The Ahom Dynasty of Assam

The Ahom Dynasty of Assam ruled for 598 years (1228–1826)

We have read about many dynasties in the Indian history textbooks. Mauryan, Marathas, Cholas, Rajputs, Guptas, Chandellas, etc. All of them were great empires of India with great stories about their strength, administration, statesmanship, and much more. Have you heard of the Ahom Dynasty of Assam, which ruled over the North Eastern parts of India for 598 years? Even the might of the Mughals was incapable of capturing the Ahom empire. The fearsome Ahomes defeated the Mughals 17 times in a span of 60 years to successfully defend their independence.

The Foundation of the Ahom Dynasty

  • The foundation of the Ahom Kingdom was laid by Prince Chaolung Sukapha, who entered the Brahmaputra valley in 1228.

  • The Tai prince came from a town named Mong Mao Lung, located in present day China (Yunnan province in South China).

  • He brought along with him 9000 companions, which included his three queens, two sons, and officials, soldiers, and nobles.

  • He made Charaideo, located in Upper Assam, his capital and became friends with the local tribes consisting of the Barahi and the Marans peoples.

  • Hereon, he further expanded the seeds of the Ahom Kingdom.

  • The Ahom dynasty created a new state by overpowering the older political system of the bhuiyans (landlords).

  • By the 16th century, the Ahom empire expanded their influence and built a large state.

  • The Ahom empire followed a monarchical system of governance.

The political setup of the Ahom dynasty

  • The Ahom dynasty was a type of hereditary monarchy.

  • The political system comprised a council of ministers (five), a great council of chief nobles, and state officers.

  • The Ahom dynasty did not run in an autocratic fashion, where the king was the sole authority.

  • The Ahom Kingdom government was an all-inclusive one in which the Council of Ministers had the power to keep a check on the king and ensure that he executed his duties correctly.

  • The Council of Ministers also had the power to remove the king if he was found not to do his job properly.

  • The appointment of a new king could only happen with the mutual agreement and consensus of all the five Council of Ministers.

The society of the Ahom dynasty

  • In the Ahom Kingdom, society was divided into clans or khels.

  • As the kingdom expanded, the clans took control of their designated territory.

  • Each clan often controlled several villages.

  • The Ahom state was dependent on forced labor. Those who worked for the state service were called paiks.

Respect for existing culture and religion

  • One of the reasons for the prosperity of the Ahom dynasty in India was that they respected the existing culture and religion of the local people.

  • The Ahoms worshiped their own tribal gods, but they embraced the Hindu religion, lifestyle, culture, and the Assamese language too.

  • The Ahoms respected Indian culture and became a part of it.

Art and culture

  • Art and art forms were encouraged during the Ahom dynasty.

  • Theaters were also encouraged.

  • Poets, writers, and scholars were given land grants.

  • Important texts and works in the Sanskrit language were translated into the local language.

  • The Buranjis, the ancient manuscripts and historical chronicles associated with the Ahom Kingdom, were published first in the Ahom language, and later in the Assamese language.

Administrative composition of the Ahom Kingdom

Efficient administration is vital for a prosperous and successful kingdom. The Paik system formed the backbone of the Ahom Kingdom.

The administration of the Ahom Kingdom consisted of the following:

  • Swargadeo - He was the king of the state, assisted by three great counselors of the state (Gohains)

  • Royal officers - Borabaru (military and judicial head); Borphukan (military commander)

  • Patra Mantris - 5 council of ministers (Burhagohain, Borgohain, Borpatrogohain, Borbarua and Borphukan). Advised the king on important matters.

  •  Paik officials - Paiks were the common subjects who were the foot soldiers liable to render service to the state. Got was the smallest unit of the paik, which consisted of four paiks.

Ahoms vs Mughals - The battle

  • The Ahom empire was under constant attack from the Afghan and Turkic rulers in Bengal. However, they managed to withstand the attacks and resisted any advancements from them.

  • The Ahoms even managed to expand westward and added a region around the Karayota River.

  • The Ahom dynasty faced their first real battle with the Mughals in 1615. 

  • The Mughals attacked the North Eastern territory 17 times between 1615 and 1682. 

  • They wanted a foothold in North East India due to the rich Brahmaputra river, fertile agricultural land, and the trade opportunities that existed in the region. 

  • In 1662, the Mughals captured the Ahom capital of Garhgaon. However, the Ahoms, in further battle engagements with the Mughals, managed to capture it. 

  • In 1667, the Ahom Kingdom suffered a major setback as they lost Pragjyotishpur, a present-day region in modern Guwahati. 

  • They had to pay a hefty price for this loss. However, under the leadership of Lachit Borphukan, the Ahoms managed to get back to Pragjyotishpur. 

  • However, this only meant that the Mughals would come back stronger with more valor and force, which resulted in the Battle of Saraighat. 

  • The brave mastermind of the Ahom army, Lachit Borphukan, managed to defeat the massive army of the Mughals. 

  • This defeat permanently ended the Mughal presence in the north-eastern region.

Even though the Ahom Kingdom history is so rich and was one of the strongest among all other dynasties, their name seems to be lost from the history textbooks. They established their hold over the northeastern states of India for nearly six centuries.