The Ahom Kingdom, founded in 1228, holds a significant place in history as a late medieval kingdom situated in the picturesque Brahmaputra Valley of Assam. One of its remarkable characteristics was its diverse and multi-ethnic composition, which contributed to its unique cultural richness. What truly sets the Ahom Kingdom apart is its extraordinary resilience in safeguarding its sovereignty for an impressive span of 600 years.
Throughout its existence, the Ahom Kingdom faced numerous challenges, including encounters with powerful adversaries like the Mughal Empire. In one of its most defining moments, the Ahom Kingdom stood tall and valiantly fought against the might of the Mughal forces, successfully preserving its independence. This triumph over such a formidable empire showcased the strength and determination of the Ahom rulers and their people.
The Ahom Kingdom’s reign witnessed prosperity, architectural brilliance, and significant contributions to the region’s art, literature, and administration. The rulers were known for their efficient governance and promotion of cultural and religious diversity. Their ability to adapt and assimilate various cultural elements from neighboring regions enriched the kingdom’s heritage.
Despite facing various internal and external challenges over the centuries, the Ahom Kingdom managed to maintain its distinct identity and continued to thrive until its eventual decline in the 19th century. Today, the legacy of the Ahom Kingdom lives on through the remnants of its architectural wonders, the tales of its brave rulers, and the enduring spirit of its people in the region’s collective memory.
History of the Ahom Kingdom
The Ahom Kingdom’s origins can be traced back to the arrival of its first king, Chaolung Sukaphaa, who migrated from the kingdom of Mong Mao located in the easternmost part of the Indian subcontinent. Crossing the Patkai mountain range, Sukaphaa and his entourage, including three queens, two sons, nobles, officials, and soldiers, reached modern-day Namrup on 2nd December 1228. They settled in the region between the Burhidihing and Dikhau rivers, with the Patkai mountains to the east.
Establishing his capital at Charaideo, Sukaphaa formed friendly relations with local tribes like the Barahi and Marans peoples. Sharing their technological knowledge, particularly wet rice cultivation, the Ahoms boosted the region’s agricultural output. As they assimilated and integrated with other local communities, including the Barahi, the Ahom population grew significantly. Sukaphaa earned the honorific title of “Chaolung,” meaning “great” in Assamese history, for his remarkable leadership.
The process of assimilation continued over the centuries, leading to the Ahom Kingdom becoming multi-ethnic and inclusive in its outlook by the 16th century. Despite facing repeated attacks from the Turkic and Afghan rulers of Bengal, the Ahoms successfully defended their territory and even expanded westward, encompassing land along the Karatoya river.
In 1615, the Ahom Kingdom faced its first major challenge from an imperial power, the Mughal Empire. Although the Mughals temporarily occupied the Ahom capital of Garhgaon in 1662, they were later defeated in subsequent encounters. The decisive Battle of Saraighat in 1671, led by Lachit Borphukan, witnessed the Ahoms repelling a major Mughal invasion and expanding their territory westward up to the Manas River. This victory marked the end of the Mughal presence in the region, which was permanently eradicated by 1682. Throughout its existence, the Ahom Kingdom’s resilience, assimilation of diverse cultures, and military prowess played pivotal roles in shaping its enduring legacy.
In the latter part of the 17th century, the Tungkhungia kings ascended to power as the last rulers of the Ahom Kingdom. During their reign, the kingdom experienced notable progress in arts and construction, showcasing their patronage of cultural development. However, their rule also faced internal conflicts that significantly undermined the stability of the realm.
One significant challenge arose in the form of the Moamoria rebellion, which erupted during the later years of their rule. British soldiers were dispatched to suppress the rebellion, but their efforts only quelled the immediate threat without resolving the underlying issues. Internal strife further weakened the kingdom, causing depopulation due to emigration as people sought safer havens elsewhere.
The Ahom Kingdom’s woes were further compounded by invasions from Burmese tribes, exacerbating its vulnerabilities. These successive challenges and the internal fractures gradually eroded the once-mighty kingdom’s strength and cohesion.
Finally, with the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826, the Ahom Kingdom succumbed to the control of the British Empire. The treaty sealed the fate of the Ahom Kingdom, bringing an end to its long-standing independence and ushering in a new era under British colonial rule. Despite its rich history and enduring legacy, the Ahom Kingdom’s ultimate decline was a consequence of the converging forces of internal strife and external pressures.
The economy of the Ahom Kingdom
The economy of the Ahom Kingdom revolved around the Paik system, a unique arrangement where able-bodied adult males, known as paiks, were bound to render service to the state and serve in its militia in exchange for land tenure. This system played a crucial role in ensuring the availability of manpower for administrative and defense purposes, laying the foundation for the kingdom’s stability and expansion.
While the Paik system remained the cornerstone of the Ahom economy, significant developments occurred during the 16th century. Suklenmung, one of the Ahom kings, introduced coinage, adding a new dimension to their economic landscape. Despite this introduction of coinage, the Paik system continued to function, reinforcing the symbiotic relationship between the state and its subjects.
As the Ahom Kingdom expanded into areas under the influence of the Mughal Empire, it encountered diverse revenue systems. The kingdom adeptly adapted these revenue systems into its existing framework, incorporating various practices to manage the financial aspects of their territories.
The Paik system and the judicious incorporation of diverse revenue systems enabled the Ahom Kingdom to maintain a strong economy that supported its growth and stability over the centuries. This unique economic foundation played a vital role in shaping the kingdom’s history and enduring significance in the region.
Administration of the Ahom Kingdom
The administrative structure of the Ahom Kingdom was carefully organized, with a hierarchical system of governance. At the apex of power stood the Swargadeo, the king, who had to be a direct descendant of the kingdom’s founder, Sukaphaa. Succession to the throne usually followed primogeniture, but in exceptional circumstances, another worthy descendant of Sukaphaa could be elected to the position of the Swargadeo.
Under the Swargadeo, two important offices were introduced during the reign of Pratapa Singha. The Borbaru held dual responsibilities as the military and judicial head of the kingdom. On the other hand, the Borphukan served as a military commander, acting as a Viceroy for the Swargadeo’s territories in the western regions. One of the most renowned Borphukans in history was Lachit Borphukan, celebrated for his valor and leadership.
The Council of Ministers, known as Patra Mantris, played a crucial advisory role in the governance of the kingdom. Comprising five positions of significance, they provided counsel to the king on important state matters, contributing to the smooth functioning of the administration.
The system of paiks formed an integral part of the kingdom’s administrative makeup. Every common subject of the kingdom was designated a paik, and four paiks formed a got. As part of their service to the state, one paik from each got rendered direct service to the king at any given time, while the others in the group tended to agricultural activities in their lands.
This well-organized administrative structure contributed to the stability and efficiency of the Ahom Kingdom’s governance. The clear delineation of roles and responsibilities ensured a smooth functioning of the state apparatus, and the system of paiks provided the necessary manpower for both defense and agricultural pursuits. The legacy of the Ahom administrative system reflects a well-balanced approach to governance that endured for centuries.
The list of Ahom kings
|32||Bor Raja Phuleswari||1714-1731||–|
|33||Bor Raja Ambika||1731-1738||–|