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The Ahom Kingdom, c1826. The kingdom was founded by Sukaphaa between the Dikhau and the Dihing rivers in the 13th century, and by the end of the 19th century, the western outpost was the Assam Choki, or Hadira Choki, contiguous with British territories. The southern boundaries was defined by Doboka and Dimapur. The eastern portion around Bengmara, the Matak regions, was under the autonomous control of the Barsenapati. Jorhat became the capital of the kingdom after the Moamoria rebellion.
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The Ahom Kingdom (1228–1826, called Kingdom of Assam in medieval times) was a medieval kingdom in the Brahmaputra valley in Assam that maintained its sovereignty for nearly 600 years and successfully resisted Mughal expansion in North-East India. It was able to establish its suzerainty over the Brahmaputra valley and had a profound effect on the political and social life in the region. The kingdom was established by Sukaphaa, a Tai prince from Mong Mao, in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra river between the extant Chutiya kingdom in the north and the Kachari kingdom in the south. The kingdom expanded north, south and the west in succession and evolved into a multi-ethnic polity, beginning especially under Suhungmung Dihingia Raja in the 16th century. It made major advances under Susenghphaa Pratap Singha, under whom the administration was revamped and the first military and diplomatic contact with the Mughals were made. Mughal influence was completely removed from much of the Brahmaputra valley under Gadadhar Singha and the Ahom kingdom reached its zenith under his son, Rudra Singha. The kingdom became weaker with the rise of the Moamoria rebellion, and subsequently fell to a succession of Burmese invasions. With the defeat of the Burmese after the First Anglo-Burmese War and the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, control of the kingdom passed into British (East India Company) hands.

Though it came to be called the Ahom kingdom in the colonial and subsequent times, it was largely multi-ethnic, with the ethnic Ahom people constituting less than 10% of the population toward the end.[1] The Ahoms called their kingdom Mong Dun Shun Kham, (Assamese: xunor-xophura; English: casket of gold) while others called it Assam. The British-controlled province after 1838 and later the Indian state of Assam came to be known by this name.

Contents

History

See: Ahom Dynasty, Ahom-Mughal conflicts, Battle of Saraighat.

The Ahom kingdom was established in 1228 when Sukaphaa entered the Brahmaputra valley. Sukaphaa did not battle any established kingdom and seem to have occupied a depopulated region on the south bank with the Burhidihing river in the north, the Dikhau river in the south and the Patkai mountains in the east.[2] He befriended the local groups, the Barahi and the Marans, finally settled his capital at Charaideo and established the offices of the Dangarias—the Burhagohain and the Borgohain. In the 1280s, these two offices were given independent regions of control, and the check and balance that these three main offices accorded each other was established.

The Ahoms brought with them the technology of wet rice cultivation that they shared with other groups. The peoples that took to the Ahom way of life and polity were incorporated into their fold in a process of Ahomization.[3] As a result of this process the Barahi people, for instance, were completely subsumed, and some of other groups like some Nagas and the Maran peoples became Ahoms, thus enhancing the Ahom numbers significantly. This process of Ahomization was particularly significant till the 16th century, when under Suhungmung, the kingdom made large territorial expansions at the cost of the Chutiya and the Kachari kingdoms.

Rang Ghar, a pavilion built by Pramatta Singha (also Sunenpha; 1744–1751) in Ahom capital Rongpur, now Sibsagar; the Rang Ghar is one of the earliest pavilions of outdoor stadia in South Asia.

The expansion was so large and so rapid that the Ahomization process could not keep pace and the Ahoms became a minority in their kingdom. This resulted in a change in the character of the kingdom and it became multi-ethnic and inclusive. Hindu influences, which were first felt under Bamuni Konwar at the end of the 14th century, became significant. The Assamese language entered the Ahom court and co-existed with the Tai language. The rapid expansion of the state was accompanied by the installation of a new high office, the Borpatrogohain, at par with the other two offices and not without opposition from the them and two special offices, the Sadiakhowa Gohain and the Marangikowa Gohain to oversee the regions won over from the Chutiya and the Kachari kingdoms respectively. The subjects of the kingdom were organized under the Paik system, initially based on the phoid or kinship relations, which formed the militia. The kingdom came under attack from Turkic and Afghan rulers of Bengal, but it withstood them. On one occasion, the Ahoms under Tankham Borgohain pursued the invaders and reached the Karatoya river, and the Ahoms began to see themselves as the rightful heir of the erstwhile Kamarupa Kingdom.[4]

The Ahom kingdom took many features of its mature form under Pratap Singha. The Paik system was reorganized under the professional khel system, replacing the kinship based phoid system. Under the same king, the offices of the Borphukan, and the Borbarua were established. No more major restructuring of the state structure was attempted till the end of the kingdom.

