Culture of Assam:

Assam is a land of people of myriad races, castes, languages and separate socio-economic fields. Communities of the ancient origin such as Aryan and non-Aryan, numerous tribes, sub-tribes, Mongoloid and Australoid and many more dwell in Assam. Therefore, the culture of Assam is a blend of tradition, lifestyle, faith, belief and religions of the different communities living in Assam.

Assam’s culture has a rich heritage infused with the various fairs and festivals, dance and music, languages, arts and crafts and delicious cuisines. The Assamese have given a distinguished shape to it by retaining their age old traditions, rituals and celebrations. There is a cultural intermingling of people of different races and fields living in harmony under one roof in Assam.

Assam, known as the ‘Gateway of the Northeast’ is the link connecting India to the other seven north-eastern sister states. The Assamese culture dates back to thousand years earlier when the first cultural intermix happened between the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman people. The current original form of the Assamese culture can be said to have its origin roots in the great dynasties of Pragjyotisha and Kamarupa during the first millennium AD. Later during the year 1228, the Tai Shans entered Assam under the leadership of Sukaphaa and a new cultural assimilation took place. The Tai Shan people mixed with the local culture and adopted the language along with some elements mixed with their own. 

After these, the Vaishanav Movement started in Assam during the 15th century propagated by the great Assamese reformer and Saint Mahapurush Shrimanta Sankardeva and his disciples. This movement brought a sea of change and new principles in the culture of Assam. This led to the creation of Satras and Namghars which became a part of the Assamese culture. There was also contribution to the language of Assam, the literature and fine arts. With time, the Assamese culture adopted new modern forms with the Britishers entering Assam. They standardized the language and a renewed Sanskritisation was adopted for developing Assamese language and grammar. 

The Assamese culture is composed of different sub systems. It is incorporated by elements of symbolism which puts it apart from other culture types in India. Some of the significant cultural traits of Assamese culture are:

Areca nut and betel leaves: Tamolpan (areca nut and betel leaves) is considered as offers of devotion, respect and friendship. There is a significant tradition of Assam of offering Tamolpan to guests and elders as a sign of respect. 

There is a tradition of offerings of tamolpan and other gifts in a Xorai (a bell metal traditional object of Assam).

Jaapi is a symbol of respect. It is a traditional Assamese headgear or hat offered to guests.

Symbolic cloth type of Assam like Gamosa: The Gamosa is a significant object of Assam. It is a rectangular white piece of cloth with red border on three sides and woven motifs on the two ends. Guests in Assam are welcomes with the offering of Gamosa along with the Tamolpan. The Gamosa can be said to be a symbolism of the life and culture of Assam.

Art and Craft of Assam:

Another important aspect of the culture of Assam is its excellence in art and craft. The people of Assam are naturally born artisans of handloom and handicraft. Different types of arts and craft, handloom and handicraft items, wooden items, metal items, paintings and jewelry of the state puts it apart from all other cultures of India. The exquisite silk, bamboo and cane products of Assam helps it stand out among the northeastern states. The land has given birth to thousands of skilled craftsmen who have retained the state’s rich cultural tradition over the centuries. The people of Assam have a special skill of crafting. There are several small scale cottage industries and most of the people are engaged in different types of handicraft making in Assam. Bamboo and cane products, handicrafts, metal crafts and other forms craft making are some of the activities in art and craft of Assam. 

Cane and Bamboo Products of Assam:

Cane and bamboo products are one of the exquisite products of Assam. Making of bamboo products is one of the prime occupations of the people of Assam. Cane and bamboo products like different furniture, accessories, musical instruments, bags, utensils and decorative items are made in Assam. These products of Assam have now received immense recognition not only in the national market but also in the international market and are much in demand.

One of the significant items of cane and bamboo of Assam is the Jaapi, which is the traditional sunshade and is one of the prestigious bamboo items of Assam. Japi is also presented as a token of rich heritage of Assamese culture to personalities and is also used in important occasions.

