Ahom people

The Ahom (Pron: /ˈɑːhɒm/), or Tai-Ahom is an ethnic group found today in the Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. They are the admixed descendants of the Tai people who reached the Brahmaputra valley of Assam in 1228 and the local indigenous people who joined them over the course of history. Sukaphaa, the leader of the Tai group and his 9000 followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228–1826 CE), which controlled much of the Brahmaputra Valley in modern Assam until 1826. Even though the Ahom made up a relatively small portion of the kingdom's population, they maintained their original Ahom language and practised their traditional religion till the 17th-century, when the Ahom court as well as the commoners adopted the Assamese language, and Ekasarana dharma and Shakta sects of Hinduism.

Tai Ahom
Ahom boy and girl.jpg
Tai-Ahom Man and woman in traditional clothing
Total population
1.3 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
    Assam1.3 million
    Arunachal Pradeshunknown
Assamese, Ahom (Dead language)[2]
Ahom religion, Hinduism (94.78%),[3] Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Shan, Dai, Tai, Lao, Nung Bouyei, Dong, Indigenous Assamese people, Thai
Sukapha Kshetra

The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretism of the original Tai and their culture[7] and local Tibeto-Burman people and their cultures they absorbed in Assam. The people that took to the Tai-Ahom way of life and polity were incorporated into their fold of Ahom in the process of Ahomization. Some local ethnic groups, including the Borahis who were of Tibeto-Burman origin, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community; while members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the usefulness of their talents, too were accepted as Ahoms. Currently, they represent the largest Tai group in India, with a population of nearly 1.3 million in Assam. Ahom people are found mostly in Upper Assam in the districts of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia (south of Brahmaputra river); and in Lakhimpur, Sonitpur and Dhemaji (north). There is a significant presence in Karbi Anglong and Lohit District of Arunachal Pradesh.


Statue of Ahom warriors near Sivasagar town, Assam


The Tai speaking people came into prominence first in the Guangxi region, from where they moved to mainland Southeast Asia in the middle of the 11th century after a long and fierce battle with the Chinese.[8] The Tai-Ahoms are traced to either Mong Mao of South China[9][10] or to the Hukawng Valley in Myanmar.[8]

Sukaphaa, a Tai prince of Mong Mao, and a band of followers reached Assam in 1228 with an intention of settling there.[11] They came with a higher technology of wet-rice cultivation then extant and a tradition of writing, record keeping, and state formation. They settled in the region south of the Brahmaputra river and to the east of the Dikho river; the Ahoms today are found concentrated in this region.[12] Sukaphaa, the leader of the Tai group and his 9000 followers established the Ahom kingdom (1228–1826 CE), which controlled much of the Bramhaputra valley until 1826.

Initial formation in AssamEdit

In the initial phase, the band of followers of Sukaphaa moved about for nearly thirty years and mixed with the local population. He moved from place to place, searching for a seat. He made peace with the Borahi and Moran ethnic groups, and he and his mostly male followers married into them, creating an admixed population identified as Ahoms.[13] The Borahis, a Tibeto-Burman people, were completely subsumed into the Ahom fold, though the Moran maintained their independent ethnicity. Sukaphaa established his capital at Charaideo near present-day Sivasagar in 1253 and began the task of state formation.


The Ahoms believed that they were divinely ordained to bring fallow land under the plow with their techniques of wet-rice cultivation, and to adopt stateless shifting cultivators into their fold.[14] They were also conscious of their numerical minority.[15] As a result, the Ahom polity initially absorbed Naga, Borahi and Moran, and later large sections of the Chutia and the Dimasa-Kachari peoples. This process of Ahomisation went on for till mid-16th century when the Ahom society itself came under the direct Hindu influence.[16] That many indigenous peoples were ceremonially adopted into Ahom clans are recorded in the chronicles.[17] Since the Ahoms married liberally outside their own exogamous clans and since their own traditional religion resembled the religious practices of the indigenous peoples along with Hindus, the assimilation under Ahomisation had a little impediment.[16][18]

