|2 million (1990 est.)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Ahom (formerly), Assamese|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Shan, Thai, and other Tai groups|
The Ahom (Pron: ˈɑ:hɒm or ɑ:həm) people of Assam are the descendants of the ethnic Tai people that accompanied the Tai prince Sukaphaa into the Brahmaputra valley in 1228 and ruled the area for six centuries. Sukaphaa and his followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228–1826) and the Ahom dynasty ruled and expanded the kingdom until the British gained control of the region through the Treaty of Yandabo upon winning the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826. The kingdom established by the Ahom people gave Assam its name.
The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretic blend of the original Tai culture, the indigenous Tibeto-Burmans and Hinduism. Many of the Tai followers of Sukaphaa were unaccompanied males who subsequently married into the local communities. Some ethnic groups, including the Tibeto-Burman speaking Borahi people, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community. Members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the usefulness of their talents, were accepted as Ahoms. Gradually, the Indo-Aryan Assamese language replaced the Ahom language as the Ahoms converted to Hinduism and other aspects of Indian culture though one-third of the Ahom population still follow Tai original religion, Furalung. The Ahom language, till a few years ago was known by approximately 400-500 members of the Ahom priestly class. Deeply concern about the Ahom language, Tai Ahom organisations are now trying to revive Tai Ahom language again among masses of Tai Ahom people by establishing various Tai schools in Upper Assam. Many institutes like P.K.Buragohain Institute for Tai and South East Asian Studies,Guwahati,Central Tai Academy,Patsaku,etc. have come up in recent days. In coming days more Tai schools are planned to be established across Assam 
Starting in the late 20th and continuing into the early 21st century, there has been renewed interest among the Ahoms in their culture and language leading to increased study and attempts at revival. The 1901 census of India enumerated approximately 179,000 people identifying as Ahom. The latest available census records slightly over 2 million Ahom individuals however, estimates of the total number of people descended from the original Tai-Ahom settlers are as high as eight million.
In the early 13th century, Mong Mao was a small kingdom of Tai people, related to the Shan, in present day Yunnan Province, China. In 1228, Sukaphaa, a prince of Mong Mao began his journey with about 9000 followers, mostly men. He crossed the Patkai hills and reached the Brahmaputra valley in 1228. He moved from place to place, searching for a seat. He decided not to attack the Morans and Borahis but befriend them instead. His followers, much depleted from the original 9000, married into the Borahi and the Moran ethnic groups. The Borahis, a Tibeto-Burman people, were subsumed into the Ahom fold, though the Moran maintained their independent ethnicity. Sukaphaa finally established his capital at Charaideo near present-day Sivasagar in 1253 and began the task of state formation.
The Ahom kingdom then consolidated its power, building their kingdom for the next 600 years. The first major expansion was at the cost of the Sutiya kingdom, which was annexed in 1522 under King Suhungmung. The expansion's success was not only a result of Ahom military prowess, but also of changes in the Ahom social and political outlook. Suhungmung was the first Ahom king to adopt a Hindu name: Swarga Narayan. The Sutiya region was placed under the Sadiyakhowa Gohain a new position that was created. In 1536 the Dimasa Kacharis, known to Ahoms as "Timisa", were uprooted from their capital at Dimapur. Thus by the middle of the 16th century, the Ahoms were in control of all of present day eastern Assam. The late 17th century saw another expansion of Ahom territory. After the 1682 Battle of Itakhuli, that marked the end of the Ahom-Mughal conflicts, much of the control of Koch Hajo fell into the hands of the Ahoms. By bringing the various tribal groups and regions under one ruler and one governing polity the Ahoms are considered the architects of modern Assam.
Ahom power declined in the latter half of the 18th century. The capital city was taken for a short period during the Moamoria rebellion. In the first part of the 19th century, the Burmese army invaded their kingdom, uprooted their capital and set up a puppet Ahom king. The Burmese were defeated by the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War resulting in the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, which paved the way for the British to convert the Ahom kingdom into a principality and which marked the end of the Ahom rule. Assam was then annexed by British India, becoming a province and then a state as the Ahom identity gradually became Assamese.Now the Ahoms are again reviving their original Tai language,culture
One of the important customs among the Ahoms is that the dead body is not burnt but kept in a box. This is called “Maidam”. It is mentioned in history that Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha who was influenced by Hinduism gave the direction that the dead bodies should be cremated and not buried. He also ordered that the death ceremony should be done in the Brahmanical style by calling in a Maithil Brahmin priest and the traditional Deodhai priest.
The Tai Ahoms worship their deceased forefathers as they are the guardian deities of the house holders. They believe that their ancestors must be duly worshipped so that they being satisfied keep them safe. There is a saying among them that “Neither the wall nor the roof, no other gods can protect the house holders, if the god of the household do not. Neither the serpent bites, nor the tiger eats, even the god of death is afraid when the household deads protect,”
The Tai Ahoms worship their ancestors individually by the family as well as community. The Tai Ahom priestly families worship their dead ancestors in the occasion of marriage, festivals like Bihu, before and after harvesting, feast of new paddy, birth and death ceremonies etc.
The Tai Ahoms believe that after death a person becomes a Dam>Phi or god who goes to reside in the heaven in the same way as he was in his earthly life. He is worshipped and propitiated as a god with the offerings made by the descendants but not as a revengeful ghost.
The Tai Ahoms offer every new first seasonal crops, vegetables and fruits to the ancestors and they could take these only after offering these to their ancestor gods. It should be noted here that the priestly families worship their ancestors in a very clear way making different grades to each kind of Dam. These are Ghai Dam, Chi Ren Dam, Na Dam and Jokorua Dam.
