A landmass of 1685 Sq.km lying to the south of Nagaon, nestled in the fringe of Karbi-Anglong in the East and West and washed by the rivers Kapili and Jamuna , Hojai was carved out of Nagaon as a new district on 15th August 2016. With a total population of 9,31,218(2011 census) and covering the three Assembly constituencies of 90 Jamunamukh, 91 Hojai and 92 Lumding , Hojai is administered by the three revenue circles of Lanka, Hojai and Daboka spread across five development blocks and eight Mouzas. Once famed as the “Rice Bowl” of Assam, Hojai is pre-eminently an agriculture belt and in recent times it has attracted attention owing to its fabulous Agarwood processing and agar-product export to the outside world, especially the gulf countries.
Hojai offers a mosaic of ethnic, linguistic and religious communities and is often referred to as a “miniature India”. The present population comprises Bengalis, Muslims, Assamese, Dimasas, Karbis , Manipuris, Hindi speaking people and ex-tea garden workers.
Hojai boasts of a glorious and chequered past but its recorded history is shrouded in obscurity and historiographic sources are rather scanty. Whatever we know about the past of Hojai has been gleaned from the limited sources available through casual mention in ancient records, ruins of temples , archeological remnants , inscriptions and ancient coins etc. A major headway in reconstructing the history of Hojai has been through toponomy, i,e. the study of place names. The name of a place has a close link with its geographical location, culture and history. There is always a story behind the name of a place . The toponymic analysis of the name “HOJAI” offers vital clues in the reconstruction of its past.
The geographical area presently under Hojai district and its surrounding area was renowned as “Kapili Valley Kingdom” in ancient times. In different sources this kingdom is mentioned as ‘Dabak’ ‘Kapili’ and ‘Tribeg’. This kingdom enjoyed independent status up to the 6th century A.D.
According to ‘Rajamala”, a chronicle of the kings of Tripura, during the reign of Narakasura’s dynasty in Pragjyotishpur, in around 1900 BC the Tripura king Prataradan established a kingdom named “Tribeg” in the Kapili valley of South Nagaon. As Archeologist Rajmohan Nath interprets it , “Tribeg” or “Trisrot’ is the confluence of three rivers and the three rivers are Kalong, Kapili and Jamuna . A later king of the Tripura dynasty , Dakshin, the second son of the influential King Trilochan subjugated and annexed a neighbouring Kachari kingdom in the 5th century AD. Historian Kanaklal Baruah comments that the Kapili Valley Kingdom and the ancient Tripuri kingdom were the same and was located near Hojai.
In the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta, ‘Dabak’ was mentioned as the tributary boundary kingdom of the Guptas. Historians concur that ‘Dabak’ and “Kapili Kingdom” are but different names of the same kingdom and the present day Daboka was the ‘Dabak’ of the Allahabad inscription.
In the history of the ancient Kamarupa , the Kapili Valley kingdom has been identified as present Hojai . Archeologist Rajmohan Nath in his The background of Assamese Culture states that in the period 985-1000 AD Brahmapala who claimed descent from Narakasura and used the title ‘Baraha’ built his capital somewhere in the Kapili-Jamuna valley in the present Nowgong district, very likely near about present Hojai and named it ‘Durjoya’ or impregnable. The corruption from ‘Durjoya’ to ‘Durjai’ and then to ‘Hojai’ is obvious. Scholars agree to the view that the ruling period of the Pala kings with their capital at Durjoya and the date of the archeological discoveries in Jugijan, Daboka, Nabhanga, Debasthan and other places in and around Hojai almost coincide, which corroborates the hypothesis that Hojai was the location of the capital of the Pala kings.
On the basis of the ruins of temples discovered in places like Rajbari in Jugijan, Kenduguri, Nabhanga, Warigeding, Kaowemari, Moudanga, Akashiganga, Urdhaganga, near Hojai and Daboka and attributed to the period between the 5th and the 12th centuries , historians claim that the Kapili –Jamuna valley was a centre of ‘Shaiva’ and ‘ Sakti’ cult and the Bhouma or Pala kings were patrons and practitioners of these cults. There are some legends and folk tales which buttress the claim in support of the claim that “Hojai”or “Ojai “ or “Oddiana”or “Ojjiana” was the centre of the ‘Sakti’ cult. Archeologist Rajmohan Nath observes- “ the Buddhist Tantrics had a stronghold in Hojai or Ojai (Durjaya) which they called Ojjiana or Oddiana.’ Many other names of places in Hojai and Nagaon district bear resemblance to names found in medieval and ancient historical traces as well as in popular legends which dispels doubts as to the existence of an ancient kingdom in Hojai area.
Medieval historical sources mention that during the reign of Kashyap (1365-1400 A.D.) of the Barahi Pala dynasty there began a new era of Kachari supremacy in the Kapili-Jamuna valley. Birochana, a minister of Bodo origin in the service of king Bhoumapala of Behali area in the north bank of Brahmaputra had to flee his kingdom after a conflict with the king and came to the south bank of Brahmaputra and established a new kingdom on the banks of the Kalong river which was Brahmapur or the present day Batampur and he assumed the name ‘Bicharpatipha’. Soon Kachari reign spread to the entire Kapili-Jamuna valley and the name of the kingdom was known as Kacharipar. The capital of the Kachari kingdom was at Khaspur in Cachar and the Kacharis of Assam along with the Kacharis of Kapili –Januna valley were under Khaspur.
With the coming of the Ahoms in the first quarter of the 13th century and as a result of their vigorous territorial expansion in Assam the Kachari kings came in to conflict with them. During the rule of Kachari king Tamradhwaja Narayan (1695 A.D.-1707A.D.)the Kachari ruled areas went to the Ahoms under Swargadeo Gadadhar Singh. Gobind Chandra is said to be the last Kachari king but his rebel general Tularam Senapati was the de facto vanguard of the Kacharis . During the Ahom rule Hojai was under the dominance of the Bodo-Kacharis or the Bodo-Dimasas.
In fact, the word ‘hojai’ is of Dimasa origin. The priestly class of the Dimasas are known as ‘Hoja’ or ‘Hojaisa’ and the place they inhabited came to be known as Hojai . Even now Hojai area has a sizeable population of Dimasas and some of them have the surname ‘Hojai’.
Hojai of the present times is like a palimpsest wherein one can trace layers of cultures stratified one above the other from the hoary past of ancient times and the middle age down to the British period. This multi-layered palimpsest of cultures and people that we call Hojai bears its proud and glorious history in its name as it marches forward with the flow of time assimilating the myriad ethnic, linguistic, religious communities in to a harmonious entity while the age old Kapili-Jamuna flow quietly as mute witness to the grand spectacle of history enacted on their banks.