Localisation and LossEdit

In the 16th- and 17th-centuries, the small Ahom community expanded their rule dramatically toward the west and they successfully saw off challenges from Mughal and other invaders, gaining them recognition in world history.[19] The rapid expansion resulted in the Ahom people becoming a small minority in their own kingdom, of which they kept control. Eventually, the Ahom court, as well as the Ahom peasants took to Ekasarana dharma, Shaktism and Saivism over the traditional Ahom religion;[20] and adopted Assamese over the Ahom language for secular purposes.[21] The modern Ahom people and their culture are a syncretism of the original Tai and their culture[7] and local Tibeto-Burman peoples and their cultures they absorbed in Assam. Some local ethnic groups, including the Tibeto-Burman speaking Borahi, were completely subsumed into the Ahom community; while members of other communities, based on their allegiance to the Ahom kingdom or the use of their talents, too were accepted as Ahoms. Even though the Ahom made up a relatively small portion of the kingdom's population, they maintained their original Ahom language and practised their traditional religion till the 17th-century, when the Ahom court, as well as the commoners, adopted the Assamese language, and Ekasarana dharma and Saktism religions.

The everyday usage of Ahom language ceased completely by early 19th-century.[22] The loss of religions is also nearly complete, with only a few priestly families practising some aspects of it.[23] While the written language (and ritualistic chants) survive in a vast number of written manuscripts,[24] much of the spoken language is lost because the Ahom script does not mark tone and under-specifies vowel contrasts.[25]


Though the first political organisation (All Assam Ahom Association) was created in 1893[26] it was in 1954 when Ahom connection to other Tai groups in Assam was formally established.[27]


Ban-Mong Social systemEdit

The traditional social system of Tai-Ahom people was known as Ban-Mong which was related to agriculture and based on irrigation.[28] The Ban or Ban Na is a unit composed of families that settled by the side of the rivers. While many Bans together forms a Mong which refers state.[28]

Ahom clansEdit

Ahom clans, called phoids, formed socio-political entities. At the time of ingress into Assam, or soon thereafter, there were seven important clans, called Satghariya Ahoms (Ahoms of the Seven Houses). There were Su/Tsu (Tiger) clan to which the Chao-Pha (Sukaphaa) belonged; his two chief counselors Burhagohain (Chao-Phrung-Mung) and Borgohain (Chao-Thao-Mung); and three priestly clans: Bailung (Mo-plang), Deodhai (Mo-sham), Mohan (Mo-hang) and Siring.[29][30][31] Soon the Satghariya group was expanded—four additional clans began to be associated with nobility: Dihingia, Sandikoi, Lahon and Duarah.[30] In the 16th-century Suhungmung added another great counselor, the Borpatrogohain and a new clan was established. Over time sub-clans began appearing. Thus during the Suhungmung's reign, the Chao-Pha's clan were divided into seven sub-clans—Saringiya, Tipamiya, Dihingiya, Samuguriya, Tungkhungiya, Parvatiya, and Namrupiya. Similarly, Burhagohain clan were divided into eight, Borgohain sixteen, Deodhai twelve, Mohan seven, and Bailung and Siring eight each. The rest of the Ahom gentry belonged to clans such as Chaodangs, Gharphalias, Likchows etc. In general, the secular aristocratic clans, the priestly class, and the gentry clans did not intermarry.

Some clans admitted people from other ethnic groups as well. For example, Miri-Sandikoi and Moran-Patar were Sandikoi and Patar from the Mising and Moran communities, while majority of Chetias as well as the Lahon clan belonged to the Chutia community.[32] This was true even for the priestly clans: Naga-Bailung, Miri-bailung and Nara-Bailung.[29]


Ahom people are Literally well developed. They had their own developed writing system which is a Tai-Kadai Script is known as Ahom script,[33] which is now in disuse. The Ahom script was evolved from Tai Nuea[34] which was looked similar till it was modified under the present Chinese Government.[35] They have various manuscripts on History, society, astrology, rituals, etc. Ahom people used to write their chronicles known as Buranji.[36] The priestly classes (Mo'sam, Mo'hung, Mo'Plong) are the custodians of these manuscripts.

