Glimpse of Cultural Affinity
In the mythological period Assam was known as Pragjyotispur and the land is mentioned or reffered to by this in the Mahabharata ans some of the earlier Puranas, and in the later Puranas and Tantras, The land of Assam is mentioned, by the name of Kamarupa. The Kalika a purana, a work of the ninth century A.D. says that whn Naraka, the adopted son of Janaka came and conquered Pragjyotispur, the land came to be known as Kamarupa. However, both the names were currents upto 12th Century A.D. Naraka is an Asura and he belonged to the alpine race . He gave a new dimension to the existing practice or worshipping the female genital part on the traditional burying ground, and prevented the legendry vasistha from practising vamahcrata cleft methods of worship. Naraka became the king of the land after he defeated and killed the ruling Kirata prince Ghataka. This piece of mythology clearly says that the original inhibitants of the land were the Kiratas, and indicates migration of the people of Alpine race. The subsequent event of Narakasura's vast friendship with Banasura indicates that both belonged to the same ethnic group.
The Cultural impact of the Kirata people on the new comer. Alpine people, and for that matter, Aryan people seems to be immense thought proper analysis has not yet been made.
The modern scholars, who are trying to get at the root of cultural behaviours of the people may be divided mainly into three categories according to their approaches. those who are in the first category mainly depend on the language and its word formations with derivatives meanings. Inumerable uses of phrases and the sense they convey etc. The second category depends on folklore and folktales with common motives, whihch appear in different countries and the differences indicate the habit and belief of the people of the country.
The third category is anthropologists and they try to ascertain the origin of man on stdying hair , forehead, skull etc. along with their death and birth rites etc. The distinguishing feature of a particular race or a group of people may be traced, among others, the speech, food habit, ceremony and religious festivals.
Influence of a culture on another culture is due to the mass migration of people from one place to other places. The history of India tells us that people belonging to different races entered India by the west gate at different times and left the stamp of their culture. Assm being situated in the eastern most corner of INdia only a small number of persons could reach here except the aryan people. On the other hand, the people belonging to mongoloid race and the people speaking Mon-Khemer sppech enterd Assam from Tibet, China, Myanmar and other places and the influence of their culture is visible. It is seen that traders from Manchuria in China with commercial items passed through Assam to the western market. Pieces of Bamboo sold in the markets of Kandahar, and the modern uzbekistan were from china and passed through Assam.
On Account of living the peole of differnt ethnic groups side by side the apparent sanskrit names such as pragjyotispur, Kamarupa, Kamakhya etc. are likely to have their origin in the languages of Austro-Asiatic group or the Indo-Burma group of people.
The name of the rivers, such as Dhansirimay be traced in the language of Austric tribe while the names like Dihing, Dihang, Dikhou, etc are from Kirata or Bodo people's speech. The Kirata people now be identifies with Bodo and some other people have contributed many items to the civilization of Assam. The elephant was caught and domesticated long back and used in war and domestic purpose. The Kirata King Ghataka fought Naraka by riding his huge elephant. There are sholars who say that elephant was caught and used first by the Nishada people. Could Nishada of the Puranas be identified with the Kirata ? It is definitely a non Aryan Culture. The Aryan culture has more prominently in the use of horse and the fire. Taking fire in his mouth Videha Madhava crossed the river Karatoya and entered Pragjyoyispur. The kirata people were the worshippers of Siva and they were meat eaters and drinkers and they looked like pillars of gold with their shaven heads. they used elephants in war. It is to be noted that the code words used for elephant driving are same all over India, and East Asian Countries. Incidently it may be mentioned that Bhagadatta, the son of Naraka and the king of Pragjyotispur joined the Kurushetra war with an elephant army and he himself fought the war riding a big elephant. the skill with which he fought with elephant against the Pandava army has been highly praised and he is described as the first in the world those who fight with elephant.
The use of stones as purifying or protecting element is seen when the person from burying ground return home. they are first to put their foot on a peice of stone. If they return in the night they are to remain outside the house till the morning . In the night the apadevatas become stronger and name of them should not be uttered. This belief finds mentioned in the Ramayana , and hence it is clear if this belief has entered into the culture of Aryan people, it entered even before the composition of the Ramayana.
The habit of fish eating by the people of this region and of Bengal are from Mongoloid stock. Similarly eating bamboo shoots, cane shoots, rotten pumpkin are from Tibet0-burman stock. Fish finds it place in the sraddha ceremony and offered to ancestores. The process of assimlation was quickened by the tantras, where fish is one of the makaraas. It is interesting to note that the performance of the religious rite for the death of an elderly person in family the feast offered to the relations and other s is called matsya sparsa, meaning touching the fish i.e. eating fish.
Every racial community has its original dress and material for dress. Karpasa, dress made of cottong is an old one, along with this the folowings are the cloths used in medieval afe; the cloth made of hairs of animals, cloth from the bark of tress, and the cloth made by the yarn from cocoons. the last one is known as resham, which itseld is divided into four categories , anmely mulberry, silk, endi, muga, and tasor. The rearing of worm for yarns is coming from China. The story of Mark Polo , how he menaged to bring the eggs of worms to italy in his stick is known to all. Endi and Muga worm rearing is common to the tribal people which was latter on adopted by other people.
The dress of Assamese ladies includes riha which is not known by other parts of the country is from Khasi ladies.
Siju, a thorny plant is regarded by Bodo peole as the physical symbol of the god shiva is also planted by other Assamese peole. The round shape house us from buddhist stupas, whcih is practiced by Khamtis and some other tribal people and adopted during period of Vaishnava movement for namghar construction.
The Bodo people believe that if a maid cleans the route of the house up to main road she will have long hair. This belief has migrated to the people belonging to other ethnic groups. Adoptation of folktales from one tribe by other tribes is many
One good example is the story of Tejumala, which could be found amongst the tribes of karbis, Kacharis etc.
During the vaishnava movement in Assam, particularly the followers of gopaldeva and Anirudhadeva made certain tribal people belonging to different tribes to embrance vaisnavism and the cult has adopted certain customs from their use. Using the red cap and mona ( bag) and the designation of the leader of the group of devotees as satola may be from tribes. These are only few instances of the vast range of composite culture.