On your visit to Awesome Assam (or rather anywhere in the World) there will always be one question on your mind – ‘What are the unique things about this place’? And you will always seek to know the answer from a local, a person who has lived here across a major part of his life. You may get many different set of answers from these small sample size of people you will choose to select. Some of the answers will be the One Horned Rhino of Assam – an endangered animal species native to Assam, the Majuli River Island – the World’s Largest inhabited River Island, the Satras of Majuli – that preach Neo Vaishnavism as propagated by Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciples, the River Brahmaputra – the only male river that flows across Awesome Assam, the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge – India’s longest Bridge, the Oil town of Digboi – the World’s oldest operational Oil well, etc. But one common answer across all these sets of answer will be the Ahom Kingdom of Sivasagar. The Kings of Awesome Assam who were so feared during their time that even the Mighty Mughals couldn’t defeat them at the time when they were ruling the whole of India!
The Mighty Ahoms of Awesome Assam were well renowned for their bravery. The Ahoms were the only Ruling dynasty that didn’t fall to the Might of the Mughal Empire. They were dedicated to their Motherland to an extent that one of their General ‘Lachit Borphukan’ didn’t hesitate to behead his own Maternal Uncle due to his negligence towards his duties in protecting his Motherland. His statement on his action was ‘Dekhot ke Mumai dangor nohoi’ meaning ‘My Uncle is not greater than my Motherland’! This statement is still sworn in by the members of the Assamese community when it comes to protecting their Motherland from any foreign invaders.
The Ahoms although known for their ferocity were also one of the most generous of all. Their grandeur in Architecture can be witnessed at the town of Sivasagar in Awesome Assam where the like of the ‘Talatal Ghar’, the ‘Kareng Ghar’ and the ‘Rang Ghar’ can be seen. During their reign the Ahom Kings constructed many Temples across Assam as a symbol of benevolence.
Ahoms Kings were a patron of fine art, literature and dance forms to an extent that the famous Bihu dance of Assam was started during their regime. Bihu has been the most precious gift of Ahoms to Assam. It was the ‘RANG GHAR’ amphitheater where it first shaped up and then, it journeyed to its eternal fame.
Another celebration of noteworthy importance of the Ahom community is their practice of Marriage known as ‘Sok Long’, where marriages vows are taken across a hundred burning oil lamps and the bridegroom promises to keep his bride safe and happy throughout their life by holding a sword and swearing by the fire of the oil lamps!
The Ahoms although known for their ferocity were also one of the most generous of all. Their grandeur in Architecture can be witnessed at the town of Sivasagar in Assam where the like of the ‘Talatal Ghar’, the ‘Kareng Ghar’ and the ‘Rang Ghar’ can be seen.
But as history has always narrated, no kingdom becomes great without mighty leaders. From Alexander in Greece to Akbar the Great in India, these able leaders created and expanded their empire into a Global one. Not was much different here too with the Ahom Dynasty. Created by one and the legacy carried on by the other made this dynasty one of the most feared and powerful in the country! Although there were many great leaders who played a major role in building the success of this Empire, two (2) are always noteworthy to be mentioned. These two whose praises are sung even today and who will be remembered across the memoirs of the State of Assam always – Chaolung Sukhapa and Lachit Borphukan!
- Chaolung Sukhapa
The name “Sukafa” brings a sense of pride in every Assamese individual’s heart. Chaolung Sukhapa was the first Ahom king in medieval Assam, & was the founder of the Ahom kingdom (which is famous for defeating the Mughal empire 17 times). As I recall, he was a Tai prince originally from Mong Mao, (now in Yunnan province in Peoples Republic of China). After spending 19 years as crown prince, Sukaphaa decided to leave Mong Mao. According to tradition, his grandmother advised him thus – “no two tigers live in the same jungle, no two kings sit on the same throne.” Accordingly Sukaphaa is said to have left Chieng-Sen the capital of Mong Mao in the year 1215 AD.
