Kamarupa (History)

Kamarupa is the ancient name of the kingdom that consisted of the Brahmaputra valley and adjoining regions. During earlier times Kamarupa was called Pragjyotisha. The kingdom is now closely associated with the Indian state of Assam, and at times, the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh.

Though the historical kingdom existed between the 4th century and the 12th century the notion of Kamarupa persisted and ancient and medieval chroniclers continued to call this region by this name. Muslim chronicles that were written after the end of the Kamarupa kingdom continued to call the region Kamru or Kamrud. According to Xuanzang and Kalika Purana, the western border was Karatoyariver. According to Kalika Purana and other sources, the eastern boundary was the Dikkaravasini temple near Sadiya[1]. The kingdom was ruled by the Varman dynasty, the Mlechchha dynasty and the Pala dynasty up to the 12th century, after which the Khen dynasty moved the capital to the west and began calling their kingdom the Kamata kingdom. The Kamarupa kingdom thus ended in the 12th century with the fall of the Pala rulers.

The name of this kingdom survives as district in Assam: Kamrup district.

Sources for Kamarupa

Enlarge picture
Detail of Asia in Ptolemy's world map, with Kamarupa marked as Cirrhadia
The region is mentioned as Pragjyotisha in the Mahabharata (see references) and the Ramayana. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century) and Ptolemy's Geographia (2nd century) calls the region Kirrhadia after the Kirata population[2]. The first epigraphic mention of Kamarupa comes from the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta from the 4th century, which marks the beginning of the historical period. The Chinese traveler Xuanzang visited the kingdom in the 7th century, then ruled by Bhaskaravarman. Inscriptions left by the rulers of Kamarupa, including Bhaskaravarman, at various places in Assam and present-day Bangladesh are important sources of information.


According to the Kalika Purana and Xuanzang, the western boundary was the historical Karatoya[3] river. The eastern border is given by the temple of the goddess Tamreshvari (Pūrvāte Kāmarūpasya devī Dikkaravasini in Kalika Purana) near present-day Sadiya[4] in the eastern most corner of Assam. The southern boundary was near the border between the Dhaka and Mymensingh districts in Bangladesh. Thus it spanned the entire Brahmaputra valley and at various times included present-day Bhutan and parts of Bangladesh. This is supported by the various epigraphic records found scattered over these regions. The kingdom appears to have broken up entirely by the 13th century into smaller kingdoms and from among them rose the Kamata kingdom in the west and the Ahom kingdom in the east as the main successor kingdoms. In 1581, Naranarayana the Koch king who ruled Kamata divided his kingdom along the Sankosh river retaining the western portion and gifting the eastern portion to Raghudeb, the son of his brother Chilarai[5]. The present West Bengal-Assam border follows this division closely. In the period after Naranarayana, from 1602 onwards, the eastern Koch kingdom came under repeated attacks from the Mughals and in 1615 it became the battleground of the Mughals and the Ahoms till late 17th century when the Ahoms pushed back the Mughals for the last time and took control of the region till the advent of the British in 1826.

Kamarupa state

The extent of state structures can be culled from the numerous copper plate grants left behind by the Kamarupa kings as well as accounts left by travellers such as those from Xuanzang.[6]

Kings and courts: The king was considered to be of divine origin. Succession was primogeniture, but two major breaks resulted in different dynasties. In the second, the high officials of the state elected a king, Brahmapala, after the previous king died without leaving a heir. The royal court consisted of a Rajaguru, poets, learned men and physicians. Different epigraphic records mention different officials of the palace: Mahavaradhipati, Mahapratihara, Mahallakapraudhika, etc.

Council of Ministers: The king was advised by a council of ministers (Mantriparisada), and Xuanzang mentions a meeting Bhaskaravarman had with his ministers. According to the Kamauli grant, these positions were filled by Brahmanas and were hereditary. State functions were specialized and there were different groups of officers looking after different departments.

Revenue: Land revenue (kara) was collected by special tax-collectors from cultivators. Cultivators who had no propreitary rights on the lands they tilled paid uparikara. Duties (sulka) were collected by toll collectors (kaivarta) from merchants who plied keeled boats. The state maintained a monopoly on copper mines (kamalakara). The state maintained its stores and treasury via officials: Bhandagaradhikrita and Koshthagarika.