The kingdom came under repeated Mughal attacks in the 17th century, and on one occasion in 1662, the Mughals under Mir Jumla occupied the capital, Garhgaon. The Mughals were unable to keep it, and in at the end of the Battle of Saraighat, the Ahoms not only fended off a major Mughal invasion, but extended their boundaries west, up to the Manas river. Following a period of confusion, the kingdom got itself the last set of kings, the Tungkhungia kings, established by Gadadhar Singha.

The rule of Tungkhungia kings was marked by peace and achievements in the Arts and engineering constructions. The later phase of the rule was also marked by increasing social conflicts, leading to the Moamoria rebellion. The rebels were able to capture and maintain power at the capital Rangpur for some years, but were finally removed with the help of the British under Captain Welsh. The following repression led to a large depopulation due to emigration as well as execution, but the conflicts were never resolved. A much weakened kingdom fell to repeated Burmese attacks and finally after the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826, the control of the kingdom passed into British hands.

Ahom economic system

The Ahom kingdom was based on the Paik system, a type of corvee labor that is neither feudal nor Asiatic. The Ahoms introduced wet rice cultivation in upper Assam that was largely a marshy and thinly populated land. With a superior technology of rice cultivation, as well as reclamation of land using dykes, embankments and irrigation systems, the Ahoms established the initial state structures. The first coins were introduced by Suklenmung in the 16th century, though the system of personal service under the Paik system persisted. In the 17th century when the Ahom kingdom expanded to include erstwhile Koch and Mughal areas, it came into contact with their revenue systems and adapted accordingly.

Ahom administration

See: Swargadeo, Burhagohain, Borgohain, Borpatrogohain, Borbarua, Borphukan.

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Swargadeo and Patra Mantris

The Ahom kingdom was ruled by a king, called Swargadeo (Ahom language: Chao-Pha), who had to be a descendant of the first king Sukaphaa. Succession was generally by primogeniture but occasionally the great Gohains (Dangarias) could elect another descendant of Sukaphaa from a different line or even depose an enthroned one.

Dangarias: Sukaphaa had two great Gohains to aid him in administration: Burhagohain and the Borgohain. In the 1280s, they were given independent territories, they were veritable sovereigns in their given territories. They were given total command over the paiks that they controlled. These positions were generally filled from specific families. Princes who were eligible for the position of Swargadeo were not considered for these positions and vice versa. In the 16th century Suhungmung added a third Gohain, Borpatrogohain.

Royal officers: Pratap Singha added two offices, Borbarua and Borphukan, that were directly under the king. The Borbarua, who acted as the military as well as the judicial head, was in command of the region east of Kaliabor not under the command of the Dangarias. He could use only a section of the paiks at his command for his personal use (as opposed to the Dangariyas), the rest rendering service to the Ahom state. The Borphukan was in military and civil command over the region west of Kaliabor, and acted as the Swargadeo's viceroy in the west.

Patra Mantris: The five positions constituted the patra mantris (council of ministers). From the time of Supimphaa (1492-1497), one of the patra mantris was made the Rajmantri (prime minister, also Borpatro; Ahom language: Shenglung) who enjoyed additional powers and the service of a thousand additional paiks from the Jakaichuk village.

Other officials

The Borbarua and the Borphukan had military and judicial responsibilities, and they were aided by two separate councils (sora) of Phukans. The Borphukan's sora sat at Guwahati and the Borbarua's sora at the capital. Superintending officers were called Baruas. Among the officers the highest in rank were the Phukans. Six of the formed the council of the Borbarua, but each had also his separate duties. The Naubaicha Phukan, who had an allotment of thousand men managed the royal boats, the Bhitarula Phukan, the Na Phukan, the Dihingia Phukan, the Deka Phukan and the Neog Phukan formed the council of Phukan. The Borphukan also had a similar council of six subordinate Phukans whom he was bound to consult in all matters of importance, this council included Pani Phukan, who commanded six thousand paiks, Deka Phukan who commanded four thousand paiks, the Dihingia Phukan, Nek Phukan and two Chutiya Phukans.

The Baruas of whom there were twenty or more included Bhandari Barua or treasurer; the Duliya Barua, who was in charge of the royal palanquins; the Chaudang Barua who superintended executions; Khanikar Barua was the chief artificer; Sonadar Barua was the mint master and chief jeweler; the Bez Barua was the physician to the Royal family, Hati Barua, Ghora Barua, etc. Other official included twelve Rajkhowas, and a number of Katakis, Kakatis and Dolais. The Rajkhowas were governors of given territories and commanders of three thousand paiks. They were arbitrator who settled local disputes and supervised public works. The Katakis were envoys who dealt with foreign countries and hill tribes. The Kakatis were writers of official documents, and the Dolais expounded astrology and determined auspicious time and dates for any important event and undertaking.

