Tai-Ahom Man and woman in traditional clothing
|Regions with significant populations|
|Ahom religion, Hinduism (94.78%),Buddhism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Shan, Dai, Tai, Lao, Nung Bouyei, Dong, Indigenous Assamese people, Thai|
The Ahom (Pron: ), or Tai-Ahom is an ethnic group found today in the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They are the admixed descendants of the Tai people who reached the Brahmaputra valley of Assam in 1228 and the local people who joined them over the course of history. Sukaphaa, the leader of the Tai group and his 9000 followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228-1826 CE), which controlled much of the Bramhaputra Valley in modern Assam until 1826. Even though the Ahom made up a relatively small portion of the kingdom's population, they maintained their original Ahom language and practised their traditional religion till the 17th-century, when the Ahom court as well as the commoners adopted the Assamese language, and Ekasarana dharma and Shakta sects of Hinduism.
The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretism of the original Tai and their culture and local Tibeto-Burman peoples and their cultures they absorbed in Assam. Some local ethnic groups, including the Tibeto-Burman speaking Borahi, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community; while members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the usefulness of their talents, too were accepted as Ahoms. Currently, they represent the largest Tai group in India, with a population of nearly 1.3 million in Assam. Ahom people are found mostly in Upper Assam in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia (south of Brahmaputra river); and in Lakhimpur, Sonitpur and Dhemaji (north). There is a significant presence in Karbi Anglong and Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Tai speaking people came into prominence first in the Guangxi region, from where they moved to mainland Southeast Asia in the middle of the 11th century after a long and fierce battle with the Chinese. The Tai-Ahoms are traced to either Mong Mao of South China or to the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar.
According to chronicles kept by the Ahoms--Sukaphaa, a Tai prince of Mong Mao, accompanied by his family, five nobles and many followers, mostly men, crossed the Patkai hills and reached the Brahmaputra valley in 1228. They came with a higher technology of wet-rice cultivation then extant and a tradition of writing, record keeping, and state formation. They settled in the region south of the Brahmaputra river and to the east of the Dikho river; the Ahoms today are found concentrated in this region.Sukaphaa, the leader of the Tai group and his 9000 followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228-1826 CE), which controlled much of the Bramhaputra valley until 1826.
In the initial phase, the band of followers of Sukaphaa moved about for nearly thirty years and mixed with the local population. He moved from place to place, searching for a seat. He made peace with the Borahi and Moran ethnic groups, and he and his mostly male followers married into them, creating an admixed population identified as Ahoms. The Borahis, a Tibeto-Burman people, were completely subsumed into the Ahom fold, though the Moran maintained their independent ethnicity. Sukaphaa established his capital at Charaideo near present-day Sivasagar in 1253 and began the task of state formation.
The Ahoms believed that they were divinely ordained to bring fallow land under the plow with their techniques of wet-rice cultivation, and to adopt stateless shifting cultivators into their fold. They were also conscious of their numerical minority. As a result, the Ahom polity initially absorbed Naga, Borahi and Moran, and later large sections of the Chutiya and the Dimasa-Kachari peoples. This process of Ahomisation went on for till mid-16th century when the Ahom society itself came under the direct Hindu influence. That many indigenous peoples were ceremonially adopted into Ahom clans are recorded in the chronicles. Since the Ahoms married liberally outside their own exogamous clans and since their own traditional religion resembled the religious practices of the indigenous peoples along with Hindus, the assimilation under Ahomisation had a little impediment.
In the 16th- and 17th-centuries, the small Ahom community expanded their rule dramatically toward the west and they successfully saw off challenges from Mughal and other invaders, gaining them recognition in world history. The rapid expansion resulted in the Ahom people becoming a small minority in their own kingdom, of which they kept control. Eventually, the Ahom court, as well as the Ahom peasants took to Ekasarana dharma, Shaktism and Saivism over the traditional Ahom religion; and adopted Assamese over the Ahom language for secular purposes. The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretism of the original Tai and their culture and local Tibeto-Burman peoples and their cultures they absorbed in Assam. Some local ethnic groups, including the Tibeto-Burman speaking Borahi, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community; while members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the use of their talents, too were accepted as Ahoms. Even though the Ahom made up a relatively small portion of the kingdom's population, they maintained their original Ahom language and practised their traditional religion till the 17th-century, when the Ahom court, as well as the commoners, adopted the Assamese language, and Ekasarana dharma and Saktism religions.