Grants: The king occasionally gave Brahmanas grants (brahmadeya) , which consisted generally of villages, water resources, wastelands etc (agraharas). Such grants conferred on the donee the right to collect revenue and the right to be free of any regular tax himself and immunity from other harassments. Sometimes, the Brahmanas were relocated from North India, with a view to establish varnashramdharma. Nevertheless, the existence of donees indicate the existence of a feudal class. Grants made to temples and religious institutions were called dharmottara and devottara respectively.

Land survey: The land was surveyed and classified. Arable lands (kshetra) were held individually or by families, whereas wastelands (khila) and forests were held collectively. There were lands called bhucchidranyaya that were left unsurveyed by the state on which no tax was levied.

Administration: The entire kingdom was divided into a hierarchy of administrative divisions. From the highest to the lowest, they were bhukti, mandala, vishaya, pura (towns) and agrahara (collection of villages).

These units were administered by officials such as nyayakaranika, vyavaharika, kayastha etc., led by the adhikara. They dispensed judicial duties too, though the ultimate authority lay with the king. Law enforcement and punishments were made by officers called dandika, (magistrate) and dandapashika (one who executed the orders of a dandika).


According to the Puranas, the earliest ruler is Mahiranga of the Danava dynasty. One of his descendants was defeated by Narakasura who established his line of kings in the kingdom.

Bhauma dynasty

See: Varman dynasty

The historical rulers begin with the Varman (Bhauma) dynasty of Pushyavarman (350-374), contemporneous of the Gupta king Samudragupta. The most illustrious of the Bhauma kings of Kamarupa was Bhaskaravarman (600-650), during whose reign Xuanzang visited the kingdom. The capital was originally at Pragjyotishpura, the capital of the older Prgjyotisha kingdom, around modern Guwahati[7] from which Sthitavarman moved his capital to nearer Brahmaputra river.

Bhaskaravarman had allied with Harshavardhana to attack Shashanka, the earliest ruler of unified Bengal. Though Shashanka was undefeated, his kingdom was divided between Harshavardhana and Bhaskaravarman after his death. The Nidhanpur (Sylhet district, Bangladesh) copper plates of Bhaskaravarman which replaced a destroyed plate issued by Bhutivarman indicates the extent of the kingdom in the 6th-7th century. It seems Bhaskaravarman maintained relations with China. He recounted to Xuanzang a Chinese song which became very popular in his kingdom. After the death of Harsha, he helped a mission from China led by Wang Hiuen-ts'oe according to a Chinese account. During his time men of high talent visited the kingdom for studies.

Mlechchha dynasty

See: Mlechchha dynasty

After Bhaskaravarman's death without an heir, the kingdom passed into the hands of Salasthambha(655-670), a member of an aboriginal group called Mlechchha (or Mech) after a period of civil and political strife. The capital of this dynasty was Hadapeshvara, now identified with modern Dah Parbatiya near Tezpur<ref name="sircar90_c" />. Not much is known of this dynasty. The last ruler in this line was Tyāga Singha (890-900).

Pala dynasty

See: Pala dynasty

After the death of Tyāgasimha without an heir, a member of the Bhauma family, Brahmapala (900-920), was elected as king by the ruling chieftains, just as Gopala of the Pala dynasty of Bengal was elected. The original capital of this dynasty was Hadapeshvara, and was shifted to Durjaya built by Ratnapala, near modern Guwahati. The greatest of the Pala kings, Dharmapala had his capital at Kamarupanagara, now identified with North Guwahati. The last Pala king was Jayapala (1075-1100). Around this time, Kamarupa was attacked and the western portion was conquered by the Pala king of Gaur Ramapala.

The Gaur king could not hold Kamarupa for long, and Timgyadeva (1110-1126) ruled Kamarupa independently for sometime. The period saw a waning of the Kamarupa kingdom, and in 1205 the Turkish Muhammad-i-Bakhtiyar passed through Kamarupa against Tibet which ended in a disaster. Yuzbak attacked and defeated an unknown ruler of Kamarupa in 1257. But Yuzbak could not hold on to the capital as he was weakened by the Monsoon rains that led to his defeat and death by the local population.

At this time, western Kamarupa was being ruled by the chiefs of the Bodo, Koch and Mech tribes. In central Assam the Kachari kingdom was growing, and further east, the Chutiya kingdom. The Ahoms, who would establish a strong and independent kingdom later, began building their state structures in the region between the Kachari and the Chutiya kingdoms.

