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EDITORIAL

Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha, the Great Nation Builder

Siu-Ka-Pha

Dr. B. K. Gohain

(The author can be contacted at [email protected])

Pameo-Pung was the king of Mung Mao-lung and maternal uncle of Siu-Ka-Pha. As Pameo-Pung had no male issue, his mother asked him to bring Siu-Ka-Pha to Mung Mao-Lung as the Crown Prince. However, after nineteen years, a son Siu-Khan-Pha was born to Nang Nam-Ap, the queen of Pameo-Pung. But Pameo-Pung disowned the son and expelled the queen.

Nang Nam-Ap and Siu-Khan-Pha went to live with her father Minister Thao Khen-Pung. But after three years, she returned to Mung Mao-Lung to claim the throne for Siu-Khan-Pha. Siu-Ka-Pha did not contest the claim and decided to leave Mung Mao-Lung and said to Siu-Khan-Pha, “I shall go to the Mung Pa-Kam (Kamrup) country in the west to rule over there.”  Before leaving Mung Maolung, he promised Siu-Khan-Pha that their relation would remain cordial till “the sky becomes soil, soil becomes water, crow becomes white, big stones float in water.” Thus, Prince Siu-Ka-Pha left westward for Mung Pa-Kam in perfect amity and friendship with his maternal cousin.

He started his journey from Mung Mao-Lung to his father’s country Mung-Kha Mung-Ja. His father Chao Chang Nyeu was a Tai hero and his mother was Nang Mong Blok Kham Sen. His paternal grandfather Chao Changbun had been the king of Mungrimungram (of Khunlung line) while his maternal grandfather was Chao Tai Pung.

From Mung-Kha Mung-Ja 9,000 soldiers, 9 nobles including 2 priests Thaomung Mosai and Thaomung Mosam with the families of the nobles moved with Siu-Khan-Pha towards Mung Pa-Kam.

He set up his first kingdom Khamjang, after crossing the river Nam Kiu (Irrawaddy). There, he ordered a head count of his men. Upon finding sixty men dead and seven men lost, he ordered that all events and happenings should be recorded by the Royal Pundits. This is the dictate of the first Tai Ahom king for recording history in a factually correct manner and all the successor-kings followed suit. He married Nang Taraseng Kunwari, daughter of Norasai Gohain of Tailung in Khamjang.

He left Khamjang in the governorship of Kan-Khru-Mong (a noble) and proceeded by the side of the lake Nongjang (Lake of No Return as it is called now) subjugating the wild tribes, mostly Nagas, through persuasion and fighting on the way. Then he crossed Doi Kao Rong (the range of seven hills presently called Patkai hills) and reached the River Nam-Ruk (Namrup). There he worshipped the dams (spirits) of his forefathers. This was the first Ancestors’ worship in the Brahmaputra valley.

He conquered all the wild tribes there and sailed downstream on rafts by the River Nam-Ruk and reached the River Nam-Jin (Buridihing). Sailing downstream by the River Nam Jin, he reached Tipam where he stayed there for three years. However, he realized that Tipam was not suitable for a capital as it was subject to inundation. Appointing Thaomung Kan-Ngan (Borgohain) as governor there, he sailed downstream by the River Nam-Jin (Buridehing) and reached Mung–kang Che-khru where he lived for five years. Then he sailed downstream by the rver Brahmaputra and reached Habung where he stayed there for three years. As Habung was also prone to inundation, he sailed further downstream by the Brahmaputra and reached the river Dikhow. From there, he sailed upstream of Dikhow and reached river Nam Kun (Disang). He sailed further upstream and reached Mong Rui Mong Sun. After five years, he sailed downstream of Dikhow upto Khen-tun-niu (Simaluguri), where he stayed for 7 years.

Then he sailed upstream of the Timak river and reached Lang-tau-pha and built a city there. He made new paddy fields and a new courtyard. He performed the Revitalisation ceremony (Rik Khwan Mung-Khwan) there. But this place was also an inundated one. After one year, then he built a capital city at the hills and the city was called Chetam doi Chelung chekham or Charaideo. He performed Me Mong Me Ban, (the worship of the gods and goddess of the heaven). Then he invited the kings of three non-Tai kingdoms namely Tumisa (Kachari), Tiura (Chutiya) and Kamta and three Tai kingdoms namely Khamyang, Aiton and Tipam to his coronation ceremony.  He died in the year 1268. His maternal cousin Siukhanpha reciprocated. He sent costly gifts to Siukapha.

The contributions of Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha were multi-faced as he contributed immensely culturally, socially and administratively to Assam in particular and the North East India in general. To appreciate the same, we have to open the almost forgotten pages of history.

Integration of the people and the country

Siu-Ka-Pha was a pacifist who always tried to conquer the hearts of the people. When he came across the group of people like Mataks, Borahis, Chutias, Kacharis, Nagas and other hill tribes, his nobles and officers said, “We better catch the Mataks first. We may catch the others later.”  Siu-Ka-Pha, however, replied, “If we fight with them, the people of both the sides will die. We have left our people in the places which we conquered for cultivation of paddy. We better send our emissaries to the local people asking them to come and meet us. We have come from the east. We want to be friends with them. They are the owners and the dwellers of this land. We are their guests. We want to know the land and the people.” His emissaries thus carried this message of peace to the local people: “Our king Siu-Ka-Pha is the great grandson of Lengdon, the Lord of Heaven. As there is no king here, he has been sent down from the heaven by a golden ladder. So, he is seeing the lands around.”

