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Chutia people

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Chutia people
Chutia (pronounced as Sutia)
Women of Chutia tribe preparing pithas.jpg
Women of Chutia tribe preparing pithas during Bihu/Bisu.
Total population
2 – 2.5 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
Predominantly in Upper, North Bank and Central Assam; urban areas across Assam, India; 7,000 - 9,000 settled across India and abroad
Related ethnic groups

The Chutia people (also spelt as Sutiya; /ˈsʊðjɑː/) are an ethnic group originating in the Indian state of Assam. They are part of the greater Bodo-kachari group.[6] The Chutia people through the Chutia dynasty formed their kingdom in the present Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and reigned from 1187 to 1673.

They are an ethnic group of East Asian appearance and make one of the major and earliest section of the plain inhabitants of Assam to have migrated from Southern China, predominantly from the present Tibet and Sichuan along with the other Bodo-Kachari groups. The seat of the Chutias when they were in the ascendant, appears to have been about Lakhimpur and the back of the Subansiri River. They hold all the countries to the north of the Brahmaputra as far down as Sonitpur[7][8] with the Dikarai[9] and the Ghiladhari rivers[10] as the western borders of their kingdom.[11][12] On the south bank, they were spread till the Disang river.[13] They spoke a language of Tibeto-Burman origin but over time, started speaking Assamese language and adopted Hinduism.

The Chutia community are recognized as an Other Backward Class by the Government of India and are an ethnic Assamese-speaking group.[14] Today, most of them reside in Upper Assam districts and a fair amount are found in Lower Assam and Barak valley. The 2011 census report estimated their population as 2,600,000 (26 lakhs).[citation needed]


There are many views to the etymology of the word "Chutia".

  • According to writers like Bishnuprasad Rabha, W.B. Brown and Paban Chandra Saikia(in "The Dibongiyas"), the word Chu-ti-ya is originally derived from the Deori-Chutiya language which means natives who live near pure waters. Chu meaning for pure/good, Ti meaning water and Ya meaning for natives of the land. It is essentially similar to the way the terms for the Deori clans(Dibangiya, Tengaponiya or Borgoiya) have originated which means residents(denoted by suffix "Ya") living near Dibang, Tengapani and Bornoi rivers.[15][16][17]
  • The Deodhai Buranji mentions the Chutias as Chutika instead. There is a sloka in the Buranji which reads,

    “Sadiya Korjaku-Desha Chutika-Bansha Bhirmuka
    Dhatu Dravya Tu Lebhe Na Hatwa Janpadanaya”

    — Deodhai Buranji

The term Chutika is also of Deori-Chutia origins. Chu means good/pure and Tika stands for lineage/origins. Thus, Chu-tika could mean People of good origins. On the other hand, Chu also means pig in the same language and this would link the Chutias(pig origin) to the Varaha lineage as adopted by the Kamarupa kings.[18] It is very possible that the origin word Chutika later shortened over time to Chutia.

  • R.M. Nath in his book "Background of Assamese culture" claims that the term is derived from chut or "mountain top", their original place of habitation (after arriving from Sinchuan), before settling down in the plains of Upper Assam.[19] But, this is cannot be true as the term "Chut" doesn't belong to Deori-Chutia language or any other Bodo dialects.


The Chutiyas are semi-Hinduised people who had a large kingdom in upper Assam. They are generally believed from their language to be closely related to Kacharis.[20] Some of them seem to have largely intermarried with the Ahoms, so that the latter have a subdivision called 'Chutiya'. The Chutiyas also have sections calling themselves 'Ahoms'. They are now chiefly found in the upper Assam districts side by side with the Ahoms.[21]

Chutiya rule (1187-1673)[edit]

A 15th century statue of a Chutiya warrior.

The Chutiya Kingdom was established by Birpal in 1187 on the northern bank of the river Brahmaputra. The kingdom absorbed the ancient Pal dynasty and reigned for over 400 years in northeastern Assam and areas of present-day Arunachal Pradesh, with the capital at Sadiya. The kingdom controlled the entire region of present Assam districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Tinsukia and parts of Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Sonitpur.