Year SystemEdit

Ahom people have their own Lunar calendar known as Lak-Ni Tao-Si-Nga,[37] which is an ancient way of calculating Years. This system was prevalent in the Middle Kingdoms (Chung-kuo) and was brought by Tai Ahoms to Muong-dun Sun -kham. But is still in vogue in China and South-East Asian Tai people. All these things were written Books and Manuscripts of Dates, Months and Years.[38]



There is a lot of affinities of a style of the living house. Like the rural Thai people of Thailand, the house rural Ahom families have been made of wood, bamboo, and two roofs are typically designed by the thatching grasses.[39] Every families orchard and plow land are situated near their house. The houses of the inhabitant have been built in scattered fashion within the bamboo groves.[39] At one time, The Ahom built their house on still called Rwan Huan[39] with about two meters high above the ground level.

Food HabitEdit

The food habit is one of the important variables of the culture of Tai-Ahom. Most of the Ahoms, particularly in the rural areas are mostly Non-vegetarian[40] still maintain a traditional menu of their own food like the other Tai Peoples.Besides, porks, chicken, duck, slices of beef (Buffalo), frogs, many kinds of fishes, hukoti maas (dry preserved fish mixture) Muga lota (Cocoon seeds of endi and muga worms) eggs of red ant are their typical items of dishes.[40] Even, some kinds of insects are also good food, for the Ahoms. Rice is the staple food and Lao (homemade rice beer); Luk-Lao or Nam-Lao (rice beer, undiluted or diluted) are traditional drinks.[39] They consume "Khar" (a form of alkaline liquid extracted from the ashes of burned banana peels/bark), "Betgaaj" (tender cane shoots) and many other naturally grown herbs vegetables which possess medicinal properties. Ahom food habits resemble Thai cuisine. Some of them are Thu – dam (black lentil), Khao – Moon (Rice Frumenty) "Xandohguri" (a powder made from dry roasted rice), "ChewaKhao" (steamed rice), "Chunga Chaul" (sticky rice cooked in tender bamboo tubes),"Til pitha" (sesame rice rolls prepared from sticky rice powder), Khao-tyek (rice flakes).[39] The process of preparation of this item was quite unknown to population other than the Ahoms and the Thais, Khao (unboiled soft rice prepared from a special variety of sticky rice with a unique technique), Tupula Khao (Kind of rice cooked packing with a particular kind of plant leaf with good smell called, 'tora pat' and preserved bamboo sauce are some of the favourite food[39] items of the Ahoms which are almost similar to the traditional diet of the this. Like the Thais, the Ahoms prefers to take boiled food having little spices and directly burnt fish, meat and vegetable like brinjal, tomato, etc.[39]



Cho Klong[41] is the main marriage ritual among the twenty marriage rituals of Tai Ahom people.[42] The name Cho Klong is derived from the Tai Ahom language [Cho=to combine, klong=ritual]. The ritual is described in an ancient Tai Ahom script Lai Lit nang Hoon Pha.[43] 101 ban-phai-s (earthen lamps) or lights are lit. The bride offers the groom a heng-dan (sword)[44] to protect her, their children/family, the race and the country. Sum of twenty rituals are performed in ahom wedding along with cho klong . Some of Those are -

  • Ju-ron
  • Rik-Khwan
  • Aap-Tang [Aap=Bath, Tang=devine][45]
  • Chow Ban [worshipping sun]
  • Jon-ming [Blessing given by Moloung priests][45]


All Ahoms today return Hinduism as their religion, although there is an effort to revive the traditional Ahom religion. Nevertheless, Me-Dam-Me-Phi is widely celebrated. The Ahom religion declined during the reign of Suremphaa Rajeswar Singha, who ordered Sanskritisation. All funerals were to be practised under the Hindu cremation rites, conducted by a Maithil Brahmin priest and a traditional Deodhai priest.


