Ahoms of Assam
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:
- Chhutiyas in 1523
- Koch-Hajo in 1581
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:
- Building dams and irrigation systems
- Other public works
They also introduced new methods of rice cultivation.
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 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.
- Clan: A group of families or households claiming descent from a common ancestor. Tribal organization is often based on kinship or clan loyalties.
- Shifting cultivation: As the name suggests this refers to cultivation at different places i.e. not on the same land throughout. Trees and bushes in a forest area are first cut and burnt. In the ashes caused by burning, the first crop is sown. When this land loses its fertility, another plot of land is cleared and cultivated on, in the same way.
- Kinship: Blood relationship or sharing of characteristics/origins.
Do You Know?
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