Metals of Assam:

Use of metal is a very important part of the culture of Assam. Brass metal and bell metal are extensively used in Assam. The brass and bell metal products of Assam are highly durable and are famous for their beauty and unique crafting. The principle metal products include xorai (a plate or tray mounted on a base), koloh (water pot), kahi (dish), bati (bowl) and taal (cymbals). The traditional utensils of Assamese culture are made mostly of Bell-metal and brass metal. The Xorai and Bota are used to offer beetle-nut and paan to welcome guests. The bell metal industry is located in Sarthebari and the brass metal industry is concentrated in Hajo in Kamrup district of Assam.

Assam Handloom:

Handloom forms another most important part of the culture of Assam. Handloom works in Assam are mostly handled by the womenfolk where women weave clothes in different looms. There are about thirty thousand looms located across the state. Sualkuchi, popularly known as the ‘Manchester of the East’ is the centre of handloom in Assam. More than 3000 weavers work regularly in the looms of Sualkuchi. The looms use mostly raw materials like cotton, Muga, paat (mulberry silk) and endi. Muga silk clothes are most sought after and their market is not only based in Assam and India but also have their demand in abroad. The designs on these Muga clothes are fine creations, birds, animals and other designs. Muga is the finest of India’s wild silk, produced only in Assam.

Assamese Jewellery:

During the time of festivities shopping jeweleries can be worthwhile. So, this Durga Puja I opted for traditional Assamese jewellery. Last Sunday I landed myself in Zangfai jewellery shop, a traditional Assamese jewellery shop in Guwahati. I was so overwhelmed seeing the majestic collection and the hospitality of the owner. The owner would display all the items for you. She would also suggest you what to buy and which would look good on you. And if you are lucky enough (like I was) you would get discount also.

Like Zangfai there are also many shops in Assam known for having exquisite jewellery. From the wide range of traditional Assamese jewellery sets you can choose  necklaces like jon biri, satsori, golpata, magardana, gejera, bena, goog doogi, dhol biri, mukuta Moni, biri moni, poalmoni and silikha moni.

You also get varieties in earrings which comes in lokaparo, jangphai, thuriya, keru, long Keru, sona or makori. 

If you are a lover of rings then Assamese jewellery has specialities like enpata, jethinejia, horinsakua and bakharpata. You can also go for gam- kharu which is a large bracelet made of silver or gold with a clasp.

Assamese jewellery is the traditional jewellery of Assam. Called Axomiya gohona, these kinds of jewellery are designed exclusively in Assam. Typically hand-made, Assamese jewellery designs depict the flora and fauna treasures of Assam. They hold special importance in the heart of the Assamese women and are worn during cultural and religious events. Objects of nature like bird, grain and animals; musical instruments like drums; Assamese stuffs like japi etc are designed in these unique jewellery.

Assamese jewellery is decorated with vibrant red gemstone, mina and ruby stones. Red, blue, green and black are the most favorite colours attracting people. Assamese jeweleries are made in silver based and gold foil plated, silver based with plastic stones gold foil plated and silver based with minakari gold dipped.

Jorhat, the second biggest city of Assam after Guwahati, is the main centre of jewellery making in Assam. Numerous outlets are located in Jorhat where people come to buy Assamese jewellery. There are also a number of small scale and cottage industries where skilled jewellery makers work to promote this kind of art.

Axomiya gohona comes in a very affordable rate. The range of a typical jewellery set starts from Rs 2,000 onwards. Assamese jewellery is also very easy to maintain as you have to wrap the stuffs in cotton and it will continue to glaze always. Accessorize your favourite mekhela chador, saree, suit or skirts with Axomiya gohona and flaunt your attitude this Durga Puja.

Wood Craft:

The Assamese people are skilled in making items of wood. They can make out the quality of the wood by touching it and can make finest craftwork out of it. Woodcraft in Assam is prevalent from earlier times where one can see the decorative panels of the royal Ahom palaces and the ancient Satra works are also carved on wood. The various items of a Satra along with the Guru Asana are carved on wood. 

Assamese Toys:

The toys of Assam can be categorized based on the material of their making. There are wooden toys, toys made from clay and cloth or cloth-and-mud toys. The toys are made in different shapes of Gods, Goddesses, mythological figures, variety of animal forms and many other forms. These toys are made by the Kumar and Hira communities in Assam. Toys depicting figures of Gods, Goddesses, animals and birds are made mostly in the Goalpara district in Assam. The cloth and clay toys are generally used for puppet theaters in Assam. 

