flowers,must have formed the bedi or alfar-piece of Siva, as there is a seat for the linga, or symbol of the deity , in the middle of each.
The ruins are partly encompassed by walls, which in so many directions that it is scarcely possible to guess at the purpose of the architect. The walls have their foundations laid very deep in the earth. They are in an unfinished state, and were evidently constructed at a period long subsequent to the temples ; they are built of massive blocks of cut stone, sometimes disposed in a double row, and exhibit a good deal of carving. The stones are of various shapes, and rise there or four feet from the ground , and were all intended to be united by bands of iron. The entrance of the principal enclosures appers to have been from the south, where lie some pedestals and three or four wedge- shaped stones, intended, I presume to have formed the voussoirsof an arch; the middle of the key –stone is decorated with a hand some diadem or plumed tiara.
A little to the north of the wood, buried in a forest of reeds, I discovered a very interesting fragment:this was a solid mass of granite, of a much finer grain then the kind used in the temples measuring ten and a half feet in length, two and three quarters in breadth, and two in depth. On this were sculptured, in very high-relief, eighteen figures of gods, partially mutilated, but generally in a good state of preservation.
Near the images are nine square pedestals of lagre dimensions with three carved feet, which mush have been intended to give support to as many columns ; of these several have almost disappeared in the earth, and it is probable that others are lost altogether. It shows, at all events, that the desing of the temple must have been projected on a larger scale. The pedestals do not appear to have been moved from the spot where they were originally carved ; and they are so little impaired by time and exposure to the elements that I feel assured they are of modern date compared with the buildings and on the abjacent plain. They were, indeed, as fresh to took at as if but recently executed by the mason's chisel. Vast fragments of the epistylium and frieze, carved with beaded drapery, also lie half hurried in the soil.
In the south-west angle of the pura plains, there is another curious remnant of sculpture,also wrought from a single mass of granite, upward of ten feet long and two and a half thick at the middle. It appears to have formed the side of a gate, and has a band of carving there inches broad on each side, showing in relief, elephants, tigers, deer, rams, cattle,and swans, encircled by scrolls of flowers.
No quarries were discoverer to indivcate that the stones were disemboweled from the hills; but quantities of chips were seen in places; and once I came upon pillars altars in an unfinished state, shaped from blocks of granite, on the surface of the earth. There seems no question that all the material employed on the fabrics was similarly procured from the masses of rock that cover the hills in great abundance. Once or twice only I fell in with well- burnt bricks ; they were smooth and thin, of rather a large size, but not badly shaped. Great part of these extensive ruins are buried or have sunk into the earth, and they cover altogether about four or five acres of land.
I have been thus particular in noticing them, because there are not, so far as I khow, any architectural remains in Assam that can challenge a comparison with them for durability of material and magnitude of desing; and it is certaion , from the prodigious number of ruinous and deserted temples, all of which appear to be dedicated to siva, lying within the circuit of few miles of pura (I discovered twelve or fifteen in as many days on the hills and high lands at their feet), that this spot must have been the capital of a sovereign prince, or a principal seat of the Hindu religion enjoying a large share of prosperity at some remote period."
The Kalabari temple.
One of the Largest temples in Darrang is the one sacred to Basudeb, which is situated near the Kharoi bil in the Kalabari mauza. It was built in 1758 A.D and consists of a dome 26 feet in diameter at base and 62 feet high, and a nave 28 feet long and 15 feet broad. The walls are about four feet thick and are made of thin flat bricks with a good glaze, but the whole structure has been allowed to fall into disrepair, and the idol has been removed to a shed close by. The temple is the property of the Dakhinpat gosain, and steps are now being taken to ensure that the necessary repairs are executed.
The Singri temple.
There is similar temple on the southern slopes of the Singri hill in which is connected by a subterranean conduit with the Brahmaputra, so that the water in the well rises and falls with the water in the river. An image of Siva is supposed to be reposing at the bottom of the well, and the offerings of worshippers are accordingly thrown into the water. The date of the construction of the temple is not Known. According to one account . it was founded by Singri Rishi in the heroic age Another legend has it that it was erected to the memory of one Vishnu Puri Swami, and that the Bhutias pay tribute to the temple at the present day as a punishment for having stolen a stone that had been placed upon his grave.This of course is legend and nothing ,ore, but it is an actual fact that this temple, like the one at Hajo in Kamrup, is visited by considerable numbers of Bhutias in the cold weather.
Temples at Bishnath
Bishnath was a great religious centre after the converision of the Ahom to Hinduism, and at one time there were several temples there, which at the present day have fallen into ruins. The Bishnath was built by Gadadhar Singh in 1685 A.D and a copper plate is still extant which records the grant of four Brahman and forty Sudra paiks , eight daneing girls, and twenty puras of land with various ornaments to the idol. In 1815, a further grant of twenty –four puras of land was made by Chandra Kanta Singh ; but the temple was long ago swept away by the Brahmaputra, and even the lingum ,which is carved on a big rock, is only visible in the dry season. About 1730 A.D., Sib constructed at Bishnath the Sivanath moth, a temple about 40 feet high which has now fallen into disrepair ; but this is not so fine a specimen of Ahom architecture as the Bordol temple whicyh was erected by Gaurinath Singh about 1790 A.D there are two small temples standing on rocks in the river, and four other places sacred to Basudeb, Kamaleswar ; Muktinath, and Surjya Madhab ; but worship is here conducted in a thatched hut, and from an archaeological point of view they possess but little interest. Local tradition avers that Sati's fell near Bishnath when her hewn in pieces by Vishnu, and though this tradition is not supported by the Yogini Tantra, which is the great authority on the subject .it possibly accounts for the unusual degree of reverence with which Bishnath was regarded by the Ahom Kings.
There are two small temples in the Borbhegia mauza, one the Nandikeswar, about three miles cast of the Bhareli, and the other the Nagsankar, about six miles distant from that river. They are said to have been built by the kings of Pratappur, but very is known about their origin. The Mahabhairab temple is a small brick building of recent date, about one mile due north of the Tezpur cutchery. It contains a large lingum wahich was apparently originally enshrined in a stone temple dating from the time of the Pala kings. The Haleswar temple is said to have been built under the orders of Rudra Singh, at the spot where a lingum was discovery by a man when ploughing (hal) and owes its name to that circumstance. A complete list of the district is appended to the following chapter.
Reference has been already made to the remains of the earthworks at Pratapgarh. The embankment, which is still about 20 feet in width, runs for more than two miles north of the trunk road, and then meets the Majuligarh which is continued right up to the foot of the hills.
The fortress at Bhalukpang is situated on the top of a hill, 300feet high, near the point where the Bhareli issues from . the Aka Hills. There sides of the hill are surrounded by a brick wall, and on the fourth, the fortifications are carried across to an adjoining hillock which slopes gradually to the plain. Hewn stones and the remains of plinths are to be within the ramparts,and a steep pathway paved with stone runs up the eastern face of the hill.
The Burai walls.
On either side of the Burai river, just beyond the innerline, there are two masonary walls, one of which is about 300 yards and 10feet higt. These walls, with a sacred cave in the vicinity, were described by Colonel Daltion in the Calcutta Review and recently bu Mr. W.N. Edwards*. From their position it appears that they were erected to protect occupants from invasion from the south.
The only other memorials of a byegone age are the tanks which to be found in every portion of the district. Many of them in places which are now completely destitute of inhabitants. They thus suggest, what on a priori grounds seems only probable, that some centuries ago the population of Darrang was greater than it is at the present day