He was accompanied by three queens, two sons and a daughter; chiefs from five other dependent Mongs, members of the priestly class and soldiers—a total contingent of 9,000. Some commoners are recorded as having joined this core group on the way. He traveled a long distance & entered Assam in 1228 A.D. His journey from Yunnan to Assam passed through many places like Myitkyina, Mogaung and the upper Irrawaddy river valley and Patkai hills among many others. On his way he stopped at various places and crossed the Khamjang River to reach the Nangyang Lake where he fought and defeated the Nagas and reached the Brahmaputra valley in the early 13th century. The kingdom he established there existed for nearly six hundred years and in the process unified the various tribal and non-tribal peoples of the region that left a deep impact on the region. In the quest of expanding his kingdom, he reached Namrup and constructed a bridge on the Sessa River, and went along the Burhi Dihing River in order to establish a colony for wet rice cultivation. After a substantial amount of time, when he couldn’t find a suitable land, he returned downstream to Tipam. In 1236, he left Tipam for Abhaypur and in the year 1240, the area was struck by flood, which made him move again down the Brahmaputra to Habung, which is present-day Dhakuakhana. In1244,he moved down the Brahmaputra to the Dikhowmukh, because Habung was also struck by flood, and then up the Dikhow river up to Ligirigaon. Finally, in the year 1253, the capital of Ahom Kingdom was established at Charaideo, which lies close to the present-day Sibasagar and eventually initiated the mission of building a state.In honour to his position, the term ‘Chaolung’ is generally associated with his name-Chao meaning lord & Lung meaning great.
Since 1996 December 2 has been celebrated in Assam as the Sukaphaa Divas, or Asom Divas (Assam Day), to commemorate the advent of the first king of the Ahom kingdom in Assam after his journey over the Patkai Hills. He is also known as the first Assamese.
- Lachit Borphukan
When a story of a war hero is recited in Assam, the first name that pops in the mind of every Assamese is perhaps Lachit Borphukon, who is best known for the battle of Saraighat in 1671 that demolished a drawn-out attempt by Mughal forces to take back Kamrup among many others.
His father Momai Tamuli Borbarua had a humble background but evolved as the first Borbarua (Governor of upper Assam and Commander-in-Chief of the Ahom army) under Prataap Singha. Lachit Borphukan received training in humanities, scriptures and military skills.
Before being appointed as the Supreme Commander of the army, he held various posts of eminence such as Superintendent of the Royal Horses or Ghora Barua, Commander of the strategic Simulgarh Fort and Superintendent of the Royal Household Guards or Dolakasharia Barua assisting the Ahom king. The King Chakradhwaj Singha appointed Lachit as the commander in chief of the Ahom army. King Chakradhwaj Singha selected Lachit Borphukan to lead the army in the campaign against the Mughals who held Guwahati. The King presented Lachit with a gold-hafted sword (Hengdang) and the customary paraphernalia of distinction. Lachit raised the army and preparations were completed by summer of 1667. Lachit recovered Guwahati from the Mughals and successfully defended it against the Mughal forces during the Battle of Saraighat.
- Battle of Saraighat(The Victory that was to be written in Golden words in Assamese history)
Lachit efficiently disposed his responsibilities and transformed it into strong and powerful army by the summer of 1667. In the Battle of Saraighat he headed the Ahom army which was victorious against the Mughal army. When the Mughal army attacked in Saraighat, while looking at the huge Mughal fleet under the leadership of Ram Singh I consisting of 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18,000 Turkish cavalry, 5,000 gunners and over 1000 cannons besides a large flotilla of boats the Assamese army lost their determination and will. Even though Lachit was very seriously ill he told his army to retreat if they wanted to and made it clear that he wouldn’t do so. He said “If you (the soldiers) want to flee, flee. The king has given me a task here and I will do it well. Let the Mughals take me away. You report to the king that his general fought well following his orders”. This gave a huge moral boost to the Assamese army. His soldiers rallied and a desperate battle ensured on the river Brahmaputra. Lachit Barphukan was victorious. The Mughals were forced to retreat from Guwahati. The Mughal Commander-in-Chief, acknowledging his defeat by the Ahom soldiers and their Commander-in-chief Lachit Barphukan, wrote, “Glory to the king! Glory to the counselors! Glory to the commanders! Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I, Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!”.
He died immediately after the victory due to illness. 16 km from Jorhat at the Lachit Maidam, the last remains of Lachit Borphukon are preserved. It was built in 1672 by Swargadeo Udayaditya Singha at Hoolungapara. Every year 24th November is celebrated as Lachit Divas in the state of Assam to pay tribute to general Lachit Borphukan.
Jungleideas welcomes you to India’s North East to witness the Ahom Architectural Wonders at Sivasagar and pay tribute to the Mighty Warriors of the feared Ahom Dynasty and the Unsung Heroes of India – Chaolung Sukapha, Lachit Borphukan and the fierce ‘Battle of Saraighat’, Sivasagar, the State of Assam, Incredible India!
