ASSAM is dominated by the mighty River Brahmaputra, whose huge, lush valley is sandwiched between the Himalayan foothills to the north and the Meghalayan hills and plateau to the south. An attractive state, Assam is one of India’s few oil regions, and produces around sixty percent of the nation’s tea. However, the industry is not as profitable as it once was, and for the marginalized adivasis tribal people from various indigenous groups, brought in from central India by the British to work as indentured labourers on the plantations – depressingly little has changed since colonial times.

The social divisions caused by this marginalization have been some of the major sources of instability in the state. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), a separatist group declared a terrorist organisation by the Indian government, began an armed struggle for independence in 1985, and in the early 1990s, Assamese nationalism sparked opposition from Bodos, Cachars and other ethnic minorities. However, though bombings, bandhs and in-fighting continue, the situation has improved and tourists are not targets.

Assam’s busy capital, Guwahati has one of India’s most important Kali temples, Kamakhya, and is a hub for the whole region. Within easy access of the city, the spectacular Kaziranga National Park is renowned for its one-horned rhinos. Further along the Brahmaputra lies the fascinating island of Majuli, home to unique Hindu monasteries. During your visit, keep an eye out for the bhut jolokia, the world’s hottest chilli, which is native to the state.

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