The period of Assam history prior to the 4th century A. D. may be regarded as the pre-historic period. For the pre-historic period, we have legends and traditions scattered in ancient books like the Epics, the Puranas, and the Tantras. The oldest legendary figure is Mohiranga Danava. There is a hill named Mairang near Guwahati. It may have some association with Mohiranga.
The Danava dynasty was the first legendary line of rulers in Pragjyotisha, established by Mahiranga Danava. The Danava dynasty consisted of Kirata chiefs; the last of whom, Ghatakasura, was killed and replaced by Naraka.
The Bhauma dynasty is the second legendary dynasty of Pragjyotisha, after the Danava dynasty. Narakasura, who is said to have established this dynasty, and his descendants Bhagadatta and Vajradatta are first mentioned in the epics Mahabharata and the Ramayana in the sections that were composed in the first few centuries. Narakasura’s legend is further embellished in the locally composed Kalika Purana (10th century), the Yogini Tantra, and local lores, and the legends became firmly attached to Assam.
Details about Naraka are found in the Kalika Purana. Naraka was the son of a maidservant through Janaka, king of Videha. When he grown-up, he went to Pragjyotishpur, and thereafter killing Ghatakasur he occupied his kingdom. He imported Brahmins to Pragjyotishpur and settled them there. He is said to have introduced the worship of Devi in his kingdom. Later on Naraka became hostile to Vedic Gods and Goddesses. He then abandoned the worship of Vishnu of whom he was a great devotee in his early life. He then began to oppress people who observed Vedic rites and rituals. Krishna, king of Dwaraka, became angry with Naraka. Krishna then attacked him and after killing him placed his son Bhagadatta on the throne.
All the ruling dynasties of ancient Kamarupa claim descent from Naraka. It shows that Naraka was a remarkable man, and to be his descendents was regarded as a matter of pride. Near Gauhati there is a village known as ‘Narakasurgaon’ and a road called ‘Narakasurali’. Both seem to be associated with the memories of Naraka.
Detailed accounts of Bhagadatta are found in the Mahabharata. In this great epic, he is described as the ‘Lord of the mountain’. According to geologists, in ancient times the greater part of South-East Bengal was submerged under water. Possibly the boundary of Bhagadatta’s kingdom in that direction extended as far as the shore of the sea. The epic further says that in Bhagadatta’s army there were Chinese and Kirata soldiers. In the Kuru-Pandava war, he sided with the Kurus, and after demonstrating great heroism he fell, much to the regret of the Kauravas, on the battlefield. He is said to have been killed by Arjuna, the greatest of the Pandavas heroes.
After Bhagadatta, Vajradatta ascended the throne. From the Mahabharata, we know that he recognized the overlordship of Yudhisthir when the latter performed the Asvamedha sacrifice. After Vajradatta, Naraka line went into oblivion.
Other Kingdoms in Pre-historic era
Legends regarding another non-Aryan king of ancient Assam are preserved in the Bhagavat and the Vishnu Purana. He was the son of Bali, king of Sonitpur, which has been identified with modem Tezpur. According to the Kalika Purana, Bana was a contemporary of Naraka, and as a worshipper of Siva, he was opposed to the Vishnu cult. Coming into contact with him, Naraka deviated from the Aryan path as a result of which he was ultimately killed by Krishna, ruler of Dwaraka. Bana also had conflicts with Krishna.According to legends Krishna’s grandson Aniruddhha came to Sonitpur, entered the castle and secretly married Usha, daughter of Bana. When it was detected Bana captured him. On hearing this Krishna came to Sonitpur and rescued his grandson after defeating Bana in a great battle.Bana’s grandson Bhaluka made his capital at Bhalukpung, not far from Balipara at the foot of the Aka hills. Remains of old fortifications are still visible there. Balipara may have some association with Bali, father of Bana.
The Bhagavat preserves the legends of a king named Bhismak who ruled over a kingdom known as Vidarbha. His capital was at Kundil nagar. According to tradition, ancient Vidarbha was situated in the north-east corner of Assam. In that region, ancient buildings have been discovered and popular belief is that these are the relics of the capital over which Bhismak ruled. In the legend of Bhismak also, Krishna appears. It is said that Krishna married Rukmini, daughter of Bhismak, after defeating Sisupal, a prince of a neighbouring kingdom.
Nagakhya or Nara Sankar
His kingdom flourised towards the end of 4th century at Pratapgarh near Bishwanath Chariali.Four kings – Mimang, Gajang, Sribang and Mrigang ruled for two hundred years in this region.
He was a Kshatriya who came from the west and founded a kingdom. He made his capital west of Guwahati and attracted there a number of Brahmins and other caste hindus from North India. The sage Kendu Kulai is said to have lived in his reign. Dharmapal was succeeded in turn by Padma Narayan Chandra, Narayan and others, ending with Ram Chandra, whose capital was at Ratanpur in Majuli.