Assam is a state rich in history, mainly due to its multi-ethnic nature. While the Hindu Assamese are a major part of the state, there are several tribes and communities that live along the plains of Brahmaputra and also the hills of the state. One such community, the Ahoms, ruled Assam for 600 years and were influential towards the culture of the state. In fact, the name 'Assam' comes from the word 'Asam', which is a Sanskritisation of the word, 'Aham' or 'Ahom'. We will explore the Ahom history through their capital city Sibsagar.
History of Ahom dynasty
The Ahom dynasty was founded by Sukaphaa, a prince from Mong Mao in current day Myanmar. Sukaphaa belonged to a clan of people known as the 'Shaan'. These people can be found in Myanmar, Thailand and China. The Shaans had their own religion which was neither Hindu, nor Buddhist. Nor did the earliest Ahom rulers embrace Hinduism. However subsequent rulers who were born and grew up in Assam embraced the religion and appointed ministers and priests who were Hindus.
The future generations of Ahoms considered themselves to be descendants of the Lord of Heaven, Indra. Hence the kings were termed as 'Swarga Deva' or Lords from Heaven. Various queens also held the helm for a while and they were called 'Bor Raja'.
The rule of Ahoms was never entirely peaceful. There were several skirmishes with kingdoms from Myanmar and China. The Mughals, in their bid to conquer all of the land near the major rivers of India, also attacked the fertile Brahmaputra valley. To their credit, the Ahoms outlasted all the battles and lasted nearly 600 years from the 13th century to the 19th. They were one of the few Indian dynasties who remained undefeated against Islamic invaders.
The downfall of the Ahoms was not brought about by outsiders, but due to internal strife among themselves. The lust for power and the king's throne was too enticing for the Ahom nobility, ministers and clergy, who took turns usurping one king after another and finally ending up with rulers who were not good at warfare. From being a lineage of Indravamsa Kshatriyas skilled in warfare, the Ahoms rulers became petty politicians. The Moamoria rebellion, an internal revolt among the classes of Ahoms, followed by a full-fledged Burmese invasion broke the back of the Ahoms in the early 19th century. This was followed by a swift attack by the British leading to the first Anglo-Burman war. With the Ahoms killing each other and the Burmese weaponry being no match for the British army, the East India company practically had a cake walk with little resistance. They promptly annexed all of the Brahmaputra valley and also Burma with the treaty of Yandabo in 1826.
Descendents of Ahoms still live in Assam, mainly in Sibsagar district. They are no longer royalty, but regular citizens of Assam and India. Their Ahom / Tai language has been replaced by the state-wide Assamese language.