Tai Ahom: Waking through the history of Assam

Guwahati,Prangan Duarah : Assam is a perfect combination of nature and culture that has evolved with the time. The beauty of its different culture defines Assam. It is not just their culture; it is also their rich traditions, histories, art and crafts, languages, festival, which make Assam a land of beauty. Friendly, charming and open hearted people of Assam are a broad intermixture of different tribes and civilizations, which settled in the ground of Assam centuries ago.The state has the largest number of civilization and tribes which includes the Ahom, the Missing, the Boro, the Kachari, the Deori, the Karbi, the Tiwa, the Rabhas, the Singphos etc.

The Ahom, the descendants of ethic Tai people ruled Assam for six hundred year (1228-1826). There was a kingdom of Tai called “mong- mao” in Yun-nan. The four prince of mong-mao namely Chao Suakapha, Suakhanpha, Suapatpha and Suachatpha wanted to expand their kingdom. With a vision to have their own kingdom they set out on a journey. The eldest prince Suakapha, who proceeded west-wards crossed the rugged Patkai mountain range with a group of about 9000 people reached the Brahmaputra valley in 1228 and established the tai kingdom in Assam. Suakapha established his capital in “Che-rai-doi”, which means the shining city on the hills(present daycheraideo in Sivasagar district). Tai ahom people called their country as “Mung-tai” means the land of Tai people. The ahom kingdom was ruled by a king called “swargadeo”. To control this vast land tai ahom introduced some administrative commissioner among themselves. The swargadeo (king) was assisted by three ministers, namely, Chao Phong Mung (Buragohain), Thao Mung Lung (Borgohain), and Chao Sung Lung (Borpatragohain) who offered him their counsel, and they are commonly known as “Dangarias”. “barbaruahs” and “barphukans” were royel officers who act as the military as well as the judicial head, was in command of the region east of Kaliabor and military and civil command over the region west of Kaliabor respectively. Other than these they have various administrators like “rajkhowas”, “Baruahs”, “Phukans”, “NaubaichaPhukans” etc.

During the six hundred years of ruling, the Ahom dynasty managed to resist powerful Mughal attack for as many as seventh time. The British entered Assam in 1824 as tea planter which was the starting point of the destruction of Ahom dynasty.The ahom kingdom was enthusiastic patrons of the arts and culture. The most notableamong their contributions to the culture of the Assam were ahom architecture. The monuments of the Ahom age – Karen-ghar; Tatatal-ghar, the Royal palaces; Rang-ghar, a two storied building which once served as the royal sports pavilillion; Dols; Silar hanku, a stone bridge; tanks etc. are remarkable example of architecture. The multi storied constructions with underground chambers with bricks are definitely unique from technical and architectural point of view. Dhodar- Ali, Garh-ali, etc. are the names of few important roads which were constructed during the ahom kingdom.

Tai-ahoms are rich in culture. Tai-Ahom has own culture, script, literature, language, religion.The Tai Ahoms who came into Assam followed their traditional religion and spoke the Tai language. Tai language was spoken by a small group of Tai-Ahom people in a region which at present comprises of Dibrugarh and Sibsagardistricts of the state of Assam.

A new chapter of cultural assimilation was written during the era of ahom.The original Tai-Shans assimilated with the local culture, adopted the language on one hand and on the other also influenced the main-stream culture with the elements from their own. The musical instruments, ornamentsfrom the foreign region became popular during ahom kingdom.They introduce Assamese musical instruments dhol (drum) from the Shan country. The utensils likeMaolung. Maihang, Bankahi, Banbati, Sharai,etc. became popular among other communities of Assam, as well. Muga silk “the golden fiber”, ornamets like Jangphai, Jonbiri,GamKharuetcand dresses like Khingkhap, ahom Mekhelawere also introduced by ahoms.

Through their remarkable monuments of art, architecture and culture the ahom kingdom left an extraordinary footprint in the sand of time.

Data Sources:

  1. Tai-Ahom and standard Thai: a descriptive-comparative study by R Duangthip and Rungkarn
  2. The bright side of ahom role by Labanu Kr. Borah