Assam Culture: Gateway to The Rich Tradition, Art, Music, Food and Festivals


Situated in the northeastern region of India, Assam shares its borders with the neighbouring countries, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and the states of West Bengal, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh. The rich Assam culture and heritage is also reflected in its natural beauty.

The state has mesmerizing greenery along with rivers such as the Brahmaputra and Subansiri, which add to its beauty. The state is also known for its large areas composed of forests. Assam is known as the “Gateway to northeast India” due to its pivotal position in the northeastern part of India. The state is also one of the “Seven Sister States” of northeastern India.

Traditional Dress of Assam

Culture of Assam - Traditional Dress
Image – Michael Foley via Flickr

The traditional dresses of Assam culture are usually plain and elegant and mostly hand-loomed. Women typically wear the Mekhela Chador, which is a two-piece garment and is worn by women of all ages. Men resort to wearing the Dhoti and the Gamosa.

Culture of Assam
Image – Rita Willaert via Flickr

Each tribal group in the state has its own distinct style of dressing, which is quite different from the other tribal group’s style. In the case of the Dimasa Tribe, the women usually dress up in the vibrantly colored Righu. Simultaneously, the men wear a special kind of Dhoti called Risha and a Sgaopha (a type of turban), generally on formal occasions. In the Bodo Tribe, women usually wear Dokhona. An outfit called Kaum Kontong is worn by the women of the Rabha community while the men of the same community wear the Dhoti and Gamosa.

Traditional Dress of Assam
Image – Rita Willaert via Flickr

The people of Assam also adorn themselves with elegant pieces of jewelry that are quite unique and distinct to the state. The pieces of jewelry are usually handmade with gold and silver. Men wear Biri, Lokaparo, Kundal Matamoni, and Magardana, while women wear Gam-kharu, Thuriya, Aargathi, Kharu Nupur, Nalak among others.

Assam Cuisine

Assam Cuisine
Image – Wikimedia

The diversity of the state is prevalent in its food culture as well. The cuisine of Assam shows the influence of the food cultures of its neighboring states too. The staple food is rice and it is combined with fish and vegetables. Even the rice is prepared in many different ways. The food is mostly non-spicy and is usually prepared in earthenware. Machor Tenga is one of Assam’s most popular dishes and is made of fish, combined with tomatoes, lemon, and outenga (aka Elephant Apple).

Dried fish is also a common delicacy of the state. Other dishes include Xaak aru bhaji (meaning herbs and vegetables), Aloo Pitika, among others. The state also has a variety of sweet dishes. The most popular of the sweet dishes is undoubtedly Pitha, which is prepared from rice. Komolar Kheer, Bora Chaulor Payas, Xutuli Pithaare are among the other quite popular sweet delicacies of the state.

Assam Music

Assam Music
Image – Joegoauk Goa via Flickr

The state is also quite popular for its elegant and soothing music. Songs are an indispensable part of the Assamese culture and hence, are abundant in number. The most popular songs are undoubtedly, the Bihu songs (Bihu Geet), which are sung along with the Bihu Dance performance on the occasion of Bihu.

Other folk songs include Tokari Geet, Kamrupiya Lokageet, Aainam, among others. The songs are accompanied by the music of special musical instruments which add to the ethnicity and charm of the songs.

Traditional Dances of Assam

Traditional Dances of Assam
Image Source

The most prominent and popular dance form of Assam is undoubtedly the Bihu dance. Fast-paced steps along with rhythmic hand gestures are the characteristic feature of the Bihu dance. Both men and women take part in the Bihu dance. Women usually wear Chador and Mekhela while men wear Gamosa and Dhoti during the performance. Along with the dance performers, skilled musicians provide background music through traditional musical instruments such as Dhol, Pepa Toka, Xutuli, Gogona, and Baanhi.

Apart from the Bihu dance, many other dance forms are also prevalent in the state including the Sattriya Nritya (portrays the Sattriya Culture), Bagurumba (performed by the Bogo tribe), and many more.

Festivals of Assam

Image – Wikimedia

The state has a plethora of festivals, among which the most important one is undoubtedly Bihu. Celebrated around April, the festival signals the onset of the agricultural season. Bihu festival is a collection of three festivals that signal the important events of cultivation. The Bohag Bihu (held in mid-April) declares the onset of the agricultural season, Kati Bihu, (celebrated in mid-October), and Magh Bihu (mid-January) celebrates the end of the harvest season. Bihu is celebrated by everyone in the state with much pomp and joy.

The first harvested crop is offered to God as a token of their gratitude for the harvest. Apart from the Bihu festival, the state is also home to several other festivals such as Ras Lila in Majuli, the Tea Festival, Majuli Festival, and the Ambubachi Festival.

Customs and Traditions of Assam

Image – donvikro

The state gives enormous respect and reverence to its customs and traditions laid down by their ancestors. From welcoming a guest to inheriting the property from one’s parents, certain customs have to be followed by all natives. The state is home to several tribal groups and each group has its own traditions that differ from each other. This difference portrays itself in the wide variety of the tradition and customs followed in the state.

For example, in some communities, the son inherits the father’s property while the daughter inherits the mother’s property, whereas, in certain others, a matriarchal system of inheritance is observed. These customs make up a significant portion of the Assam culture.

Traditional Crafts of Assam

Image – Wikimedia

The people of Assam are known for their great skill in weaving and it is a major occupation of the state. Apart from weaving, the state is also popular for its wide variety of handicrafts, one of the most famous being the Jaapi. Bamboo crafts, brass crafts, terracotta work, jewelry making, and pottery are among the most popular and traditional crafts of the state. The crafts of the state have a special charm of its own, and the history of this handicraft-making can be traced back to centuries.

Occupation of Assam

Image – Wikimedia

The majority of the population of Assam is engaged in agriculture. They cultivate rice, pulses, jute, and tea. It is worth mentioning that the state of Assam is well known for its tea plantation. It is noteworthy, that the state of Assam contributes to a certain percent of tea output of the world.

Weaving is also another principal occupation of the state; women mostly take up weaving as an occupation. Assam is also quite famous for its production of silk and tussar materials. The state is well-known for Assam silk, which is popular all over the country for its excellent quality.

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