The everyday usage of Ahom language ceased completely by early 19th-century. The loss of religions is also nearly complete, with only a few priestly families practising some aspects of it. While the written language (and ritualistic chants) survive in a vast number of written manuscripts, much of the spoken language is lost because the Ahom script does not mark tone and under-specifies vowel contrasts.
The traditional social system of Tai-Ahom people was known as Ban-Mong which was related to agriculture and based on irrigation. The Ban or Ban Na is a unit composed of families that settled by the side of the rivers. While many Bans together forms a Mong which refers state.
Ahom clans, called phoids, formed socio-political entities. At the time of ingress into Assam, or soon thereafter, there were seven important clans, called Satghariya Ahoms (Ahoms of the Seven Houses). There were Su/Tsu (Tiger) clan to which the Chao-Pha (Sukaphaa) belonged; his two chief counselors Burhagohain (Chao-Phrung-Mung) and Borgohain (Chao-Thao-Mung); and three priestly clans: Bailung (Mo-plang), Deodhai (Mo-sham), Mohan (Mo-hang) and Siring. Soon the Satghariya group was expanded--four additional clans began to be associated with nobility: Dihingia, Sandikoi, Lahan and Duarah. In the 16th-century Suhungmung added another great counselor, the Borpatrogohain and a new clan was established. Over time sub-clans began appearing. Thus during the Suhungmung's reign, the Chao-Pha's clan were divided into seven sub-clans—Saringiya, Tipamiya, Dihingiya, Samuguriya, Tungkhungiya, Parvatiya, and Namrupiya. Similarly, Burhagohain clan were divided into eight, Borgohain sixteen, Deodhai twelve, Mohan seven, and Bailung and Siring eight each. The rest of the Ahom gentry belonged to clans such as Chaodangs, Gharphalias, Likchows etc. In general, the secular aristocratic clans, the priestly class, and the gentry clans did not intermarry.
Some clans admitted people from other ethnic groups as well. For example, there were Miri-Sandikoi and Moran-Patar were Sandikoi and Patar from the Mising and Moran communities. This was true even for the priestly clans: Naga-Bailung, Miri-bailung and Nara-Bailung.
Ahom people are Literally well developed. They had their own developed writing system which is a Tai-Kadai Script is known as Ahom script, which is now in disuse. The Ahom script was evolved from Tai Nuea  which was looked similar till it was modified under the present Chinese Government. They have various manuscripts on History, society, astrology, rituals, etc. Ahom people used to write their chronicles known as Buranji. The priestly classes (Mo'sam, Mo'hung, Mo'Plong) are the custodians of these manuscripts.
Ahom people have their own Lunar calendar known as Lak-Ni Tao-Si-Nga, which is an ancient way of calculating Years. This system was prevalent in the Middle Kingdoms (Chung-kuo) and was brought by Tai Ahoms to Muong-dun Sun -kham. But is still in vogue in China and South-East Asian Tai people. All these things were written Books and Manuscripts of Dates, Months and Years.
There is a lot of affinities of a style of the living house. Like the rural Thai people of Thailand, the house rural Ahom families have been made of wood, bamboo, and two roofs are typically designed by the thatching grasses. Every families orchard and plow land are situated near their house. The houses of the inhabitant have been built in scattered fashion within the bamboo groves. At one time, The Ahom built their house on still called Rwan Huan with about two meters high above the ground level.