It was the dominant kingdom in upper Assam till the 16th century in which it expanded from Parshuram Kund in the east to Vishwanath in the west and had absorbed many local communities and tribes. Most illustrious of the Chutiya kings was Gaurinarayan (Ratnadhwajpal), son of Birpal. He brought many other Chutiya groups into his kingdom. In 1224 Ratnadhwajpal defeated Bhadrasena, the king of Swetagiri. Then he went on to subjugate Nyayapal and marched toward Kamatapur, where he formed an alliance with the Kamata ruler by marrying a princess. Then he marched to Dhaka, and made friends with the Gauda ruler.

The hostilities with the Ahoms began when the Chutiya Kingdom expanded to the south and during which Ahom king, Sutuphaa, was killed by the Chutiya king during a friendly negotiation.This conflict triggered a number of battles between the two sides, which saw great lost of men and money. The simmering dispute often flared till 1523 when the Ahoms struck the Chutiya Kingdom in its weakest state, they finally took Sadiya and killed the then king Nityapal. The Ahoms established their rule by instituting the position of Sadiyakhowa Gohain, the governor in charge of Sadiya. But the Chutiya had dispersed to frontier regions, and continued raids against the Ahoms. It finally ended in 1673, when the Chutiyas fall under the domination of the Ahoms.

Chutia Kekura Dola(Palaquin) donated by king Satyanarayan to the Gharmora Satra.


The original language of the Chutias belong to the Tibeto-Burman Bodo-Garo languages group, also known by the same name i.e. Chutiya. Although, the language is no longer spoken by majority of Chutias, it is well preserved by the Deori people or the priestly section of the group.[22] According to W.B.Brown, the Chutia language was the original language of Upper Assam.[23] According to PRT Gurdon(1903), the Deori-Chutia language is very similar to the Moran dialect of Assamese and it can well be stated that the Moran language was nothing but a transitionary language between Chutia and Assamese language for the Chutias, Morans, and a section of Deoris(Tengaponia, Borgoya).

As per the linguist H.A.Gleason, if two languages share around 66% of words, it indicates that the languages have been separated for 1000 years; and if they have 44% common words, it denotes 2000 years of separation. The Boro and Chutia languages share around 55–60% of words which indicates that the two tribes must have separated 1200–1500 years ago.[24][25]

After the advent of Prakrit in the Brahmaputra valley, the language of the Chutias evolved and assimilated with the Prakrit language. This was probably the time when the first form of Assamese originated in Upper Assam. The old Chutiya language was preserved by the Deori priestly section.

This is the stone inscription of Chutia King Dharmanarayan from 1442 AD found in the Tamreswari Copper Temple in Sadiya. It declares the renovation of the temple using bricks.

Stone inscription of Chutia king Dharmanarayan dated 1442 A.D. found in Paya-Tamreswari temple

When the Ahoms arrived in the 13th century, they found the Chutiya language to be a version of localised Prakrit with a Prakrit script. According to Ahom buranjis, this form of Assamese along with the original Chutiya language were the only languages to have a writing script when they arrived.[citation needed]

This form of Assamese was then adopted by the Ahom courts and spread throughout the kingdom. They used this form combined with Tai influence to form the Gargaya Assamese used in later Buranjis. The modern written form of Assamese is mostly influenced by the Gargaya branch of Assamese.[26]


In the early medieval period, the Chutiyas followed a form of tribal tantric religion closely related to Buddhism i.e. Bon before adopting Hinduism.[27] During the rule of the Chutiya dynasty, they worshipped various forms of Kali with the help of their tribal priests, Deuris. Their favourite form of worshipping this deity was that of Kesai Khaiti. A crude form of Hinduism became the state religion at a very early time and influence of tantric form of Shaktism was felt in the royal court. Human sacrifices of criminals was offered to tutelary Goddess, Khesai Khati and pilgrims from region far more remote i.e. Tibet and China brought their offerings as a token of faith for Tantricism.[2]

Chutia Dharma Husori performed in Borgaon, Tinsukia

In modern times, the majority of Chutiyas are followers of Hinduism and Ekasarana Dharma, a pantheistic religion founded and propagated by Srimanta Sankardeva during the 15th century in Assam.