The Ahoms today use the Assamese language after the traditional language, the Ahom language, fell into complete disuse. The Ahom language, a member of the Tai branch of the Kra–Dai_languages is now dead, with its tone system completely lost. Nevertheless, it is being revived by some Tai Ahom organisations.[46]

Starting in the late 20th and continuing into the early 21st century, there has been renewed interest among the Ahoms in their culture and language leading to increased study and attempts at revival.[47] The 1901 census of India enumerated approximately 179,000 people identifying as Ahom. The latest available census records slightly over 2 million Ahom individuals, however, estimates of the total number of people descended from the original Tai-Ahom settlers are as high as eight million.[48] The Ahom script also finds a place in the Unicode Consortium and the script declared the topmost in the South-East Asia category.[49]

Ahom people todayEdit

ReligionsAhom religion, Hinduism, Theravda Buddhism
LanguagesAssamese, Ahom
Populated statesAssam, Arunachal Pradesh.

Ahom people today categorised in other backward classes (OBC) caste category ; also there is discussion and demand for the Schedule Tribe for a long time.[50] The term "ethnic Assamese" is now associated by the Indian government with the various indigenous Assamese people.[51][52][53] According to Anthony Van Nostrand Diller, possibly eight million speakers of Assamese can claim genetic descent from the Ahoms.[48] However, historian Yasmin Saikia argues that in pre-colonial times, the Ahoms were not an ethnic community, but were a relatively open status group. Any community coming into the socio-economic fold of the Ahom state could claim the Ahom status with active consent of the king.[51]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ According to [https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/16189/IN Joshua Project
  2. ^ Diller, A. (1993). Tai Languages. In International Encyclopedia of Linguistics (Vol. 4, pp. 128-131). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ According to the Joshua Project.
  4. ^ "639 Identifier Documentation: aho – ISO 639-3". SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics). SIL International. Retrieved 29 June 2019. Ahom [aho]
  5. ^ "Population by Religious Communities". Census India – 2001. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved 1 July 2019. Census Data Finder/C Series/Population by Religious Communities
  6. ^ "Population by religion community – 2011". Census of India, 2011. The Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Archived from the original on 25 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/8154/10/10_conclusion.pdf
  8. ^ a b (Terwiel 1996:275)
  9. ^ (Gogoi 2011:V)
  10. ^ "At present [Mong Mao] is known as Ruili in Chinese maps... The Mong Mao area is still predominantly Tai, who are called Dai (in Pin Yin), and they, together with the Singhpho, or Jingpho, form a dominant group, hence the whole zone is named as Dehong Dai-Jingpho Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan." (Phukan 1991:889)
  11. ^ " Sukapha and his band of Ahom migrants entered Upper Assam in 1228 with a view to permanently settling there." (Guha 1983:12)
  12. ^ (Terwiel 1996:276)
  13. ^ " The Ahom kingdom’s establishment, traditionally dated at 1228, was done by a group migrating from the southeast, large numbers of whom were male army members, who would have taken local non-Tai speaking wives." (Morey 2014:51–52)
  14. ^ (Guha 1983:11–12)
  15. ^ (Baruah 1977:251)
  16. ^ a b (Guha 1983:12)
