This book is a critical study of the epigraphic records of medieval Assam ranging from 1205 to 1826 A.D. This volume contains a number of 303 inscriptions of the concerned period, scattering in the different parts of Assam. These records, engraved on various materials such as copper, stone, mud-stone rock, clay, gold, silver etc. are votive, donative, eulogistic and commemorative in nature.
Assam, in the medieval period, was not a single administrative unit. It was divided into many parts, such as the Ahom kingdom, the Chutiya kingdom, the Kachari kingdom, the Kalita kingdom, the Koch kingdom etc. All those royal houses big or small also left their marks of existence. Thus, we have a large number of epigraphic records issued by different royal authorities of the contempor-ary time. In this book, we have taken into an account of almost all the available epigraphic records, Collected from different sources.
This book involves the study of the epigraphic records of medieval Assam in all aspects, concerning its history and culture. From that period, we have a large number of inscriptions, published and enshrined in a comprehensive volume, Pracya- sasanavali, compiled and edited by Dr. Maheswar Neog. Even then there are quite a few are not included in that majestic volume. A detailed survey of these inscriptions is made here. Written mostly in Assamese and Sanskrit language, these records provide information of immense value bearing on matters relating to political, socio-economic, religious conditions, art and culture, language and literature, weight and measures etc.
Here, in this book, an attempt has been made to present a critical study on the socio- economic, religious as well as cultural history of medieval Assam after examining the available epigraphic records of the period under review.
Dr. Gitanjali Thakuria was born in the Kabikara village of Darrang District in Assam. She completed her early education at Mangaldai and got M. A. degree in Sanskrit from Gauhati University. She was awarded the Degree of Doctorate of Philosophy by Gauhati University for her thesis "Studies in the Inscriptions of Medieval Assam [From 1205-06 to 1826 A.D]"under the supervision of late Professor Dr. Lakshahira Gogoi Chutia of Gauhati University
Dr. Thakuria has participated so many national seminars and conferences & presented her papers. At present she is working as assistant teacher in Dakshin Guwahati High School, Guwahati, since 2013 till date.
Inscriptions are the most reliable source of information for the reconstruction of the past history of any Country or Nation. The term inscription generally implies any ancient/old literary record, engraved or incised on some permanent or semi-permanent materials like stone, metals, wood, mud-stone, clay (such as earthen pots and bricks), ivory, bronze, plaques, sankha etc. These inscriptions exhibit the progress and level of human culture in any given time and clime. Based on these epigraphic records one can fully draw out the socio-economic, political, religious as well as cultural history of any particular society during the particular period.
From the medieval period, we have a large number of epigraphic records, scattering all over Assam. Some of them are found in situ i. e. in its original position, some of them are attached to temples, while many others, such as copperplate grants are found in the possession of private hands. In the Department of Historical & Antiquarian Studies, the Assam State Museum and the Kamarupa Anusandhan Samiti, which I have visited severally, found quite a good numbers of inscriptions, firmly preserved there. A good number of inscriptions (about 158 in all) are published and enshrined in a comprehensive volume, Prachya-sasanavali, compiled and edited by Dr. Maheswar Neog. Apart from these, many inscriptions are published in various Journals, Magazines, local Periodicals, Reports, Bulletins etc. Even then, there are quite a few yet to be noticed. I have also visited for field study several sites, such as, Bhomoraguri hill in Sonitpur district, Kanai-barasi-bowa Rock, Dirghesvari Temple, Asvakranta Temple etc. in North Guwahati, Kamakhya Temple on Nilachala hill, Hayagriva-Madhava Temple at Hajo, Parihareśvara Devālaya at Dubi, Vilveśvara Temple at Balsor etc. and had conversed with the priest and other related persons. I have also visited the Archeological Survey of India, N.E. Circle, Mahafez-khana (D. C. Court Campus, Guwahati), Assam State Archives and carefully examine the prescribed copies of the inscriptions, preserved therein. The readings of these records offer valuable information in the study of the political, social, economic, religious and cultural aspects of this region.
I have also visited the Indian National Museum, the National Library and the Asiatic Society of Bengal Library, Kolkata and also the ICHR Library and the Library of National Archives, New Delhi and consulted the books and journals, preserved in the respective Libraries.
The present work involves the study of the epigraphic records of medieval Assam, ranging from 1205-06 to 1826 A.D. While examining these records, I have sifted the available materials concerning all aspects of the life of the people of medieval Assam, concerning her history and culture. From the historical point of view, medieval period has great significance. With the fall of the powerful Brahmapala dynasty around the middle of the 12th cen. A. D., the mighty kingdom of Pragjyotisa-Kamarupa fell disintegrated and there emerged new political entities, under the leadership of powerful ethnic groups, such as, the kingdom of Kamata and that of the Koches in the north-west, the Bhuyan kingdom in the middle part of the Brahmaputra-valley, the Chutiya and the Kacharis have their kingdoms in the north-north-eastern and southern region, respectively ; so also the Jayantiya kingdom emerged in the southern hilly region, popularly known as KhasiJayantiya hills (modern Meghalaya State). The Ahom, who entered Assam from the east, had had their domination around modern Sivasagar area ; but extended their dominion by subduing the local powers in all directions somuch so that finally they emerged as the most dominant power in the eastern part of India.
