Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Ahom people in Assam, North East India

The Ahom people in Assam, North East India

      Just wonder what Tai people of Shanland was doing in North East India? How the Tai people moved from Yunnan to Burma, and then to North East India.

There are 2 million of Tai origin lived in North East India. Ahoms, a very small group of Tai people who came into Assam in the early 13 th century, 9,000 of the Shan of Mong Mao(mostly men) fought their way to Brahmaputra valley in 1228. They were following a prince, Sukaphaa. They spoke Tai language and followed their traditional religion of Buddhist. But after the first generation, the Ahom mixed marriage with local people, Borahi ( a tibeto-Burman ethnic group) & Moran, they adopted the Assamese language, and its kings and high officials converted to Hinduism. Prince Sukaphaa established its first state in 1253. The Ahom people kept good records of the past in their chronicles, called Buranjis. Ahom is the largest group of Tai group in India, settled mainly in Assam.

There are also other groups of Tai people; Khamti, Phake, Aiton, Turung, Khamyang , who came to the valley at the later periods than Ahom and made their settlement in various places of Assam and Arunanchal Pradesh.

The Burmese occupied the state in 19th century, then the Burmese was defeated in the 1st Aglo-Burmese War in 1826, and the Britain controlled the state under Treaty of Yandanoo signed on 24-2-1826. The treaty resulted in the end of Ahom rule for 600 years( from 1228-1826 AD).

The discovery of Tai language buranjis led the colonial administrators to conclude that a ‘foreign’ group had migrated from the hills of Burma into Assam, established an Ahom kingdom, and used the buranji literature to record their history and culture. Immediately after declaring them an ethnic group, the colonials made the Ahoms ‘unthinkable’ by proclaiming them ‘dead’.The colonials classified the Ahomcommunity as dead community, and identified them based on language under Assamese (source: ThaTai - Ahom Connection by Yasmin Saikia in the journal Gateway to the East, June 2005)

The Tai Ahom are unable to communicate in a Tai language. Because of influence of Indian and Bengali culture,the Tai Ahom use the Bengali,Hindi and Assamese languages in their daily lives and completely forgotten the Tai language( pg 118, Inheriting Tai Ethnic Culture- A spiritial Bond: Bhramaputra River Basin, Bunyong Gettet). But Tai Khamti, Tai Pake , however still speak Tai language. The identity struggle of Ahom to identify with Tai group based on their history and culture, will be a difficult journey as they have lost the language in their daily usage , only used them in religion fuction, and only by priests. But it is still in positive direction.

A book which is interesting for the people who want to know more about Ahom people is the book named " Fragment Histories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom" published by Duke University Press in 2004. The book can be order from Amazon.com. The writer, Yasmin Saikia is Assistant professor of Histor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is Assamese herself.

The history of Ahom, and Ahom's identity struggle, remind us to preserve our own identity and love our own language. This is a strong reminder to us that race can be disappeared, language can be lost if we do not protect our heritage.