Ahoms of Assam

Learning Goals:

Ahoms: They migrated from the present-day Myanmar to the Brahmaputra valley in the 13th century. They suppressed the older political system of the bhuiyans (landlords) and created a new state.


They annexed the following kingdoms and subjugated many other tribes during the sixteenth century:

They built large states using firearms as early as the 1530s. They could even make high-quality gunpowder and cannons by the 1660s.

Attack on Ahoms

In the south-west they faced many invasions. In 1552 under Mir Jumla, the Mughals attacked the kingdom. The Ahoms were defeated despite their strong defence. However the Mughals could not have direct control over them for a long time.

Labour: The Ahom state depended on forced labour. The people who were forced to work were called paiks. Each village had to send a certain number of paiks by rotation, based on the census taken. People were shifted from highly populated areas to less populated areas, thus breaking the clan. The administration became quite centralized by the first half of the 17th century. During war almost all adult males served in the army. They were engaged in the following activities at other times:

They also introduced new methods of rice cultivation.

Society: The Ahom society was divided into clans or khels. The artisan community had very few castes hence artisans in the Ahom areas came from adjoining kingdoms. A khel often controlled many villages. The peasant was given land by his village community which could not be taken away even by the king without the community’s consent.

The Ahom society was quite sophisticated. Theatre was encouraged. Poets and scholars were given land grants. Important works in Sanskrit were translated into the local language; even historical works were written. These were written first in the Ahom language and then in Assamese. These were known as buranjis.


Religion: The Ahoms originally worshipped their own tribal gods. There was an increase in the influence of Brahamanas in the first half of the 17th century. The king granted land to the temples and Brahamanas. In the reign of Sib Singh (1714-1744) the predominant religion was Hinduism. But even after adopting the religion, the Ahom kings did not totally give up their traditional beliefs.

Changes in Society

During the period that we have been examining, there were a lot of social changes. Varna-based society and tribal people interacted constantly with each other. This caused both the societies to adapt and change. There were variety of tribes and they were engaged in diverse occupations. Many of them, over a period of time, merged with caste-based society. There were, however some tribes who rejected both the caste system and orthodox Hinduism. Some tribes also organized extensive states and introduced well-organised systems of administration in them, hence gaining political power. This led to conflicts; between them and the larger and complex kingdoms and empires.


Keywords

Do You Know?

Nicobarese

The Nicobar Islands is a chain of 19 islands in the south-eastern Bay of Bengal. Only 12 of the 19 islands are inhabited. The term Nicobarese refers to the dominant tribes of the Nicobar Islands. On each island, the people have specific names, but together they are the Nicobarese. They call themselves Holchu, which means "friend".

The Nicobarese are headed by a chief called "Rani" or "queen". The first Rani of the Nicobarese was Islon who married Mewalal, tahsildar of Nancowry in 1941–42, and became the most influential person in the Nicobar Islands.

On the Nicobar Islands, men and women have almost equal status. The villages on the islands consist of sporadically placed huts strewn about in designated areas. The huts are normally round with dome-shaped roofs. They are typically raised above the ground and have ladders that the residents pull up after they climb into the huts at night.

The Mongols

They were the best known pastoral and hunter-gatherer tribe in history. They inhabited the grasslands (steppes) of Central Asia and the forested areas further north.

The Mongol and Turkish tribes were united into a powerful military force by Genghis Khan by 1206. He was the ruler of vast territories at the time of his death in 1227. His successors created a vast empire comprising of different regions. At different time periods, it included Russia, Eastern Europe, China and much of West Asia. The military and administrative systems of the Mongols which were based on the support of different ethnic and religious groups were very well-organised.



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