Rivers also have a social life: it acts a site of pilgrimage, becomes symbol of cultural identity, and acts as marker of territorial identity. Rivers have inspired humans to imagine and dream. The Brahmaputra, which is the 29th longest river in the world, is one such great river.
The river flows for a mind boggling distance of 640 km through the Tibetan plateau and it enters India through the steep country side of Arunachal Pradesh till it finally emerges from the foothills to enter eastern Assam in Dhemaji district, west of Sadiya.
The Brahmaputra (means son of Brahma, the creator, in Sanskrit) is called Tsangpo (when referring to the stretch within Tibet) and the Jamuna in Bangladesh.
As the river follows through the valley, it is joined by several rapidly rushing Himalayan streams, including the Subansiri, Kameng, Bhareli, Dhansiri, Manas, Champamati, Saralbhanga, and Sankosh Rivers. The main tributaries from the hills and from the plateau to the south are the Burhi Dihing, the Disang, the Dikhu, and the Kopili.
The river Brahmaputra is the symbol of power and majesty for the people of Assam and this extremely powerful river has not only provided livelihood for centuries but also has shaped the history of the valley. The Brahmaputra is also known as ‘Luhit’ or ‘Burha Luit’ derived from the word ‘Lohit’ which means ‘blood’ in Assamese. Legend goes that Parashuram, the tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu, came to pilgrimage and ultimately reached the place, which is now known as Parashuram Kunda and cut down the hills on one side to release the sacred water(present day Brahmaputra) for the benefit of the common people. There is also mention of the river in old Sanskrit literature as Lauhitya meaning Red River while many believe that the name Brahmaputra is derived from the Bodo tribal term Bhullam-Buthur meaning ‘making a gurgling sound’.