Ahom dynasty: Epitome of unity, valour

Ahom dynasty: Epitome of unity, valour

One of the most celebrated contemporaneous industrialists and philanthropists in the world Ratan Tata will receive the 'Assam Baibhav' award for his contribution towards cancer care facilities in the state on January 24.

One of the most celebrated contemporaneous industrialists and philanthropists in the world Ratan Tata will receive the 'Assam Baibhav' award for his contribution towards cancer care facilities in the state on January 24. The awards were announced by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to be bestowed on Tata along with Olympian Lovlina Borgohain, artist Neel Pawan Baruah and National Health Mission State Director Lakshmanan S. on Asom Divas, celebrated on December 2 last year to commemorate the rule of Swargadeo Chaolung Sukapha, who founded the Ahom dynasty in Assam, which ruled the state for 600 years.

This award declared on Asom Divas brings into light the illustrious and successful battles of Ahom dynasty against Mughals not just once, but 17 times. In the 13th century, the medieval Assam witnessed the arrival of a group of people led by an enterprising and intelligent person named, Sukapha. Sukapha was a Tai prince from the Mong Mao, present day Yunann province in Southern China. He came to Assam by crossing the rugged Patkai mountain range and reached the destination on December 2, 1228, which is celebrated as the Assam Divas or Assam Day in Assam.

The first footprints of this astute and farsighted prince along with his three queens, two sons, a daughter, several nobles and officials totaling 10,000 people marked the dawn of a new era in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, known as the Ahom era (1228-1826) which later went on to become India's longest documented ruling dynasty along with its impregnable courage to drove Mughal's from Assam 17 times.But interestingly, history books hardly mention about this highland kingdom located in the northeast part of India. When Sukapha entered Assam, he saw various segregated ethnic tribes with individual chieftains, culture, and languages. With the advent into the region, he united the multiple tribes into one community through his charismatic personality and progressive vision. To maintain mutual harmony, he married the princesses of the chieftains and also encouraged his officials and soldiers to marry locally. Sukapha and the successive Ahom kings never inculcated their own religion and culture on the local people and instead patronised the religion and culture of the locals. The Ahoms traditionally followed their own religion of ancestor worship called pulin-putha, but in 16th century they accepted Hinduism apart from practicing their own religion.

The Ahoms had the tradition of recording details about the kings and their activities in their ruling period like tax records, allied rulers, annual reports of various kinds through chronicles and manuscripts known as Buranjis, written by the Ahom pundits. This system of record maintenance is a unique system inherited by the Ahoms from their original homeland. Thanks to the system of documenting manuscripts, now we are able to get a concrete picture of the then Ahom Kingdom, its political structure and society as such.

The Ahom administration was a monarchial government with democratic and aristocratic values as well. The king could be considered as a nominal head as many administrative decisions were taken by the nobles. Sukapha, while building the foundation of the Ahom dynasty in Assam, was aided by royal ministers called Buragohain and Borgohain, who vowed not to contest for the Ahom king's position and were responsible for helping the king in taking the decisions of the state and the administration. These ministers were powerful enough to appoint a king and also to remove a king if they found the king to be incompetent, but all the kings have to have the bloodline of the great Sukapha. The Ahom reign believed in the system of Paik, where all the male members of the individual villages had to serve the state by working for public welfare like the construction of roads, excavation of tanks, bridge construction, etc. Various marvels in the Brahmaputra valley were constructed during the Ahom era.

During military emergency, it was mandatory for all the male members to fight against the attackers. The soldiers of the courageous Ahom force before going for the combat would wear cotton clothes prepared by their wives overnight from preparing the ingredients (cotton) and weaving it in the handloom before the dawn called Kavash Kapur in the belief that their husbands would return home safe. This tradition of weaving is instilled in Assamese women from the Ahom days and therefore when Mahatma Gandhi, during his visit to Assam in 1946, said that Assamese womenfolk's can weave fairytales in their handlooms.

The Ahoms followed stringent travel policies to protect their motherland against the foreign invaders for inward travel. It could be corroborated from the incident where the French merchant, Jean Baptiste Chevalier before entering Assam was made to wait in the Sadiyasaki check-post of Goalpara, North Assam, for six months to receive interline permit which was to be issued by the king. This was the administrative restrictions not common in those medieval days in other kingdoms of India.

Even with all the administrative skills and acumen, the Ahom kingdom is also touted for defeating the Mughals 17 times, who were at the zenith of their rule in the entire India. In the last famous fight with Mughals, the Battle of Saraighat in 1671, near Guwahati, the indomitable Ahom garrison (less in number) led by the great Ahom General, Lachit Borphukan with his intelligence, clever diplomatic negotiations, war tactics, psychological warfare and leadership skills with the unity of other tribes and communities like: the Rani of Darrang, Jaintais, the Nagas, and the Garos crushed the insurmountable army of the Mughals during the period of Aurangazeb led by the general Ram Singh accompanied by 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18,000 Turkish cavalry, 5,000 gunners and over 1,000 cannons besides a large fleet of boats.

To win the war, the Mughals employed treachery, duplicity and deceit. But Lachit Borphukan's impeccable war strategy and patriotism made Mughal invasion into Assam implausible. The Mughals were devastated and Ram Singh fled for his life. The humiliated Mughals never tried to invade northeast again. To commemorate this valiant warrior, the best passing out cadet of the National Defense Academy is conferred the Lachit Borphukan Gold Medal every year. In Assam, November 24 is celebrated as Lachit Divas to remember this greatest brave heart of Assam.

In the 17th century, the Ahom rule got weakened due to multiple Burmese invasions and internal conflicts and finally the golden rule of the 600-year-old dynasty was annexed by the British East India Company in 1826. But even though the kingdom does not exit, the Ahom rule has set the identity of Assamese nationality by uniting various tribes and communities together. Because of this integrity seeded by the Ahoms as Assamese, there is much respect and harmony among the Assamese Hindus and the Assamese Muslims and no caste divisions.

During the Ahom rule, all members of village were made to drink water from the same tank without any restriction for tribes, communities or religion to bring social unity and harmony. The cultural and social ethos that the Ahoms brought to Assam can be regarded an epitome of unity and integration amidst diversity in the modern India.

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