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almost unknown-countries have assumed great commercial importance. From the Central
British Burmah has already been described (pp. 123–126), but its close neighbour is daily becoming of greater importance. This is the province of Assam, which was in 1825 ceded by Burmah, and in 1874 formed into a Government distinct from that of Bengal, of which up to that date it formed a part.
This is an outlying province, comparatively thinly peopled, and as yet but little developed, and consequently yielding but a trifling revenue compared with some of the older Governments of India. The last census gave 4,132,019 souls as its population ; and as the area of the country is 41,798 square miles, the number of inhabitants to the square mile cannot be more than 90, while in some of the more densely peopled parts of Bengal from 500 to 573 persons crowd the same space.
Assam Dr. Hunter has aptly characterised as a series of fertile valleys, through which flow the Brahmapootra (p. 187), and the sixty-one smaller streams which swell its flood, after it has entered British territory from its source in the Tibetan plateau. It enters Assam by a series of waterfalls and rapids, “amid vast boulders and accumulations of rock," and the gorge through which its southern branch makes its appearance into the Lakhimpore District has been long a favourite place of pilgrimage for pious Hindoos. In its course through Assam the river will often during the rainy season flood extensive districts, and in its course several islands have been formed. It finally passes into Bengal; and after spreading itself out over the alluvial districts, and changing its name several times, it ends its course of 1,800 miles in the Bay of Bengal, close by the place where the still more celebrated Ganges pours its sacred waters into the same sea. The upper part of the great Assam Valley is “varied and picturesque, walled in on the north and east by the Himalayas, and thickly wooded from the base to the snowline. On either bank of the Brahmapootra a long narrow strip of plain rises almost imperceptibly to the foot of the hills. Gigantic reeds and grasses occupy the lowlands near the banks of the great river ; expanses of rice-land come next; a little higher up, dotted with villages encircled by groves of bamboos and fruit-trees of great size and beauty, the dark forests succeed, covering the interior table-land and mountains. The country in the vicinity of the large rivers is flat, and impenetrable from dense jungle, with the exception of some very low-lying tracts, which are either permanent marshes or are covered with water during the rains. Jungle will not grow in such depressions, and they are covered either with water, reeds, high grasses, or ricecultivation. On or near such open spaces are collected all the villages. As the traveller proceeds further down the valley the country gradually opens out into wide plains. In the western district of Kamrup the country forms one great expanse, with a few elevated tracts here and there, varying from 200 to 800 feet in height.”
The soil of Assam is for the most part black loam, and there are few parts of the country which cannot be cultivated. The hills form the locale of some of the most flourishing tea-plantations, the valleys out of reach of the ordinary floods are favourite haunts of the native cultivators, and the delta, or low lands liable to be overspread by the rising of
the Brahmapootra, attract at certain seasons great herds of elephants and buffaloes, as well as human inbabitants. Rice is the crop which covers most of the cultivated land, but
it is used entirely within the Province. Tea is, however, extensively exported, though the plant was only discovered to be native to the country as late as 1823, and the first twelve chests of the product of the young plantations received in England fifteen years