DARRANG : AN OUTLINE

The name Darrang seems to have originated from the Sanskrit word 'Dwaram' which means a 'Duar' or a pass. In the past there were some fixed duars on the northern side of the district from which the various hill tribes descended to the plains from the Himalayan ranges. Some of the areas still have a suffix 'Duar' to their names and one of the six passes on the northern side of the present district is called 'Khaling Duar'. Another possible origin of the name is the word 'Devaranga' which means the playground of Devas. There are a number of places in the district like Athrikhat, Khalingduar, Dhwalpur, Markandasram etc. show their ancient association with the mythic sages like Markedeya, Kaulinya, Atri, Yagyabalka etc.

The name, Mangaldai is, however traced to Mangola Devi, the daughter of Koch king Lakshminarayana, who was married to the Ahom king Pratapsingha. In Yogini Tantra, mention is also made of the river Mangala which is again referred to as Su-Mangala in the Kalikapurana. It is thus possible that the name Mangaldai is derived from the river Mangala Devi. However a parallel and equally convincing theory says that the name was derived from the native Bodo dialect, where Mangal means pure and Dai means water. 

Vishnu on Garuda, Decorated Panel and Temple Relic. Time: 11th century.

Many archaeological sites like Narikali,Tamreswar, Bijulibari, Lakshimpur, Bhairavkunda, Mathajhar, Murhadeor, Dhawalpur, etc. which have come to light lately, point to a hoary past of this places. The bronze Bishnu icon of the 11th century,  found at Bijulibari near Sipajhar, now on display at Assam state Museum and a number of tanks like Jayapal, Burhinagar, Barampur, Baldev, Dighir, Lakhmpur etc. all stand as evidence of the ancient glory of Mangaldai.

A Small Canon found at Kharghuli

However, no definitive records about Darrang are available for the pre-medieval period. According to Dr. Maheswar Neog, the Darrang become famous only after the middle Age i.e.., up-rising of the king Biswa Singha Naranarayana. It perhaps formed a part of the ancient kingdom of Kamrupa and with its decline , Darrang at different times might have been under the rule of the Chutias, Bodo-Kacharies and the Bhuyans. However, the picture becomes somewhat clearer from the 16th century,. In 1581, the famous Koch king Naranarayan gave a part of his kingdom to his cousin Raghudev, son of Sukladhwaj best known as 'Chilarai' for his military powers. Raghudev's part included Mangaldai subdivision and also the district of Kamrup and Goalpara. This part has been referred to as Koch Hajo or the kingdom of eastern Koches. Raghudev however did not exercise any independent authority and he and his successor's attempt to achieve freedom only got them embroiled in quarrels first with the Mughals and then with the Ahoms. In the Ahom-Mughal contest , Balinarayana, another son of Raghudev helped the Ahom king Pratap Singh (1603-1641) from whom received the tract known as Darrang. He was feudatory Raja under the Ahom king who allowed him to rule with the title 'Dharmanarayana'. Some northern parts of the river Brahmaputra also formed a part of then Darrang and there he established his capital. It was later on shifted to Mangaldai during the time of his son and successor Sundarnarayan. Friction however continued with the Mughals and sometimes with the Ahoms, but the efforts of the Darrang Rajas to assert independence did not succeed. During the reign of the Ahom king Gaurinath Singha (1780-1794), the authority of the Darrang Raja was further reduced and he was placed at the disposal of the Borphukan at Guwahati. During this period Raja Krishnanarayan even tried to secure the British help against the Ahoms which however did not succeed. Later, the Ahoms lost their former strength and glory, and having fallen prey to the Burmese attacks, the British East India company stepped in to draw the curtain.

In 1826 Darrang , like the rest of Assam passed into the hands of the British after the treaty of Yandabu (Yandabu Sandhi). Having established their authority, the company Government began the work of reconstructions and in 1933, Darrang became a district with Mangaldai as its headquarters. In 1935, the headquarters was shifted to Tezpur. The same position was maintained until the subdivision of Mangaldai was converted into a district in 1983.

Darrang has a long history of resistance against any oppressive rule. That happened during the Ahom period and in the British period, the people first organised a Rajmel on the assembly of the people at Patharighat, about 15 kms. west of Mangaldai to protest against the unreasonable taxation of the Government. At that time (1868), the people also gheraoed some top ranking officers of the district, but the situation did not deteriorate because of the intervention of some leading persons. The great event of 1894, popularly known as 'Patharughatar Ran' (Battle of Patharughat) is too well known to need any repetition here. On that fateful day (January 28),some 140 persons belonging to all the communities lost their lives as a result of unprovoked police firing while protesting against enhanced revenue. The number of injured was also very high. The administration did nothing to help the injured or remove the dead bodies. Patharighat is Assam's Jallianwalabagh.

A Patidola of 18th Century

The Swahid Minar at Patharughat

During the freedom struggle, Darrang also played a glorious part. People actively participated in the various aspects of the movement and thereby contributed to the achievement of Indian independence.

The district has also not lagged behind in contributing to the richness of Assam's culture and civilization. The various temples and other objects of art though much ravaged by the passage of time, speak highly of the artistic genius of our craftsmen. Under the patronage of Darrang Rajas many books on different subjects were also composed. One such book is Darrang Rajvansavali, written by Suryakhadi Daivagna. It is a metrical chronicle of Darrang Rajas composed at the initiative of its tenth ruler Samudranarayana. Ojhapali, a form of sacred dance drama is still a very popular event in the socio-cultural like of the people.

Darrang is associated with the famous 'BYAS OJAS'. Even a village named after Byas Ojas as Byaspara is situated here. Darrang is also famous for Dhepadhol, Bardhol, Mohkunda song, Suknanni Oja, Siya Geet etc. which contribute to enrich the colourful heritage of Assam. We also find many rituals and festivals here, like Deul, Pasati, Mathani, Gondhchowpari Sabha etc., which reflecr the socio cultural recreation system of the district. Many aspects of the culture of the district still remain unexplored.