|(2 million (1990 est.))|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Ahom (formerly), Assamese|
|Hinduism, Buddhism, Furalung, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Shan, Thai, and other Tai groups|
The Ahom (Pron: /, /, Assamese: আহোম, Thai: อาหม, 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 modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretic blend of the original Tai culture, the indigenous Tibeto-Burmans and Hinduism. 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.
The Tibeto-Burman locals near the Ahoms gave them the name "Ahom".
In the early 13th century, Mong Mao was a small kingdom of Tai people, related to the Shan, in present-day Yunnan Province, Myanmar. In 1228, the Mong Mao prince Chao-lung Sukaphaa 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 depleted followers 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 partially annexed in 1524 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', and he and his successors were named 'Swargadeo' (Lord of heaven) in Assamese, coronated in the Singarigharutha ceremony. 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.
However, the Ahoms gradually became more Indianised, as they and their rulers converted to Hinduism and spoke Assamese instead of their native Ahom language
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. The Ahoms have revived their original Tai language, and culture.
Most Tai Ahoms are Hindus. There are some minorities of Ahoms who practice their native religion, Furalung, and others who practice Buddhism and Christianity.
Mohung, Changbun, and Moplong are the three priestly Ahom clans.
One of the important customs among the Ahoms is that the dead body is not burnt but kept in a box, which they refer to as "Maidam".
Its usage declined during the reign of Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha, who ordered all funerals to be practiced under the Brahmanical Hindu cremation rites, conducted by a Maithil Brahmin priest and a 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 a 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 their 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 householder.
Chi Ren Dam: ‘Chi’ means ‘four’, ‘ren’ means a ‘house’. Thus ‘Chi Ren Dam’ means the fourth generation of the parents of the dead grandfather of the living householders.
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 eldest member of the living generations.
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, who are worshipped annually. The Jokorua Dam are not included among the Griha Dam.
The Ahom language, until recently, was known by approximately 400-500 members of the Ahom priestly class. It is being revitalised by Tai Ahom organisations 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.
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 any race or 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.
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. According to Anthony Van Nostrand Diller, possibly eight million speakers of Assamese can claim genetic descent from the Ahoms. 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.
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.
- Ahom language
- Ahom Dynasty
- Assamese people
- Burmese invasion of Assam
- Ahom history
- Battle of Saraighat
- Kingdom of Pong
- All Tai Ahom Students Union
- Tibeto-Burman and Tai peoples of Assam
- Gait, Edward. A History of Assam. Thacker, Spink and Co. Calcutta, 1906. pg 96
- 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
- Yasmin Saikia (2004). Fragmented Memories. ISBN 978-0-8223-3373-9.
- "ST status to Assam groups only from a national perspective". Retrieved 11/03/2009. Check date values in:
- "Separatist strains". The Hindu. Retrieved 11/03/2009. Check date values in:
- Gogoi, N. K. (2006). Continuity and change among the Ahom. New Delhi: Concept Pub. Co. ISBN 81-8069-281-7
- Phukon, G. (1998). State of Tai culture among the Ahoms. [Assam, India?]: G. Phukon.
- Saikia, Yasmin (2004). Fragmented Memories. Duke University. ISBN 978-0-8223-3373-9.
- 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.
- The Tai-Ahom connection by Yasmin Saikia in Gateway to the East, June 2005.
- Polities mentioned in the Chinese Ming Shi-lu, several references are made to a Tai Ahom kingdom in this translation of an important Ming dynasty historical source
- Khon Moung The Tri-lingual online magazine of Tai Ahom and Tai communities around the globe
- The Tai Ahom International website by J. Borgohain launched on June 26, 2009.
- tadcassam.org Tai Ahom Development Council (TADC) Official website.