Assamese Pottery:

Pottery is the oldest form of art and craft activity prevalent in Assam. There have been craftsmen of ancient civilizations and kingdoms who are engaged in pottery making. There are many items made from this craft form like pitchers, plates, incense stick holders, earthen lamps and so on. The Kumar and the Hira are the two most important communities in Assam engaged in pottery making. When the Kumars use the wheel to make pots, the Hiras do not use any wheel to engage in pottery making.

Assamese Masks:

The Assamese people are also skilled at making masks out of wood, bamboo, terracotta, metal and clay. These masks are widely used in Bhaonas (play) and folk theatres which are staged across the state. Masks are also made as decorative items in drawing rooms as wall hangings. 

Assamese Paintings:

The traditional paintings of Assam can be traced to ancient times where different paintings and painted objects were presented to rulers and kings of earlier times. The Ahom palaces and Satras even now have these painting works made earlier. So, paintings form an important part of the culture of Assam since earlier times. In the present times also paintings are important forms of depicting the culture of the state.

Assamese Fibre Weaving:

Kuhila koth is a famous handicraft mostly done in Batadrava area of Nagaon district. This is woven on a loom like item made of wood and bamboo poles. It is used to make seats, mats and cushions. It is also a recognized cottage industry in Assam. 

Dances of Assam:

Assam is a land of mystique and picturesque beauty. The land of blue hills and red river, Assam is known for its many dance forms, especially the bihu dance. 

Bihu Dance:

Among all the dances of Assam, Bihu dance is the most popular dance. This dance is performed in the month of April. Bihu is the folk dance of Assam. Men and women in their traditional dresses take part in Bihu dance. Bihu dance is accompanied by Bihu songs and Bihu musical instruments.

Bihu is the most important festival of the Assamese community. Being the state festival of Assam, Bihu is celebrated thrice in a year. There are three types of Bihu– Bhogali bihu, Rongali bihu and Kongali bihu. Rongali or Bohag Bihu  is celebrated with much festivity and joy during the month of April. Bihu dance is associated with the Rongali Bihu. The Bihu dance is a graceful and beautiful form of folk dance of Assam. Programmes are held of the Bihu dance and other dances of Assam during the Rongali Bihu. Bihu dance competitions  are also held in Bihutolis across the state.

Bihu Dance Steps:

The Bihu dance is a folk dance and a joyful dance performed by both men and women. This dance is characterized by brisk steps and swift hand movements in sync with the beats. In this dance, both the male and the female maintain separate gender roles. The females dance in lines and circles and the males enter the dancing area first and maintain their lines. After the female dancer enters, the male group breaks up and dances by mingling with the female dancers.

The Bihu dance is said to be a dance of fertility. The dance with its sensuous movements using the hips and arms is said to celebrate the fertility of men and women. The dance is characterized by movement of hips, arms, wrists into twirls, squats and bends without any jumps included in the dance.

Bihu Songs

Bihu dances are also accompanied by Bihu Geets or Bihu songs which are sung by both the males and the females. The lyrics of the Bihu Geets would comprise songs depicting the life of a farmer to welcoming Assamese New Year to contemporary socio-political commentary in a satirical way.

Bihu Music:

The Bihu dance is accompanied by Bihu music. The Bihu music is produced from the instruments using dhol (a type of drum), mohor xingor pepa (a type of flute made of buffalo’s horn), taal (a type of cymbals), gogona (a bamboo reed), toka (a bamboo clapper) and xutuli (a clay whistle). The dance has more than one dhulia (one who plays the dhol) playing different rhythms in the beginning. The rhythmic compositions (called seus) are played generally by the main dhulia and is changed from time to time. 

Sattriya Dance:

The Sattriya dance is another popular dance form of Assam. It is one of the eight principal classical Indian dance traditions. The dance form originated from Assam and was founded and propagated by the founder of Vaishnavism in Assam, Mahapurush Shrimanta Sankardeva during the 15th century. This dance form was created as an accompaniment to the Ankiya Nat plays and is performed in Sattras (monasteries).

The Sattriya dance usually has great mythological stories depicting by the dancers. The dancers through the dance movements depict the mythological stories to the viewers. This dance form was originally performed by the bhokots (priests) in the Sattras as a part of the daily rituals. The Sattriya dance has many genres in its fold. The dance is accompanied by Borgeets and inetruments like khol, taal and flute complement the dance form. The dresses worn during Sattriya dance are made of pat and are woven with beautiful local motifs.