See also


1. ^ Sircar, D. C., (1990) Chapter 4: Prāgjyotisha-Kāmarūpa, in The Comprehensive History of Assam Volume I, Publication Board Assam, pp 63-64
2. ^ Sircar, D. C., (1990) Chapter 5: Epico-Puranic Myths and Legends, pp 81
3. ^ Historical Karatoya River from Banglapedia
4. ^ Sircar (1990) pp 63-64
5. ^ Bhuyan, S. K. (1949) Anglo-Assamese Relations 1771-1826, Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies in Assam, Gauhati, pp 260 and map.
6. ^ Choudhury, P. C., (1959) The History of Civilization of the People of Assam, Guwahati
7. ^ Sircar (1990), pp 72
Kamarupa has several meanings:
  • Kamarupa (History): the history of ancient Kamarupa, associated with present-day Assam, India.
  • Kamarupa (Theosophy): the theosophical concept of Kamarupa.

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Brahmaputra[1] is a trans-boundary river and one of the major rivers of Asia.

From its origin in southwestern Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River, it flows across southern Tibet where it is known as Dihang to break through the Himalayas in great gorges.
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Pragjyotisha was a mythological kingdom first mentioned in the Hindu epics and later Hindu literature. According to later renditions of the epic, King Bhagadatta ruled the kingdom during the time of the Kurukshetra War where he met his death.
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Coordinates: Assam pronunciation   (Assamese:
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Sylhet (Srihatta) division is the Northeastern division (bibhag) of Bangladesh, named after its main city, Sylhet. It is bounded by Meghalaya State of India on the north, Tripura State on the south, Assam State of India on the east and Dhaka and Chittagong
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Amar Shonar Bangla
My Golden Bengal

(and largest city) Dhaka

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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 12th century was that century which lasted from 1101 to 1200. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages and is sometimes called the Age of the Cistercians.
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This page contains Chinese text.
Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
See also: Xuanzang (fictional character)

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The Kalika-Purana (composed c10th century in Kamarupa (modern Assam) is one of the 18 Upapuranas. It is an important work which has been quoted as an authority by smriti digest writers from all over India.
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Atrai river flows in northern parts of Bangladesh. It has an ancient name 'Atrei', found in Mahabharata. The river is originated in West Bengal. Then it flows west of Jamuna River. It flows into the Dinajpur District. Here it changes its name from Karatoya to Atrai.
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Sadiya (also, Sadia) is a small town in the Lakhimpur District of the North-eastern Indian state of Assam. It stands high on a grassy plain, nearly surrounded by forest-clad mountains on Himalayas, on the right bank of what is locally (but erroneously) considered the
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The Varman dynasty ruled Kamarupa (Assam) from 350 to 650. This dynasty is sometime called Naraka or Bhauma dynasty since it traces its lineage to the mythical Narakasura. Pushyavarman is the first historical ruler of Assam. This dynasty was followed by the dynasty of Salasthambha.
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The Mlechchha dynasty (655--900) ruled Kamarupa from their capital at Hadapeshvar in the present-day Tezpur after the fall of the Varman dynasty. The rulers were aboriginals, though their lineage from Narakasura was constructed to accord legitimacy to their rule.
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The Pala dynasty of Kamarupa ruled the kingdom from 900. Like the Pala dynasty of Bengal, the first ruler in this dynasty was elected, which probably explains the name of this dynasty "Pala". But unlike the Palas of Bengal, who were Buddhists, the Palas of Kamarupa were Hindus.
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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 12th century was that century which lasted from 1101 to 1200. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages and is sometimes called the Age of the Cistercians.
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The Khen dynasty of Assam replaced the Pala dynasty in the 12th century. Their accession marks the end of the Kamarupa kingdom, and the beginning of the Kamata kingdom.

According to the Gosani mangala
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The Kamata kingdom appeared in the western part of the older Kamarupa kingdom in the 13th century, after the fall of the Pala dynasty. The first rulers were the Khens, who were displaced by Hussein Shah.
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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 12th century was that century which lasted from 1101 to 1200. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages and is sometimes called the Age of the Cistercians.
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Kamrup is an administrative district in the state of Assam in India, named after Kamarupa the name Assam was previously known in ancient times. The district, however, is now a small western part of Assam, with a distinctive native Kamrupi culture and dialect (both known as Kamrupi).
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Pragjyotisha accompanied by all Mlechcha tribes inhabiting the marshy regions on the sea-shore; and many mountain kings came to attend Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice. (2,33)

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    The 1st century was that century that lasted from 1 to 100 according the Gregorian calendar. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period
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    The Geographia is Ptolemy's main work besides the Almagest. It is a compilation of what was known about the world's geography in the Roman Empire of the 2nd century.
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