The food habit is one of the important variables of the culture of Tai-Ahom. Most of the Ahoms, particularly in the rural areas are mostly Non-vegetarian still maintain a traditional menu of their own food like the other Tai Peoples.Besides, porks, chicken, duck, slices of beef (Both cows and Buffalo), frogs, many kinds of fishes, hukoti maas (dry preserved fish mixture) Muga lota (Cocoon seeds of endi and muga worms) eggs of red ant are their typical items of dishes. Even, some kinds of insects are also good food, for the Ahoms. Rice is the staple food and Lao (homemade rice beer); Luk-Lao or Nam-Lao (rice beer, undiluted or diluted) are traditional drinks. The Ahoms also ate beef. They consume "Khar" (a form of alkaline liquid extracted from the ashes of burned banana peels/bark), "Betgaaj" (tender cane shoots) and many other naturally grown herbs vegetables which possess medicinal properties. Ahom food habits resemble Thai cuisine. Some of them are Thu - dam (black lentil), Khao - Moon ( Rice Frumenty ) "Xandohguri" (a powder made from dry roasted rice), "ChewaKhao" (steamed rice ), "Chunga Chaul" ( sticky rice cooked in tender bamboo tubes),"Til pitha" ( sesame rice rolls prepared from sticky rice powder), Khao-tyek ( rice flakes ). The process of preparation of this item was quite unknown to population other than the Ahoms and the Thais, Khao (unboiled soft rice prepared from a special variety of sticky rice with a unique technique ), Tupula Khao ( Kind of rice cooked packing with a particular kind of plant leaf with good smell called, 'tora pat' and preserved bamboo sauce are some of the favourite food items of the Ahoms which are almost similar to the traditional diet of the this. Like the Thais, the Ahoms prefers to take boiled food having little spices and directly burnt fish, meat and vegetable like brinjal, tomato, etc..
Cho Klong is the main marriage ritual among the twenty marriage rituals of Tai Ahom people. The name Cho Klong is derived from the Tai Ahom language [Cho=to combine, klong=ritual]. The ritual is described in an ancient Tai Ahom script Lai Lit nang Hoon Pha.101 ban-phai-s (earthen lamps) or lights are lit. The bride offers the groom a heng-dan (sword) to protect her, their children/family, the race and the country. Sum of twenty rituals are performed in ahom wedding along with cho klong . Some of Those are -
The Tai Ahoms have the traditional of flowing the Khring Phu Ra (Khring= flag, Phu Ra= God)in Ahom language, known as the Tai Flag, before the inauguration of any Royal, religions, social, cultural etc. functions and festivals. In the past, the Tai Emperors, the Tai kings or their representatives started for war or began their official tours only after performing the ritual of flowing the Khring Phu Ra. Nowadays the Khring Phu Ra is invariably flown by the Tai Ahoms in all their public functions whether social or religious. It was bought to Assam by Chow Lung Suo-Ka-Pha the first and the greatest Tai Ahom king who made diaspora to Wai Sa Li...(Mung Lung) the present day in Assam in.1228 A.D. and ruled over it. The flowing usually contains the Ngi ngao Kham [Tai Ahom Dragon] symbol colored Tan.
The Ahoms have subscribed to different religious practices over time. They have a well developed cosmogony around Lengdon, the lord of heaven; a form of ancestor called Phura-Tara-Along; and since the 17th-century various local forms of Hinduism—Taoism and Saktism. In the late 20th century, there have been many revivalist movements around religion.
Traditional theology of the Ahom people describes an omnipotent God called Pha-Tu-Ching (Pha: heaven; Tu: a being; Ching: highest, also called Pha-Lai-Bet), who created the universe and other gods,. He [supreme ancestor] created the first of the lesser gods, Khun-Theo-Kham and his consort, who laid four golden eggs from which emanated four sons. The fourth son, Ngi-Ngao-Kham stayed back with Pha-Tu-Ching and helped him create the world. The depiction of Ngi-Ngao-Kham (winged lion/dragon) was used as a coat-of-arms by the Ahom kings. Eventually, Lengdon (Ngi-ring-kham) became the lord of the heavens. He sent down his grandsons, Khun-long and Khun-lai, to rule Mong-ri-Mong-ram, a place on earth, and from who the Ahom kings claimed descent.
Khun-long and Khun-lai brought with them two deities Chumpha (Assamese: Somdeo) and Shengmung each respectively, the deities which Sukaphaa received from his grandmother in Mong Mao at the time of his departure. The deities were kept in a special temple named Ho-Phi or seng-Rwan (Assamese: Deo-ghar). The deity Chum-Pha became indispensable during the coronation of the Ahom king. This deity is said to have been sold off by a nephew of the last Ahom king, Purandar Singha.