The Mataks and the Barahis were eager to meet the heavenly king and they went to pay homage to Siu-Ka-Pha with presents. They came on the elephants, horses and on foot. Chau Lung Siu-Ka-Pha called them to him and asked about their whereabouts. The Barahi king Thamithuma said, “I am the king of the Barahis and I live near the Lokhai lake.” Siu-Ka-Pha asked him as to which was the best place to live in. He suggested that the best place to set up his capital was at the hills called Charaideo. Siu-Ka-Pha set up his capital there by observing all the Tai rituals as were followed by his forefathers.

The Matak king Badousa (Kunti Raja of ‘Tai Buranji’) also called on him to pay his homage to the heavenly king. Both the kings offered their daughters to Siu-Ka-Pha in marriage. This was the first instance of intermarriage of the Tais with the local girls. His unwed men followed suit. The result was that he won over the hearts of the local people by his generous overtures of inter-marriages and friendship with them. Many people were won over, many persuaded to submit to him and all treated him as a heavenly king. They started calling the Tais as Ahom and the name of the country became Assam after their name. The process of formation of the greater Assamese race had begun. Siu-Ka-Pha tried to integrate the people by giving them the common governance. He even went to the extent of including some non-Ahom families in the Ahom fold. He enlisted 7 families of Barahi and 12 families of Matak into the Ahom fold. One Chutia was made an Ahom and made in charge of the deities and he was named Chom Chiring. The entire family was enlisted as Ahom. One Maimai Kriat, an expert robe maker, was enlisted and entrusted with the job of making the royal robes. He enlisted many such other families of the local population and befriended many local people. Thus the process of assimilation and integration started.

Political integration

Ancient Kamrup was disintegrated into many petty principalities viz. Moran, Borahi, Chutiya, Kachari, Bhuyan chiefs, Kamata and many bordering ‘Rajas’ on the south bank. There was no central power and there was total vacuum of political power. Siu-Ka-Pha reintegrated the same by absorbing them. This process was followed by his successors and it epitomized into a new political identity called Assam. For example, Siu-Ka-Pha conquered the Matak, Borahi, Kachari, Naga, Kamata countries and they agreed to pay tributes to him. He appointed Katakis (envoys) to collect the tributes from these countries. The salient point is that all these countries were conquered without bloodshed and through persuasion and diplomacy. It is stated in history that he integrated seven countries into one country.

It was Siu-Ka-Pha who initiated the formation of the Assamese nationality of which we, the Assamese people, are so proud of. This process started by him and followed by his successors during six hundred years of the Ahom rule paved the way for the  formation of a composite Assamese race and Assamese language. With his liberal attitude towards all religions, he created a positive secular state, not imposing the traditional religion of the Tais on his subjects. In fact in course of time, the Hindu gods and goddesses found their place in the traditional Tai religion called Phuralung and in the great Um-Pha worship we see a Hindu Sal (worship arena) along with two Tai Ahom Sals and a great unity is displayed.

It was Siu-Ka-Pha who introduced wet paddy cultivation in Assam. The local populace was previously following the jhum method of cultivation. He also introduced the buffalo drawn plough and water management. He demonstrated the technique of cultivation by opening three large agricultural farms and engaged the local people to plough and cultivate paddy in the new technique. Assam became self sufficient in food. He introduced the technique of rearing silk worms and the golden threads were woven to give a new push to the handloom industry. Through his endeavor and royal patronage, every girl and lady learnt weaving, spinning etc. No wonder, the Assamese girls and ladies have become expert weavers and fashion designers weaving dreams on the fabrics.

Siu-Ka-Pha brought with him the Tai tradition of offering service by all able bodied men to the state. The non-monetized economy by a system called Paik was introduced and it created a sense of belonging to Assam. In course of six hundred years of Ahom rule, the people realized the importance and pride of being patriotic and independent. Undoubtedly this ultimately paved the way of taking pride in our country India after independence from foreign rule.

Siu-Ka-Pha introduced elaborate administrative machinery with graded officials, the traces of which could be seen even today in such titles like Bora (an official in charge of ten groups), Saikia (over a hundred) and Hazarika (over a thousand groups).

The border tribes and states recognized Assam as the super power in the North East and used to offer all help and cooperation to the supreme authority.

A new overland connection was established between South East Asia and India (Reference the Siu-Ka-Pha route from Yunnan, South China to Assam which is called the Stillwel Road now-a-days.)

Chaolung Siukapha’s principal queen was Nang Taraseng Kunwari of Tailung, daughter of Nora Sai Gohain, a Tai noble. The princesses he married in Kamrup were princess Gandheswari and princess Nageswari of the Matak-Moran king Kunti Raja (Bodousa of Assamese chronicle). His eldest son was Siuteopha, followed by the second prince Siutaopha, both from Queen Taraseng. His third son was Prince Siuhaopha born of the Matak princess Gandheswari, while there was a fourth prince unnamed, possibly of the Barahi princess Siukapha had married.

After Chaolung Siukapha passed away in 1268 AD, his son Siuteopha became the king. He buried his father in the lower portion of the Charaideo hills and built a moidam. Thus, the system of burial and building intricate mounds began in Charaideo.

Our salutations are to Chaolung Siukapha, the great nation builder and integrator of the various castes, creeds and languages in Assam and forerunner of the formation of the Assamese race, on the occasion of Assam Day or Siu-Ka-Pha Divas.