Karimganj District is located in the Southern tip of Assam - a state in the North-eastern corner of India. Together with two other neighbouring districts - Cachar and Hailakandi - it constitutes the Barak Valley zone in Southern Assam. Total area of the district is 1809 Sq.Kms. which comprises varied geographical features like agricultural plains, shallow wetlands, hilly terrains and forests. As in 1997-98, total forest cover in the district is more than 54 thousand hectares. That is about 30% of total geographical area is covered by forest.
The geographical location of Karimganj district is between longitudes 92°15' and 92°35' east and latitudes 24°15' and 25°55' North.
The district is bounded on the North by Bangladesh and Cachar district; on the South by Mizoram and Tripura states, on the West by Bangladesh and Tripura and on the East by Hailakandi district.
Located strategically, the district shares 92 Kms. of International Border with the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. 41 Kms of this is demarcated by the river Kushiara while 51 Kms is land border. On some stretches, there is no natural geographical demarcation for the border which cuts across open agricultural or grazing fields. However, on most parts, the international border with Bangladesh is marked by either the river Kushiara, or the sub-mountain tracts of the Adamail range. In a sense, Karimganj, along with the neighbouring district of Cachar demarcates the frontier between the plains of the Padma-Meghna basin and the hilly North-east India.
Karimganj is one of the 23 districts of Assam. It comprises only one sub- division which is also named as Karimganj. Below this level, there are 5 Revenue Circles (Tehsils), namely - Karimganj, Badarpur, Nilambazar, Patherkandi and Ramkrishna Nagar. Furthermore, from developmental angle, the district is divided into 7 Community Development Blocks - North Karimganj, South Karimganj, Badarpur, Patherkandi, Ramkrishna Nagar, Dullavcherra and Lowairpoa. Below the block level set-up, there are 96 Gram Panchayats each comprising about ten villages on the average and governed by local-self bodies. From the angle of Police administration, the district area is divided among 5 Police stations - Karimganj, Badarpur, Patherkandi, Ramkrishna Nagar and Ratabari.
The early history of present district of Karimganj, Assam, is hazy and obscure. With available source materials and evidences, it is difficult to construct a chronologically comprehensive account of early history of the region. Only a broad outline, with major gaps, can be attempted.
From the Nidhanpur copper inscriptions issued by King Bhaskarbarman, it is learnt that the region has been within the Kamrupa Kingdom for about a hundred years since A.D. sixth century. The Aryanisation of the region under the leadership of the pioneer immigrant Brahmins with plough-based agriculture as economic basis had its beginning during this period. From the Kalapur copper plates issued by Samata Marundanatha, it is learnt that in the 7th Century A.D., this region, along with foothills of North Cachar Hills had passed on to the Samatata Kingdom of the Eastern Bengal. Of ourse, there is no direct evidence to prove it. In the 10th Century A.D., King Srichandra of the renowned Chandra Dynasty of Eastern Bengal incorporated the entire region within his Vanga Kingdom. During this period, the Chandrapura Matha or monastery, situated at Panchakhanda (8 miles From Karimganj town, now in Bangladesh), became a very reputed centre of learning. According to the renowned historian D.C. Sarkar, the Chandrapura Matha was the greatest centre of Hindu-learning in the entire Eastern India of the early period. From two Bhatera inscriptions of Govindakeshava Deva and Ishana Deva, it is learnt that there was an independent Srihatta Rajya in the 12th Century within which the entire Karimganj District along with a major portion of the Cachar plains were incorporated.
When Hazarat Shah Jalal, a warrior Muslim Saint from Yemen, conquered Sylhet in 1328 A.D., Srihatta, along with a major portion of Karimganj district passed on to the Bengal Sultanate. A portion of Karimganj district comprising the present thana area of Patherkandi was under the control of the Tripura King at that period. However, during the reign of Hussain Shah (1483-1519), this region - at that time known as Pratapgarh - also came under the Sultanate. We have two inscriptions - one of Hussain Shah, and another of his son Mahmud Shah, found respectively at Kaliganj and Suprakandi, to show that Bengal Sultanate had complete sway over this entire region. The region, along with other parts of Sylhet, was incorporated within the Mughal Empire in 1576 during the reign of Akbar. According to Ain-I-Akbari, most of the areas of the district were placed under the Pratapgarh Revenue Mahal of the Silhat Sarkar of the Mughals. The district continued to be part of the Silhat Sarkar and Bangla Suba of the Mughals.
In 1765, the diwani of the Bangla Suba was taken over by the British East India Company and the District of Sylhet, of which Karimganj was a part, passed on to the British. However, upto 1786, the British could not establish their hegemony over the entire region. A local Zamindar, Radharam, brought under his administrative control, a vast region of Southern Karimganj, and local people started calling him Nawab Radharam. His blatant defiance of British authority brought the matters to a head, but Radharam could survive two successive expeditions of the British contingents. Ultimately, a reinforced contingent succeeded in capturing him after defeating his native force. While he was being carried to Sylhet by the Company soldiers, Radharam reportedly committed suicide. It is only with his fall in 1786 that the British could establish their complete authority in the region around Karimganj.
In November 1857, three companies of the 34th Native Infantry stationed at Chittagong mutinied and they subsequently emerged in the south-east of the Sylhet District. At Latu village of present Karimganj district, these rebel soldiers encountered a contingent of the Sylhet Light Infantry under the command of Major Byng. The sepoys were defeated, but Major Byng was killed. At Malegar hillock of Latu village, the graves of the fallen rebels are still venerated by the local peple.
The Sub-division of Karimganj under the Sylhet District was created in 1878 with Karimganj town as its headquarters. The sub-division played an important role in the freedom movement. The famous Chargola exodus, one of the earliest organised labour movements of the country, had its origin in the Chargola valley tea-belt of Karimganj sub-division.
At the time of partition of the country, in 1947, the district of Sylhet was transferred to East Pakistan barring three-and-half thana areas (Ratabari, Patherkandi, Badarpur and half of Karimganj thana) of the Karimganj sub-division. This truncated Karimganj sub-division was incorporated in the Cachar District of Assam as a full-fledged sub-division. This sub-division was upgraded to a district on the 1st of July, 1983, vide Govt. Notification no. GAG15/83/1 dated June 14, 1983.