Governors

Forward governors, who were military commanders, ruled and administered forward territories. The Sadiya Khowa Gohain and the Marangi khowa Gohain are examples of these positions. Sadiya Khowa Gohain was based in Sadiya and whose appointment dates from the overthrow of Chutiya kingdom in 1523. The Marangi Khowa Gohain governed the Naga tribes west of the Dhansiri river. The Solal Gohain administered a great part of Nagaon and a portion of Chariduar after the headquarters of the Borphukan was transferred to Gauhati. The Kajali Mukhia Gohain administered Kajalimukh. The Raja of Saring and Raja of Tipam administered the tracts round Joypur on the right bank of the Buri Dihing river. The last two mentioned were usually the relatives of the King himself, the Saring Raja being the heir apparent and the Tipam Raja the next in order of succession.

Paik officials

The Ahom kingdom was dependent on the Paik system, a form of corvee labor. Every common subject was a paik, and four paiks formed a got. At any time of the year, one of the paiks in the got rendered direct service to the king, as the others in his got tended to his fields. The Paik system was administered by the Paik officials: Bora was in charge of 20 paiks, a Saikia of 100 and a Hazarika of 1000.

Land survey

Gadadhar Singha became acquainted with the land measurement system of Mughals during the time he was hiding in Kamrup, before he succeeded to the throne. As soon as the wars with Mughals were over he issued orders for the introduction of a similar system throughout his dominions. Surveyors were imported from Koch Behar and Bengal for the work. It was commenced in Sibsagar and was pushed on vigorously, but it was not completed until after his death. Nowgaon was next surveyed; and the settlement which followed was supervised by Rudra Singha himself. According to historians, the method of survey included measuring the four sides of each field with a nal, or bamboo pole of 12 feet (3.7 m) length and calculating the area, the unit was the "pura" or 144 square feet (13.4 m2) and 14,400 Sq.ft. is one "Bigha". A similar land measurement system is still being followed in modern Assam.

Classes of people

Subinphaa, the third Ahom king, dilineated the Satgharia Ahom ("Ahom of the seven houses") aristocracy: the royal family, the Burhagohain and the Borgohain families, and four priestly lineages—the Deodhai, the Mohan, the Bailung and the Chiring. This set was expanded later. The king could belong to only the first family whereas the Burhagohain and the Borgohain only to the second and the third families. Most of the Borphukans belonged to the Chutiya ethnic group, whereas the Borbaruas belonged to the Moran, Kachari, Chiring and Khamti groups.[5] Later on Naga, Mising and Nara oracles became a part of the Bailung group. The extended nobility consisted of the landed aristocracy and the spiritual class that did not pay any form of tax.

The apaikan chamua was the gentry that were freed from the khels and paid only money-tax. The paikan chamua consisted of artisans, the literati and skilled people that did non-manual work and rendered service as tax. The kanri paik rendered manual labor. The lowest were the licchous, bandi-beti and other serfs and bondsmen. There was some degree of movement between the classes. Momai Tamuli Borbarua rose from a bondsman through the ranks to become the first Borbarua under Prataap Singha.

Notes

  1. ^ The Ahoms constituted less than 10% of the population in the region that was the erstwhile kingdom in 1872 and 1881 census(Guha 1983:9).
  2. ^ (Gogoi 1968:266)
  3. ^ (Guha 1983:12)
  4. ^ (Guha 1983:24), and notes.
  5. ^ (Gogoi 2006:9)

References

  • Gogoi, Lila (1991), The History of the system of Ahom administration, Punthi Pustak, Calcutta
  • Gogoi, Nitul Kumar (2006), Continuity and Change among the Ahoms, Concept Publishing Company, Delhi
  • Gogoi, Padmeshwar (1968), The Tai and the Tai kingdoms, Gauhati University, Guwahati
  • Guha, Amalendu (1991), Medieval and Early Colonial Assam: Society, Polity and Economy, K.P. Bagchi & Co, Calcutta
  • Guha, Amalendu (December 1983), "The Ahom Political System: An Enquiry into the State Formation Process in Medieval Assam (1228-1714)", Social Scientist 11 (12): 3–34, doi:10.2307/3516963  
  • Kakoty, Sanjeeb (2003), Technology, Production and Social Formation in the Evolution of the Ahom State, Regency Publications, New Delhi

See also


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