The Statue of Chaolung Sukapha at the Samanway Kshetra at Jorhat in Assam
Origin of Ahoms and contributions of Siukapha – an article by Rashmirekha Hazarika published on Assam Tribune – Wednesday, December 2, 2020
The Ahoms are the members of the Shan branch of the great Tai or Thai family of Southeast Asia. The Shans were named so because they initially established a land named Tyai-Sham on the bank of River Tarim that flowed to the north of Mongolia from China. From Tyai-Shan they first migrated to China in around 5th century AD and from thence to Mungrimungram in Yunnan in China. They expanded gradually to the entire Hukawng Valley in present Myanmar (old Burma) and established a group of states therein. The most powerful of these states was inhabited by the Mau branch of the ethnic group. They called it Munmas, whereas the Manipuris used to refer it as a kingdom of pony, a term that sometimes denoted the entire collection of Tai-Shan states in Hukawng Valley. The Ahoms claim Mungrimungram as their original homeland and state that Khunlai, their younger progenitor, ruled over this kingdom. The third king of Khunlai’s family divided the kingdom, Mungrimungram proper and Mauling on the bank of the Sheuli river in Upper Burma between his two sons. It was Mauling, where Suikapaha, the founded of the Ahom Kingdom in teh Brahmaputra Valley was born to Phusang Khang. The meaning of the Siukapaha stands as: Siu – tiger, ka – to come, pha – heaven – ‘the tiger that descended on arrived from heaven’.
Siukapaha left his birthplace in about 1215 AD to seek his fortune elsewhere. He was accompanied by a few nobles, a few hundred followers and a retinue of two elephants and 300 horse and two hengdangs (the legendary was sword and symbol of royal power) and a statuette of Somdeo, the presiding diety.
The consolidation and establishment of Ahom power in an alien land and Siukaphas’s contributions changed the entire scenario.
As Siukapha moved towards the Patkai hills via the Hukawng valley, he reduced to submission the local ethnic groups encountered along the way. He reached the Brahmaputra valley in 1228 AD and stepped on the Soumarpeeth of the erstwhile Kamarupa on December 2 that year. Thereafter, he had been moving from place to place for about 12 years in search of a suitable spot till he settled at Charaideo in 1253 AD near Langkuri hills. The Morans and the Barahis who dwelt in the region between the Dikhow and the Disang rivers were the first ethnic groups who Siukapaha won over to his side by a policy of peace and conciliation. Those among them who challenged Siukapaha were ruthlessly eliminated. Thus he made his supreme authority felt over these two ethnic groups. Siukapha then established his permanent headquarters at Charideo and celebrated the occasion by sacrificing two horses. When he reached the Brahmaputra Valley in 1228, he ordered his chroniclers to keep a record of all events, called buranjis. This was the glorious beginning of history writing of Assam – a precious contribution to Indian historiography. Buranjis contain reliable source materials of all the activities of the Ahom rulers. Buranji is a word from the Ahom dialect and it means a storehouse of knowledge that enlightens the ignorant. The Deodhanis and Bailungs were entrusted with the task of chronicler who wrote down the everyday events in simple Tai language. It was only during the reign of Pratap Singha much later that history writing was taken up in Assamese script.
‘Siukapha came not as a raiding conqueror but as the head of an agricultural folk in search of land’ as mentioned in the Comprehensive History of Assam by Swarnalata Barua. Siukapha moved and lived amongst the people of various ethnic groups, learning their languages and adopting local cultures. Living a life of a commoner, Siukapha himself tilled and cultivated the land. He accepted the local people into his social fold, placed them on an equal footing with his own men and treated them as his associates.
The Shan chroniclers are silent regarding Siukapha’s invasion of the Brahmaputra valley. At the same time, they relate the victories of Samlongpha, the general and a brother of a king of Mungmao, over the Chutiyas as well as the rulers of Arakan, Manipur and adjoining areas.
The conquest of the Tai-Shans changed the very trends in the political history of north-eastern India. It marked the beginning of a process leading to the establishment of new hegemony. The neighbouring areas were at that time under the control of the Morans, ruled by Badaucha and the Barahis, who were ruled by Thakumta. These two kings accepted the supremacy of Siukapha without any bloodshed. Following their acceptance with authority, Siukapha treated them as equals and encouraged inter-caste marriages and welded them into a single nation.
In an atmosphere of political stablity, the inhabitants of the region subsequently found their new regional identity as the subjects of the kingdom of Assam and developed a new fabric of culture and society of the kingdom of Assam and developed a new fabric of culture and society which was to become distinctly Assamese. Thus Siukapha founded the Ahom monarchy in Assam.
Siukapha died in 1268 AD; he was succeded by his son Sutepha (reigning period 1268-1281 AD), who extended the western boundary of the Ahom kingdom to the river Namdang. From the reign of of Subinpha (1281-1293 AD) to that of Supimpha (1297-1493 AD) covering a period of more than 200 years, no extension of territory was made by the Ahoms.
(Published on the occasion of Ahom Divas day)