The Tai-Khamyang tribe of Assam are historically known as Naras. It may be noted that Nara is not a Tai word, nor is it known in Burma. Ney Elias thought that the Naras were an aboriginal people with their early home in or about Hkamti (Khamti) which was formerly a much bigger province divided into two districts called Ai-kham in the north and Ai-ton in the south, the present Singkaling khamti being the western part of the old one. In short, the independent Nara state was roughly co-extensive with Mueang kong (Mogaung state) of Mao shans. There were undoubtedly scattered Tai settlements in the Nara country before its conquest by Sam-Long-Hpa, but with Shan supremacy the real Naras gradually lost their identity. Pemberton says, "The Shan chieftain of Mogaung is also called the Nara Raja by the Singphos, and it appears that the term is also applied to the Shans". This is also what we find in the Assamese Buranjis. Francis Hamilton's reference to the country of Nara also places that the country on the east of the Tiklyia Nagas, Manipur and its dependencies. Further, according to the same writer who investigated the subject, the Nara country belonged to the brother of the first Tai king (Khuntai) of Assam and that "the language and custom of the people of Nara are the same with those which formerly prevailed among tgr proper Assamese", that is, the Tai Ahoms. He also found that between the two people there is still a constant friendly intercourse ; and many natives of Nara are always to be found at the court of Jorhat.

The community called Nara (now Tai Khamyang) in Assam is called by the Tai Man Nam and the Man Nam are Tai. Another section of the Tai is called Man Loi, meaning hill-dwellers. The Naras in Assam are mostly Buddhists. There are a few non Buddhist Nara villages also and they are merged with the Ahoms. The Tai Naras (Khamyangs) are a cultured people and their special study is astronomy. King Gaurinath Singha's commission to Mogaung consisted of Nara astronomers and other learned persons. It is their astronomy who worked out the chronology of Ahom history.

Shared by: C.K Tunkhang.

Photo: Tai Khamyangs (Naras) of Jorhat, Assam.