The Varmana Dynasty :
The real political history of ancient Assam begins with the foundation of the Varmana line of kings. The inscriptions of Bhaskaravarman, the greatest king of this dynasty as well as of ancient Assam, Banabhatta’s Harshacharita and the accounts of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang furnish considerable materials relating to the history of the Varmanas.
It is learnt from epigraphical sources that Pushyavarman, born in the lineage of Naraka-Bhagaduta was the founder of the Varmana of Bhauma line of kings. When and how Pushyavarman came to power is not known. He probably taking advantage of the political instability of the time,made himself king and to justify his claim,traced his descent from Naraka-Bhagadutta. According to B.M.Barua.” Pushyavarman was the first Indo-Aryan ruler set up by Samudragupta over the two territories of Kamarupa and Davaka unified into a single kingdom.”But this view is not tenable because Pushyavarman assumed the important title of Maharajadhiraja which indicates his independent status. Pushyavarman was probably a contemporary of Samudragupta.
In the Allahabad pillar inscription of this Gupta emperor, the name of Kamrupa occurs as a frontier kingdom Samalata, Davaka, Nepal and Kartipur,whose kings owed allegiance to Samudragupta on their own accord. The unnamed king of Kamarupa of this inscription is usually identified with Pushyavarman. If we count the date of Pushyavarman on the basis of the Badaganga epigraph of Bhutivarman, (dated 234 Gupta era which corresponds to 553-54 A.D.) who was the eighth king of the dynasty and allow its king an average reigning period of 25 years, Pushyavarman’s reign would fall between c.355-80 A.D..he would thus be a contemporary of Samudragupta (c.320-80 A.D.).It was perhaps in honour of his overlord that he named his son as Samudravarman and his daughter-in-law as Dattadevi in imitation of the names of the Gupta emperor Samudragupta and his queen Dattadevi.
350 – 374
Founded the kingdom.
374 – 398
398 – 422
422 – 446
446 – 470
Ganpativarman / Ganendravarman
470 – 494
Mahendravarman / Surendravarman
494 – 518
518 – 542
Bhutivarman / Mahabhutivarman
542 – 566
566 – 590
590 – 595
595 – 600
600 – 650
Brother. Said to be an illustrious king.
The Kamata kingdom emerges in western Assam.
Bhaskaravarman assists Harshavardhana of Thaneshwar against the Gauda King Shashanka. Even though Bhaskaravarman is a Hindu he also patronises Buddhism. He dies without a heir.
c.650 – 655
After the short reign of Bhaskaravarman’s sole successor, the kingdom falls under the dominion of the Salasthambha Mlechha dynasty. A Varman dynasty later emerges in Samatata, but it is unclear if that bears any relation to the Varman kings of Assam.
Rajatarangini, a book of fifth century A.D., by Kalhan, mentions a Kamarupa princess named Amritaprabha, who was given in marriage to Meghavahana, a Kashmir prince in an open Sayambara. This Amritaprabha is believed to be the daughter of Balavarman, the grandson of Pushyavarman. Rajatarangini relates that Amritaprabha erected in Kashmir,a lofty Vihara for the benefit of the foreign bhikshus and that this Vihara was known as Amritabhaban. It is farther stated that Amritaprabha took with her a Tibetan Buddhist monk named Stunpa, who was a preceptor of her father. This Stunpa erected a Stupa in Kashmir known as Lo-Stunpa.31 Ou-Kung and M.A. Stein also support the historicity of this event. During the reign of Kalyanavarman, the son of Balavarman,the Davaka or the Kapili valley (comprising possibly the present district of Nagoan, Karbi Anglong and North Cachar area) was absorbed into the empire of Kamarupa. To signalise this victory, he sent a diplomatic mission to China in 428 A.D.
Mahendravarman, grandson of Kalyanavarman expanded his empire to south-east Bengal upto the sea by shaking off the last vestiges of the Gupta influence in Kamarupa. He was the first king of Assam to perform Aswamedha and he did it on two occasions. Mahendravarman’s grandson Bhutiavarman was a powerful king. He conquered Pundravardhana (North Bengal) sometime between 545-50 A.D. and donated lands to more than 200 Brahmanas in the Chandrapuri visaya located within the Pundravardhana bhukti. He might have also extended his sway in the south and the west and brought the outlying regions of Samatata, Sylhet, Tripura and other regions under his control. He has also performed one Aswamedha sacrifice.
The glory of Kamarupa suffered a temporary set back during the reign of Bhaskaravarman’s father Susthitavarman,who suffered a defeat at the hands of the Later Gupta monarch Mahasenagupta and as a result of this defeat lost the possession of Pundravardhana. Bhaskaravarman (c.600-650 A.D.), ascending the throne at a time, when the reputation of his family was at a low ebb, not only restored it but made Kamarupa, a power to be reckoned with whose alliance was welcomed by a monarch of Harsha’s (606-648 A.D.)fame, the last great monarch of ancient Northern India. By this alliance, Bhaskara not only recovered Pundravardhana but also brought Gauda with its capital Karnasuvarna under his control. In fact,it was from his victorious camp at Karnasuvarna that Bhaskara issued his Nidhanpur grant by which he renewed the grants of land made earlier by Bhutivarman in Pundravardhana.
It was during the reign of Bhaskaravarman that the great Chinese pilgrim Houen Tsang visited Kamarupa in 643 A.D. and stayed in his capital for nearly two months. The pilgrim speaks highly about the noble qualities of Bhaskara and his prowess. In the religious assemblies held at Prayag and Kanauj by Harsha, Bhaskara was shown special honour in the presence of all the kings assembled there.
After the death of Harsha in 648 A.D., Bhaskara became the supreme lord of Eastern India extending his sway as far as Nalanda. He had also brought under his control Sylhet and Tripura including south-east Bengal. This is testified by Hiuen Tsang who refers to Bhaskara as ”King of eastern India”and stated that the rules of Kamarupa had the sea-route to China under their protection.Inscriptions bear testimony to the many-sided qualities and achievements of Bhaskara. Because of his depth of knowledge,he is called in the ”second Brihaspati”.He made Kamarupa a noted centre of learning attracting students from outside. As pointed out by P.C. Choudhury, with the expansion of the political sway of the Varmana line of kings large portion of Eastern India came under the cultural ideas of Kamarupa. This influence even spread to the islands in the pacific and some of the architectural remains in Combodia, Annam and other places are possibly to be attributed to the influence of the rulers of Kamarupa.