Ghai Dam: ‘Ghai’ means ‘main’ and ‘Dam’ means ‘Dead’, hence Ghai Dam means dead grandparents of the living house holder.
Chi Ren Dam: ‘Chi’ means ‘four’, ‘ren’ means a ‘house’. Thus ‘Chi Ren Dam’ means the fourth generation of the dead parents of the dead grandfather of the living house holders.
Jokorua Dam : The word ‘Jokorua’ is used in a collective sense to mean all the dead ones who died without having a male child, who died in childhood, who died without getting married and also who died with physical and mental abnormality. This kind of Dam is propitiated in the house of the elder one of the living generation.
Na Dam: ‘Na’ means ‘new’. The recent dead in the household, whether the head of the family or his wife or his parents, is called Na Dam.
All these kinds of Dams are altogether called Griha Dam. But the Jokorua Dam is not included in the Griha Dam. On the other Tai Ahom people worship their dead ancestors annually.
Me-Dam-Me-Phi is a traditional religious ceremony of the Tai-Ahoms. In this ceremony the Chao Phi or the natural forefathers (presiding gods) and Dam Chao are worshipped. They are: 1. Khao Kham 2. Ai lengdin 3. Ja Ching Pha 4. Jan Sai Hung 5. Leng Don 6. Chit-Lam-Cham 7. Mut-Kum Tai-Kum 8. Dam Chao Phi or Chao Phi Dam “forefather above thirteen generations of living family” 9. Ra-Khim 10. Ba-Khin
In Me-Dam-me-Phi the worship is offered through an octagonal Ho-Phi, constructed temporarily by bamboo sticks and thatch. Me-Dam-me-Phi while observed publicly it becomes a socio-religious festival than to a ritual.
The Ahom people
The Tai Ahoms who came into Assam followed their traditional religion and spoke the Tai language. They were a very small group numerically and after the first generation, the group was a mixture of the Tai and the local population. Over time the Ahom state adopted the Assamese language. Except for some special offices (the king and the raj mantris), other positions are open to members of all tribes and religion. They kept good records, and are known for their chronicles, called Buranjis.
One of its greatest achievements was the stemming of Mughal expansionism. In the celebrated battle of Saraighat, the Ahom general Lachit Borphukan defeated the Mughal forces on the outskirts of present day Guwahati in 1671.
The Ahom Rule
The Ahoms established their kingdom in Assam under King Sukaphaa in 1228. They ruled till 1826. Sukaphaa was very humble and he befriended with the local tribes Moranis and the Borahis. The Ahoms were Indo-Tibetan people. His followers originally later married into the Morani and Borahi peoples. King Suhungmung adopted the Hindu name 'Swarga Narayan' and later all the Ahom kings were called Swargadeo (lord of the heavens) in the Assamese language. The Ahom kings were called Chao-pha in the Tai language. The coronation ceremony of the Ahom kings was known as Singarigharutha. The Ahoms prevented Mughal expansion in Assam. The Ahom power came nearly to an end because of the civil wars led their resources to an end. The Burmese then invaded Assam and forced the King to leave the Kingdom and set up a Puppet King. The Burmese were then defeated by the British in the first Anglo-Burmese war. And this is how Assam came under the British Domination. The Ahom people are now in the Assamese society.
Ahom people today
|Populated States||Assam, Arunachal Pradesh.|
The Tai-Ahom were historically seen as "Assamese" people. The term "ethnic Assamese" is now associated by the Indian government with the Assamese-speaking people of the Brahmaputra valley (see Assamese people). According to Anthony Van Nostrand Diller, possibly eight million speakers of Assamese can claim genetic descent from the Ahomese. However, historian Yasmin Saikia argues that in pre-colonial times, the Ahoms were not an ethnic community, but were a relatively open status group. Any community coming into the socio-economic fold of the Ahom state could claim the Ahom status with active consent of the king.
Tai Ahom were historically seen as Tai people who migrated to Brahmaputra valley from Mongmao,present day Yunnan Province of China in 1228 AD.Tai Ahoms ruled Brahmaputra Valley for 598 years,i.e.,(1228 AD-1826 AD).Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha was the founder of Ahom Kingdom.The Tibeto Burmans gave the name "Ahom" to the Tai(Shans)and gradually Tais(Shans)were known as Ahoms.With the passage of time,Tai Ahoms though stop using Tai language and following Tai culture but at present Tai Ahoms are again reviving their old Tai language,culture.Ahom people are found mostly in Upper Assam districts of Golaghat,Jorhat,Sibsagar,Dibrugarh,Tinsukia,Lakhimpur,Dhemaji.Tai Ahoms are also found in large numbers in Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh.Tai Ahom people are though majority converted Hindus but still they didn't leave their old ancestor animist religion,Furalung.Apart from Hindus,Ahoms follow Christianity,Buddhism and Furalung.Mohung,Changbun,Moplong are the three priestly clans of Ahoms which have still preserved the old rituals of Ahoms.
- Dipima Buragohain. Issues of Language Contact and Shift in Tai Ahom
- Sikhamoni Gohain Boruah & Ranjit Konwar, The Tai Ahom of India and a Study of Their Present Status Hiteswar Saikia College and Sri Ranjit Konwar, Assam Forest Department
- Gait, Edward. A History of Assam. Thacker, Spink and Co. Calcutta, 1906. pg 96
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- "ST status to Assam groups only from a national perspective". Retrieved 11/03/2009.
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- Lambert, Eric T.D. (1952). "A short account of the Ahom people" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Society). JSS Vol.40.1 (digital): image. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
- Terwiel, Barend Jan (1983). "Ahom and the Study of Early Thai Society" (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society (Siam Society). JSS Vol. 71.0 (digital): image. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
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- The Tai Ahom International website by J. Borgohain launched on June 26, 2009.