Bagurumba Dance:

Bagurumba dance is one of the folk dances of Assam performed by the Bodo community of Assam. It is dance by women and girls dressed in colorful attire. The Bodo women wear their ethnic dress dokhna, jwmgra and aronai to perform the dance. The women dance to the tune of the traditional musical instruments of the tribe with slow steps and stretched hands. Various musical instruments like serja, sifung, tharkha, kham or madal accompanies the dance. The Bagrumba dance is also called as Bardwisikhla dance. It is performed during the Bwishagu festival. One can see the Bagrumba dance in areas of Udalguri, Chirang, Bongaigaon, Nalbari, Darrang and Sonitpur districts.

Jhumur Dance:

Jhumur dance is a traditional folk dance form of Assam. This form of dance of performed by the tea tribes of Assam. The dance form is locally known as ‘Chah Baganor Jhumur Nach’ or the Jhumur dance of the tea garden. This dance is performed by both girls and boys and sometimes by girls alone. Young girls performs the dance accompany by fewer male members in open place. Male members maintains the rhythm the musical instruments and vocals. The dance is characterized by good foot work while holding each others waist tightly.Drum, flute and a pair of Taals are the main musical instruments in the dance.

Ali Ai Ligang Dance:

This dance is performed by the Mising community of Assam. this dance is performed while making offerings to the deities during the Ali Ai Ligang festival. This dance form is mostly seen in Sonitpur and Lakhimpur districts of Assam.

Barpeta Bhortal Nritya:

This is a form of dance propagated by the Sankari culture. This dance form was first introduced and developed by well known Sattriya artist Narahari Burha Bhakat. This dance is performed during the Vaishnavite and Sankari festivals and is performed by a group of six to eight dancers equipped with cymbals. The dancers present beautiful formations with the cymbals


It is a classical dance form of Assam. Oja is the leader of the dance and Pali is his assistants. These are the groups of chorus dancers and singers. A total of three to four Palis are required for the dance and the principal person is known as the Daina Pali. These groups also play small cymbals and relate stories apart from dancing.

Deodhani dance:

The Deodhani dance form is a dance associated with worship. It is related to the worship of the snake God Manasa. The dance is performed by a girl in trance like inspired state and the girl dances to the beats of the Ciphung (flute) and the Kham (drum). After a stage of dancing the girl uses a sword and a shield and performs a war like dance in honor of various Gods and Goddesses.

Some other indigenous classical dance forms of Assam include Bhaona and temple dances. All these classical dances are of remote origin. The dances are performed on the same manner of Natya Shastra or Sanskrit treatises on dance. Among the folk dances, some others are Husari & Bihunas, Dhuliya and Bhawariya, Zikirs, Mohauhau or Mahkheda and the Apsara-Sabah. These dances are mainly performed in groups.

Festivals in Assam:

One of the most important state in the northeast, Assam is a state of different fairs and festivals. People of different communities live in Assam and they celebrate different festivals round the year. The most important festivals celebrated in Assam are Bihu, Durga puja, Ambubachi Mela, Me-Dum- Me-Phi, Brahmaputra Beach Festival, New Year, Diwalai, Holi among many others. Let us take a look at the festivals celebrated in Assam.


Bihu is the most important festival celebrated in Assam. There are three types of Bihu celebrated in different times throughout the year in Assam. The three main types of Bihu are:  Rongali Bihu, Kati Bihu and Bhogali Bihu.


This is one of the most important festivals of the Ahom community of Assam. This festival is dedicated to the ancestors. It is an ancestor worship festival where the people show respect to the departed ancestors to remember their contributions. The word ‘Me’ means offerings, ‘Dam’ means ancestors and ‘Phi’ means God. As such, the festival is a remembrance to the ancestors and dead as well as sacrifices to the Gods. The people worship remembering their ancestors and seeking their blessings. Offerings like home made wine, rice with items of meat and fish are offered as a ritual.

