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A Closer Look - The Ahoms

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Last updated date: 21st Feb 2024
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Introduction of the Ahoms

The Ahom, also known as the Tai-Ahom, are an ethnic group from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India. This ethnic group is made up of interbred descendants of the Tai people, who first came to Assam's Brahmaputra valley in 1228, and indigenous people who later joined them. Sukaphaa, the Tai group's leader, and his 9000 supporters founded the Ahom empire (1228–1826 CE), which ruled over part of modern-day Assam's Brahmaputra Valley until 1826. The current Ahom people and culture are a mix of the ancient Tai people and culture, as well as indigenous Tibeto-Burman people and cultures that they assimilated in Assam.


As a consequence of the Ahomisation process, local people from diverse ethnic groups in Assam who accepted the Tai way of life and administration were incorporated into their fold, which became known as Ahom. Many local ethnic groups, such the Tibeto-Burman Borahis, were entirely absorbed into the Ahom community, while members of other communities were recognised as Ahoms based on their devotion to the Ahom monarchy or the use of their talents. With a population of almost 1.3 million in Assam, they are now India's largest Tai group. Ahom people are primarily located in Upper Assam, particularly in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, and Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, and Dhemaji (south of the Brahmaputra River) (north).


Despite the fact that the already admixed group Ahom constituted only a tiny percentage of the kingdom's population, they kept their own Ahom language and religion until the 17th century, when the Ahom court and commoners adopted the Assamese language.


A Closer Look at the Ahoms Origin

After a long and bloody fight with the Chinese, the Tai speaking people rose to power in China's Guangxi area, from which they migrated to mainland Southeast Asia in the middle of the 11th century. The Tai-Ahoms can be traced back to either South China's Mong Mao or Myanmar's Hukawng Valley. Sukaphaa, a Mong Mao Tai ruler, and a group of supporters arrived in Assam in 1228 with the aim of establishing there. 


They brought with them a better level of wet-rice farming technique than was previously available, as well as writing, record-keeping, and state-formation tradition. The Ahoms still dwell in the area south of the Brahmaputra River and east of the Dikho River, where they settled. The Ahom kingdom (1228–1826 CE), founded by Sukaphaa, the Tai group's leader, and his 9,000 supporters, ruled much of the Brahmaputra valley until 1826.


The Initial Formation of Ahoms

During the early stages, Sukaphaa's disciples roamed about for over thirty years, mixing in with the local people. He moved from one location to the next, looking for a seat. He reached an agreement with the Borahi and Moran ethnic groups (tribe), and he and his largely male followers married into them, resulting in an admixed people known as Ahoms and starting the Ahomisation process. The Tibeto-Burman Borahis were completely assimilated into the Ahom fold, but the Moran remained ethnically separate. In 1253, Sukaphaa founded his capital at Charaideo, which is today near Sivasagar, and began the process of becoming a state.


Language of Ahoms People 

After the traditional language, the Ahom language, fell into usage, the Ahoms now utilise the Assamese language. The Ahom language, which belongs to the Tai branch of the Kra–Dai languages, is now extinct, and its tone system has been lost completely. Nevertheless, some Tai Ahom organisations are reviving it. Beginning in the late twentieth century and continuing into the early twenty-first, the Ahoms have shown renewed interest in their culture and language, leading to greater research and revival efforts. Around 179,000 individuals identified as Ahom were counted in India's 1901 census.


A Closer Look at the Ahoms Religion

Although there is an effort to restore the original Ahom faith, most Ahoms nowadays return to Hinduism as their religion. Despite this, Me-Dam-Me-Phi is well-known. During the reign of Suremphaa Rajeswar Singha, who enforced Sanskritisation, the Ahom faith collapsed. A Maithil Brahmin priest and a traditional Deodhai priest were to conduct all funerals according to Hindu cremation rites.


Wedding of the Ahoms

Cho Klong is the most important of the Tai Ahom people's twenty marriage rituals. Cho Klong is a Tai Ahom word that means (full form in English) ["Cho= combine" and "Klong=to perform a ritual." The ritual is described in an ancient Tai Ahom script Lai Lit nang Hoon Pha. There are 101 ban-phai (earthen lamps) or lights glowing. The bride presents the husband with a heng-dan (sword) in exchange for his protection of her, their children, family, race, and nation. Sum of twenty rituals is performed in Ahoms wedding along with Cho klong, including:

  • Ju-ron

  • Rik-Khwan

  • Aap-Tang (Aap=Bath, Tang=devine)

  • Chow Ban (worshipping sun)

  • Jon-ming (Blessing given by Moloung priests)


Food Habit of the Ahoms

One of the most important aspects of Tai-Ahom culture is eating habits. The majority of Ahoms, particularly in rural regions, are non-vegetarians who, like the other Tai peoples, retain a traditional cuisine of their own food. Their characteristic meals include chicken, pig, duck, slices of beef (buffalo), frogs, a variety of fishes, hulkoti maas (dry preserved fish combination), Muga lota (cocoon seeds of yendi and muga worms), and red ant eggs. Insects are also a valuable source of nutrition for the Ahoms. 