It may also be recalled that, taking the opportunity of this political upheaval, the Turko-Afgan forces (i. e. the Sultanate of Delhi, who extended their dominion upto Bengal), began to knock at the western border of Assam since the beginning of the 13th cen. A.D. (1205-06 A. D.), before the Ahoms set their feet in this land in 1228 A.D. But, the Turko-Afgans and the Mughals could not have a permanent footing in Assam.
These royal houses left for eternity a large number of epigraphic records, which are scattering all over Assam. Written in both Assamese and Sanskrit languages, specially in Assamese script, these records provide information of immense value bearing on matters relating to socio-economic and religious conditions, art, culture, language and literature, weight and measures etc. The proposed study seeks to delineate all these aspects. For a systematic study of the subject, the whole work is divided into six chapters, such as Introduction, Survey of the Inscriptions and their Technicalities, Study on SocioEconomic Conditions, Religious Condition, Cultural Condition and Conclusion. Each chapter is again divided into some sub-sections.
In the First Chapter, we are making endeavours to present a hurried survey of the Geo-historical background of the land Assam, in the medieval period. The study shows that at the time, Assam was not a single administrative entity, rather a conglomeration of a numbers of independent political entities growing out of the debris of the erstwhile mighty Pragjyotisa-Kamarupa kingdom. This chapter deals with these ruling authorities i. e. the Koches, the Kacharis, the Bhuyas, the Jayantiyas etc. Here, an attempt is made to present a brief account of their rule. In the Second Chapter, a detailed survey of the epigraphic records available from different sources and their critical analysis as well as their technical aspects is made. In the Third Chapter attempts have been made to hold a discussion on the socio-economic aspects. Here in this chapter, we have made endeavours to discuss about the social divisions, the paik system, the khel system, the mel system, law and justice, slavery, the position of women, standard of living as well as the importance of the villages in the growth of economy, agricultural products, forest products, divisions of land, survey of the land and revenue system, market and prices of the commodities, craft and industries, medium of exchange etc. Likewise, the Fourth Chapter deals with religious condition of that period, where the three major cults of Vedic Brahmanical Religion i.e. Saivism, Saktism and Vaisnavism are discussed in detail. The Fifth Chapter is devoted to the study of the Cultural Condition, dealing with the state of language and literature, the development of script, fine art and architecture and sculpture, weight and measurement etc. The work is concluded in the Sixth Chapter. Apart from the Chapters, the present volume contains a Selected Bibliography and a few photographs of some inscriptions. Besides, one sketch map of medieval Assam is also attached.
Epigraphic records are the valuable source for the reconstruction of the history of any region or country more particularly of the ancient period. For these records throw enough light to peep into the glorious past of a country, a nation or particular people, their geographical setting, social behaviour, political fabric, economic endeavour, literary and cultural inclination, the language they spoke etc.
The ancient India down to early medieval period in the time frame of Indian history has left for us a vast wealth of Inscriptional literature that throws a considerable light on the socio-cultural history of the period. The ancient Assam which was known as Kamarupa or Pragjyotishpur had produced a lot of excellent inscriptional writings that furnish us with manifold information relating to this era. These are most authentic sources of information for the reconstruction of dynamic history of the region, the medieval Assam in particular.
Viewed from this angle, Studies in the Inscriptions of Medieval Assam [From 1205-06 to 1826 A. D.], the doctoral work of Dr. Gitanjali Thakuria is an invaluable work for the study and reconstruction of the history of medieval Assam. I have been highly impressed by the work which bespeaks the author's great industry and deep scholarship. The present work is an anthology of various epigraphs of which some are on metals like copper, silver, gold etc, a few of them relate stone or rock inscriptions, some are on seals, and coins, some inscriptions are on brunt clay or brick, while others are on conch shell and on the body of the canon ranging from 1205-06 to 1826 A. D.
Dr. Thakuria not only collected and re-edited the texts of the records by close comparison of the original texts but also has presented a summary of each record. The work is divided into six chapters and in each of them the author has presented critical evaluation of the aspects she delved. The study of inscription is a tedious task. It requires a correct reading and deciphering of the text, careful and extensive editing, accurate translation besides profound knowledge of paleography and Dr. Thakuria exhibited commendable keenness in dealing with an the spheres. The work is an original contribution to the field of research. Her treatment is thorough and her style writing along with substantial contend will definitely benefit many future generations of the students and scholars of history and epigraphy of medievel Assam.
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