Tai people has a unique political system called "Chowpha". Chowpha or Saopha, literally means "Lord of the sky" or "Lord of the heaven" was a royal title used by the rulers of Tai states in South East Asian countries. The Tais believe that the king or people who are at the head of the position of the kingdom and also the head of town are Chowpha, descendants of heaven. The Tai is a very old and advanced civilization, and was flourishing in China from a very early period. According to local chronicles some dynasties of Chowpha date from as early as the second century BCE.
The Tai-Khamtis are a subgroup of the great Tai race and they had their own kingdom called "Mueang khamti loung" in present day Kachin state of Myanmar. Khamti long is composed of seven principalities viz. Mueang yek, Long neau, Lang taue, Long keing, Maan nuea, Maan che, and Maan che khuean. According to the Khamti chronicles, these principalities were established by brothers who are Chowpha. These brothers were believed to be descendants of Chow Suea Khan Pha, the great king of Mawk Khao Mao Long kingdom. It is also believed that people in the land of Khamti long were migrated from Mueang Mao and they continued their chowpha political system.
In 1751 a.d when the kingdom of Pong was finally broken up, some khamtis from Mueang khamti long country, leaving their homes, established themselves on the Tengapani in Arunachal Pradesh. They divided their territory into towns, each town has chowpha as the head. The position of chowpha is transmitted through their sons. Such is how the chowpha political system has persisted wherever the Tai live.
In Namsai district of Arunachal Pradesh, there are chowpha of Empong, Kherem, Momong and Chongkham. Each chowpha has the symbol as a ruler like the book of Thammasat, sword and hat etc. At Chongkham (the ancient capital), the ex chowpha had his own temple and chetiya. Thus, it can be say that although the Khamti emigrated to Arunachal Pradesh over 200 years ago, they remain their chowpha political system and do respect the royal blood of their chowpha.

Shared by: C.K Tunkhang.

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