Known as a bustling seat of ancient Tantrism and one of the few remaining places in India that still prides itself in preserving the practices of the occult, very few outside of Assam would know that many centuries ago, Assam was a hotbed of Buddhism too.
Changing trends in religious influences and social metamorphosis might or might not have changed who or how some ancient shrines that have survived till modern day Assam are worshipped today, but artifacts, archaeological findings and word of mouth appear to demonstrate the Buddhism has had its days of glory in ancient Assam.
Beliefs state the Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan (also known as Vajrayana) Buddhism, died in Hajo, a town 28 kilometers from Guwahati. Nagarjuna, another leader of Mahayana Buddhism, is said to have erected a Caitya (Memorial) in Hajo around the 1st or 2nd century AD. Some scholars believe that this Caitya was converted into a Hindu temple around the 3rd or 4th century AD. The temple of Hayagriva-Madhava in Hajo is considered a pilgrimage from Southeast Asia.
The 7th century AD Buddhist traveller Hiuen Tsang from China travelled across Assam during the reign of Bhaskarvarman, who although not a Buddhist himself, had a soft corner for the religion. Scholars vary on Hiuen Tsang's observations on Buddhism in Assam, some saying that he did not find any trace of it, and some stating that he observed it being practised secretly due to its esoteric practices. However, Bhaskarvarman did travel with Hiuen Tsang to the court of King Harsha in Kanauj to attend a large Buddhist conference.