Chutiyas are originally divided into different clans/bangshas which were based on descendants of a common ancestor. These Bangshas were divided into Khels which were professional classes like Now-Holiya, Jaapi-hojiya, Lahing, Bebejia, etc. Khels were further divided into Foids.[28]

Some of the major clans/Bangshas among Chutiyas are:

1)Buruk, 2)Bihiya, 3)Borahi, 4)Lofai, 5)Lahual, 6)Lajum 7)Fesuwal, 8)Lalung, 9) Uta, 10)Har, 11)Chawrok, 12)Bosha, 13)Khas, 14)Lekang, 15)Changsa, 16)Melleng, 17)Laopiya, 18)Kantok, 19)Doisung, 20)Diha.

Some of the Khels are:

1)Rupawal, 2)Lahing, 3)Deori, 4)Kari, 5)Sonowal, 6)Tiruwal, 7)Luholiya, 8)Barisuwa, 9)Kohar, 10)Kumar, 11)Gospuriya, 12)Pangiriyal, 13)Dahotiya, 14)Moliya, 15)Rupsokoliya, 16)Khanikar, 17) Naoholiya, 18)Khatowal, 19)Jaapihojiya, 20)Bebejia, 21)Hiloidhari, 22)Dhekial, 23)Baruwati, 24)Dolakasharia.

Historical divisions[edit]

After the fall of the Chutiya kingdom, the Chutia people were divided into different groups due to circumstances based on either religious inclinations or associations with other communities. Over time, Chutiyas divided into five important groups:[29]

  • Hindu Chutiya
  • Ahom Chutiya
  • Borahi Chutiya
  • Miri Chutiya
  • Deori Chutiya

The Hindu Chutiyas represented a large section of the population. These are the Chutiyas who were initiated by Vaishnavite saints like Shankardev, Madhavdev into Vaishnavism sect of Hinduism. They are popularly termed as Kesa-ponthi as they have been imposed certain restrictions like use of animal meat and alcohols in their rites by the Vaishnavite community. The other group Poka-ponthi have retained their tribal customs in their original form.[30] Among the Pokaponthis, the Ahom Chutiyas formed the major sub-division. They were termed as such as they intermarried with the Ahoms and held different position in administration of the Ahom kingdom as seen with Momai Tamuli Borbarua and Lachit Borphukan.

The Borahi Chutiyas are a sub-group of Chutiyas who had certain religious rites different from other Chutiyas. Presently they are found in the Dhemaji, Golaghat and Sibsagar districts. Miri Chutiyas were the Chutiyas who lived in the bordering villages of the northern bank of Brahmapurtra and fled to the Miri hills during the Ahom invasions. They intermarried with the Miris and were subsequently absorbed by the later. They chiefly belonged to the Bihia, Buruk(Medok) and Bebejia clans.[31] Deori Chutiyas were originally the priests of the Chutiya people. They were retained in Sadiya by the Ahoms after the Ahom-Chutia wars. Thus, they separated from the others and later took the identity of a different tribe.[32]

Culture and Traditions[edit]

Traditional Attire[edit]

Male Attire[edit]

A Chutia man in his traditional attire

The traditional attire of the Chutia men includes the Chutia paguri(headgear), Chutia sula(shirt), Suria(lower garment). The royals and the rich in the past wore clothes made out of Muga and Paat Silk, whereas the ordinary class wore Cotton(summers) and Eri Silk(winter). In the ancient times, royal men wore jewelry items like Longkeru(Earrings), Mota Moni(necklace) as well as golden footwear(Paduka). The royals also used silk umbrellas with gold embroidery known as Gunakara.[33]

Traditional Chutia Sula(Shirt) made of Eri Silk

Women Attire[edit]

Women are treated with utmost respect in the Chutia community. Every age group had their own unique clothing style. Girls until puberty wore a Gamusa called Baiga as an upper garment and a Mekhela(Bika Mariba) as a lower garment. These could be either Muga/Paat(rich class) or Cotton /Eri(ordinary class).[34] This style of clothing is known as Methoni. After puberty and until Marriage, the girls wore Riha instead of Baiga as the upper garment. This custom to change the clothing style after puberty is a tradition of the tribe. During marriage, the bride wears Paat/Muga Riha along with Mekhela and chador. The chador is a sign of marriage. Other clothing like Mejankari are also worn. Among the jewelry, the bride wore necklaces like Dukdugi, Gejera, Junbiri, Medali/Madoli, earrings like Koria, Thuria, etc. The bride also wore Harudai Jaapi as a headgear. The married women usually wear a Chador and a Gamusa/Gathigi to cover their forehead. The old women had their own style of clothing. They wore the mekhela upto their bosom and tied another cloth in their waist.[35]

Other clothes worn include Borkapur, Cheleng sador, Tongali, etc.



