Assam, a land of natural bounty,fertile valleys,mighty rivers and rich cultural heritage is situated in the north eastern corner of Indian union and is one of the eight sister states of North East India. The State is bounded by Eastern Himalayan foot hills and Naga-Patkai hill ranges on three sides and a narrow opening in the west links the state with the rest of the country. The State shares international borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan and serves as a gateway to other North Eastern states as well as to South East Asia. Assam has a latitudinal extension of 240 N to 280 N and a longitudinal extension of 89045/E to 96000/ E and covers a geographical area of 78,438 sq. kms. It is divided into 36 administrative districts. Dispur is the capital of Assam and it is the communication and commercial hub of the North East.
The State of Assam can be divided into three broad physiographical units:
1) the Brahmaputra valley in the north,
2) the Central Hilly Regions of Karbi- Anglong and North Cachar and
3) the Barak Valley in the south. The Brahmaputra valley is the eastern continuation of the Indo – Gangetic plain and separates Sub – Himalayan foot hills from Shillong plateau and Naga – Patkai hills. The valley covers an area of about 56,274 sq.km. which accounts 69% of total area of Assam.
The Central Hilly Region is a pear shaped highland and plateau region that lies between the Brahmaputra valley in the north and Barak valley to the South. The northern part of the hilly region, i.e. the Karbi plateau is essentially the north-eastern extension of the Shillong plateau. The southern part, i.e. the North Cachar Hills forms the western flanks of Naga – Barail ranges. The highest elevation of the Barails in Assam is 1713m above MSL near Haflong.
The Barak Valley is located in the southern part of Assam. It is horse shoe shaped plain with east – west extension of 85 km. and north south extension of 70 km. The elevation of the valley is low in the south western side and gradually rises towards east. Near Karimganj, elevation is 46.0 m and an altitude 75.0 m above MSL is recorded near Jiribam in the east.
The main drainage systems of Assam are the Brahmaputra river and the Barak river. The mighty Brahmaputra flows through the heart of the State from east to west in a gradient of 1.0m / 8.5 km. About 40 major tributaries join the mainstream from northern and southern sides. Many channels, ponds, beels,marshy and smampy areas are distributed on either side of the river. The Barak river originates in the north – eastern part of Manipur bordering Nagaland and flows through the plain of Cachar – Karimganj region. Besides receiving many hill streams in its upper part, it meets a large number of tributaries in the Barak plain.
Assam experiences tropical monsoon climate with high humidity and heavy rainfall. Average humidity is 90%. The months of November, December, January and February constitute the winter season. The winter temperature varies between 100 C to 120 C. In April and May, depressions over the Bay of Bengal enter the region and strong winds, locally known as “Bordoichilla” visit the area with occasional rainfall. The temperature goes to 200 C - 280C. Most of the rainfall in the State received by the influence of south –west monsoon between June to September. The average annual rainfall is 166 cm. in Brahmaputra valley and 183 cm. in Barak valley. The summer temperature varies between 300C to 360C. The south –west monsoon begins to withdraw from the region in the last week of September and fair weather coupled with fall in temperature follows the withdrawal of monsoon.
Flora and fauna
Assam contains great wealth of plants and animals in its forests, wetlands and rivers. About 35% area of Assam is covered by forest. Valuable trees like Sal, Segun, Gamari, Titachapa, Ajhar, Bonsum, Agaru, Sishu, Bamboo, Simul etc. grow in abundance in the forest. The region is also very rich in medicinal plants and beverage plant like tea, neem, tulsi, ashok, arjun etc. The forest of Assam are also home to many rare birds and animals. Among these, one horned rhinoceros is world famous. Tigers, elephants, wild buffaloes, golden langurs, deer, leopards, bears, hillock gibbon, wild geese, wild boars are some of the animals found in the forests. Roughly half of the forests are reserved. On the whole, there are eighteen national parks and wild life sanctuaries of which Kaziranga Nation Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park and Pabitara wildlife Sanctuary are famous.
Assam has always been a dream destination of tourist from different backgrounds. The wildlife sanctuaries, pilgrimage spots, historical sites, cultural centers, etc. have been attracting people from all over the world. Some important tourist destinations of the state are Guwahati, Tezpur, Sivsagar, Majuli, Hajo, Haflong, Bhalukpung, Bhairabkunda, Chandubi, Chapanala, Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park and Pabitara wildlife sanctuary etc.