"It's happiness and excitement that flowed through my mind when I took a journey of the page. A very noble effort by the team. And am sure about their success."
- Sapon Pathak
WELCOME to VINTAGE ASSAM
Vintage Assam unveils the little known world of Assam during an interesting chapter of its history
Concept & Project Head
In the year 1905, Sir Edward Gait, who wrote the path-breaking work, A History Of Assam, lamented the fact that “…there is probably no part of India regarding whose past, less is generally known. In the histories of India, as a whole, Assam is barely mentioned." More than hundred years have passed since then but Gait's observations on the invisibility of Assam in standard historiography remain true as ever. The region has often been excluded by the mainstream intellectuals from the area of their history writing while several events from its medieval and modern past should have been specific case studies. It has remained the benighted Cinderella province, of which renowned parliamentarian, the Late Hem Barua once wrote, "Assam is mentally a distant horizon like Bolivia or Peru, less known and more fancied." This has led many to view the region through narrow lenses without being initiated to the enormous sociocultural transformation that its multi-ethnic, polyphonic society has undergone throughout its history. Several stereotypes and misconceptions about the region have also arisen as a result. In the minds of many people, it is still no more than "a land of mountains; barbaric people, malaria; earthquakes; floods; and of course tea. To others, it is a kingdom of a lush jungle where venomous snakes and lethal spiders; stealthy tigers; sinuous leopards; wild elephants; and the great one-horned rhinoceros peep and peer with menacing intent." Moreover, it continues to be projected as a troubled region due to the incessant violence that it has faced over the last few decades.
Vintage Assam attempts to challenge this dominant narrative and the prevalent stereotypes by reconstructing the modern history of Assam and revealing little-known facets of the region that has so far escaped the attention of mainstream historiography. It acts as a window into the enormous socio-economic and political changes that not only changed the entire landscape of the region but also had its bearing on the mainland. Assam history is not represented here in a specific narrative formula but rather as a collection of images, oral testimonies, antiques and letters. In a way, we attempt to carry forward the legacy of antiquarian Benudhar Sharma (1894-1981). Widely regarded as a pioneer of subaltern history in India's northeast and one of the foremost authorities on the medieval and early modern history of Assam, Sharma was one of the first to engage with non-traditional historical sources like photographs, oral history, letters and antiques, and employed a variety of storytelling methods to disseminate the knowledge of our rich and layered past.
As we seek to unravel the past of a diverse socio-cultural entity like Assam, it is to be remembered that in the colonial period and for a few decades after independence, Assam encompassed a much wider geographical area than today ; comprising of places that are now part of West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram & Bangladesh. Though our primary focus is the area which constitutes the present day state of Assam - the Barak valley, Brahmaputra valley and the hills surrounding the river valleys, we have also attempted to shed some light on the aforesaid areas which are no longer a part of the state.
The website has been divided into various sections. We do our best to make them informative with the help of write-ups compiled from a variety of authoritative sources. These sources include the interviews we’ve done with leading collectors, historians, information from websites, family archives and several textual sources.
"This is a very unique way to experience history with old photographs being digitised. It will definitely help in preservation. I really loved it and appreciate the effort put by the team. Keep it up!"