  1. ^ "Chutiyas to shun Cong".
  2. ^ a b Prakash 2007, pp. 911–916.
  3. ^ "639 Identifier Documentation: aho – ISO 639-3". SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics). SIL International. Retrieved 29 June 2019. Ahom [aho]
  4. ^ "Population by Religious Communities". Census India – 2001. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 1 July 2019. Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
  5. ^ "Population by religion community – 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015.
  6. ^ Chutias are a part of the Bodo group
  7. ^ Biswanath formed the western boundary
  8. ^ Burai river may have been the western border at sometime
  9. ^ Baruah, Swarnalata. Comprehensive History of Assam,1986, p. 193.
  10. ^ Neog, Maheswar. Early History of the Vaisnava Faith and Movement in Assam,1965, p. 66.
  11. ^ Acharya.N.N., The History of Medieval Assam, 1966,p.232
  12. ^ Robinson.William, A Descriptive Account of Assam, 1974,p.323
  13. ^ Disang river formed the western border
  14. ^ Chutia falls under OBC
  15. ^ Saikia, P.C. The Dibongiyas. 1976, p. 38.
  16. ^ Brown, W.B. "An outline grammar of the Deori Chutia language", p.70.
  17. ^ Rabha, Bishnuprasad "Rabha Rachanwali(Vol I)", 1982, p.336.
  18. ^ Bhuyan, S.K.Deodhai Assam Buranji(Chutia r Kotha).Dept. of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, 1932, p. 5.
  19. ^ Momin, Mignonette; Mawlong, Cecile A.; Qādrī, Fuz̤ail Aḥmad (2004). Society and Economy in North-East India. Regency Publications. p. 47. ISBN 9788189233402. two main views on the origin of the Chutiyas: (a) that the Chutiyas were so called because they had originally occupied the chut or mountaintop ...
  20. ^ Endle, Sidney (1911). The Kacharis. Macmillan And Co. p. 29. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  21. ^ "The Tribes of the Brahmaputra Valley", pg. 42
  22. ^ Brown, W.B. An Outline Grammar of the Deori-Chutiya language. 1933, p.3 .
  23. ^ Brown, William Barclays (2015) [1895]. An Outline grammar of the Deori Chutiya language spoken in Upper Assam. Shillong.
  24. ^ Gleason, H.A. An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics. 1974, p. 450.
  25. ^ Baruah, Swarnalata. Chutia Jaatir Buranji.2007, p. 318.
  26. ^ Yasmin Saikia in her book Assam and India: Fragmented Memories mentioned Sadiya, capital of the Chutiya kingdom to be one of the two important centers of development for the Assamese language.(Saikia 2004, pp. 6–7)
  27. ^ Chutias followed a tribal tantric cult
  28. ^ Barua, S.L. Chutiya Jatir Buranji. 2004, p. 229.
  29. ^ (Guptajit Pathak:82)
  30. ^ Khanikar, Surjya kanta Chutiya Jaatir Itihax aru Luko-Sanskriti.1991, p. 215.
  31. ^ Miri Chutiyas explained in "Society and Economy in North-East India"
  32. ^ Sharma, S.K. Discovery of Northeast India: Volume 2. Mittal Publications,2005, p. 81.
  33. ^ Khanikar, Surjyakanta, Chutia Jatir Itihas Aru Loka-sanskriti,p. 383-384
  34. ^ Padmeswar Naoboicha Phukan, Assam Buranji, p.30, As mentioned in the text, one of the Ahom kings adopted Muga and Paatin their royal courts by recruiting about 1000 Muga weavers from the Chutia community which shows the importance of Muga among Chutias
  35. ^ Khanikar, Surjyakanta, Chutia Jatir Itihas Aru Loka-sanskriti,p. 384-389


  • Prakash, Col. Ved (2007), Encyclopedia of North East India.Vol.2, Atlantic Publishers & Dist.
  • Waddell, L.A (1999). Tribes of the Brahmaputra Valley : A Contribution Of Their Physical Type and Affinities. Concept Publishing Company.

External links[edit]