Um-pha: This ritual is dedicated to Lengdon, the principal Ahom god and conducted by the king with considerable pomp and grandeur. This is accompanied by many animal sacrifices. Originally held annually, this came to be offered once every five years, even after the downfall of the kingdom.
Sai-pha: This is a congregational worship performed by the commoners.
Ye-Seng-Pha This is a worship offered to the goddess of learning arts and skills called as Ye-Seng-Pha. It is also a household religious function.
Phura-loung: This is a ceremony that propitiates Phura-tara (or Phura-luong), Phura and his consort Tara. This influence from Tai folk religion was acquired either in Yunnan, or in Myanmar during Sukaphaa's journey into Assam. The oblation is performed by Ahom priests singing Aai sing Lao in the Ahom language, with a hundred and one oil lamps placed around a banana plant trunk. The offerings in this ceremony are vegetarian and no animal sacrifices are made. This ceremony is still popular among the traditional priestly class today, and is seeing a revival. The other Tai groups in Assam—Khamti, Phake, Aiton people, Turong—are formal Buddhists.
Rik-khwan: This was a celebratory ritual conducted after a victory in battle, asking for a higher power to the king and longevity for the king and the kingdom.. In Ahom language 'Rik' means 'to call; 'Khwan' 'implies vitality'. In the ceremony, devotee prays the god Khao Kham (The god of water) and invokes to restore the soul in the original normal place and to grant long life.
Me-Dam-Me-Phi: This celebration is associated with ancestor worship, and is currently conducted annually on 31 January of every year.
The Tai Ahoms worship their deceased forefathers as they are the guardian deities of the householders. They believe that their ancestors must be duly worshipped so that they were satisfied to keep them safe. There is a saying among them that "Neither the wall nor the roof, no other gods can protect the householders if the god of the household does 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 the community. The Tai Ahom priestly families worship their dead ancestors in the occasion of marriage, festivals like Bihu, before and after harvesting, the 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 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. The priestly families worship their ancestors in a very clear way making different grades to each kind of Dam. These are Ghai Dam, Chi Rwan 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 Rwan Dam: 'Chi' means 'four', 'rwan' means a 'house'. Thus Chi Rwan 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 the 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 death 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 is not included among the Griha Dam.
The Ahoms practice Buddhist rituals under the principle of Phura-Tara-Along, which was inspired by Buddhism in either Yunnan or Myanmar. The cognate terms in Burmese is Phra-Tara-Hangkara; and in the other Tai languages in Assam, it is Phra-Tra-Sangha. The rituals associated with this worship is Phura-Lung. The book associated with the rituals and practices are recorded in a book called Min-mang Phuralung that teaches kindness and liberalism.
Its usage declined during the reign of Swargadeo Rajeswar Singha, who ordered Sanskritisation. All funerals were to be practised under the Brahmanical Hindu cremation rites, conducted by a Maithil Brahmin priest and a traditional Deodhai priest.
The Tai Ahom language is a Tai-Kradai Language which is the westernmost branch of Tai languages. The Tai-Ahoms use Assamese as Lingua franca to mix with the locality like various other Assamese communities who have lost their original language and have accepted Assamese (an indigenous language formed by a mixture of Non-Aryan Austric, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Tai and Aryan) as their mother tongue. It is being revitalised by Tai Ahom organisations by establishing various Tai schools in Upper Assam. Many institutes like Institute of Tai Studies and Research P. K. Buragohain Institute for Tai and South East Asian Studies, Guwahati, Central Tai Academy, Patsaku, Habung Tai university, 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 script also finds a place in the Unicode Consortium and the script declared the topmost in the South-East Asia category.
|Religions||Ahom religion, Hinduism, Theravda Buddhism|
|Populated states||Assam, Arunachal Pradesh.|
Ahom people today categorised in other backward classes (OBC) caste category ; also there is discussion and demand for the Schedule Tribe for a long time. .The term "ethnic Assamese" is now associated by the Indian government with the various indigenous Assamese people. 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.
Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities