Peoples and religions
The first people to settle in Assam were probably members of the Tibetan Bodo people, who reached the banks of the Brahmaputra via the Himalayas. Later, various tribal peoples from South China and Southeast Asia such as the Naga, Mizo, Kachari, Khasi and some others settled in the mountainous regions south and east of the river. It was only relatively recently that Hindus, who today make up the dominant Assamese people, also migrated. According to tradition and archaeological evidence, many of today’s Hindu pilgrimage sites were built at early Buddhist power centers of the indigenous peoples. An example of this is the Kamakhya Hindu temple in Guwahati, below which is a much older Buddhist temple. Since the time of the British colonial power, the rights of self-sufficient tribal peoples have been protected, and even today Assam is a multi-ethnic state with around 16 indigenous tribes. The predominantly illegal immigration of refugees from Bangladesh is a growing problem and, in addition to the increase in the already strong population growth, is repeatedly causing xenophobic attacks.
The religious affiliation of the population of Assam is very closely aligned with the tribal affiliation. In Assam, for example, around 50% are Hindu, with an emphasis on Durga, Shiva and Ganesh (Vainshaba). On the river island of Majuli is the seat of the Vaishnava school, founded in the 15th century by the great reformer and saint Shankardeva. The temples are still active today and also give travelers a deep insight into the culture of Hinduism. Other religious groups in Assam are the Muslims with around 30% of the faithful, who are mainly found among the immigrants from Bangladesh and Bengal, Sikhs, Christians and – especially in the tribal peoples – animists with their ancestor worship form the group of minority religions. In a few tribes, Buddhism is still the dominant religion, for example in the Tai-Phake villages of Assam, whose inhabitants belong to Hinayana Buddhism and whose history leads to Thailand. The Tai-Phake speak a dialect that is closely related to Thai. The people follow traditional Thai traditions and dress accordingly. One of the oldest active Buddhist temples in Assam is also located here, the Namphake Monastery, which dates back to 1850.
Flora and Fauna
National parks & nature reserves
The Kaziranga and Manas National Parks are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They are home to the rare Indian rhinoceros and the Bengal tiger, among others. Namdhapa National Park is the only place where all four of India’s wild cat species live.
Kaziranga National Park
The national park offers a diverse mosaic of rainforest, grasslands and wetlands within its 430 km² core area. The national park is famous for the Indian rhinoceros, which lives here
Manas National Park
The national park, which covers over 500 km², has its own tiger reserve and is part of a total protected area of over 5000 km². Manas is a paradise for ornithologists and fishing is also possible.
Nameri National Park
Perhaps the most beautiful national park in Assam. It is famous for its large elephant population, among other things. A boat trip on the Jia Bhoroli River is also worthwhile.
Orang National Park
You can marvel at one-horned rhinos, elephants, leopards, deer, tigers and many water birds. The park is also famous for its migratory birds from all over the world.
In addition to the Indian rhinoceroses, leopards, Indian civets and many bird species also live here
About 80% of Assam’s inhabitants work in agriculture and produce, among other things, the world-famous, strong, tangy tea, which makes up the majority of the state’s export volume. Rice, sugar cane, jute, oilseeds and fruit are also grown and Assamese silk – especially the special type of silk known as “muga”, or “golden silk” – is in demand worldwide. Bamboo and rattan products in the form of furniture and decorations are also of economic importance. The second major pillar of the Assamese economy, however, is the extraction of crude oil and natural gas as well as the corresponding processing industries such as oil refineries. Coal, limestone and granite are also mined and there is cement production. The population of Assam lives predominantly in rather poor conditions in the countryside, but the literacy rate is still around 75% and therefore slightly above the average for India as a whole.
Bhutan’s main export goods include electricity, which is generated in hydroelectric power plants in the west of the country, while cement, wood products, alcoholic beverages and fruit also contribute to foreign trade income. Another economic sector is tourism, which has experienced slight growth rates in recent years and whose expansion is also based on the principle of sustainability.