Jonbeel Mela:

This is a spectacular fair held near Jagiroad. It is held every year for 3 days during winter in the weekend of Magh Bihu. The essence of this festival is the barter system of purchasing goods. A few days before the fair, people of different tribes in the adjoining areas come with their products. They perform fire worship before the fair starts and the fair is characterized by traditional dance and music performances in the end.


This festival is celebrated by the Bodos and Kacharis during the middle of April. It is one of the important festivals of the Bodo community people of Assam.

Brahmaputra Beach festival:

This festival is held in the beautiful sandy beaches of the mighty river Brahmaputra. It is celebrated every year during the month of January and coincides with the Magh Bihu which is the harvest festival of the Assamese. It is a beautiful blend of traditional contests like elephant race, kite flying and modern activities like rafting, canoeing, para-gliding, beach volley ball, beach cricket etc. The festival aims at promoting the indigenous culture of Assam in sync with the modern culture. The Brahmaputra Beach Festival is organized by the Assam Boat Racing and Rowing Association in collaboration with the Assam Transport Development Corporation.

Ambubachi Mela:

Ambubachi Mela is one of the most important fair and festival celebrated at the Kamakhya temple in Assam. It is held in the month of June every year.  According to legends goddess Kamakhya goes through her menstrual cycle during this time. During this time the temple doors are closed for three days and no puja is performed in the temple. Millions of devotees could be seen thronging the Kamakhya temple during the Ambubachi mela in Assam.  

Durga Puja:

Another most important festival celebrated in Assam is Durga Puja. Durga puja is celebrated in the city for a period of 4 days. Goddess Durga is worshiped during the festival in Assam. Assam is no less in celebrating the festival the way Kolkata and Agartala does. 


The state of Assam also celebrates the festival of light Diwali with much fanfare and gaiety. Assam wears a festive look with lights and ‘diyas’ enlightening the homes and shops around the state. 


The festival of colours, Holi is celebrated in Assam by all the people irrespective of caste and creed. The festival falls on the month of March and is celebrated with colourful hearts by the people.


There are many people of Christian belief dwelling in Assam. They celebrate Christmas with much enthusiasm. Not only the Christians but all the people celebrate Christmas with much gaiety.

Biswakarma Puja:

The God of architecture, Lord Biswakarma is worshipped during this Puja. Workers, artisans, carpenters, industrialists, mechanics, industry workers, factory workers and all other types of workers worship Lord Biswakarma. It is believed that Lord Biswakarma composed the Sthapatya Veda, the famous science book of architecture and mechanics. This puja is mostly celebrated in the industrial area and factories.


This Vaishnavite festival is celebrated to mark the birth and life of Lord Krishna. In this festival, different events and essence of the life of Lord Krishna is depicted through clay figures in Mela.  There are also Raas Bhaonas where events of life of Lord Krishna are depicted through plays by people. 

Ali- ai Ligang Festival:

This is a festival of the Mising tribe people of Assam and is celebrated in the spring season. This festival lasts for five days and is a harvest festival. It is during the time of this festival that sowing of paddy fields starts. The word ‘Ali’ means root seed, ‘Al’ means fruit and ‘Ligang’ means sowing. The ceremony starts with sowing of paddy fields and then followed by dance performances by the youths. Then there is feast where dried fish, pork and rice beer is served. 

Rongker & Chomangkan Festivals:

These festivals are celebrated by the Karbi people for good health and prosperity for the whole New Year. In the Rongker festival, the elderly men of the village pray to the Gods and Goddesses for the well being of the village and the people. One of the special characteristic of this festival is that the womenfolk of the village are not allowed to enter the worship place. The Chomangkan festival is a compulsory death festival for the Karbis and is celebrated at any time of the year depending on the locality convenience. The festival lasts for four days and nights.

Rajini Gabra and Harni Gabra Festival:

 These agricultural festivals are celebrated by the Dimasa tribe people of Assam. It is celebrated before the new cultivation is done. In the Rajini Gabra festival, the village chief prays the family deity and during the night the puja is performed for the prosperity of the village and its villagers. This is known as Harni Gabra. During this festival, no outsider is allowed to enter the village as the puja then is considered as spoilt.

Other festivals which are celebrated by the different communities of Assamese people are the Dehing Patkai festival, Majuli festival, Tea festival, Saraswati Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Janamashtami and Shiva Ratri.

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