UWAHATI, April 1 - Outside forces were always lured by the resources of Assam to invade it time and again. Contrary to the impression some quarters are trying to spread, religion had practically no role in motivating the invaders to force their entry into this land of natural grandeur.
This is the observation made by Dr IS Mumtaza of the Department of History, Gauhati University.
Dr Mumtaza, while talking to this correspondent, said the Sultans, the Badshahs or the European powers, who entered the Brahmaputra Valley in the mediaeval period, were lured to this part of the globe by its bounty of natural and other resources, some of which were like the herds of Asiatic elephants roaming here and their tusks, aloe wood, brilliant textiles like the muga cloths, black pepper and some other forest goods of aromatic quality, etc.
Speaking about the sources of these information, she referred to the chronological records preserved by the Ahom rulers. These chronological records are popularly known here as the Buranjis.
She mentioned one interesting aspect connected with the invasions of the Sultans and the Mughals in the Brahmaputra valley. Though the Sultans and the Mughals invaded the Brahmaputra valley on several occasions, yet they were scared of its inhabitants because the invaders considered the people living in the valley as practitioners of black magic, she said.
This is the reason why on many occasions the expeditions of the Sultans and the Mughals remained mostly military in nature beyond Guwahati. Their political establishments were not found, even after their successful military expeditions up to the Ahom capital of Gargaon, as was the case with the invasion of Mirjumla, in areas located in the Upper Assam areas, beyond the river Kopili.
This is the reason why the Mughal Pargana (revenue) system was found only in the Kamrup part of the Brahmaputra valley till the arrival of the British, said Dr Mumtaza.
Strategically, Guwahati was exceedingly important for the medieval warfare practices in this part of the globe, and hence, every power, be it the Mughals or the Ahoms, wanted Guwahati under its control.
However, with the advent of the British power with its modern guns, this strategic importance of Guwahati got lost.
The demands placed by the Sultans and the Mughals before the Ahom rulers were different from those placed by the Europeans, particularly the Britishers, before the Assam rulers.
The Mughals, with their written messages, used to send gifts to the Ahom rulers, which included salt, sugar and some luxurious items, including various kinds of garments, cloths, gemstones and animals like camel, horse, etc., and pieces of sandalwood.
The Britishers gifted the Ahom rulers Chinese toys, looking glass, varieties of clothes, razors, scissors, tweezers, water chanks, etc.
As soon as they got a hunch of the resources of the Brahmaputra valley, the Britishers, like a true trading people, started surveying the resource potential of the valley for trading purposes. Prior to the advent of the Britishers, very limited resources of the valley, like its muga cloths, ivory, other forestry goods like lac (a resinous substance deposited on the twigs of various trees in southern Asia by the female of the lac insect, used in the manufacture of varnishes, sealing wax etc.), among others, were treated as the trading items by the invading forces and trading of these items, too, was limited to Hadira Chowki on the western boundary of the then Ahom kingdom.
The Britishers discovered tea, coal and mineral oil in this valley. And, to exploit these resources, they set up tea estates, coal mines and started exploration of mineral oil and its refining. With all such economic activities, this part of the globe emerged as one of the most lucrative areas of the world, Dr Mumtaza said.