Rice is the primary meal, and traditional beverages include Lao (homemade rice beer); Luk-Lao or Nam-Lao (rice beer, undiluted or diluted). They eat "Betgaaj'' (tender cane shoots), "Khar" (an alkaline liquid produced from the ashes of burned banana peels/bark), and a variety of other naturally produced therapeutic herbs and vegetables. 


Ahom eating habits are similar to Thai cuisine. Thu–dam (black lentil), Khao–Moon (Rice Frumenty), "Xandohguri'' (dry roasted rice powder), "ChewaKhao" (steamed rice), "Chunga Chaul" (sticky rice cooked in delicate bamboo tubes), "Til pitha" (sesame rice rolls produced from sticky rice powder), and Khao-tyvek are only a few of them (rice flakes).


The Housing of the Ahoms

There are several connections between living room styles. The houses of the rural Ahom family are built of wood, bamboo, and two roofs are generally designed by thatching grasses, same as the rural Thai people of Thailand. Every family has an orchard and plough field near their home. Within the bamboo groves, the inhabitant's houses have been built in a haphazard way. The Ahom used to build their homes on stilts called Rwan Huan, which were roughly two metres above ground level.


The Ahoms People Today’s Status

Ahom people have now been classified as members of the other backward classes (OBC) caste; there has also been debate and desire for the Schedule Tribe for a long time. The Indian government now associates the term "ethnic Assamese" with the different indigenous Assamese people. According to Anthony Van Nostrand Diller, as many as eight million Assamese speakers can trace their ancestors to the Ahoms. 


However, historian Yasmin Saikia claims that the Ahoms were not an ethnic group in pre-colonial periods, but rather a rather open status group. With the active permission of the monarch, any community entering the socioeconomic fold of the Ahom kingdom may claim Ahom status.


Conclusion

The Ahom are an Indian ethnic group that hails from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They are descended from the Tai people, who first came to Assam's Brahmaputra valley around 1228. They are currently India's biggest Tai tribe, with a population of over 1.3 million. Until 1826, the Ahom kingdom (1228–1826 CE) controlled over much of the Brahmaputra valley. In 1228, Sukaphaa, a Mong Mao Tai king, with a party of followers landed in Assam with the intention of establishing a presence. The above article gets a closer look at the Ahoms people including the introduction of the Ahoms people, Origin, Language and so on.

FAQs on A Closer Look - The Ahoms

1. Where did the Ahoms come from?

They originated in the Chinese region of Yunnan, and in the first century AD, they began moving into Indo-china and northern Myanmar (Burma). Their native tongue has become extinct, and they now speak Assamese. It is also known as Tai Ahom. In states like Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, there are some ethnic groups of people called Ahom.  In 1228, in Brahmaputra valley in Assam, Tai Ahom people reached and some indigenous people joined them within a span of time. The members were the successors of this community of people. The Ahom kingdom is established by a leader of the Tai group named Sukaphaa and his 9000 followers. He had control of much of the place of Brahmaputra valley in Assam. 

2. Answer the following questions:

  1. When the Ahom Kingdom was established and by whom?

  2. Is the Ahoms calendar different?

The answers are mentioned below:

  1. The Ahom Kingdom was said to have been established in 1228 and the first king was Sukhaphaa.

  2. The Ahom people used the Lak-Ni Tao-Si-Nga lunar calendar, which originated in the middle kingdoms (Chung-Kuo). However, it is still popular among the Tai people of China and Southeast Asia.

3. How can we get a closer look at the ahoms, people?

Clans or khels were used to separate Ahom society. So there were few artisan castes in the Ahom region, and artisans migrated from neighbouring kingdoms. The Ahoms have faith in their own tribal gods. In the 17th century, People used to believe in the supremacy of Brahmans. Even after adopting Hinduism, the Ahom people did not forget their traditional culture and beliefs. The society of Ahom was very sophisticated. Land grants were given to poets and scholars. The theater was also there to achieve encouragement.  There was a laborer known as paik who was forced to work for the state. The clans of the ahoms were caused because of the migration of the majority of people from densely populated areas to thinly populated areas. In the first half of the 17th century, the administration was quite centralized.