  17. ^ "Thus the illustrious Ahom family of Miri Sandikai was founded by one Miri (Mising), the adopted son of a Burhagohain. (Purani Asam Buranji) King Gadadhar Sinha (1681-1696) accepted two Naga princesses as his consorts. (Tungkhungiya Buranji) The new converts, if possessed of efficiency, were even recruited to important administrative posts. Thus the second Barphukan, the governor of Lower Assam, was the son of a Naga of Banferra clan. (Purani Asam Buranji) Queen Phuleswari, who took the regalia to her hand during the reign of king Siva Singha (1714-1744), appointed a Bhutanese youth as her page. Kancheng, the first Barpatra Gohain was born and brought up in a Naga family. (Purani Asam Buranji)" (Baruah 1977:251)
  18. ^ (Baruah 1977:251–252)
  19. ^ "During the sixteenth, and more so during the seventeenth century, the Ahom people, in a series of spectacular expansionist moves, gained dominance over virtually the entire Brahmaputra Valley. The story of how Ahom-led armies fought against Muslim invaders has gained them a place in international history." (Terweil 1996:276)
  20. ^ "Not only at the Ahom court, but also among Ahom farmers, the Indian religion gained adherents: Saivism, Saktism, and Vaisnavism spread and largely replaced the old Tai Ahom religion. (Terweil 1996:276)
  21. ^ "The Ahom language and Ahom script were relegated to the religious sphere, where they were used only by some members of the traditional priestly clans, while Assamese speech and writing took over in secular life." (Terweil 1996:276)
  22. ^ "It seems that by early in the 19th century, everyday usage of Ahom language had ceased and that Ahom people all spoke Assamese as their mother tongue." (Morey 2014:50)
  23. ^ "Only in a few priestly families was the original Ahom religion not wholly forgotten." (Terweil 1996:280)
  24. ^ "Tai Ahom is therefore usually regarded as a dead language, but it survives in three ways: (1) in vast collections of manuscripts, (2) as a ritual language in Ahom religious ceremonies, and (3) as a language undergoing revival." (Morey 2014:50)
  25. ^ "While the Ahom script marks all consonants, because it does not mark tones and under specifies vowel contrasts, the same written word can have a large number of meanings." (Morey 2014:55)
  26. ^ (Terweil 1996:278)
  27. ^ "In 1954, at a meeting of Ahom people at Patsaku, Sibsagar District, the Tai Historical and Cultural Society of Assam was founded (linking the Ahom with Tai groups that had arrived more recently, such as the Khamti, Khamyang, Phakey, and Aiton)." (Terweil 1996:278)
  28. ^ a b (Gogoi 1995:30)
  29. ^ a b (Gogoi 2006:9)
  30. ^ a b (Guha 1983:13)
  31. ^ (Gogoi 1976:15)
  32. ^ Dutta, Shristidhar,The Mataks and their Kingdom,p/30
  33. ^ (Gogoi 2011:1.00)
  34. ^ (Gogoi 2011:V)
  35. ^ (Gogoi 2011:10)
  36. ^ (Gogoi 2011)
  37. ^ pp.271-278 in ABOURANJIK
  38. ^ Phukan, J.N.2006 pp.1
  39. ^ a b c d e f g (Phukan 2017:II)
  40. ^ a b (Gogoi 2011:227)
  41. ^ Diller, Anthony; Edmondson, Jerry; Luo, Yongxian (30 November 2004). The Tai-Kadai Languages. Routledge. ISBN 9781135791162 – via Google Books.
  43. ^ Lailit nang hoon Pha, ancient Tai Ahom script
  44. ^ "Journal of the Indian Anthropological Society". The Society. 28 March 1981 – via Google Books.
  45. ^ a b Gogoi, Pushpa (28 March 1996). "Tai of North East India". Chumphra Printers and Publishers – via Google Books.
  46. ^ Dipima Buragohain. Issues of Language Contact and Shift in Tai Ahom
  47. ^ Sikhamoni Gohain Boruah & Ranjit Konwar, The Tai Ahom of India and a Study of Their Present Status Hiteswar Saikia College and Sri Ranjit Konwar, Assam Forest Department
  48. ^ a b "Ahom". Ethnologue.
  49. ^ "Ahom script finds place in Unicode Consortium". The Sentinel. 29 June 2018.
  50. ^ "AATASU reiterates demand for ST status to six communities". The Sentinel. 28 October 2017.
  51. ^ a b Yasmin Saikia (2004). Fragmented Memories. ISBN 978-0-8223-3373-9.
  52. ^ "ST status to Assam groups only from a national perspective". Retrieved 11 March 2009.
  53. ^ "Separatist strains". The Hindu. Retrieved 11 March 2009.


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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit