Assam is the hub of diverse cultures. People here belong to an intermixture of various races like Aryan, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Burmese, and Mongoloid. All the races evolved for a long time and thus gave the Assamese culture a very rich and exotic character. The Natives of Assam are referred as ”Asomiya” (Assamese) which is also the language of the state. There are several tribes here and each has its unique tradition, culture, dress, food, and way of living.
The several tribes co-exist in Assam and gold on to their unique languages and culture. The several tribes in Assam are Bodo, Kachari, Karbi, Miri, Mishmi, Rabha and more. A majority of the Assamese are “Vaishnavas” (A clan of Hindus). The Vaishnavas do not believe in idol worship rather they do “Naam Kirtan” where they sing about the glory of lord Vishnu.
The two very important cultural and religious institutions that influence the culture of Assam are ‘the Satras’ – the site of religious and cultural practice that are in existence for over 400 years and the ‘Naamghar’ – the house of prayers. The villages associate on the basis of membership of a local Centre of devotional worship called “Naamghar” and the villages are clusters of families belonging to the same caste.
The caste system is not much prevalent in Assam. Buddhism, christianity, Islam is also followed in Assam. The state festival of Assam is Bihu which is celebrated in three parts during a year. People from all walks of life celebrate the festival as they feel immense pride, identity, and cultural belief with the festival. The traditional attire of women here is Mekhela Chador and Asomiya ‘gamucha”, Jappi’, Tamulpann, and Xorai are of great importance.
Gamucha is the piece of cloth that is used in various ceremonies and also for felicitation purposes. It is a white piece of clothing with red on three sides and red woven motifs on the fourth side. It is used as a towel, waistcloth, or tied on head during the Bihu dance. It is also known as Bihuwans as it is offered during the Bihu festival.
Tamul Paan or the areca nut and betel leaves or Gaupan are offered as it symbolises devotion, respect, and friendship.
It is the traditional conical hat from Assam made from tightly woven bamboo and a type of large palm leaf. It is used as a decoration item in front of the house. The farmers use it to protect themselves from heat and sun during the work. Ornate Jappi symbolizes status and is worn by Assamese royalty.
Xorai is the traditional symbol of Assam and is an article of great respect here. It is used to welcome and thank the guests. It used to offer prasad and food to the Good in Naamghar.
Assam is the product manufacturer of several silks. Muga being the natural golden silk exclusive to Assam the other options are Paat a creamy-bright silver coloured silk and Eri a variety used for manufacturing warm clothes for winter. Mekhela Sador is made from muga silk, Eri silk, Paat silk, and cotton.
Bihu is the popular folk dance of Assam and is done by young boys and girls during the Bihu festival. It has brisk steps with rapid movement. The dance is done with instruments like Dhol, Pepa, Gogona, flute and more.
It is the classical dance form of Assam which represents Sattriya Culture. It is amongst eight principal classical Indian dance traditions.
It is a beautiful dance to watch, done and developed by the tea tribes of Assam.
The Bodo community has several dances and Bagurumba is the best and the most attractive dance. It has slow moves with outstretched hands. Girls wearing colourful dresses perform it on traditional Bodo instruments.
Tea is an integral part of Assamese culture. Black tea, milk tea, spiced tea, lemon tea all the versions and more are served here.
The breakfast here comprises of Jolpan, and Pithas. The Assamese thali comprises of steamed rice, lentil, a mixed vegetable called labra, a variety of pitikas or mashed potatoes, brinjal, tomatoes, etc.. A dry vegetable preparation made with Soru aloo, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, banana flower, a leafy vegetable dish made from Lai Xaak, Fiddle Head Ferns or Dhekia Xaak, Kosu Xaak, or Colocasia leaves.
Fermented bamboo shoot pickle, whole black chana powder, Tilor Sesame chutney, lentil chutney are main accompaniments, the food here is cooked with minimal spices over fire and the strong flavours come from use of locally available fruits and vegetables. Fish is popularly eaten and used here.